}
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Is training adequate for yoga instructors? Share your experience

Yoga is a 6000 year old practice passed from generation to generation through experience. But, with yoga's increasing popularity in the United States and corresponding rise in fitness instructors leading yoga classes; is there enough emphasis on proper alignment and safety in movement? Who should be allowed to teach yoga? Share your comments and/or experience below after reading the above article. Does certification matter? Should yoga teacher training programs be standardized?  Is your yoga instructor competent and safety-minded? (balanced breath school of yoga at balance yoga lounge in Ankeny, offers a 200 hour yoga teacher training program sanctioned by the Yoga Alliance)


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Do you struggle with constant change in your life? Join Generation Flux.

These days change is the only constant in our lives...at work, at home, in how we entertain ourselves, how we communicate with others...the list is endless. The following article is lengthy, but worthy of your time spent understanding where all of this change leads. This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business "To thrive in this climate requires a whole new approach,


that follow. Because some people will thrive. They are the members of Generation Flux. This is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one: What defines GenFlux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates--and even enjoys--recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals will have to work at it. This is no simple task. The vast bulk of our institutions--educational, corporate, political--are not built for flux. Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills."


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Disappointing news from the Organic Elite

We are beyond excited that Whole Foods will soon join the Central Iowa market, but remember...it's always important to read individual labels and never believe that any one retailer has your best interests in mind. Even Whole Foods and the other organic giants have a business to run. Read more about Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farms new agreement with Monsanto and biotech's biggest cheerleader, Tom Vilsack.


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Valentines Day Essential Practice

You can't love someone else more than you love yourself. Practice self-appreciation this Valentines Day with someone who needs a little extra attention...YOU!

Pre-register online or simply grab your mat and drop in. $15.                                 All levels of ability welcome.
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FREE food inc screening at the yoga lounge

The yoga lounge will be transformed into a theatre on February 10 for a private screening of food inc. Join our yoga community for a relaxed evening of cinema and conversation. The lights will dim at 7pm. Please bring your own: snacks, beverage, snuggie, and portable seating (we have floor cushions). All ages that are capable of sitting quietly for 1 1/2 hours during the feature film are invited to attend. In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
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Yogis Cook with Alessandra

The balance yogi foodie social club has announced their February 21 meeting and you won't want to miss this!
Join us at Cooking with Alessandra in the East Village at 10:30AM and learn to make homemade pasta.  This is a private lesson set aside for our group and the cost will be $35 or $40 pp depending on the number of signups we have.  This event has limited space (max 13) and once all signups are received we will confirm reservations and vote on what to prepare (most likely a ravioli).  Plan on cooking, eating, and enjoying time together until 1230 or 1pm.  Participants are welcome to bring salad, dessert and other items to enjoy with our pasta.  To join the fun add your name to the class list on February 21 by clicking on the group classes tab above or adding your name to the signup sheet at the lounge.  Hosted by Mary Lasky.  Call with any questions:  333.3112
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Winter dry skin? Try whipping up homemade body butter.


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How safe is yoga? Can it "wreck your body?"

So if you haven't already seen the article by WILLIAM J. BROAD in the New York Times, here is a link. Interesting reading. And be sure to read Dr. Timothy McCall's rebuttal below (taken directly from his web site)...equally interesting reading. For those of you who aren't interested in taking the time to read both articles, i'll provide some cliff notes: if you practice yoga and you want to continue practicing and remain injury-free...listen to your body as you move and check your ego at the door. Go figure.

How to Not Wreck Your Body Doing Yoga or: How I Really Feel about Headstand

Timothy McCall, MD

By now most of you will have heard about if not yet already read the article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, entitled, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” My email box has been lighting up. One message, from Colleen Duggan, read: I have gotten so many email inquiries from students that I am having to field because of this article, I thought I might write to you to find out what you really think. As you know, I am an Iyengar certified teacher, and take inversions pretty seriously. A lot of people after reading the article are concluding that across the board inversions are unsafe and unwise to be doing. While, for many people I think inversions might not be a good idea for many reasons, I believe if a student is ready for inversions and well instructed by a proper teacher, they are fine, and the benefits make doing them worth it. What do you think? I want to be clear that I understand your position. The buzz over the Times’ science writer William Broad’s article, has been spreading around the yoga world and in the media. One article in London’s Daily Mail, stated that, “physician Timothy McCall, medical editor of Yoga Journal, told Mr Broad that the commonly-practiced headstand is 'too dangerous' for most yoga classes.” Did I really say that? Well, not exactly. Actually, the Daily Mail has it wrong. I never told Broad anything because we never spoke. He seems to have read an article I wrote around 2003 for Yoga Journal and based part of his article on that. And since the impression conveyed in the Times piece doesn't accurately represent how I feel, I thought I’d review headstands, and the general topic of avoiding yoga injuries. While most of us disagree with many of Broad’s conclusions, the fact is he is highlighting an important issue: Some people are seriously injured doing yoga. For that, we owe him and the Times our gratitude. As many of you know, I’ve been writing about the issue of safety in yoga for years, in Yoga Journal and elsewhere, and included a long appendix in Yoga as Medicine on Avoiding Common Yoga Injuries. I've also been concerned that the problem has not being discussed more openly in the yoga world. So here’s a quick list of my central thinking on headstands and yoga safety, as well as links to various articles I’ve written on the subject: 1. Some poses like headstand, shoulder stand and lotus are inherently risky if not done with good anatomical alignment. 2. Some people have contraindications to doing certain poses. So, for example, someone who has poorly-controlled high blood pressure or diabetic retinopathy should avoid headstand and other inversions as they could precipitate a retinal hemorrhage. I do not think that people who lack such risk factors need to worry that going upside down is going to cause retinal problems. 3. Some people who will eventually be able to do headstand without problems are not ready for it when they first come to yoga. Even though the pose is fairly easy to get into, they should wait until they’ve developed the strength and flexibility to do it safely. 4. Some public yoga classes are strenuous, regularly including many of the more acrobatic asana, which require considerable strength, balance and flexibility to do safely. Other classes are gentle, and injuries in them are rare. 5. In some classes, particularly large ones, students don’t get much individual attention when doing potentially risky poses, increasing the likelihood of dangerously poor alignment. 6. Many of the students drawn to vigorous styles of yoga are highly competitive, like to push their limits, and may ignore signals from the body -- like pain or erratic breathing -- that suggest they are doing too much. From an Ayurvedic standpoint, most of these yoga overachievers have a lot of either vata or pitta (or both) in their constitutions. When I lived in New York City in the late 90s, I regularly saw these folks roll up their mats and leave when the teacher called for Savasana. They weren’t going to waste their time relaxing, when they could be accomplishing something! 7. Just because some people get hurt doing particular practices -- usually due to poor alignment, over-efforting, or a failure to modify their practice in light of contraindications -- does not mean that people who are doing them with more skill and mindfulness are at risk. 8. Yoga can be adapted to meet the needs of just about anybody. They might not be doing headstand or Chaturanga Dandasana, but bedridden cancer patients, those with debilitating arthritis and children with developmental disabilities, for example, can do modified practices with great benefit. And don’t forget that yoga isn’t just asana. There’s visualization, pranayama, meditation, chanting, selfless service and countless other yogic tools. 9. Krishnamacharya called headstand and shoulderstand the king and queen of the asanas for a reason. They are, according to the yoga tradition, powerful practices that over time profoundly change the nervous system and the mind. If you are able to do these poses comfortably and with good alignment, the benefits almost certainly outweigh the risks. 10. Even though in rare circumstances practicing yoga might precipitate a heart attack or stroke, yoga – via its effects on stress hormones, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood clotting, etc. -- greatly lowers the likelihood of your having either. Author Jim Fixx might have died of a heart attack while jogging, but this does not mean that on balance running is bad for your heart. 11. Beyond citing a few dramatic cases of yoga injuries, and making, to my mind alarmist calls to avoid inversions or yoga entirely, those making such suggestions need to provide a sense of how common these problems are in yoga compared to other activities. What would those who are injured in kick-butt classes have been doing instead of practicing yoga? Skate-boarding? Jogging in Central Park? Sitting on the couch?? All of those may be quite a bit riskier than practicing yoga, particularly if you’re doing your yoga in a smart way! The Times article correctly mentions that I developed (in late 2001) a case of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), in which I believe headstand, plow pose and shoulder stand played a role. But part of it could also be blamed on my own stubbornness (I’ve got a bit of pitta myself). Just before I developed intermittent numbness and tingling in my right arm, I’d been increasing my headstands up to 10 minutes a day, even though that was more than I could comfortably do. I was allowing an external goal suggested by someone else -- not my own body’s feedback -- to dictate when I came down. I now believe that at the moment (or just before) you lose that balance of effort and ease in the pose, if your breath is rough, or if it just doesn’t feel good, you need to come out. What’s noteworthy is that I also used yoga to heal from the TOS. For three years, I refrained from standard versions of all three poses. When I had access to wall ropes or the pelvic slings you can hang from, I would do headstand that way. Instead of doing the full shoulder stand with the feet directly over the shoulders (which despite the impression you get from the article, most people do with blankets or other support under the shoulders), I did chair shoulder stand (see photo). Indeed, chair shoulder stand, which allows you to use your arms to gently coax more opening in the thoracic spine, was probably the single most useful thing I did to overcome the TOS. After 3 years of refraining from these poses, in 2004 I began to slowly reintroduce them, first shoulder stand, then headstand, and finally plow pose. By that time, the therapeutic yoga I was doing, along with Ayurvedic treatments and other bodywork, had opened my thoracic spine and shoulders enough that the poses were no longer contraindicated. I now do both poses almost every day, and they feel wonderful. Yes, I had a satisfying yoga practice without the poses, but am very happy to be able to do them again. So my answer to Colleen’s email was that I agreed with every word she wrote. Not everybody should be doing the poses like headstand, but if you don’t have a contraindication, you’re getting good instruction, and you’re paying attention to the feedback your body is giving you, you’re unlikely to do harm.


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Meditation and the Military

Men and women fighting for peace and finding their center of truth through meditation.


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A common thread for all humanity ...we will all meet the end.

"The art of living well and the art of dying well are one."  Epicurus The new year brings life into a wider view for some. If the end of 2011 has your thoughts expanding to include contemplations in regard to your legacy; turn to these resources to initiate a courageous conversation. Top Five Regrets of the Dying living life, dying death by Jennifer Collins Taylor. A simple message about a complex topic. Discover how deeply life and death are entwined. How interesting, that one of the most-mentioned regrets of the dying includes, "I wish that I had let myself be happier." If fear of change, and the comfort of old habits has you "stuck;" nourish the seeds of change through your yoga practice and make 2012 the year you laugh, rekindle friendships and lift yourself from the rut of unconsious living! It all starts on the mat.  Namaste [caption id="" align="alignright" width="75" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Mangrove Jewel[/caption]

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