Loveinvoke Blog


Leave a comment

Healing full circle

Hope Neely

Yoga  helped Hope Neely make sense of life through her battle with kidney disease. Now she teaches so that others can appreciate yoga’s restorative power.

Blog by Hope  [Yogini, Eastsider, winning the battle]

I moved to Indianapolis in 2008 as a 23-year-old kidney transplant patient in a city where I didn’t know a soul. The stress associated with my illness exacerbated personal and professional challenges that made my first few years in the city seem like an uphill battle.

I couldn’t drink, which made it tough to go bars, and that made it tough to meet people. On the rare occasions I did go out, someone would inevitably ask why I wasn’t drinking. The real answer was enough to kill any festive mood: My kidney function was not great, and the thought of needing another transplant scared me.

This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to talk about while trying to relax and meet people after work. I started to feel isolated even when I was surrounded by people.

At the same time, I was working a high-pressure job in financial services in the midst of the global economic downturn. Our clients were worried about their retirement money, their jobs, and their children finding jobs in the tough economic environment. This nervous energy stoked my own fears about my kidney function. How could I pay for a kidney transplant on my own? What if I needed dialysis treatments? What if I got too sick to work? My mind started to associate money with survival.

The constant anxiety soon started to wear on me; I needed to do something to cope. My primary doctor suggested I take a yoga class.

Though initially hesitant, I eventually took her advice and tried a class at my gym. I liked it and went back again. Soon yoga started to grow on me, and  I rarely missed the Sunday class, which left me renewed each week.

Then at 25 my big fear materialized: I needed a second kidney transplant. I undertook the procedure — not without complications — and though I handled each issue that arose, the experience left me jittery and fearful. It was as if my mind was now trained to worry about health problems that might arise in the future.

So I turned back to the thing that helped me in my pre-transplant struggle: yoga. I started taking yoga classes at Invoke Studio regularly. Week by week and class by class, my fears of health problems started to dissipate. The energy I used to spend worrying about future shifted back to action in the present moment.

Last year I participated in Invoke Studio’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We read about yogic philosophy, worked on breathing techniques that train the mind to focus on the present moment, and did lots and lots of yoga. It was a wonderful experience and truly solidified the role that yoga has played in my journey through kidney disease.

Most importantly, it helped me realize that my organ donors didn’t donate so that I could live in fear. They did it so that I could live life fully, and that can only happen if I start from a steady foundation.

Today I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share the benefits of yoga with others. Last month I began working with the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana to offer a weekly yoga class open to the public, with a special focus on those who have been affected by chronic kidney disease.

The stress of living with chronic kidney disease threw me off my foundation. I’m just grateful that yoga brought me back.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hope’s classes are held on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana’s offices at 911 E. 86th St., Suite 100. Suggested donations are $5

Neely is a regular yogini and instructor who lives on Indianapolis’ Eastside with her boyfriend, Alex.

 


Leave a comment

Tuning in to the “other side” of yoga

haehl picture

Yin offers a way to loosen the oft-neglected connective tissues

Blog by Laura  [Yogini, Spanish-language guru, lover of Yin]

In addition to the mental health benefits, many of us come to yoga class to reap the physical reward of working our muscles. We do this through what are known as Yang styles of yoga — Ashtanga and Vinyasa, for example.

But, as in other aspects of life, there’s always a Yin to complement the Yang. Yin yoga, which is growing in popularity in the U.S., allows us to work the deeper or yin connective tissues of our ligaments, joins, fascia and even our bones.

If you have never been to a Yin class before, you have practiced Yin poses in a Vinyasa class.  Child’s pose and Savasana, or final resting pose, are both yin-style poses.  You are also doing Yin yoga in that final juicy twist at the end of class.

In Yin, exercise is not multiple repetitions, but rather a long, steady and safe stress placed on the connective tissues to encourage them to release.  We stay in Yin poses for three to five minutes to exercise the connective tissue.  Yin poses target the hips, back and knees primarily.  We practice most Yin poses on the ground, allowing  gravity to take part in the practice.

What I love about Yin yoga is the space and freedom I feel in my body after a practice.  A regular yin practice has helped me find greater ease and deeper access to the poses of my vinyasa practice.  And I have found the stillness of the class to be challenging. Over time, it has taught me the value of sitting still and being mindful of my thoughts and the sensations in my body.

Many of the benefits of a yin practice are similar to the ones found in the more Yang styles of yoga.  Yin yoga is closely tied to the Chinese medicine system.  All poses affect different meridian lines, the energy lines in which needles are placed during acupuncture.  This pressure helps to nourish the organs associated with those lines.

Yin yoga also helps retrain the body.  If you sit for long periods of time during the day, your hip flexors engage and the lumbar curve in your low back usually bends opposite to its natural position.  In Yin yoga, we spend time in poses that open the front of the hips or allow the lumbar curve to stay in its natural position for extended periods.  In essence, we are retraining our body to do the opposite of what it experiences throughout the day.

Other Yin benefits include:

  • Increased mobility in the body, especially in the hips and joints

  • More ease and flexibility in the connective tissues

  • Improved health and responses in the cells of the body

  • Improved blood pressure and lower heart rate

  • Reduced fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system)

  • Improved digestion and immune system

  • Lessened inflammation

I teach a weekly Yin Yoga class at Invoke on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at the 86th & Ditch location and a monthly Yin + Yoga Nidra workshop.  February’s workshop is Sunday the 23rd at 6:30p.m. and will focus on the chakras.  You can get an early bird discount for $15 up through the 16th.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please be aware that Yin Yoga is different from a restorative yoga practice.  Just like with your more active styles of yoga, if you have an injury, you should allow that to heal before putting more stress on it in a yin practice.

Haehl is a yoga instructor who teaches at Invoke Studio. While she’s great at breaking down the basics, she’s also known to teach some challenging flows. 


Leave a comment

A time for reinvention

imm-blake-boldon

Use the new year as a way to reach your deeper potential.

Blog by Blake [Race guru, runner, motivator, coach]

Over the next few days, many of us will go through a familiar ritual: making a list of resolutions for the upcoming year.

While it might seem cliched, it’s also exciting. Every new year offers the opportunity to reinvent yourself.

In the fitness sense, the possibilities for reinvention are endless. You can become a seasoned triathlete or a long-distance cyclist. You can evolve from a first-time yogi into a seasoned practitioner or become a certified yoga or Pilates instructor. You can hike a mountain or trail or lose that extra 15 pounds.

And you can run a race — like a marathon, half-marathon or 5K. In my role with the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, I’ve had the privilege of seeing many people through this kind of new year reinvention.

For the first time last year, the Monumental offered a discount for people who signed up for the race on January 1 and 2. I remember checking a few minutes into the new year to make sure the registration process was proceeding smoothly and feeling my heart beat a little faster when I saw people signing up at midnight. It inspired me even more to watch them prepare for the race in the year that ensued.

Hundreds of participants shared about their training journeys on the Monumental’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and through their personal blogs. Our staff received emails from people participating in the race for the first time. And I had the opportunity to meet some of the thousands of finishers as they crossed the finish line.

To me running is a particularly special way to remake yourself in the new year, partly because it’s possible to achieve something remarkable in a relatively short period of time. I’ve met Monumental participants who have lumbered through their first 5K one year and a mere two years later have completed the full 26.2 miles.

Even for seasoned racers, there’s always the possibility to push yourself a little harder, to shave seconds off your time, and to experience the joy of running a race in a new way.

I’ve made it my own personal goal to finish the Boston Marathon in 2014. I’m already excited to think about the experience of participating, but I’m also invigorated by the process of self-improvement that it takes to prepare for the event.

So for anyone considering a fitness goal for 2014, make it your mission to find something that challenges and stretches you to become a better version of yourself — and to see yourself through to completing that goal.

That’s the power of reinvention — and the beauty of a New Year’s resolution.

Blake Boldon is the executive director of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and a former competitive runner and collegiate running coach.  He lives in Downtown Indianapolis.  


1 Comment

My journey toward self-acceptance

Glenna Nall

I used to overexercise to feel in control. Now I use exercise to tap into my deepest self.

Blog by Glenna [Invoke Pilates/yoga instructor, runner, swimmer, rockstar]

Life is a journey, not a destination.

I’ve seen and heard this phrase many times. I never really paid attention to what it means until the last three years, when a transition from a traditional career to a full-time pursuit of my passion for Pilates and yoga led to a major identity struggle at has helped me tap into my true self.

In 2010, I got married, changed my last name and left my full-time job. I was working to finish my masters degree in Public Health while starting Pilates teacher training.  I thought I had everything under control.   I never knew how much all of those changes would shake my identity to the core.

All the change at once made me feel I needed to clamp down on one thing I thought I could control: my weight. I became obsessed with my physical appearance, my weight and diet restrictions.  In preparation for our wedding, I dropped nearly 30 pounds and several dress sizes. And as I shrank in size, I began to withdraw from friends and family situations — often cancelling plans with friends if it meant I would miss a workout or be in a situation with tempting food.  I thought of my day only in terms of when and how I was going to exercise and when and what I was going to eat.  What had been a desire to lose weight for our wedding had turned into a full-blown obsession.

After two years of this struggle, I accepted that I was losing the battle with control of my weight.  I credit regular attendance to yoga classes with initiating my desire to change.  One of the main tenants of a yogic life is ahimsa, or non-harming.  I knew that with my extreme exercise habits and bulimia, I was harming my body.

I began to research signs and symptoms of eating disorders and found myself calling a treatment center in Indianapolis.  I made an appointment with a counselor and my primary care doctor.  I decided I wanted to be happy, and my current methods were failing.  I decided to tell my family and friends about my struggle.  I remember the tearful conversation with my husband — the first honest conversation I had with someone in months.

My journey toward self-acceptance hasn’t been easy. I am still sometimes embarrassed to see friends and relatives, especially those who have not seen me in several months or years.   I know there are some people who doubt my ability to be a good pilates or yoga teacher because I am overweight. But I know that my issues have made me a more compassionate teacher, a trait that cannot be taught. That doesn’t mean I won’t challenge my clients to push to the limit, but it means I know when to push and when to let go.

Taking away the shroud of my eating disorder has made me rethink friendships, reset priorities, and change my relationship with the external world.  There are relationships that have been strained a little because I recognize trigger behaviors in some of my close friends, who are as competitive as I am.   I also still struggle with perfectionism, a common trait among people with eating disorders.  For example, I recently came home after a yoga class that left me feeling frustrated with my inability to do a certain pose.  Intellectually I recognize that being able to get into side crow or transition from crow to headstand has absolutely no bearing on my self-worth,  but I still felt like a failure.  The difference is that now I can reflect on those feelings rather than turning to food.

As I work through challenges, breakthroughs happen. I feel like I am able to be myself around more people and am finding new friendships that honor me.  I still love to exercise, but it doesn’t control or define me.

Making exercise part of my job has allowed me to to appreciate its power for good — rather than the control it previously exerted over my life. Through my job teaching yoga and Pilates, I help people find a deeper connection to their body and mind.  I know I make them smile.

It has been a winding path so far, and I expect things will continue to change as I continue the journey through life. Now I know I can handle those changes — and thrive.

Glenna Nall is a yoga (RYT-200) and comprehensively certified Pilates instructor who coordinates Invoke’s Pilates program. She also coaches swimming and is an avid runner and swimmer.  She lives in Downtown Indianapolis with her husband, Alex.  

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post was originally proposed as a piece to describe how I changed careers, but  it became much more. I did not intend for this to be a story about my eating disorder, but without inclusion of that angle, this piece would have been a half truth.  If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, I encourage you to contact a professional for help.  Resources can be found at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/. Locally, I recommend contacting the The Charis Center for Eating Disorders at 317.295.0608.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Practicing with gratitude

Jarosz_BW_267 copy

Find the art of being grateful for what you can do

Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

I volunteered this weekend to teach a couple of free yoga sessions at the inaugural Festival of Faiths in Downtown Indianapolis. Both groups of students were small but mighty. Among them, one practitioner stood out: Susie, a middle-aged woman who attended both sessions (which were largely the same ) with enthusiasm.

Susie hadn’t practiced yoga much before, and —  with a car accident and a few falls in her past — practicing was difficult for her. She used a chair to help provide support for her wrists because poses like downward-facing dog and low lunge were painful. For hip-openers, she opted to do the gentler figure-four pose, rather than going full steam into the intense pigeon posture.

But those modications didn’t discourage her in the slightest. She emerged from the first 45-minute class with a huge smile on her face. “That felt great!” she said. When I told her she did a good job of modifying, she informed me that she likes to focus on what she can do, rather than what she can’t do. “That’s a whole different list,” she said with a smile.

After the second session, Susie thanked me for spending my afternoon teaching yoga. She reemphasized everything that was great about the afternoon, including practicing outside in the beautiful weather.  And she commented on her progress, noting that she could get her hands closer to the ground after session #2 than she could when she started out the afternoon.

As the day wound down, I couldn’t help but continue thinking of Susie and her amazing positivity. What if all of us could live our lives with such a deep and immense sense of gratitude? What if we could look at a situation and identify the good things about it, rather than focusing — as many of us are inclined to do — on the negative?

It reminded me of an episode of NPR’s “This American Life” a few weeks ago that featured a guy named Emir Kamenica, who had the traditional American Dream story. A Bosnian refugee living in an Atlanta housing project, he was given the opportunity to go to an exclusive private school and from there attended Harvard for undergraduate and doctorate degrees.

During the course of the story, Emir displayed a clear sense of thankfulness for the opportunities he’d been given and attributed his achievements — not to his own merit — but to the goodness that others had shown him.

The reporter on the story, Michael Lewis, summed up Emir’s philosophy well:  “Everyone owes at least some of their success — not just to chance — but to other people being nice for no reason at all.”

If we look at the world through this lens of gratitude, just imagine the warmth and kindness we would feel — not only about our own lives, but about others.

So the next time you go to your yoga mat, take the opportunity to view your practice as Susie would — with a sense of thankfulness for every part of the experience — and a focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t.

If you can translate this outlook to life off the mat, you will experience joy every day.

I bet Susie does.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice and teach yoga, run and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.


Leave a comment

Learning to exercise sleep

Jarosz_BW_267 copy

Morning workout, or morning rest? A really good question.

Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

Here’s a conundrum that occurs at least once a month.

The alarm goes off at 6 a.m. I feel exhausted and hit snooze. Then I spend the next nine minutes until the alarm is sure to go off again debating the ever-important question: to work out, or get more rest?

Most mornings, I choose the former, driven by a type-A personality and the realization that I’ll feel better — at least until 2 p.m. — with some morning endorphins.

But some mornings, I give in to the exhaustion. Typically that happens when I’ve reached my breaking point and rest is virtually inevitable. Lately I’ve been grappling with the need to get a better monitor on my bodily energy gauge to avoid reaching that point. But how do you know when to back off and rest and when to soldier through?

It’s a common challenge among the morning workout contingent. After all, when an early-wired bodily clock bolts you out of bed, you want to make good use of it. And it’s hard to argue with the post-workout high that is equivalent to several cups of coffee and helps propel you through the morning.

But sometimes pushing through a workout when you’re overly tired can reap negative consequences for the rest of the day. For example:

  • You become tired by early afternoon and resort to nibbling on sugary snacks to get you through the work day.
  • Getting up early to work out becomes a chore, and you stop enjoying the experience of exercising.
  • You burn out of the morning workout routine altogether and find yourself on a workout hiatus.
  • Simply worn out, you hit a wall and are so exhausted that it’s hard to even be productive.

The latter happened to me this past week after a week of a few early workouts, a crazy work schedule, and some overall stress. By pushing myself past the breaking point, I found myself needing to catch up with two consecutive nights of 10 hours of sleep (I’m fortunate that I was able to do this).

This has happened to all of us. And it’s by no means a warning against exercising — including early in the morning.

It a reminder, though, of the importance of one of the basic tenets of yoga that should be a guiding principle in all exercise: listen to your body. Sometimes “powering through” can be the perfect thing to do. But by ignoring messages your body is sending and running yourself ragged, you can do more harm than good.

So the next time your alarm goes off at 6 a.m., don’t engage your brain in thinking about what would be best for you. Instead, take a moment in your sleepy state to scan how you feel. And respond accordingly.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice/ teach yoga, run, and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.


Leave a comment

Slow down to build up

haehl picture

How going back to basics altered my practice

Blog by Laura  [Yogini, Spanish-language guru, precision practitioner]

I started practicing  yoga many years ago by doing the same video over and over.  Then I started taking vinyasa yoga classes and enjoyed the workout I got from those faster-paced classes.  It wasn’t until I went through yoga teacher training that I came to appreciate what a taking a slower approach to my practice had to offer.

I was in a class in which we spent a long time exploring downward-facing dog when I finally got it: seemingly simple poses that we do over and over again in a class (like downward-facing dog) involve a precise set of alignment principles, as well as a lot of preparation.

In open-level and intermediate/advanced classes, you spend less time in the pose, so you typically only hear the most basic instructions.  That’s why I’d recommend that all students at some point in their yoga journey take some basics classes. It will help to create a better foundation that strengthens your overall practice, and you’ll gain a better appreciation for how challenging some of the most basic poses are when you practice them correctly.

In basics classes, the instructor slows things down a bit and is able to give more directives.  As you learn to refine the pose, you strengthen both large and small muscle groups that are engaged.  Spending more time in the pose also allows you to explore it and find out what happens when you make small changes to it.  You can take what you learn to your open level and intermediate/advanced classes and further develop the poses and improve your strength and flexibility in them.

Exploring poses at a deeper level can also help you prevent injury.  Like many people I spent years doing Chaturanga Dandasana (yoga push-up) incorrectly. I suffered the consequences, ending up with pain in my left shoulder. To refine the pose, I studied and worked on the alignment for a long time, coming to my knees each time to keep the pain away.  True to the nerd that I am, I even videotaped myself to see what I was doing incorrectly.  I am now finally at a point that I can do the full pose without pain.

This week, I’ll kick of a three-week series of Thursday night classes, “Essential Elements of Flow,” which will break down some of the most common but challenging poses.  You will be able to use your package for these classes.  I’ve listed the schedule below, along with a few other basics options offered at Invoke. I hope you’ll take advantage of these opportunities to slow down in order to build a better yoga practice.

Essential Elements of Flow:

  • August 15th: Chaturanga Dandasana & Sun Salutations

    • During this workshop, we will work with Sun Salutations A, B, and C and learn steps you can take back to your own practice to build toward a safe, strong Chaturanga Dandasana (yoga push-up).

  • August 22nd: Headstand & Wheel Pose

    • Following a vinyasa-style warm-up, we will work with these Headstand and Wheel Pose to learn the most proper alignment for your current yoga practice.

  • August 29th: Shoulder Stand & Plow Pose

    • Following a vinyasa-style warm-up, we will work with these Shoulder Stand and Plow Pose to learn the most proper alignment for your current yoga practice.

At Invoke, we are lucky enough to have Chuck Crosby and Ahna Hoke as basics instructors!  If you haven’t gone to one of their basics classes yet, I encourage you to try them.

Basics-level classes at Invoke:

  • Ahna: 7pm Mondays & 11am Saturdays

  • Chuck: 7pm Wednesdays & 4:30 Thursdays

  • Laura: 11:30am Sundays

Haehl is a yoga instructor who teaches at Invoke Studio. While she’s great at breaking down the basics, she’s also known to teach some challenging flows. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers