Meditation 101 – What is meditation and why do it?

By:  Kathryn Gardner

In yogic theory, the mind is considered to be a field of consciousness, and thoughts are like waves that roll through that field.  Meditation is a way to bring us back to ourselves, where we can really experience and taste our full being, beyond all habitual ways of being and thinking.  In normal waking states, our minds focus on passing thoughts and outer circumstances, and we mistakenly identify with these thoughts and experiences.  In the stillness and silence of meditation, we glimpse and return to our deep inner nature remembering that we are the field that the waves pass through.

Often, when one thinks of meditation, an idea persists that the goal is to control the mind so that the thoughts stop coming, and a peaceful feeling is achieved.  But, as Sherrie Wade, founder of Transformational Meditation, sees it, “the purpose of the mind is to think.”  Rather than working against the true nature of mind, practicing meditation helps us develop the ability to sit quietly and observe the thoughts, feelings and moods that pass in and out of our mind.  As we observe the mind, transformation occurs.

If the transformation of mind for its own sake is not enough to tempt you, maybe the health benefits – physical and emotional – will appeal.  Meditation has been widely studied and is known to reduce pain, stress and anxiety while promoting a healthy, happy and productive lifestyle*.  People who meditate have been found to sleep better, age slower, be more present and focused, and be less annoyed by the details of life.  In a nutshell, meditation helps you enjoy life!

Kathryn-Gardner-fb-frameKathryn Gardner is a Vinyasa yoga teacher and is currently studying Transformational Meditation, a technique based on ancient yogic texts as well as the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dean Ornish, Joan Borysenko and others.  This method helps one transform ordinary waking consciousness into its original state of pure space or consciousness.

Posabilities will host a free introduction to meditation on Sunday, March 17 at 5:00 pm.  Kathryn will lead a 60 minute class, “Creating a Meditation Practice” every Sunday at Posabilities starting April 7, 2013 at 5:00pm.  Click here to read more.

*Many studies have been done in the last 20 years supporting these ideas, including the following:

Grossman (2004), Feiburg, Germany
Amishi Jha & Michael Baime (2007), Penn’s Stress Management Program
Miller, et al. (1995), University of Massachusetts Medical Center

Shades of Green

It’s not easy being green, but when my husband and I decided to start a business that would provide a spectrum of integrative health options, including Physical Therapy, Yoga, and Yoga Therapy, it became clear that going green was an important consideration.  The question became how green could we realistically go with the green ($$$) we had available?  After all, it is all about balance.

Why green? Sure, going green is a popular notion these days, but beyond feeling as we were doing the “right” thing, the reasons we considered green options in setting up our business included:

  • Providing a healthy environment within our building.
  • Limiting our carbon footprint and supporting sustainability.
  • Conserving the other green, our $$$ bottom line!

SO, what steps did we take to be greener at Posabilities?

  1. Heat – One of the biggest decisions we had to make in retrofitting our building was whether to keep the oil burning furnace and accompanying oil tank in the building.  I felt very strongly about not having an oil tank in the building due to the potential of fumes that can be irritants to people.  After considering all of our options and the associated cost, we settled on a high-efficiency propane furnace.  Additionally, as we increased the insulation in the building, we used insulation which is green by being brown. (www.ecobatt.us/sustainability.html). Lastly, we do not run a “hot yoga” studio but keep room temperatures between 74-76 F during yoga classes.
  2. 20130127_141532Flooring – About ⅔ of the building did not have flooring other than the cement slab, so we had many options in this area.  Much of the clinic side of the building was already completed with laminate wood flooring, so we matched this flooring in the rest of the clinic rather than tearing up the existing flooring and adding it to the local landfills.  In the studio, we immediately ruled out carpet due the chemical fumes that carpets emit, the potential allergens, and difficulty in keeping it clean and healthy over the long haul.  In the studio space, we went with hardwood, which is easier to keep clean, and allergen free, is a replenishable natural resource that can last for 100+ years.  (woodfloors.org/environmental.aspx).  In the lounge, we went with Marmoleum click tiles.  These are cork blocked linoleum tiles.  Linoleum is natural and is one of greenest floors on the market.  It’s bio-based, highly durable, non-toxic, anti-microbial and easy to maintain. (www.forboflooringna.com/Environment/Marmoleum-the-Environment/)
  3. Paint – Next came the walls. I wanted deep, rich colors, and was very happy when I could find what I wanted in Behr’s zero VOC paints.  VOC are volatile organic compounds found in many paints that can emit toxins into the air for years after application.  Zero VOC paints are much healthier during application and after.
  4. Furnishings – Though we did buy a number of new furnishings for the space, where we could we re-purposed 20130127_142058furniture that we no longer needed in our home, or that we were able to buy used.  We found our check-in desk on Craig’s List (maine.craigslist.org/) and I was pleasantly surprised, when I found out that the seller came from my mother’s home town (8 hours away), and quite possibly was a distant relative!  Additionally, we were able to find a truck full of great used furniture at surplus business assets in Sanford.  (www.buy-used.net/)  Again, we had a great conversation with the owner, who finds new homes for perfectly lovely and high quality office furnishings.

So, as it turns out, being green isn’t really all that hard.  We will continue with our intention to be as green as possible by using green cleaning products, using our filtered water cooler – rather than selling water in plastic bottles, and making as many green decisions in our building and business as possible.  Please visit the links that I have shared to find ways that you can improve your health in and outside of your home, and limit your footprint!

Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.” ~Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Keeping Your Balance

Balance can be ever changing, and can tend to become more and more elusive as we age.  While there are many factors that may contribute to decreases in balance, there are also many interventions that can be used to improve balance. Albert Einstein put it simply, “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

In adults aged 65 or older, one in three suffer from falls, and two million older adults are treated in emergency departments for injuries related to falls (www.cdc.gov/features/OlderAmericans).  These falls have significant effects on older adults’ health, independence, quality of life, and longevity.  By recognizing the risk factors associated with decreased balance and falls and the steps to modify those risk factors, we can decrease the risk of falling or having a loved one fall.

Common risk factors contributing to falls include:

  1. Sedentary lifestyles that lead to declines in core and lower body strength.
  2. Decreased flexibility and range of motion.
  3. Changes in posture and body awareness.
  4. Fear of falling and decreased confidence in mobility.
  5. Incontinence.
  6. The need to take multiple prescription medications (>4).

Here are some tools that can be used to improve balance and decrease the risk of falling:

  1. Balance activities, coupled with strengthening and flexibility exercises.
  2. Activities that help improve your posture and body awareness – including Tai Chi and yoga.
  3. A regular walking program, when indicated and safe.
  4. Bladder training programs – which may also help strengthen your core.
  5. Regular socialization.
  6. Lifestyle modifications regarding diet and exercise that may help you decrease the number of prescription medications that you need to take.

If you or a loved one has experienced declines in balance or recent falls, please consult with a medical practitioner to make sure that there are no underlying pathologies contributing to these changes.  A practitioner specializing in balance and mobility can help you get back on your feet by developing a program customized to your individual needs and goals.

Katey Hawes, MS, PT, RYT, owner of Posabilities, has years of experience working in this area and would be happy to help you or your loved one.  Katey can help you determine if one-on-one Physical Therapy is indicated, or if you would benefit from a group exercise program, or other form of therapy to get you back on your feet!

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

What is this pain in the neck and how do I get rid of it?

Many of us experience pain or discomfort in our neck and shoulders at some point in our lives. In most cases, it will eventually resolve on its own, but 50-85% of the time it will return within 5 years. To avoid continuing neck or shoulder discomfort, or its return, here are a few modifications that you can make to your external environment, how you interact with your environment, and your internal environment.

You should always seek medical attention if the pain persists > 1 week if it accompanied by fever, a persistent headache, pain/numbness/tingling or weakness in arm, nausea or vomiting, night sweats, or if it occurs after a traumatic injury such as an accident or sports injury.

Your external environment:

  1. Computer – When doing computer work, the monitor should be positioned so that it is 15-20 degrees below eye level. As a rule of thumb, the top of the monitor should be at, or just below eye level. (These rules change some if you wear bi-focals!) The keyboard should be positioned so that your elbows hang comfortably at your sides and are bent about 90 degrees. Avoid glare on your computer screen and take frequent rests from the computer!
  2. Cell phone texting – Yes, neck pain from texting has become so common that it has a name – “Text neck.” When you are texting you should use one hand to hold the phone at or near eye height, and the other hand to navigate the screen and text. Also, limit your time texting and take frequent breaks.
  3. Driving – When you are driving your seat should be adjusted to 100 degrees (Just back slightly from fully erect), your hands should be at 3:00 and 9:00 on the steering wheel and your elbows should rest comfortably on the arm rests, and your head should be supported with the head rest touching the middle part of the back of your head.
  4. Pillow – Most of us spend at least 6-8 hours in bed every night so your sleeping position and pillow can make a huge difference in how your neck feels. You should sleep on your back or side, and avoid sleeping on your stomach as that position forces you to rotate your neck to one side or the other. If you sleep on your side, the pillow should fill the space between your ear and the mattress without tilting your head. If you sleep on your back, your pillow should keep your head from tilting back or forwards.

Your internal environment:

  1. Postural awareness – Forward head and slouched shoulders can be major factors in the neck and shoulder tightness and discomfort, but the problem may start further “down the chain.” Check in with your posture frequently beginning at your feet and moving up making sure that your body is well supported and aligned.
  2. Eyes – Give your eyes a break. When working on the computer, reading, driving – take frequent breaks. Focusing at one distance for extended periods of time can cause eye strain, which can in turn result in neck tightness. Also, keep up with regular eye appointments and keep your vision prescriptions up to date.
  3. Breathing – Our primary breathing muscle should be our diaphragm located at the base of the rib cage, but overtime we may begin over using our accessory muscles and under using our diaphragm. Many of these accessory muscles are located along the sides of the neck and when overused result in neck tightness. Spend some time every day just breathing and focusing on breathing deeply into the bases of the lungs so that you increase your use of your diaphragm.
  4. Stress and anxiety – Most of us experience some level of stress every day – it’s just part of life! Everyone responds to stress differently, and many of us carry that stress in our shoulders and neck. Learn to manage your stress at healthy levels and be aware of how your stress may be contributing to your neck discomfort. The good news is that just breathing deeply and slowly can help bring a better balance to your stress levels.

While the neck and shoulder tightness will usually resolve to a tolerable level on its own, ongoing tightness can lead to chronic issues such as arthritis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and rotator cuff issues. Physical Therapy can help you address neck and shoulder discomfort by providing a complete assessment, and then using manual techniques, neuromuscular techniques and exercises, and education to help improve your posture and movement patterns.

If you feel that you would benefit from Physical Therapy for your neck tightness or discomfort, contact Katey to set up an appointment. Other offerings at Posabilities to help address pain and stiffness include yoga therapy, energy and body work, as well as yoga and movement classes, click here for a calendar of all classes.

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Yoga Wall at Posabilties

Katey B Yoga WallThe original design is based on BKS Iyengar’s principle of alignment and is used to deepen asana by opening and creating space in the body using therapeutic techniques.  Our yoga wall offers you the opportunity to work out by changing your gravity.  The wall allows you to access deep core muscles, rather than relying on skeletal muscles for movement.

The benefits of using the yoga wall:

  • Helps you to do many poses successfully.
  • Lengthens your spine and opens up your joints.
  • You can strengthen hard-to-build muscles.
  • You can use to develop and improve your inversions without fear.

Katey B and Hedy Yoga wall open house IIClick here to visit our class calendar and plan to attend a class; we look forward to helping you develop your practice.


Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Posabilities Grand Opening-A Big Success

Our Grand Opening on January 26, 2013 turned out to be a wonderful day!  Thank you to everyone who participated in the day’s events. Our goal is to provide a peaceful space for all to enjoy, relax, restore, heal and be happy!

Our local news agencies helped us celebrate this grand opening:

To read the article from the Advertiser Democrat, click here.

To read the article from the Sun Journal, click here.

Here are a view photos from the folks who joined us for the evening activities:

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Yoga Books

Are you looking for a book to enhance or start your Yoga Practice? Here is a great list produced by YogaJournal.com that you can use to reference – enjoy!

Beginner Books

The Runner’s Yoga Book: A Balanced Approach to Fitness by Jean Couch. One of the best introductions to the practice of yoga postures. Clearly written and well organized, with more than 400 illustrations and photographs. The models demonstrate three levels of practice—beginning, intermediate, and advanced—so this book will have a long shelf life and be useful for years to come. Covers nearly 100 postures (along with variations), all of them suitable for beginners. Also includes sections on yoga basics and organizing a home practice.

Yoga for Body, Breath, and Mind: A Guide to Personal Reintegration by A.G. Mohan. A traditional approach to yoga from a student of the late T. Krishnamacharya, one of the great yoga teachers of this century. Includes introductory chapters on yoga and personal reintegration and the role of the postures, basic instructions on 23 postures (including three inversions), and the proper sequencing (vinyasa) of a daily practice, yoga breathing, meditation, and yoga therapy.

Yoga for Dummies by Georg Feuerstein and Larry Payne. Yes, the title is a little off-putting, but think of it this way: According to the ancient yogis, we’re all infected with a kind of spiritual ignorance that makes us “dummies” about the nature of our true selves. This book will no doubt make us a lot smarter. Feuerstein is one of the finest and most prolific contemporary writers on yoga and yoga-related subjects, and Payne is a master of “user-friendly” yoga.

The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality through Essential Breath Work by Donna Farhi. An excellent introduction to the “essentials” of breathwork that will help the beginner prepare for Pranayama, the practice of yoga breathing. Features sections on basic breathing awareness and the anatomy of breathing, common breathing obstacles, preparatory exercises, simple yoga breathing, breathing for couples, breathing “meditations,” and breathing for health and well-being, focusing on various health-related conditions (such as stress, headache, and insomnia), childbirth and menopause, and athletic performance.

The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar. A general introduction to yoga and its practices by one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world today. Chapters are mostly short “meditations” on subjects like yoga and its place in our daily life, the practical and symbolic meanings of the various classical practices, yoga and health, and the physical, psychological, and spiritual effects of yoga.

Intermediate Books

Light on Yoga and Light On Pranayama by B.K.S. Iyengar. These companion volumes are classic twentieth-century instruction manuals that should be in every student’s library, regardless of his or her chosen approach. Light on Yoga offers detailed instruction in 200 yoga postures, illustrated with more than 600 photographs. Light on Pranayama is the most comprehensive text available on the practice of yoga breathing. Sections cover the theory and “art” of pranayama, and the techniques of the primary breathing exercises.

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann. Schiffmann is one of this country’s most respected teachers. He has a unique perspective on yoga practice and writes about it with grace and intelligence. The first two sections spotlight basic exercises for breath- and self-awareness, and the fundamentals of yoga postures. The book’s core surveys more than 40 major asanas. Concluding sections treat meditation and techniques for cultivating “spontaneous wisdom.”

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V. Desikachar. Mr. Desikachar is, along with Mr. Iyengar, one of the most influential teachers in the twentieth century. There are really three books in this one volume: a practical guide to yoga postures, breathing, and “locks” (bandha); a survey of classical yoga philosophy (which includes transcripts of question-and-answer sessions with Mr. Desikachar and his students); and Mr. Desikachar’s translation of, and commentary on, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (a good introduction to this fundamental yoga text).

Kundalini Yoga for the West by Swami Sivananda Radha. I went back and forth a long time between this book and Swami Radha’s delightful Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language. Kundalini Yoga explores the “mystical aspects” of hatha yoga through the six traditional energy centers (chakra) in the subtle body. Contains a wealth of information about the yoga tradition and its symbolism, personal thoughts and reflections on a variety of topics (e.g., death, ego and self-image, worship, and kundalini, the cosmic energy at the base of the spine), self-awareness exercises, visualizations, and yoga practices.

Bhagavad Gita (Lord’s Song) Recommended translations by R.C. Zaehner or Barbara Stoler Miller. One of the two traditional scriptures (along with Yoga Sutra) that should be read by every serious yoga student. Written by an anonymous sage sometime in the third or fourth century B.C. and inserted as a very small episode (about 700 stanzas) into the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, the Gita is a poetic discourse on an integral yoga that combines the paths of intuitive wisdom (jnana), selfless action (karma), and devotion (bhakti). I like the Zaehner translation and commentary, but many students find it too academic. The Stoler Miller translation includes an interesting afterword about the Bhagavad Gita’s influence on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

Advanced Books

Power Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch. Power Yoga is one of the most popular and challenging forms of contemporary yoga. While Birch writes about her life in yoga with an engagingly personal touch, her posture instructions are direct and precise. Covers the history of Power Yoga, breathing techniques, two variations of Sun Salutation, nearly 40 standing, seated, and closing postures of the “primary series” (which emphasizes forward bends), 14 introductory postures for the “second series” (emphasizing backbends), and yoga therapy.

Science of Breath: A Practical Guide by Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, and Alan Hymes. A perspicacious examination of the relationship between the anatomy and mechanics of breathing and the practice of pranayama by two medical doctors and the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Chapters on “Why Breathe,” “Respiration and the Chest,” “Nasal Function and Energy,” and “The Science of Prana.” The last chapter covers breathing exercises and techniques, cleansing exercises, and sitting postures.

The Yoga Tradition by Georg Feuerstein. The Yoga Tradition is the culmination of Feuerstein’s large and distinguished body of work on the history, philosophy, literature, and practices of yoga. It covers the evolution of yoga from its archaic roots in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization (in what is now Pakistan) some 5,000 years ago, to the appearance of hatha yoga around the tenth century. Includes translations of primary yoga texts (some in full, some selected sections) such as the Yoga Sutra, the Shiva Sutra, and the Yoga Vasishtha.

The Yoga of Light by Hans Ulrich Rieker. This rendition of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika—one of the classic instructional manuals of hatha yoga—is Elsy Becherer’s English translation of Rieker’s German translation. Written in the mid-fourteenth century by Svatmarama Yogindra, it’s divided into four chapters that cover the foundation practices of “forceful” (hatha) training: asana (postures), pranayama (breathwork), mudra (seals), and samadhi (absorption). I must admit that I’m not entirely happy with this particular translation and commentary; however, it’s the only one widely available and until something better comes along, will have to serve.

Yoga Sutra (Aphorisms on Yoga) by Patanjali; recommended translations include The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali by Georg Feuerstein and Yoga: The Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra Attributed To Patanjali by Barbara Stoler Miller and The Essence of Yoga: Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Bernard Bouanchaud. The Yoga Sutra is the basic textbook of classical yoga, compiled by Patanjali in the second or third century. The first systematic presentation of the yoga vision (darshana) that influenced many subsequent schools. There are numerous translations/commentaries available. Feuerstein’s translation adheres most closely to the original letter and spirit of the text, but many of my students find it too academic. Stoler Miller’s translation is short and reader friendly. Bouanchaud appends a number of thought-provoking themes for personal reflection to each sutra.


Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .


shutterstock_24479635I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.” ~ Gandhi


Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Physical Therapy | Yoga | Wellness in Norway, Maine