• Conquer Anxiety And Feelings Of Unease

    Conquer Anxiety And Feelings Of Unease

    We all have times in our lives when we need to conquer anxiety and feelings of unease.  For me, it has been a tough couple of months, and I have been out of touch. Hiding. Resting. Renewing. Re-charting. We all need time to come home and to recommit to our mission and ourselves. To get quiet and to listen to the calling of our heart, to find what is truth for us, and to gain insight into where that truth and our heart is going to lead us next.

    When I go inward with these intentions, I am called from a deep place within. I am reminded that this is home. I am reminded that this is where I belong and what I do.

    There are times where I have wanted to shut the door and stay in my PJ’s all day, especially as I was recovering from a pretty tough surgery. Honestly, there have been quite a few days that I have done just that.

    We all must find our way to maneuver through the challenges of our time while staying on course with ourselves.

    Part of this practice of yoga is being mindful as we pay attention to what our bodies and souls need and then being able to give it without judgment or criticism, but instead with love and acceptance for where we are moment to moment.

    Perhaps this process of reconnecting and unfolding with ourselves is never greater than at this time of great division and unrest. We all must find our way to maneuver through the challenges of our time while staying on course with ourselves.

    Conquer Anxiety And Feelings Of Unease – The Effects Of Global and Social Unrest

    I hear from others about feeling anxious and about problems with focus and with getting to sleep. Global energy affects us, although many times we are not aware that this is happening. We have a feeling of unease that we can’t quite put our finger on.

    Without attention and processing, such feelings began to affect us on a cellular level, and they begin to seep out sideways. Yoga and meditation help us to become more aware of the energetics of our body.

    Believe In You!

    I believe that things will always work out when you speak what is your truth and come from your heart. It won’t matter what other people think. Believe in you and go out there and shine your light. The world needs you!

    My practice has taught me much, and fundamentally changed who I am in ways I could not have imagined so many years ago when I finally committed to a regular practice.  My stress levels had been so high for so long that my stress response was in “auto” mode.  Yoga helped me to ease that burden of stress and begin to breathe and live again.

    I know yoga can do this for others. The hardest part is rolling out your mat and showing up. Then you just start where you are, and the rest takes care of itself. I hope you find time to explore this beautiful, deep, and extensive practice of yoga this year and that you find a joy and peace that surpasses your dreams.  I hope that you have the opportunity to come face to face with your authentic self, as you conquer anxiety and unease in your body and mind.

    Here’s to a great year in 2017!

    Hope’s Outfit is from the Lucy Activewear 2017 Spring Collection.

  • Balancing the Body’s Stress Response with Yoga

    Balancing the Body’s Stress Response with Yoga

    Stressed Out ?  It’s Friday afternoon, your internet connection is on the blink, and you’re trying to meet an important deadline. Then your partner calls, wanting to know when you’re going to be home. In the next minute, your son texts you to ask if it’s ok to have a “few” friends over for the weekend. Your email inbox is bulging, and your voice mail has shut down because it has received more messages than it can handle. Your muscles tighten, your heart rate increases and your stress level spikes. This isn’t the first time this week you’ve ended a work day like this—actually, it’s the fifth time this week you’ve ended a work day like this.  As a matter of a fact you are noticing that more and more this is how you are feeling.  You just can’t seem to relax or get a good nights’ sleep anymore.

    Sound familiar? You are not alone. We are becoming more and more overstressed as a society as the pressures of our modern life keep mounting.  How can you reduce your stress and find serenity? You might want to give yoga a try. Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines stretching exercises, controlled breathing, relaxation and meditation. And here’s the good news – there is a yoga class for almost everyone.

    How Yoga Helps

    Yoga and meditation help balance the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which is responsible for the regulation of internal organs and glands. The ANS has two main branches, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). These two branches work in opposition to each other, but are understood to be complimentary in nature.

    The ANS is responsible for regulating the body, bringing it back into balance after the events of life and the way in which we respond to those events have pulled the body out of balance. Helping the body to maintain that equilibrium helps lower blood pressure and heart rate, stimulates the immune system, and helps keep the endocrine system on track.

    As we go about our lives, we encounter events that cause us to feel stressed. Our mind and our body then reacts to that stress by activating the SNS, inducing what is known as the “flight or fight” response. Short-term stress activates the body and the mind to allow a person to deal with an immediate situation or threat, then return to normal functioning once the threat has passed. When we experience continual stress of lower intensity over extended periods of time, this state can become imprinted into our mind and body, turning the lifesaving response meant for dealing with an immediate threat into a life-threatening response. When we are in this state of heightened function the levels of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are higher, the muscles become tense, blood pressure and heart rate increase, suppression of the inflammatory response causes a suppression of the immune system, and we experience insomnia due to heightened brain activity. Over time these imbalances open the door to illness such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety and depression.

    The Balancing Act Refined

    When we practice yoga and meditation we help to stimulate the other branch of the autonomic nervous system, the PNS, which is responsible for the rest and digest state. This allows stress levels to drop, and causes significant increases in neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin.  This state is generally beneficial for overall body health.

    Just as important, through the practice of yoga, our ANS becomes more finely tuned, allowing for more flexibility to shift the relative action of both branches of the ANS as needed.  Those who practice yoga regularly are then better able to stay in a calmer and more neutral place with less extreme responses to the events of their lives, whatever they may be.

    Real Benefits

    As we study yoga and meditation more and more we are learning that health challenges such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression can be influenced by psychological interventions.  These studies have shown that yoga affects more than 200 different processes in our body and in our brain.  “It affects virtually every tissue and every system in our body,”, says P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D. and professor of Psychiatry and Behavorial Sciences at Duke University.  Studies supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, have demonstrated that regular yoga practice can improve cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol and clot-inducing fibrinogen, and it can raise the levels of protective antioxidants.

    According to the latest “Yoga in America” study produced by Yoga Journal, the number of Americans who practice yoga has increased by nearly 30% in the past four years. If the scenario in the first paragraph sounds like a typical Friday afternoon for you, why not give yoga a try? The mind and the body are connected and must work together.  Taking this approach can be a powerful asset to your health and wellbeing and to living the life of your dreams.

    About the Author

    lucy-may-2016-photo-shoot-finals-12Hope Knosher, E-RYT500  Hope is a passionate yoga teacher, writer, breast cancer survivor, and healthy living coach who found her voice and her strength through her practice. Overcoming breast cancer 7 years ago, Hope turned to yoga to help her heal. After her practice lifted her mentally, physically and emotionally she experienced a heartfelt calling to share the healing qualities of yoga with others. She founded Hope’s Yoga and began sharing her experiences and her passion for yoga and healthy living through teaching, writing and speaking. Hope loves inspiring and empowering others to live a more joyful and connected life and to be more of who they truly are. Through sharing the practices of yoga, mindfulness, and healthy living she helps others reduce chronic stress, increase awareness, compassion, and mindfulness; while strengthening body and mind. Hope’s writing is featured by MindBodyGreen, Lucy Activewear, Mantra Magazine, Natural Awakenings, The Wellness Universe, as well as her own blog. Hope’s Yoga has been named Best Of Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine and Hope has been named one of Atlanta’s Over 40 and Fabulous by Best Self Magazine. Connect with Hope at www.hopesyoga.com for more information including her full schedule, retreat calendar; or to schedule corporate or private classes and speaking engagements.

  • How Being A Cancer Survivor Is Still Teaching Me To Embrace Every Day

    How Being A Cancer Survivor Is Still Teaching Me To Embrace Every Day

    I knew I needed to make an appointment with my gynecologist; that shouldn’t wait when you are a cancer survivor. Nevertheless, it had; and the year was ending. With a high yearly healthcare deductible met, I needed to squeeze my appointment in before the end of the year. That way, (I thought) it would be paid for, and then next year I could just skip it all – the medical appointments, the large medical bills, all of it. I finally called to make the appointment and reached my goal of year-end by mere hours — and after agreeing to see a new doctor at the practice that was not already booked up through year-end.

    Entering Into Another Journey Of The Unkown

    As the appointment approached the universe seemed to call me away, but I stood firm even though there were so many other things I could have been doing. I arrived on time and was escorted to a room where before I knew it my yearly routine exam turned into another journey into the unknown. The look on the doctor’s face was priceless as she poked and prodded around my body. As she turned to look my way she said in a very concerned voice that she felt fullness on my left side and that I should schedule a follow-up ultrasound. So much for my plan to skip doctor visits next year. Out the door, just like that.

    Cancer Survivor - Johns Creek Yoga Studio

    Taking A Deep Breath I Headed To A New Year’s Eve Party

    “Good thing I do yoga and meditation,” I thought, as I made the appointment on the way out.  My yoga practice had facilitated deep healing after my initial treatment and beyond, helping to balance my body’s stress response both then and now.

    As I headed to a New Year’s Eve get-together I remembered the look on the doctor’s face and hoped that she didn’t play poker. Entering the house full of people ready to bring in the New Year, I put it all aside, staying mostly in the moment as I enjoyed visiting with others I haven’t seen in a while. However, thoughts kept creeping in and out – “What if it’s back?”

    The day of the next appointment came quickly. Lying on the table as the tech was scanning my lower left side, I surrendered to the moment. I wondered what she would do if I asked her how everything looked. I tried to look myself. I tried not to notice that she kept taking pictures and measurements of a specific area. With remarkable speed, I was whisked back into a room to see the doctor. She reported that I had fluid in my left side, with no other remarkable findings, and that I should repeat the scan in 2 months. I asked her if she was concerned that I was over 50, menopausal, and a breast cancer survivor. She said she wasn’t. I made a follow-up appointment as I left the office.

    What I Found On Google

    When I arrived home I called my oncologist for the first available appointment.   I had to schedule it several weeks out, and then made my way to Google.   A search on the “causes of fluid in the pelvic area” delivered a page riddled with references to ovarian cancer.

    I clicked on several of the links and read story after story of those who had the same situation; but had been ignored, turned away, or told to come back later, and then were diagnosed with a progressed stage of ovarian cancer. Early detection was hard and uncommon. I then took a deep breath and again I let it go – for the most part.

    Cancer Survivor - Alpharetta Yoga Studio

    Once in front of my oncologist he voiced concern and recommended testing. First blood work, and then a CT scan. He asked how long it had been since my last colonoscopy, and as I thought back I realized I hadn’t had one since before my cancer diagnosis. So that got put on the list as well. Time to let go again.

    A Familiar Routine For A Cancer Survivor – Testing and Waiting

    Blood was drawn and then the testing was done. I headed back to the oncologist for the results. An extended wait time in the office offered additional opportunity to think, to panic, but I remained calm. As the doctor walked in he immediately announced that the tests were all clear, and a large smile crossed his face. He didn’t have an answer for me as to what was causing the excess fluid, but he was relatively sure that it wasn’t cancer.

    Knowing there are no guarantees, I was still thankful for the moment and the news that the tests were all clear. We spoke for a few minutes and then he recommended a great restaurant around the corner and suggested that I go celebrate.

    Lessons Remembered – Live Fully And Gratefully In Every Moment

    Even as a cancer survivor, I am reminded once again that life is a terminal condition. Those with a terminal diagnosis are just more in the know on how much time they have.   I am reminded that I am lucky to be alive. I am reminded to not get caught up in the mundane and to embrace each moment with as much wonder as possible.

    Cancer Survivor - Cumming Yoga Studio

    The truth is; cancer survivor or not, we never know what day will be our last day. By staying steeped in reality and remembering there are no guarantees, I recommit to appreciating the little things in life, like the warmth of the sun, the wind on my face, the smile of a stranger, and the beauty of life all around me. I am reminded not to wait for a terminal diagnosis to begin to truly live.

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    Photos: Emily Elissa Photography

  • 5 Ways I Overcame An Infertility Diagnosis

    5 Ways I Overcame An Infertility Diagnosis

    Infertility is a sensitive topic and my heart goes out to anyone who has struggled with this issue.  I remember the depth of pain in hearing someone tell me that it just wasn’t going to happen.  I remember the heart breaking ups and downs that went along with the journey.   Our stories may all be different, but the deep desire to bring forth a life into this world is the common thread.  Here I share my journey and 5 important steps that kept me moving forward, as I was being told repeatedly that having another child would be impossible.

    I always envisioned myself having three girls. I can’t explain why, just that it was an innate feeling deep inside of me. At the age of thirty-three, after an assist with a first-round infertility drug, I became pregnant.   A few years later it was time for daughter number two – or so I thought. When nothing happened, I visited my infertility doctor again, only to be told that my follicle-stimulating hormone was very elevated. According to my doctor, this meant that all my eggs were bad and that I could not get pregnant. I went to several other infertility doctors and got the same response from each one.  I told the doctors I was going to have another girl. They told me to give it up and move on. I did – but not in the way they had suggested. I found another way. Here is what I did:

    I believed in my inner voice.

    I can’t explain it, but I knew at the deepest place in my soul that I was going to have another girl. I felt her strongly and I even saw her in my mind. I never let go of her, even in the midst of being told repeatedly that it was no longer possible for me to conceive another child.

    I researched and read everything I could find on treatments for infertility.

    I took matters into my own hands. I began to research my “condition” and alternative approaches to infertility treatment. I read volumes on the effects of diet and lifestyle on my health. I read stories of others who had overcome infertility issues and gotten pregnant. Even though none of those stories included my specific situation, I forged ahead. If I read about something and it felt credible to me, I included it in my approach.

    I sought out alternative therapies.

    I found a naturopathic doctor (an alternative practitioner). He explained how he would help me detox my body – starting with the biggest offender. He likened the process to that of an environmental engineer who cleans a body of water by testing the contents and removing the largest toxin, which in the process removes other toxins. The naturopath would then re-test and continue to assist my body in the removal of all that had built up from toxins in the environment and years of a not-so-healthy diet and lifestyle choices.

    I totally changed my diet and lifestyle.

    I started to add more healthy foods, cut out all processed foods, and eliminated all artificial sweeteners. I juiced, fasted, and added more color to my diet. I stopped using things that I learned to be toxic or unhealthy, including certain food storage containers and personal care products. I began to read labels and learn about the ingredients in everything I was consuming or putting on my body.

    I held on to hope.

    About six months after diving headfirst into my own journey to heal my body, I got pregnant – naturally.   Overjoyed, I made an appointment with my doctor.   He told me I couldn’t be pregnant when I returned with the positive pregnancy test in hand. He told me it must be a false positive. Twelve weeks later, during an ultrasound he saw a heartbeat and proclaimed that I was indeed pregnant. He had never seen it happen before in nineteen years of practice. Two weeks later I miscarried.   At my next office visit I got the “I told you so” lecture. I was not ready to give up. Although heartbroken, I held onto hope.

    I continued my progress toward a healthier diet and lifestyle. I got pregnant again and gave birth nine months later to a healthy baby girl. I believe she is my third daughter. I believe my second daughter was lost with my miscarriage. She didn’t make it all the way here, but she will always be in my heart.

    I kept up my healthy lifestyle practices after I gave birth. I even became a vegan raw foodist for a few years. I sprouted, planted, grew, and dehydrated.   I stopped drinking – alcohol, that is–and substituted wheat grass shots instead. I got certified in living foods and yes, I bought a Vitamix (and used it every day). Eventually I found a healthy medium in my approach toward my diet, eating the foods that worked to keep my body and mind in a healthier state, while being able to integrate my diet and meal-time with others.

    Eating healthier connected me to my body in a way I had not been in years. It was a true blessing. In June of 2009 I was in tune enough to sense that something wasn’t right. I made an appointment to see a gynecologist, and soon after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The obvious questions arose in the wake of such a devastating diagnosis. I eat healthy and take care of myself – so how could this happen to me? Cancer is a complex illness. The truth is, we are not in total control. Although I had taken charge and was taking better care of myself, there was still more healing to do. I chose to think in terms of how bad it could have been if I had not been taking such good care of myself and my body in the last several years.

    Knowing all that I do about eating healthy, I stepped up my diet even more as I went through treatment.  Thanks to the healthy eating revolution, which has expanded local organic food options around the country through farmer’s markets and co-ops,  grocery stores, and even restaurants, sticking with a healthy diet is now easier than ever. Along with other treatments, a committed yoga practice, and my determination to overcome breast cancer, I just passed the six-year mark and celebrated my youngest daughter’s fifteenth birthday!

    Photo: Becca Katzmann

    DSC07088

    About Hope Knosher, E-RYT500  Hope is a passionate yoga teacher, writer, breast cancer survivor, and healthy living coach who found her voice and her strength through her practice. Overcoming breast cancer 7 years ago, Hope turned to yoga to help her heal. After her practice lifted her mentally, physically and emotionally she experienced a heartfelt calling to share the healing qualities of yoga with others. She founded Hope’s Yoga and began sharing her experiences and her passion for yoga and healthy living through teaching, writing and speaking. Hope loves inspiring and empowering others to live a more joyful and connected life and to be more of who they truly are. Through sharing the practices of yoga, mindfulness, and healthy living she helps others reduce chronic stress, increase awareness, compassion, and mindfulness; while strengthening body and mind. Hope’s writing is featured by MindBodyGreen, Lucy Activewear, Mantra Magazine, Natural Awakenings, The Wellness Universe, as well as her own blog. Hope’s Yoga has been named Best Of Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine and Hope has been named one of Atlanta’s Over 40 and Fabulous by Best Self Magazine. Connect with Hope at www.hopesyoga.com for more information including her full schedule, retreat calendar; or to schedule corporate or private classes and speaking engagements.

     

  • Warming Up with Sun Salutation C (Surya Namaskara C)

    Warming Up with Sun Salutation C (Surya Namaskara C)

    The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskara (SOOR-yuh nah-muh-SKAR-uh), is a sequence of extension and flexion postures practiced in a particular order that enhance strength and flexibility of every major muscle group while also building heat in the body.  A Sun Salutation Series lubricates the joints, massages the internal organs and stimulates blood flow. It can also improve mental and emotional balance and stability. Sun Salutations are often used as warm-up sequences for a deeper yoga practice or other activity.

    Each movement is coordinated with your breath. As you breathe through the nose, inhale as you extend, and exhale as you bend. Nostril breathing filters and warms air for optimal oxygen exchange. Breathing through the nose also accesses the lower lobes of the lungs. This is where maximum oxygen exchange happens. Deep nostril breathing also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which moderates the heart rate, calms the body, and establishes an experience of comfort, even while being engaged in dynamic activity. When we inhale through the mouth, we access the upper portion of the lungs which activates the sympathetic nervous system, (which is “fight or flight” survival response,) increases the heart rate, and stimulates the adrenals. The body becomes agitated and overstimulated, leading to depletion. This is why we breathe deeply through the nose during standing postures, accumulating balanced energy and efficiency in action.

    The poses included in a Sun Salutation make up a “vinyasa,” which is a sequence of movements. Sun Salutations vary between traditions, but include many of the same basic components. The sequence presented below is often referred to as Sun Salutation C (Surya Namaskara C). Make sure you are breathing through your nose when you practice, as it helps to warm the air entering your body. Breathing through your nose also helps to calm your mind, making your practice meditative. If you’re having trouble breathing, slow down and be gentler with your movements. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.

    1. Standing Mountain Pose — Tadasana

    Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Press your palms together in prayer position. Rest your thumbs on your sternum and take several breaths.

    2. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana

    Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the side and overhead. Gently arch your back and gaze toward the sky.

    3. Standing Forward Fold — Uttanasana

        Half Standing Forward Fold — Ardha Uttanasana

    Exhale as you fold forward from the hips leading with the heart. Bend your knees if necessary. Rest your hands beside your feet or grab your elbows with the opposite hands.

    Inhale as you lift your torso halfway, lengthening your spine forward so your back is flat. Your torso should be parallel to the floor. Keep your fingertips on the floor, or bring them to your shins. Reach forward through the crown of the head and draw the shoulders away from the ears.

    4. Lunge, Right Leg Back

    Exhale as you step your right foot back. Keep your fingertips and left heel on the ground. Reach back through your right heel. Beginners can place the right knee on the ground.

    5. Plank Pose — Kumbhakasana

    Inhale as you step your left foot back, coming into Plank Pose (also known as High Push-Up Pose). Spread your fingers and align your wrists directly under your shoulders. Your feet should be hip-distance apart. Draw back through your heels and lengthen your spine.

    6. Knees, Chest, and Chin Pose — Ashtanga Pranam

    Exhale as you lower your knees to the floor, keeping your elbows tucked in toward your sides. Keeping your hips lifted off the floor and palms flat, bring your chest and chin to the floor. Place your chest between your hands.

    7. Cobra Pose — Bhujangasana

    Inhale as you draw your chest forward, keeping your hands underneath your shoulders. Extend your legs along the floor and un-tuck your toes. Draw your shoulders back and lift your chest slightly. Keep your lower ribs on the floor.

     8. Downward-Facing Dog Pose — Adho Mukha Svanasana

    Exhale as you lift your hips and roll over your toes placing the soles of your feet on the floor. Your heels do not need to touch the ground. Ground down through your hands and soles of your feet as you lengthen your spine. Lift your belly and sit bones to the sky. Stay here for five breaths. On your last exhalation, bend your knees and look between your hands.

    9. Lunge, Right Leg Forward

    Inhale as you step your right foot between your hands, coming into a lunge on the opposite side. Keep your fingertips and right heel on the ground. Reach back through your left heel. Beginners can place the left knee on the ground.

    10. Standing Forward Fold — Uttanasana

    Exhale as you step your left foot forward, coming back into the Forward Fold. Bend your knees if necessary. Rest your hands beside your feet and bring your nose to your knees.

    11. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana

    Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the side and extend up once again. Gently arch your back and gaze toward the sky.

    12. Mountain Pose — Tadasana

    Exhale as you come back into Mountain Pose. Bring your hands into prayer position. Rest your thumbs on your sternum. Repeat the sequence, stepping back with your left foot first this time.

    Warm It Up

    Use several rounds of Sun Salutations to warm up the body. Sun Salutations can be used in the beginning of a home practice before delving deeper.

    You can also take a break in your day and do some Sun Salutations for a quick energy boost!

    As you gain strength and flexibility, your practice will continually progress over time.

    Sun Salutation Series C

     

    Sun Salutation Series C

    _MG_7601About Hope Knosher, E-RYT500  Hope is a passionate yoga teacher, writer, breast cancer survivor, and healthy living coach who found her voice and her strength through her practice. Overcoming breast cancer 7 years ago, Hope turned to yoga to help her heal. After her practice lifted her mentally, physically and emotionally she experienced a heartfelt calling to share the healing qualities of yoga with others. She founded Hope’s Yoga and began sharing her experiences and her passion for yoga and healthy living through teaching, writing and speaking. Hope loves inspiring and empowering others to live a more joyful and connected life and to be more of who they truly are. Through sharing the practices of yoga, mindfulness, and healthy living she helps others reduce chronic stress, increase awareness, compassion, and mindfulness; while strengthening body and mind. Hope’s writing is featured by MindBodyGreen, Lucy Activewear, Mantra Magazine, Natural Awakenings, The Wellness Universe, as well as her own blog. Hope’s Yoga has been named Best Of Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine and Hope has been named one of Atlanta’s Over 40 and Fabulous by Best Self Magazine. Connect with Hope at www.hopesyoga.com for more information including her full schedule, retreat calendar; or to schedule corporate or private classes and speaking engagements.