What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga Therapy is an emerging field that is regulated by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. It requires certification through an accredited school that provides 1000 hours of instruction.

Yoga teachers that you typically find in studios will have between 200-500hrs of yoga teacher training designed for teaching group classes and sequences to help with health and wellness in a general way. While methods and practices vary across yoga teachers, yoga therapists focus on the client’s needs. My yoga therapy clients are typically not coming to learn yoga.

Yoga therapists are trained to work with the tools of yoga (breathing, movement, stillness, philosophy) to support individuals with specific conditions. Some of my current and past clients have conditions that include physical pain (back pain, shoulder, hip and knee injuries), autoimmune diseases like MS, Parkinsons, lupus and fibromyalgia,  anxiety disorders, cancer support, insomnia, stress management, and improvement of athletic performance, etc. Yoga therapy can work in conjunction with your team of health care providers or as a stand alone therapy. My particular training in yoga therapy is very focused on kinesiology and biomechanics and teaching the client how to become aware of  patterns that keep us limited in cycles of pain or discomfort so they can become empowered on how to listen to their body and intervene before symptoms arise.

What can you expect in a yoga therapy session?  My sessions are in a private setting where I see clients one-on-one. As a yoga therapist I take you through an in-depth intake and physical assessment in order to get to you and your concerns and goals. The therapeutic relationship becomes important as our work becomes a collaboration between myself and the client. Along with the work we do in a session, you will be given a program with practices to work on and/or reflect on and will have follow up appointments or email check-in’s to make sure progress is happening.

Why should you work with a yoga therapist? As a yoga therapist I have a whole hour to work with you. Unlike other health care providers that have time limited sessions, I am able to take the time to get to you know and your story. This allows me to help you connect the dots between seemingly unrelated factors that others may miss. A yoga therapist is able to see  the broader context of your life and how it relates to your condition and guides you to make helpful shifts that others often miss.

Yoga therapists take a whole body approach to healing. Specialists have a tendency to be myopic and focus on one thing. You may experience me directing your focus to something seemingly unrelated. For example, I might direct your attention to your hip movement, when you came in with a shoulder injury. This is because I am able to see connections that other might miss. This leads to faster progress and healing that lasts.

The collaborative process seeks to educate and provide opportunities for feedback so you can learn how to self-assess and become independent in your practice. This is crucial in developing long term sustainable results.

Relationships matter. You should always feel like we are on equal ground. I try to create a therapist/client relationship that is supportive, caring, non-judgemental and empowering. My goal is to be your trusted advisor.

Yoga therapists are trained in practices that facilitate healing connection and balance in the physical body, mental states and emotions. While my work with you may largely focus on the physical body, what you learn is carried over into other aspects of your life.

What are you waiting for? Book your yoga therapy session today.

 

 

 

 

Sankalpa: Connecting to your deepest hearts longing

I just spent the last 16 days in Calgary. The first few days I went up to Banff with a childhood friend and we hiked up to the tea house at Lake Agnes at 2135 metres from  Lake Louise where I got to experience snow, rain and sunshine in the course of one morning. I also got to experience the challenges of hiking at an elevation and listening to what my body needed along the way and it was speaking loudly! At higher elevations and with slippery slopes I thought my insides were going to burst! Slowly, slowly one step at a time, and with help of shoe spikes, I finally felt into the rhythm and the flow of hike. The quiet and the stillness of the mountains reminded me of that quiet space that is available in me, whenever I slow down and listen to my own natural rhythms. From lakes to hot springs to waterfalls, peaks to plateaus, the mountains were exactly what I needed and I headed back to Calgary feeling rejuvenated.

Reunited with my 11 other trainees we spent the last 9.5 days tucked away in a yoga studio where we improved our capacity to see, grew our own practice, explored the practice of Sankalpa and spent days and days learning more about Rhythmic Movement Training and integrating reflexes.

Sankalpa is easiest to explain by what it is not. It is not a desire, it is not an affirmation or an intention. It is a true statement based on ones inner nature, our deepest hearts longing. It is what we are but have forgotten. We forget our wholeness and our ability to choose. We often feel stuck in the muck of life. Sankalpa means “truth-vow” – a sacred prayer of truth of who are already. When we have a Sankalpa it can guide how we act and creates a more comfortable space for creativity and imagination to arise. It brings us into being and stillness. Described in another way, it is the coming back to source, connecting with your wisdom keeper, being in the zone. These are the places where there is clarity, seeing all the information that is there and knowing what to do. We live in a culture that values the hustle and the thinking and the doing. Sankalpa invites us to to a quieter space so we can experience freedom, authenticity, ease, power, receptiveness, openness and wisdom. Doing things that don’t align with our inner nature are depleting and energy sapping. We can build our energy reserves, or in Ayurveda, our Ojas, when we become more aligned with our true selves. We can use our Sankalpa in Yoga Nidra practice, to interrupt negative self-talk, during conflict, in meditation, or simply in the background of our day to day lives. We always have choice.

Choosing a Sankalpa could simply be:  I AM.  I AM HERE is a statement and identification of choosing to be here, now. Being present. It is a reminder that we are a body with breath, a mind with thoughts and emotions and feelings. We are not lost in the past or worried about the future. Many beautiful Sankalpas arose this last week in my group, I AM BRAVE, I AM CAPABLE OF GIVING AND RECEIVING LOVE, I AM WORTHY. If you are curious about setting your own Sankalpa, start small with what you know is true. Remember, you always have choice. ❤

 

How Our Body Communicates – Understanding Yellow Lights


I was giving a 10 minute presentation last week and I was talking about what yoga therapy is, what to expect in a session and the concept my teacher Susi describes as Yellow Lights.

This post is going to seek to explain what yellows lights are and how you can start to recognize them. My follow up post will describe an example of how you can translate your yoga experience into business/life.

A yellow light, much like a traffic light is a warning signal. It is something that is telling us to slow down because a red light (danger) is coming. The Yellow Lights concept is a key piece in the healing process if we want to have long lasting sustainable results. Sure, we can seek a quick fix solution where we feel good temporarily, but unless we can get to the underlying issues that are feeding the problem, we are going to stay stuck in the cycle of pain.

Imagine driving down the road and you see a road sign that says, “danger ahead” then a little while after, “road closed,” then, “caution” then “slow down,” then “STOP!” Each sign is a little bit bigger and clearer.

Now imagine that you ignore the signs and speed past them. You don’t stop on time and find your car teetering on the end of a cliff, or you go over the cliff altogether.

Like pain, it’s obviously not an ideal situation to be in. It’s going to take a whole lot of effort and intervention to get your car back up and over the cliff and back on the road than it would have been if you had listened to the signs.

Each sign is a yellow light. These yellow lights are warning you that something dangerous is coming up.

Another way to describe the yellow lights or warning signals is a whisper. In yoga therapy, I talk about how the body is constantly speaking to us. The warning signals are little whispers that are asking you to do something. When you ignore a whisper, it gets a little louder and more frequent. If you continue to blow past the whispers, they will become screams (the red lights) of pain or discomfort.

Our body is constantly giving us feedback. Everything, both inside of us and in our environment, creates a physiological response in our body. Our brain is constantly scanning our environment for safety and danger so it can respond accordingly. It provides information to our nervous system so we feel either relaxed and at ease or on high alert.  We see someone we like and we are filled with a sense of warmth. We hear our inbox ding and we are filled with dread. Our tummies rumble and we know we are hungry. Our knees twinge and we know if we keep going our knees will start to hurt then our hips and then our backs.

The twinge in the knee is a whisper (it’s time to slow down). The hip discomfort is a louder whisper (I told you to take a break). The excruciating back pain that doesn’t go way is a scream (you didn’t listen and now I’m forcing you to pay attention).

When we start to listen to our bodies’ language, we can start to decode and understand how it is communicating with us. The concept of the yellow lights helps us listen. We can use our bodies as a barometer to move towards things that make us feel safe and healthy and keep us away from things that invoke a sense of danger (interpreted as stress and pain). (side note: Pain scientist and researcher Lorimer Mosely from Australia talks about how Safety and Danger can modulate pain).

Listening to our bodies requires some quiet and stillness which can be really challenging because we live in a culture that values hustle and doing, pushing through, driving hard, and giving it our all. We end up ignoring our bodies innate intelligence about what we need because we are so busy chasing after something else. The awesome thing is, it can be learned. Our bodies never lie. Our minds will lie.  We know our minds play tricks on us but our bodies are pretty reliable in their feedback. This is why I love yoga therapy. It slows us down and provides opportunities to feel what is happening in the body.

Where we go from here may be different for everybody. Maybe our starting point is learning how to feel. As we go through a trajectory of movement, from point A to point B, consider what happens and what changes along the way.

Try this: notice what the soles of your feet feel like against the floor. Feel sensation in your hands. Notice what your breath is like (Is it fast/shallow, deep/slow? Are you holding your breath? Can you feel it in your chest? Can you feel it in your belly?).

We can begin to notice a lot just by paying attention to different parts of our body. Once we start to notice, we are growing our awareness, which is awesome, because we can’t change anything we aren’t aware of.

If you are interested in exploring your own red lights and yellow lights here is another way you can start to explore on your own.

  • Take note either mentally or make a list (I love lists because later we can go back and see what’s changed) of what your red lights are.
    • What is happening either physically (pain, headaches, stress, anxiety, fatigue, anger, irritability, insomnia, flare ups, etc) that you consider a scream or red light?
  • Then, and it may or may not be immediately apparent, start to notice what activities or events are correlated with the red lights.
    • Can you identify 1 or 2 yellow lights or whispers that lead up to or contribute to the problem?

The more yellow lights we can become aware of, the faster we can resolve the issue. When you recognize the whisper this is your opportunity to notice what red light is correlated to that yellow light and decide what you’re going to do so you don’t have to hear the scream if you were to continue along the same path.

Can you see how you will start to resolve the issue? If the pain or problem recurs, it just means you missed a yellow light, which is an opportunity for more noticing. It is a new layer of awareness that had become available to you. It’s another interesting data point that something else is contributing to the problem.

So cool right?! Sometimes it can be really challenging to identify the yellow lights if we are experiencing chronic pain. Yoga therapy can help you reduce the pain so you can find those correlating pieces as you work to build stamina around new movement patterns so pain eventually stays away.  If you need more support send me an email and I’d love to chat!

Stay tuned for part two, where I will guide you on how to use the yellow lights to make work more enjoyable.

Intentions, Feelings and Fresh Beginnings for 2018


Happy Holidays! This has been a year of tremendous personal and professional growth for me. As I dug into setting goals for 2018 I found myself basing these goals or intentions off how I want to feel. After doing some soul searching and looking at the different aspects of life from working and lifestyle, to health and wellness, creativity and learning, relationships and society and spirituality, I narrowed down my core desired feelings for 2018. My intention is to use these feelings to direct my thoughts and actions for the upcoming year. As a part of this process  I am excited to announce that in the New Year I am shifting my focus to teaching primarily therapeutic yoga. I will still be available for corporate classes and group classes but I am ready to shift my focus to long lasting, sustainable results for my clients.

I am looking to connect with individuals ages 40-65 years old, who perhaps have older children, are experiencing shifts in their careers or approaching retirement. They are beginning to feel a disconnect in their life in regards to their exercise and lifestyle habits that aren’t making them feel as good as in the past. Perhaps fitness classes at the gym are no longer having the desired effect on the body as they used to. Experiences with illness or injury have created challenges in how they relate to themselves and others. This person is looking for something more meaningful in their life and is ready and willing to invest some time and effort into making a sustainable shift in their well-being.

If this is you, let’s work together. It’s time to take your power back. I can help you close the gap between where you are currently, and where you want to be. Therapeutic yoga is a movement based therapy that empowers you to take control of your wellbeing with support all along the way. I provide the knowledge, tools and skills to help you elevate your current state so you can get back to enjoying life the way you were meant to.

The majority of health care and wellness professionals treat one part of the body or where they perceive the pain to be. The truth is, that we are more than a collection of individual parts that needs to be treated or manipulated by someone or something outside of us. We are a dynamic web of interrelated elements including our physical body, our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, past experiences and our environment. This is why I work in partnership with my clients to develop a customized program that meets them where they are for what they want to achieve.

Sign up now for 12 weekly sessions and we will build a framework for getting stronger, more relaxed and settled in our body and mind. With stability and ease comes strength, calmness, clarity, creativity and joy. Your practice will be progressive so you build on the skills as you master them. Think of yourself as the co-creator of your development as we work together to explore the possibilities.

With love and hope,

Lindsay Keefe

Private Yoga Downtown Toronto

From February 13-16, 2018 I will be teaching private sessions at The Coach House at 7 Admiral Road in the Annex. 

Schedule:

Tuesday (Feb 13): 11am – 3pm

Wednesday (Feb 14): 2pm – 7pm

Thursday (Feb 15): 11am – 3pm

Friday (Feb 16): 1pm – 6pm

Sign up now for a one hour introductory session and find out how rehabilitative yoga can change how you move, how you relate to your body, and unlock your healing potential for long-term sustainable results.

Yoga Rehab: Workshop for Back Pain

yoga rehab photoPain and discomfort doesn’t have to be a normal part of everyday life. Yoga Rehab is designed for yogis, those new to yoga and anyone who is curious. The aim is to help you live a more functional, effective and strain-free way that is unique to your goals. My principles of movement will help you get stronger and build more stamina, flexibility and balance without pain, strain or tension.

What can I expect in these workshops? You will learn simple (but not necessarily easy) movements that will help improve mobility and decrease pain. For yogis, you will discover a whole new perspective on movement and take your practice to the next level! There will be a focus on breath work, mindfulness and developing body awareness woven throughout the workshop. This is not a typical yoga class so yoga experience is not required.

When we move better, we feel better and we can enjoy life more.

My next 2 workshops are called Yoga Rehab and it will be held Saturday, September 30th and October 14th at McMaster Fitness 2-4pm. Cost is $45 + hst. Participants will receive a handout and free practice video.

Contact me to register or ask a question.

Corporate Yoga the Best Investment You Can Make

If you were guaranteed a 300% return on your investment would you sign on the dotted line? Absolutely. What about when it comes to your health? Despite the research and statistics that are out there, we continue to play Russian Roulette with our health. We work hard to make money so we can live the life we desire. But what is all that money worth if we are not healthy enough to enjoy our lives the way we want to?

When our health declines, it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow and steady descent that is often difficult to recover from and usually results in one or more losses in our lives. We are proactive with our finances: we save; we invest for the future. Now is the time to also start being proactive in our health and the path to better health can begin at work.

Companies want employees with unique specialized skills: people who go above and beyond expectations. They anticipate challenges and respond to opportunities that create growth and value for the company. Whether it is sales, marketing, finance, law, or something in between, companies want their employees to be at the top of their game and to be productive all day, every day. Unfortunately, the reality is that our bodies are not physiologically designed to withstand the demands and stresses we impose upon ourselves during long busy days at the office.

You don’t wake up one day and decide to be sick or unwell. Unless you are in an accident, there is likely something happening over time that causes the body to break down and become ill. Stress has become normalized in the workplace; many people don’t even realize that they are stressed. General busy-ness, hurriedness and day-to-day chaos place our bodies in a constant state of fight or flight for extended periods of time. Our natural state should be one of rest and repose, which is now becoming the exception rather than the rule.

Burnout rates are higher than ever. Sick leave, stress leave, and mental health leave are becoming regular occurrences. These conditions aren’t only a cost to the health of the person afflicted but they also cost that person’s company time, money and manpower.

So what are smart modern proactive companies doing about this? Leading companies are working with health and wellness service providers who offer solutions to these problems, health and wellness providers like me. Companies expect a lot from their employees. Workers likewise give a lot of their time and effort to be successful and productive. So why not invest in yourself and your people? When companies invest in their employees’ wellness they can expect three dollars in cost savings and benefits for every dollar spent.

Corporate Yoga is a wonderful proactive approach that companies are bringing on board to help keep executives and their employees healthy, happy and productive. Often times when someone hears the word yoga, they immediately think of hyper-flexibility and fitness. Yoga is so much more than that and it doesn’t require any flexibility whatsoever. Yoga is an adaptable system that affects the body, the mind and the spirit in profound ways that literally change how we think, act, and feel.

Companies can help workers improve their mental clarity, boost creativity and sharpen their problem solving skills. The beauty of yoga is that it extends itself off the yoga mat and out of the yoga class into your day-to-day work and activities. You learn mental and physical skills that you first apply with some effort, but that will become second nature.

Looking for a long-term solution to improving the bottom line, cultivating healthy workers and maintaining happy bosses?

A good corporate yoga teacher is your trusted advisor who will work to understand your company’s needs and provide solutions that are customized and unique to your workplace and its people.

To learn how you can energize your workplace from individuals to teams to departments email me at lindsay@innergycorporateyoga.com for a complimentary onsite consultation. Customized. Informed. Educated. Wellness for life.

Summer Yoga Sale

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for my blog. I’ve had a surprisingly busy summer between spending time at cottages with friends, family events and travelling to Yellowknife for a wedding. Aside from travel I’m taking two online courses for my yoga business and professional development, I’m the vice president for a Business Networking International chapter in Toronto and planning fun and creative ways to bring yoga to individuals and corporations in city. Despite it all I still manage to make time for my own daily yoga practice. Making self-care a priority means I’m physically, emotionally and mentally in a space where I can manage all the other things in my life with relative ease and minimal stress.

Many of us take longer holidays in the summer, spend more time outdoors and are more active in general. With the extra time and energy you have this summer, consider starting a yoga practice to prepare your body and mind for the changes that come in the Fall and Winter. To help you get started, this summer I am offering $60 private sessions to all new clients in Toronto until the end of August. You can add a friend for only $15 more. Whether you are looking to deeply relax, start a meditation/mindfulness practice or are looking to get out of pain or improve mobility I can customize a practice that is unique to you and give you the skills necessary to start your own home practice. Contact me today and mention this article to get the sale!

Breathing for Stress and Anxiety

Yoga_Photoshoot_Hany_easy pose 2Wouldn’t you love to live in a world where you could flip a switch and all your stress and anxiety would just go away? There are many different strategies we can employ such as going to a yoga class, getting a massage, meditating, being in nature or exercising. These are all wonderful things that we can do that will help. These all require finding time and going somewhere to do it. However, there is one more tool that we can use at any time no matter where you are. That is your breath.

Many of us who practice yoga or any of the above activites have gotten a glimpse of the switch that leaves us feeling, calm, relaxed and at peace. Unfortunately these feelings are fleeting, stressors find their way back into the limelight and it leaves us wanting without knowing how to get it back.

The answer lies not just in our breath, but how we breathe and the mindfulness that arises from this awareness. After years and years, dare I say decades of stress, years of being on anxiety medication and then the death of my mom, I stumbled across a doctor who told me I wasn’t breathing. I was holding my breath. I was certainly taken aback by this observation and it was turning point for me. Albeit slow, the process brought me to where I am today and now I want to share the skills with you so you can reap the benefits now and not years down the road.

Breathing is important for two reasons. One, it brings oxygen to our blood and two, oxygenated blood helps to heal our tissues. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we have unconsciously learned a disordered way of breathing that is fast and shallow, that limits the flow of oxygen into our bloodstream. As a result, we are not taking in sufficient oxygen or able to expel sufficient carbon dioxide. Reduced lung function reduces our vitality, ages us prematurely, lowers are immune function, etc. So not only does breathing impact our cardiovascular system, but it also effects the respiratory, neurological, gastrointestinal, muscular and psychic systems. So you can see how important optimal breathing is for our overall functioning.

When we re-learn how to breath optimally we begin the healing process and improve our ability to cope with stressors.

We can also begin to experience these benefits for the long term:

  • Less respiratory problems, stronger heart by reducing it’s workload
  • Relaxes body and the mind
  • Improves the health of the nervous system, including brain, spinal cord, nerve centres and nerves.
  • It has an effect on your sleep, your memory, energy level and concentration.
  • Aids in digestion and elimination. Assists in weight control. Oxygen helps burn up excess fat more efficiently.
  • More oxygen in the blood means better complexion, fewer wrinkles, more energy, clarity for the mind, positive thinking, supports vision and hearing.
  • Rejuvenates muscle and organ functioning. Lack of oxygen to cells is a major contributing factor to cancer, heart disease and strokes

Why Do We Breath Fast + Shallow?

Let’s face it, our lifestyles often dictate that we are in a hurry most of the time. Our movements and breathing follow this pattern. Perhaps you have noticed in your yoga practice how your mind and body mirror each other. The increasing stress of modern living makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply. Other reasons could be related to negative emotional states, reduced physical activity,  environmental pollution and even our culture (the desire for an attractive flat stomach results in gripping and holding of the abdominals. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.)

Medical journals suggest that fast, shallow breathing can cause fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety, stomach upsets, heart burn, gas, muscle cramps, dizziness, visual problems, chest pain, and heart palpitations.

Disordered Breathing Patterns

In addition to fast, shallow breathing, you might resort to chest breathing which is a habitual pattern failing to fully exhale and inhale. Other disordered patterns include mouth breathing, breath holding and hyperventilating.  When the sympathetic nervous system is switched on all the time, it can lead to changes in anxiety, blood pH, muscle tone, pain threshold, to only name a few. Overuse of accessory breathing muscles can lead to neck and shoulder pain/dysfunction and could even mimic cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems.

Typical symptoms of disorder breathing can include:

  • Frequent sighing and yawning
  • Breathing discomfort
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Erratic heartbeats
  • Feeling anxious and uptight
  • Pins and needles
  • Upset gut/nausea
  • Clammy hands
  • Chest Pains
  • Shattered confidence
  • Tired all the time
  • Achy muscles and joints
  • Dizzy spells or feeling spaced out
  • Irritability or hypervigilance
  • Feeling of ‘air hunger’
  • Breathing discomfort
  • Back pain. Research suggests there is correlation between breathing pattern disorders and low back pain.

Our reactions to stress is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response because it evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The carefully orchestrated yet near-instantaneous sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses helps someone to fight the threat off or flee to safety. Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties.

The stress response suppresses the immune system, increasing our susceptibility to colds and illnesses. The build up of stress can lead to anxiety and depression.

We can learn to use our breath as one tool to down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system and up-regulate the parasympathetic nervous system that helps the body rest, digest and recover.  The body is designed to spend the majority of its time in the parasympathetic nervous system.  Ideally, it only uses the sympathetic nervous system for true life-threatening emergencies.

To learn how to optimize your breathing to reduce stress register for my Breathing for Stress and Anxiety workshop May 20, 2017 at Leslieville Sanctuary. These are skills that you take with you in the car, at work and play. This workshop is appropriate for kids, teens and adults. No yoga experience is required.

To find out how you can host a Breathing Workshop for Stress and Anxiety at your workplace contact me for details.

Yoga Rehab

yoga rehab photoPain doesn’t have to be a normal part of everyday life. When we learn how to effectively improve the function of our shoulders and hips we perform better in our athletic endeavours, we can chase after our kids with more ease and life becomes more enjoyable.

After the success of my first two Pain Clinic Workshops for hip and shoulders I’ve decided to offer a combo class specifically for yoga teachers, fitness instructors and students to learn the skills to get out of pain, improve the function of their hips and shoulders so they can feel great and get back to the activities that they love or even to excel at the activities they already enjoy.

Often times as a teacher, we see our students or clients struggle or hit a road block in their progress due to pain, injury, or lack of range of motion. As a teacher do you notice your clients cringing in pain? Struggling to breathe or holding their breath in a posture or exercise? Finding excuses? Cancelling appointments? Afraid to re-injure themselves?

Learn the skills to move better without pain, nurture relaxation and move optimally with stability and ease.

When we move better, we feel better and we can enjoy life more.

My next workshop is called Yoga Rehab and it will be held Saturday, March 25th at Leslieville Sanctuary 1:30-3:30pm. Cost is $45 + hst. Participants will receive a handout and free practice video.

Contact me to register or ask a question.