Feb 17 2012

Holy Yoga-PMS!


Embrace the Time of the Month, Ladies!

A majority of women can relate to the time of the month right before their menstrual period, where irritability, anxiety, depression, and cravings for sweet and salty foods are extremely heightened.  There is an awareness of water retention in the body, perhaps bloating, acne, and fatigue.  Yes–PMS!

I have been battling old Aunt Betty every month with Flip Chocolate Pretzels and lots of naps and there just comes a point where the mind and body are tired of fighting the natural the rhythms of the feminine cycle.  If you search “PMS,” you will find tons of studies of which foods to eat and not to eat, exercises, traditions, etc., which may absolutely be helpful and life changing, and I encourage you to explore those.  But I want to share with you a discovery as someone who has been experiencing PMS every month for the past 18 years.

During this time, there is a battle going on with my mind and body.  I am sharp with my tongue and become easily irritated, then go through this vicious cycle of feeling guilty because of the feelings I am having…ladies, you know the cycle.  My husband can simply look at me and I immediately jump into defense mode.  What is that?

I decided to ask God to help me understand my body in the way He created it, to give me wisdom and insight to the root of my PMS.  Besides my estrogen and progesterone levels changing during that time, creating a significant flux, deep down there are issues in my tissues.  I researched the Bible about women’s cycles and discovered that in Leviticus 15:19 it says, “Women were set apart for seven days.” I thought to myself, “I want to be set apart from life for seven days to rest, cleanse, replenish, and then enter back into everyday life.” Of course, I shared this with my husband; he was not so keen on the idea, however!  In our culture, we just don’t take the time for ourselves to replenish.

I contemplated being “set apart” and realized “set apart” means to be holy or sacred. I have been teaching Holy Yoga for years, connecting my faith with my practice, but did not connect this aspect of myself with God until now.  WOW–the time of the month is holy?  Yes–it is a time for purification and we need to celebrate and relish in RESTING.

Meditating on the idea of my cycle actually being holy and sacred, I remembered reading this interesting passage from “The Psoas Book” by Liz Koch: “A young girl begins her cycle of bleeding between 9 and 16. Insecurity, shame and embarrassment are often associated with menstruating. The feeling of one’s body being out control can feel scary. Our culture has no ritual for assimilating or celebrating the profound changes in a young girl’s life when her body begins to bleed. Tradition, religious and sexual taboos add what is already an extraordinary experience.”

I started to reflect back to the reactions and feelings of my cycle beginning and sadly, remember the shame and insecurity that so often takes root in heart, mind, and body.  There are certain places in the body that hold this tension.  When our emotional tensions begin to manifest in our physical bodies, it leaves certain places tight and tense, which can cause monthly cramps in the low back or abdomen.  Liz Koch also states that, “fear is always sensed through the psoas muscle and so it is through sensing the psoas that we can release old fears.”

Are you wondering what the relationship between the psoas and fear is? She expands, “rather than the cramps occurring from within the uterus it is often a contracted psoas muscle that presses on the reproductive organs; constricting blood circulation and impeding, possibly irritating the nerves that enervate both the muscle and specific organs.”  When we let go of old fears surrounding our sexuality and embrace this time instead of resisting, our muscles, specifically our psoas which attaches from T12 vertebra and wraps to the front of the femur bone allowing hip flexion, relax and let go. The relationship between mind and body reveals itself during our monthly cycle because we are super sensitive and aware.

This month I decided to experiment by releasing my psoas muscle in pigeon pose during my PMS week, to see if the letting go of this muscle reduced my severe cramping. Ever since I had my children, I have suffered severe cramping, been hospitalized twice, and was prescribed 800mg of ibuprofen every four hours for the first two days of my cycle. I am thrilled to share that this month, I had one day of moderate cramping with one dose of Alieve and was not laid up in bed for two days! I resumed my everyday activities pain-FREE! So, my physical body totally benefited from releasing my psoas. My inner body experienced a release from fears of not feeling worthy or accepted. As my head and upper body melted prostrate before God in pigeon pose, my breath labored through the discomfort of my hips; as my muscles relaxed, my breath softened and my heart surrendered to the Truth in Psalm 139:12-17.


Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
      At night I’m immersed in the light!”

It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!


How do we embrace this time of month ladies?

  1. Accept this time of rest.
  2. Take time to set yourself apart.
  3. Explore and surrender your fears.
  4. Meditate on Truth.
  5. Practice Restorative and Deep Yoga stretching.
  6. Write in a sacred journal.
  7. Connect with other women and God, because when—SHAME AND FEAR ARE DIMINISHED and BROUGHT INTO THE LIGHT, healing happens from in the inside out.
Rachel Glowacki
Instructor at Holy Yoga


Dec 15 2010

Family Yoga!

Willis Tant

There is a class at Jivamukti Yoga on Sundays at noon that is called Family Yoga.  It is intended to be for all people of all ages and can be shared by any and all family members.  The teachings are simple and useful, there is a sense of fun, and songs that help students easily learn the movements.

It is my favorite class that I have the honor of teaching.  I am often so touched by family togetherness that I am moved to tears.  There have been students who bring in their sisters who visit from out of town, there have been father-son moments, and grandparents and small children who delight us all.  But most regular has been one family, who, come almost every Sunday, because they make it THEIR Family time.  Their time to BE and grow together!  Their time to stretch, and breathe, and SEE each other.  Often they go on a picnic or to the beach or even to the grocery store together afterwards.  But for that one hour, every Sunday, they practice together.   I revel in their beauty every week. 

Last Sunday they were telling me how they invite other families to join them, how they spread the word because they have experienced such value from the practice together.  They inspire me and I am so grateful to their dedication and enthusiasm.  They humble me and are a living example of light.  So may this, my first blog, be a sincere offering to this family who has shown me so much love.  Thank you. 

And thank you for coming to practice yoga together in my presence so many times over.  We invite more Charleston yoga families to join us! And look forward to growing, being, and seeing you more often.

Nov 30 2010

Prayer Pose of Thanks


“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).

We come to our mat over and over again with expectations, striving for poses, looking for a feeling of peace, swimming around in our thoughts, to find that those natural feelings are part of the practice.  That is why we continue to show up, observe the breath, and offer thanks for the present moment.  For me, my yoga practice is a physical expression of body prayer. Prayer is a practice, but it does not have to be separate from the body. The body, mind, heart, and soul are a unified whole.  When we bring our hands to heart center in prayer (Anjali Mudra) it’s a symbolic hand gesture that reflects reverence and union with the Divine.

With our fast pace culture during the holiday season,  our stress levels are on the rise with an increase of depression, anxiety, missing past loved ones, arguing with loved ones, who is not talking to who….we all can identify with the chaos that happens within our bodies and our surroundings. The paradox is we are celebrating Thankfulness and often times get swept away into the spirit of ungratefulness.

So like brushing your teeth is a daily practice, so can prayer!

Stand in mountain pose (Tadasana) with hands at heart center in prayer

Ground your feet steadfastly into the earth

Watch the breath fill your heart with thankfulness

Breathe in from your toes, shins, thighs, hips, belly, ribs expand, chest lifts, throat, nose, third eye to the crown of the head

Breathe out from the back of your crown, neck, shoulder blades, lower back, backs of thighs, knees, ankles, and heels

Continue to the cycle of the breath ebbing and flowing from the front side of the body and feeling the breath roll off the back of the body.  Whatever is causing stress in your life, allow that to roll off with the breath of Peace. And inhale whatever you are grateful for.

May your holiday season be filled with Love, and as you pass the salt at your Thanksgiving feast, may your conversations with loved ones be seasoned with salt and light.

I seal all my prayers through my Master Guru, Jesus Christ (Yeshua Sat Nam).

Nov 1 2010


Natasha Alexandra Akery

This morning I practiced janu sirsasana. This pose became an analogy for the art of surrender unto God.  Upon entering a pose, we have a tendency to resist in certain spots of the body.  In this particular one, I engaged my hips and lower back, which prevented full fold over my right leg.  Guided by my breath (my anchor), I began to relax into the fold and experienced that full release, the surrender.  I felt my chest and face graze my leg as my exhale and gravity carried me down.  I interlaced my fingers around my foot and pressed my heart toward my toes.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  I felt deeply loved.

And so it is with the surrender unto God.  We resist initially because he is the mystery, the unknown, the unfathomable.  But there are some things that I do know – that he is steadfast in his love for me and wants to encapsulate me in that love.

After some time, the body begins to resist the pose again.  There are a number of reasons for this.  The exertion could be tiring or the position uncomfortable.  More often it could be a slack in concentration.  We grow accustomed to that ecstasy we experience in theasana and then begin to shift out of it inherently.

Despite my desire to bask in the glory of God, I become distracted in my heart and my focus.  My attention diverts to something else and I drift out of the sacred space we cultivated together.  But then I remember.  I realize that something has changed.  I am conscious of the absence of that deep seated love.

When we regain our drishti both with our eyes and our minds, we sink back into physical release.  Concentration returns to the full manifestation of the posture and we enter back into its benefit, this time with greater intention and maybe even more deeply.  Somehow, it is even better than before.  There is less resistance after shaking off the initial resistance.  There is simply being.  Instead of a glimpse of ecstasy, we bathe in it and saturate.

Remembering the Lord, I bring myself back to his feet.  I enter into surrender with more trust and experience.  My diversion actually provides evidence for the goodness of being one with God.  My lack of concentration actually reminds me that nothing is greater than tying my heart to his, being completely his.  I release all tension and engagement.  I sink into his presence.  Instead of momentary vision and light, I bend beneath the weight of his glory and soak in the substance of his love.

Aug 26 2010

Meditation and Your Brain


I recently read an amazing article in Yoga Journal on “Your Brain on Meditation,” by Kelly McGonigal (www.yogajournal.com/health/2601). She teaches yoga, meditation, and psychology at Stanford University and is the author of Yoga for Pain Relief. It is so inspiring that there is now scientific evidence that your brain on meditation actually changes its structure in different regions of the brain depending on the meditation. For instance, “over the past decade, researchers have found that if you practice focusing attention on your breath or a mantra, the brain will restructure itself to make concentration easier. If you practice calm acceptance during meditation, you will develop a brain that is more resilient to stress. And if you meditate while cultivating feelings of love and compassion, your brain will develop in such a way that you spontaneously feel more connected to others.”

Meditation in the Christian faith is often read and talked about, but not often taught. Meditation is compared to learning a skill like playing an instrument or a sport. In the Message version of Matthew 6, by Eugene Peterson, Jesus say’s “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

Prayer and meditation are two integral practices that join or unite us to our Creator. Prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to Him. However, they both are forms of communication and require practice, patience and time. Our brains are so complex, yet we are designed in such a way that when we take the time to meditate a physical manifestation of gray matter in the brain is produced in different regions. According to “Eileen Luders, a re-searcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine found that increased gray matter typically makes an area of the brain more efficient or powerful at processing information.”

How do we put meditation into practice and deepen our faith? Meditation is an ancient old practice and is used in many religions to connect with God and non-religious meditation techniques link the breath or repeat positive phrases (mantras) to calm the nervous system.  When Jesus visited Martha “her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). Learning to be still and quiet in our inundated culture and living up to the expectations that we place on ourselves and others requires discipline.  By practicing just 10 to 90 minutes a day you can experience immediate results of calm and peaceful feelings.

This meditation was taught to me at Yogaville, an Ashram in Virginia.

Connect to God in Meditation

  1. Go to a quiet secluded place
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Draw your shoulder blades on the backside of your heart as you melt your shoulders away from your ears
  4. Expand from your heart center and smile with your collar bones
  5. Ground in through your sitting bones by pulling back any access flesh
  6. Inhale and Exhale:”Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
  7. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know that I am.”
  8. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know that.”
  9. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know.”
  10. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still.”
  11. Inhale and Exhale: “Be.”