Category Archives: Yoga

Yoga and Grief

By Ellen S. Gibson

I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.

–Edward Thomas (1878-1918) from his poem, “Lights Out”

My mother died at the end of December. It was not completely unexpected. She was 93 years of age. She lived a long life, a good life, but had been in declining health for some time.

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Yoga and Hope

By Ellen S. Gibson

Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the song without the words
And never stops at all.

-Emily Dickinson

Each day I come to the mat, there is the expectation that I will feel better for having practiced yoga. It could be ten uninterrupted minutes or a 45-minute class via Zoom. The amount of time matters less than showing up. Physically, my back may be stiff from too much shoveling. Emotionally, I may be feeling overwhelmed, tense, or anxious. No matter the starting point, when I leave the mat, I am stronger, calmer, and more balanced.

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Plankity Plank

A year ago, I shared a blog about a healthy and well-balanced movement diet. (See July 2018 – How’s your movement diet?)  In that blog, I recommended ten movements or activities to consider incorporating into your daily movement diet to optimize your health and life enjoyment.  #10 was the recommendation to do plank daily.  I did add the caveat that plank may not be for everyone; however, today I am sharing several variations on the traditional high plank that help make it healthy and accessible for nearly everybody! 

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Inhale exhale, In and Out, Give and Take

Try breathing like this:  exhale … exhale … exhale … exhale again.

How did that go?  I’m guessing that you were wondering what happened to the inhale?  It is a simple fact that you cannot keep breathing out without breathing in and live to tell about it! Likewise, you cannot live well without balancing the care that you commit to others with the care that you give yourself.  Yoga at its core is a self-care practice.  As we experience greater balance, harmony, and joy in ourselves through these practices, we are better able to care for the world around us.  A win-win for all. (Click here to learn more about yoga self-care practices.)

The practices of yoga that promote this self-care include physical practices, breath work, self-awareness, meditation, and ethical guidelines.  Though many of the more vigorous practices are excellent for the care of the physical body, the slower and quieter practices help us focus our energies on all parts of our being for comprehensive self-care. Some of these slower and more introspective practices include Restorative yoga, Yin yoga, Sen yoga, and Yoga nidra which offer a variety of benefits as outlined below:

Restorative Yoga

This practice helps to promote deep relaxation of the body and mind. During a restorative yoga class, you will sloEnw down and allow your muscles and mind to relax deeply. Postures are fully supported using a variety of yoga props to minimize strain and muscle holding. These stretches are held for many minutes (typically 4-10 minutes) as you are guided into awareness of the breath and body, allowing the muscles and nervous system to relax and release tensions.

Some of the reported benefits of restorative yoga include:

  • Enhanced flexibility
  • Deep relaxation of the body
  • Quieting of the mind
  • Improved capacity for healing and balancing
  • Balancing of the nervous system
  • Enhanced mood states
  • Improved immune function

Yin Yoga

This practice is slow-paced practice and closely resembles restorative yoga where students are encouraged to move just a bit further into the stretches. Its primary goals are to target the joints and the deep connective tissues of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine.  Props are used to support you in your poses as they are held for 3-7 minutes and you are invited to feel a gentle to moderate stretch.  Yin yoga is influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sequencing postures to stretch and compress the meridians (the energetic lines of TCM). Guided and supported mindfulness meditation is incorporated into many yin classes.

Some of the reported benefits of Yin yoga include:

  • Calming and balancing of the mind and body
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Balancing of the internal organs and improved the flow of chi or prana (Vital life force)

Sen Yoga

This practice combines self-massage, repetitive movement at the joints, breath awareness that is linked with rhythmic movements in and out of postures, and supported postures that may be held 3-6 minutes on average. Sen Yoga is influenced by Traditional Thai Medicine and Thai yoga (Reusi Dat Ton), massaging and stretching the sen lines (the energetic lines of Traditional Thai Medicine).  Guided and supported insight meditation is incorporated into this practice.

Some benefits of Sen yoga may include improved:

  • Lymphatic flow supporting the immune system
  • Circulation
  • Joint mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Awareness and response to the emotions as they arise
  • Relaxation of the body and mind

Yoga Nidra

A state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, like the “going-to-sleep” stage. During a Yoga Nidra practice, you will rest on your back using props to ensure your comfort. Your teacher verbally guides you through a series of steps to become increasingly aware of your inner world allowing the body to become completely relaxed.  Yoga nidra is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness.

Some of the reported benefits of Yoga Nidra include:

  • Decreased depression and / or anxiety
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Deep healing rest
  • Clearing of the mind for improved learning and absorption of new material
  • Decreased tension in the body and mind
  • Increased creativity

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.16 (heyam dukham anagatam), the suffering that is to come can (and should) be avoided.  Self-care is an important step that we all should take on the path to greater balance and preventative care to help prevent unnecessary future suffering.  Once we take steps to care for ourselves with compassion and understanding, we become better able to care for others and become the change that we want to see in ourselves and the world around us.

Through March 2019 we will be offering a self-care series on Sundays 3:00 – 5:00 PM that includes: Restorative yoga infused with reiki, Yin yoga with hot stones, Sen yoga with Thai herbal compress balls, and Yoga nidra infused with aromatherapy. We hope that you can join us for one or more of these classes, and any of our regularly scheduled quiet practices.

Katey Hawes, MS, PT, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, YACE, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist. You may find her at @Posabilities4u, and Instagram .

Transitioning to Winter with Ease

Guest Writer:  Sophia Maamouri

As we transition from summer to fall, we prepare ourselves for winter. The energy of the plant world is going into the roots. Foliage is drying and turning beautiful colors. Squirrels are busy stealing seeds from the bird feeders and hoarding food to their “storage units.” My goats are fluffing up with their new cashmere undercoat, and the chickens and ducks are molting. Bears are fattening up for hibernation.

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How’s your movement diet?

We all know that our health benefits from moving and being active. Typically movement guidelines for health and fitness address frequency, duration, intensity, and mode. Click here to see the US Government Physical Activity Guidelines. This information is quite informative and offers the opportunity to customize your activities to your needs and interests.

Based on my experience and observations as a Physical Therapist, Yoga Therapist, and a human being living in a human body, I would like to recommend that everyone incorporate the following ten movement nutrients into their daily movement diet. (Please note that if you have a health concern, you should speak with your healthcare provider first.)

Continue reading How’s your movement diet?

Don’t Hibernate, Invigorate!

This winter, feed your fire for vigor and vitality.

During the coldest months of the year, it can be tempting to cozy up next to the fire and not venture out again until the weather warms. For many of us, our internal flame of motivation can begin to burn a bit low this a time of year. However, since hibernation is not a natural state for humans it is important that we feed our fire, so that come spring we don’t regret those hours of chillin’ the winter away. The yogic principle of Tapas supports us in cultivating the inner flame that motivates us.

Tapas is one of the Niyamas, or observances, of yoga. The literal translation for tapas is “heat” or “fire.” In the yogic context, it is self-discipline or the determination that fires us up to attain our goals and dreams. You can think of it as the inner flame that keeps you moving forward even when don’t feel like it. It makes you floss when you’d rather not. It encourages you to keep going, or to change course, to help cultivate the life you want. Without Tapas or self-discipline, we might simply slow down to a grinding halt and hibernate our lives away.

So, how will you keep your fire, or tapas, burning brightly this winter? Here are six steps for fueling your fire: (I have included examples for promoting a greater sense of ease and peace in my life.)

1) Visualization – Visualize your heart’s desire or the next step to fulfilling your life’s purpose. Don’t be shy or timid, think big!

My heart’s desire is to reside in a place of peace and ease when things outside of my control are stormy.

2) Intention – Set an intention, a clear course of action that you plan to follow to realize your heart’s desire or life’s purpose. It may be helpful to write your intention down or share it with someone.

To support greater peace and ease in my life, I will foster a daily meditation practice.

3) Affirmation – Affirmation is a powerful tool that can support action and actually result in changes in the activity of your nervous system. Formulate a simple, positive statement in the present tense supporting your intention. Write it down and post it somewhere where you will see it every day, and repeat it to yourself at least daily for 30 days or more.

Through daily meditation, I experience peace and ease in all parts of my life.

4) Acknowledgement – As you set out to do the work to fulfill your intention acknowledge the challenges that you may face, and make a plan to avoid or address temptations that might keep you from following through. Pratipaksha-bhavana is a yogic discipline of cultivating the opposite and can be helpful in shifting our negative mental attitudes to positive action.

In the winter months, I like to stay in my cozy, warm bed reading longer and later, which can disrupt my morning meditation practice. Before going to bed I will set up my meditation cushion in a warm, inviting part of the house with a comfy blanket, set up a teapot and cup to start warming on my way to my cushion, and I will place any books away from my bed before falling asleep.

5) Tolerance – Practice tolerating emotional discomfort. Positive action is not always fun or comfortable, and it is easy to change courses as soon as you begin to experience resistance or discomfort. Practice being comfortable with uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. As soon as you experience discomfort around carrying out your intention, take a moment to come back to your visualization, intention, and affirmation, and reignite your flame for positive change.

I dislike the feeling of being cool after getting out of my warm bed in the morning. I will practice inviting thoughts and feelings of warmth and comfort as I get out of bed coming back to my intention of experiencing ease and peace.

6) Repetition – Self-discipline and positive action are all about repetition. Whatever your intention or planned course of action is, repeat, repeat, repeat. If your flame starts to sputter, or you stray from your intention, exercise compassion. Recognize what may have dampened your fire, use this as a learning opportunity, and move on perhaps with even greater resolve!

I will commit to my morning meditation practice five days a week. When I skip a day, I will compassionately explore why I was unable to keep my commitment that day and make an action plan to refuel my commitment.

The yogic practices of asana (postures), pranayama (breath work), Tapas (self-discipline), and meditation are all high-grade fuels to feed your fire. What other fuels can you use to feed your fire?

Fuel Your Fire Yoga

“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” B.K.S. Iyengar

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

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, Instagram and .

Action, Mindful Action, Right Action

Understanding Karma Yoga and Dharma – and practicing these can help you, others, and the world live in a more peaceful and easeful manner.

Helping HandsWith so many things happening around the world including natural disasters, global warming, terrorism, racism, and sexism, etc. it is only natural to wonder what you can do to help others who may be in a less fortunate situation than you or to help the earth itself. It can also be natural to doubt your ability, as one person, to make a difference. These questions and doubts are perfectly valid, and the reality is that there are a lot of different things that you can do and that each one of them will probably have little direct impact on these huge issues. However, mindful action – Karma Yoga – moves us toward right action – Dharma – and when we practice our Karma Yoga and follow our Dharma, then each small act begins to contribute to the universal good.

“To become more conscious is the greatest gift anyone can give to the world, moreover, in a ripple effect, the gift comes back to its source.” ~ David Hawkins

Karma Yoga is the Yoga of action. It is one of the four paths of yoga. Here in the U.S. most of us are more familiar with the path of Raja Yoga – the Yoga of self-control where the focus is on controlling the body, energy, senses, and mind to realize our true nature or unite with the divine. Following the path of Karma Yoga we use the ordinary actions of our day-to-day life to “wake up,” and become fully present and devoted to self, others, the divine. This practice of being fully present, aware, and devoted during our actions naturally moves us toward a state of union or awakening.

Somewhere along the Karma Yoga path the desire to do service and right action may ripen. While Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Action, Dharma can be translated as Right Action. As we perform our day-to-day activities with mindful awareness, we become more aware of how our actions affect us and others. From this expanded awareness the seed of loving kindness is planted, and the desire to perform right action for self and others grows. Along with this desire comes clarity and understanding of what our right action is in any given situation and at any given time.

Through regular practice, the concepts of Karma Yoga and Dharma can serve as roadmaps for each of us in moving forward in taking action to address challenges, injustices, and suffering that we see around us and throughout the world.

Here are six steps using Karma Yoga and Dharma that you can take to be the change, and help the world be a more peaceful and easeful place to live:

1. Practice Mindful Action.

Karma Yoga: Practice this often with small and large acts. If you can be mindful of simple tasks such as brushing your teeth, preparing your breakfast, greeting acquaintances, gathering your mail, then you will be better prepared to be present and aware at more challenging times of stress, indecision, or confusion. Start out by choosing one simple task that you do daily – and begin the practice of being mindfully present throughout this task every day.

2. Be open to your Dharma or individual right action.

As you practice your Karma Yoga, your own personal Dharma will become clearer. The Right Action in any given circumstance is different for every one of us and will vary from moment to moment. When you are faced with a decision regarding action, rather than following the path of others, check in with your self and decide on the best course of action based on your gifts and abilities.

3. Practice Loving-kindness.

Despite all of your best intentions – Karma Yoga and practicing our Dharma is, in the end, a practice, which means you won’t get it perfect, or even right, every time. When things don’t go as you expected or go “wrong,” observe the situation, yourself, and with loving kindness learn from the practice and move forward with the hope of doing better next time.

4. Be not attached to the fruits of the action.

A fundamental concept of Karma Yoga and the Dharma is not being attached to the outcome of your actions. This concept can be a tough one; yet is important. Despite our greatest efforts and intentions, things will develop in their own time and way. Over-attachment to certain outcomes may blind you to the chain of events that have been put into action, and you may begin to feel defeated, fatigued, or disenfranchised. When you release your attachments and aversions to certain outcomes, then your way will become light.

5. Be realistic.

Right action does not have to be some grandiose gesture, it can be as simple as smiling warmly at a stranger, offering your neighbor a helping hand, petting a lonely dog, volunteering for a local charity. There are times when we will have more than enough to share. Other times we will have more than we can juggle with family, work, health, finances, etc. leaving us few resources to contribute toward “saving the world.” Never underestimate the power of love and random acts of kindness. Regarding right action, Mirabai Bush said, “Be brave, start small, use what you’ve got, do something you enjoy, and don’t over commit.

6. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It’s a practice. Never stop practicing!

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Katey Hawes, MS, PT, C-IAYT, E-RYT500Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, , and Instagram.

How often should I practice, It depends

Yoga PracticeA frequent question from new Yoga students and experienced ones is, “How often should I practice Yoga?” A great question and an interesting one.

Everyone practices Yoga for a variety of reasons.  News and research tell us that Yoga is helpful for back pain, cardiovascular health, stress and anxiety, and positive self-image just to name a few benefits (Huffington Post – The New Science of the Health Benefits of Yoga).  The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali  tell us that Yoga is “retraining the modifications of the mind.”  To be clear – our contemporary understanding of yoga is primarily focused on the physical practice of asanas (postures), while the understanding conveyed by the Sutras (400 CE) was that Yoga was the attainment of a state of Samadhi, or unity with the universal truth or divine.

OK… So you are thinking, “Seriously, how often should I practice Yoga?”  Well, it depends.  In Sutras 1.21 – 1.22 Patanjali tells us that, “Those who pursue their practices with intensity of feeling, vigor, and firm conviction achieve concentration and the fruits thereof more quickly, compared to those of medium or lesser intensity.  For those with intense practices and intense conviction, there are three more subdivisions of practice, those of mild intensity, medium intensity, and intense intensity.” (  Essentially, my understanding is that if one devotes much time, effort, and conviction to practicing, then the fruits of their efforts are close at hand.  On the other hand, if one has little time and does practices with less intensity, but has a strong conviction then the fruits of their efforts are available and may take a little longer to attain.

For further clarity, one should understand that the practice of yoga is not limited to the asanas or physical postures, that in Raja Yoga (The one most recognized paths of yoga in the US) there are 8 limbs.  These 8 limbs are:
1) Yamas – 5 moral restraints focused on out interactions with the world around us.
2) Niyamas – 5 observances focused on duties towards ourselves
3) Asana – Postures
4) Pranayama- Breath work / control
5) Pratyahara – With drawl of the senses
6) Dharana  – Focused concentration
7) Dhyana – Meditative absorption
8) Samadhi – Bliss or enlightenment

Therefore, depending on the fruits that you hope to reap, you may choose to focus your efforts on any of the above.  The important thing is that you do so with conviction, and with the greatest amount of effort and time that you have available.

We live in a prescriptive society where we are accustomed to being told how often to do things, how hard to do them, and how long.  Think of FIT in exercise terms (Frequency, Intensity, Time).  Yoga is not prescriptive, but an invitation for self-inquiry, and in my mind, that is what makes it so effective and powerful.  As you embrace the practices of yoga (See the 8 limbs above), you will find that you become more and more aware of the subtle messages that your body, mind, and spirit are offering you. You will have the answers for “How often should I practice Yoga, and how should I practice Yoga.”  As Yoga Teachers, we are available to shine a light and help dispel the shadows to help you along your path.

tivra samvega asannah.  mridu madhya adhimatra tatah api visheshah.  – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.21 – 1.22
Translation – “It [victory over mind] is close to those with intense desire.  It is very close to those who are charged with the highest degree of intense desire, and even that intensity could be mild, intermediate, or supreme.”
~ Yoga International

Katey Hawes, MS, PT, C-IAYT, E-RYT500At Posabilities we are proud to offer a variety of options for your path to health, well-being, and balance including Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Thai Yoga Massage!  If you have any questions about any of these services, please do not hesitate to contact us!

By Katey Hawes,  MS, PT, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.  You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u and Instagram.