Aspire to Inspire: Educating Yourself to Elevate Others in Yoga

Aspire to Inspire: Educating Yourself to Elevate Others in Yoga

Testimonial Yoga Therapy

In today’s guest blog, Yoga teacher and student Carolyn Volk tells her story about taking classes with Julie Watson in Boise. Through this experience, she has walked away with new and fresh yoga therapy techniques to incorporate into her own classes. Read below to find out more about her journey and see how it can inspire you in your practice as well. 

Most of us have had those teachers – the ones that struck a chord, made a special connection, nudged us in just the right way and really made a difference. Julie is one of those rare teachers and this was apparent to me in my first class with her. Part of this is her calm and accessible manner, but as I learned more about her training, it made even more sense. 

Julie is a trained yoga therapist- a demanding certification that requires thousands of hours of training. She has worked with students and patients in both clinical and studio settings, in groups as well as one-on one. As a result, she has so many more tools in her yoga toolbox and a creative, intuitive and playful way of combining these tools to enhance and improve both movement and her students’ understanding and awareness of their movement. You can literally feel the difference in her classes. 

“Julie’s classes are a creative and effective blend of yoga and therapy informed by her training and her years of experience working with patients and students dealing with a wide range of health issues.” – Carolyn Volk

Julie’s classes are a creative and effective blend of yoga and therapy informed by her training and her years of experience working with patients and students dealing with a wide range of health issues. Small and sometimes quirky adjustments to poses, a different way of using a prop, focusing on targeted and seemingly unrelated areas to create new openings in your mind and your body..this is what makes the difference. She will do things you have never done in a yoga class before and sequence traditional poses in effective and unusual ways. 

Yoga teacher testimonial quote

Every class I take from Julie leaves me with new perspectives and fresh ideas to use in my own classes. So I was thrilled to hear that she is interested in more formally sharing her experience and knowledge with area teachers here in Boise. We are lucky to have her here and luckier still for the opportunity to learn with and from her. In the process, you are sure to come away with new information, fresh ideas and likely a few aha moments to inspire your own practice and become a better and more effective teacher.  

Julie has a depth of knowledge and also the gift of being a great teacher. If you are looking to deepen your understanding of particular movement challenges and add some new tools to your toolbox, Julie has much to offer us as teachers and as students of our own bodies. 

This guest blog was written by Carolyn Volk, yoga student since 1980; 200 hr yoga teacher training 2007; practicing teacher since 2016.

About Julie:
Julie Watson is professional Yoga Therapist, educator and an experienced yoga and movement teacher in Boise, Idaho, offering classes both in person and virtually. Contact her to learn more about how she can help you elevate your yoga practice today with new techniques and perspectives.

Pain Explained – How Chronic Pain Can Be Managed

This article includes different evidence-based approaches, including the type of team on which I work teaching exercise, yoga and meditation.

“Patients who believe in themselves and want to partner with their [interdisciplinary medical teams] very often do better [managing pain] than those seeking doctors who are going to cure them.”

Article from Brain & Health (August/September 2023) title Pain Explained

2 Simple Breath Techniques for Managing Stress

2 Simple Breath Techniques for Managing Stress

Daily Practice

Try These Soothing Techniques to Calm Your Mind and Body in Times of Stress or Anxiety. 

Calming the mind during stressful or uncertain times can feel overwhelming. Navigating fear and uncertainty can be challenging for the mind and body as well. The breath can be used as a simple tool to support the mind and body and tap into our inner resilience. Breathing naturally soothes the nervous system, which helps calm the mind. 

Today, I’m going to share with you two simple breathing techniques that you can do from home. Even though both of these techniques are easy, the trick is to remember to do them regularly. Developing a regular practice will help you build a healthy habit and reduce your overall stress level over time. You can do these sitting in a chair during the day or by simply lying on the floor. The beauty of this practice is that it’s incredibly versatile and easy to do from wherever you are at the moment, with whatever energy level you have.

Diaphragmatic Breath

You may have heard of the diaphragmatic breath, or belly breath before. The diaphragm is the most important of the muscles that helps move air in and out of the lungs. Attached to the ribs and lumbar spine, the diaphragm is shaped like a parachute or dome. When the diaphragm contracts on an inhalation, the dome pushes downward and if the abdomen is relaxed the belly will gently expand outward. On an exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and moves back up.  Belly breathing can help most people feel relaxed. As you practice it, periodically pause and observe any changes in the mind or body.

Benefits of this Exercise

In our day to day lives, it’s easy to become overstimulated with electronics or notifications on our phones. This belly breathing technique will help quiet the mind and calm the nervous system from everyday stresses. The exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the nervous system in charge of controlling your body at rest (these are functions like digestion and heart rate). 

  • Helps quiet the mind and nervous system. 
  • Exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic stimulus nervous system. This is the nervous system in charge of controlling your body at rest (things like digestion and heart rate). 
  • Eases fears of unknown, uncertainty and doubt, and monkey mind.  
  • Helps restore your sense of self, internally. 

How to Do It

  1. Sit in a comfortable upright position, or lie on your back on the floor. 
  2. Relax your shoulders, letting go of all tension in your upper body. 
  3. Put one hand on your chest and hand and on your stomach.  
  4. Breath in through your nose for two seconds, allowing the air to expand into your diaphragm. Allow your chest to remain mostly still while your stomach expands like a balloon. 
  5. Next, purse your lips and exhale for two seconds, gently contracting your abdominal muscles. If comfortable, seal your lips and exhale through the nose.
  6. Repeat this exercise several times for two minutes, in a slow and controlled manner. Afterwards, you should feel a sense of calm and relaxation in your body. 
  7. As you become comfortable with this breathing practice, explore making the exhale longer than the inhale to experience a similar (or different) calming effect.

Basic Bee Breath

This next technique is known as the bee breath, or brahmari. The name brahmari is derived from the Sanskrit term for bee. For this breath, you’ll be making a humming sound that resembles a buzzing bee. Known for its relaxing effects, this breath can help break up mental thought patterns that cause anxiety. 

Benefits of this Exercise

This exercise helps soothe the nervous system by focusing your breath and limiting outside distractions and thoughts. It can help calm the mind from racing thoughts and ease anxiety by using longer focused breaths. 

  • Soothes the nervous system with longer breaths. 
  • Helps create a calm, centered inner voice. 
  • Reduces inflammation in the body by decreasing stress. 
  • Eases your fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system). 
  • Activates your body’s built-in stress release (parasympathetic nervous system).  

How to Do It

  1. Sit comfortably in a seated upright position or  or lie on your back on the floor. 
  2. Take a breath in slowly through your nostrils. 
  3. Exhale and make an “mmmmm” sound with your mouth closed. This should sound like a buzzing or humming sound. Keep your facial muscles relaxed and lips gently sealed. 
  4. Focus on the sound you make as you exhale and ignore all outside distractions and thoughts. Notice and feel and vibratory sensations in your body. This should create a relaxing and calming feeling. 
  5. Inhale again through your nostrils and exhale making the “mmmmm” sound. Repeat this exercise for two minutes. 

You can do these breathing exercises wherever you feel comfortable. Whether it’s sitting upright at your kitchen table or office chair, driving in traffic, or lying on the floor, you’ll be able to reap the benefits by simply taking two minutes to focus on your breath. Remember, no matter how overwhelmed, stressed, or busy you may feel, taking two minutes to slow down and focus on yourself can help you recenter and regain control of thoughts again.  

If you’d like to explore more, let’s get started. You can book a complimentary 1:1 consultation with me here.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Harvard Medical Recommends Yoga, Meditation and Breathing Technique to Deal with Covid-19 Anxiety

While this recommendation dates back to the near beginning of the pandemic, it’s just as valid now as many suffer Covid-fatigue, social isolation, depression and stress. The methods are tried and true for many. Article is from the Harvard Medical  School Harvard Health Blog  (March 2020) title Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety.”

Another good reference: Coping with Coronavirus

 

How Yoga Therapy Helps Me Balance My Artistic Career

How Yoga Therapy Helps Me Balance My Artistic Career

Daily Practice Wellness

 

After a 6am flight, a presentation and a photoshoot, I walked through the door of our guest house and practically collapsed on the floor. My assistant was behind me carrying my bags and I barely had enough energy to greet my team. “I have to lay down,” I said. My head was hurting, my throat was swelling, and I could barely keep my eyes open. 

This wasn’t the first time I had overbooked myself on a business trip. Over the past few years, I had pushed myself to exhaustion to keep up with the pace of my work. Because I love what I do, I used that as an excuse to say yes to everything and sometimes push myself a little too far.  

What do I do for work? I am an actor, writer, and marketing consultant, and on this particular trip, I REALLY overbooked myself. 

 Let’s take a look at my schedule…. 

  • Thursday 3pm– Met with a corporate client in San Francisco. 
  • Thursday 5pm– Stopped by a coffee shop to use WIFI and finish a consulting project.
  • Thursday 7pm– Had dinner with another tech client. During dinner, my throat started to swell up.

 After my client dinner, I stayed up until 1am because I was packing and still planning logistics for my trip. 

  • Friday 4am– Took Lyft to the airport to catch a 6am flight to Phoenix. Drank tea and slept on the plane because my throat was very swollen (I could barely talk at this point).  
  • Friday 9am– Finished coordinating catering for my workshop. 
  • Friday 11am– Took a Lyft to my office and finished my presentation.   
  • Friday 12pm– Presented a workshop about blogging for your business.  
  • Friday 2pm– Changed and did hair and makeup for a photoshoot. Tried to nap on the hammock outside for 20 minutes. 
  • Friday 3pm– Did a photoshoot with my photographer and struggled to keep my eyes open due to my cold. 
  • Friday 6pm– Traveled to our Airbnb to meet with my team. Practically collapsed on the floor from exhaustion. My team was very understanding and let me rest, while they went to check in for the conference. 
  • Friday 9pm- Prepared for a 3-day business conference that required 10+ hour days and working through the weekend. 

 Yikes! It’s no wonder I got sick. This was one of the trips that made me change the way I was working and living. I like to compare a scenario like this to chocolate. You may love chocolate, but if you have too much of it, it will make you sick. 

Self-Care is More than Ticking off a Checklist 

It was after this trip that I knew something had to change. I wasn’t proud of my sleep habits and that I didn’t build any breaks into my schedule leading up to the trip. 

As someone who enjoys running, working out everyday, and eating well, it seemed like burnout wouldn’t affect me. But it did. As a result, I spent years researching and working with coaches and doctors to find out the root cause of my fatigue and chronic pain. 

 For one, I do have severe scoliosis with a curvature in my spine of about 50 degrees. This contributed to a lot of my pain and fatigue that would usually leave me stuck in bed by the end of the week. I knew I didn’t want to live like this, and I worked hard to learn different therapeutic approaches for improving my quality of life. 

When I moved to San Francisco, I started taking Saturday morning yoga classes in my apartment building. We had our own yoga studio, so I could simply go down the elevator and do yoga without having to leave home. The class was taught by Julie Watson. One of the residents in my building said, “you have to take her class, she’s so therapeutic.” 

After taking group classes, I had the chance to work with Julie one-on-one for private yoga therapy sessions. I had just booked an acting tour which had a demanding travel schedule, so we met at her studio for sessions when I was back in San Francisco. The timing couldn’t have been better. At this point in my life, I was dealing with a lot of stress due to my travel schedule and an unexpected move that came up. 

What I Learned in Yoga Therapy: 

Julie taught me really simple breathing exercises that I can do anywhere. These exercises help me clear my mind and I still practice them often. 

Try this breathing exercise at home: Lay flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Next, close your eyes and count backwards from 4-3-2-1. Counting backwards helps focus your mind so that it’s not running in circles, which is what Julie describes as “monkey mind.”

Other tips that Julie gave me while on my theater tour:

  • Drink warming drinks: During the winter months, Julie suggested that I try having hot tea or soup at the end of the day after performing. This was something simple I could do in the hotel. I could easily carry tea in my purse. 

According to Julie, “Hot drinks or cooked foods helps improve digestion and elimination, which therefore gives your immunity a boost. They can also be very nourishing and grounding, which is needed during cooler temps or when you’re feeling scattered or cold.”

  • Remember to breath: So much tension in our lives can be attributed to forgetting to breath. This simple technique reminded me to breathe through stressful moments and let go of tension in the body before it turns into stress. 
  • SelfMassage: Julie also taught me effective self-massage techniques. Using oils, like coconut oil or vitamin E oil, can create a calming effect that can help you sleep better. 

You Don’t Have to Suffer for Your Art 

I think artists and creative entrepreneurs can sometimes get caught up in the idea that they either have to choose between their well-being or their art. However, I’ve tried to develop a career and lifestyle that integrates health and wellness into my work. Together, I think we can break the stereotype that you have to suffer for your art. 

I think art can enrich our lives. It can bring us more energy and vibrancy. It can inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. And caring for our health and well-being is an integral part of creating good art. 

I learned first-hand that it takes an immense amount of energy to perform. You’re going to feel tired afterwards. Fortunately, these techniques and tools have allowed me to recover in a healthy way so that I can still enjoy a day off, have coffee with a friend, or even visit a museum (without being on a schedule!) 

Can I cure myself of scoliosis & chronic pain? Maybe not completely, but the techniques and tools I have learned through private yoga therapy have improved my life by a significant amount. 

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that life is for living, not just working. I think Julie does a fantastic job in bringing out the best in people and teaching them simple tools to live a healthy, balanced life. I’m so thankful that we crossed paths and we got to work together. 

I hope today you can take a breath, take a moment, and simply enjoy this life and this day you’ve been given. 

For someone who is always in action, I asked Julie what I should do next and she said, “pause.” 

Momentum doesn’t always come from being in motion. A pause can be the one thing that you need in order to move forward.

Ready to start your yoga therapy journey? To book a virtual session with Julie, please click here.

Even a brief introduction to meditation can ease pain

New research has found that a 30-minute introduction to mindfulness can significantly reduce negative emotions and ease physical pain — even for those who have never practiced the technique before. Article from Medical News Today  (February 2020) referencing published results from Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal.

Meditation Can Down-Regulate Pain

My Journey as a Yoga Therapist

My Journey as a Yoga Therapist

From the Author Inspiration

A teacher of wise words once told me, if I didn’t share myself with others, I’d be robbing others of who I really am. So, here is my journey of becoming a yoga teacher and yoga therapist.

From Corporate Life to Yoga Therapist

Like many yoga teachers, I came from the corporate world, 17 years as a civil engineer to be exact. There was a point in my career when I started experiencing pain in my hands and arms. At first, I told no one, not wanting the pain to hold me back. Then, it got so bad that I was unable to turn the door handle. During that same time, my yoga practice was on a hiatus. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be there; I was just too busy feeding my ego, making good money, and meeting deadlines to meet others’ needs. 

When the pain became so bad, I had to change my work habits and started going back to yoga. As I practiced regularly, the pain would lessen until the following workday. I realized yoga provided a healing element that over-the-counter pain pills couldn’t offer and that my body needed more overall movement. Once I was able to balance out my work schedule with a yoga and exercise schedule, I got the pain under control.

Then, upon a geographical move and a shift into a new role, the workload changed. The pain returned, and it continued to get worse until I would rest and practice yoga. Then it would come back… until one day,  it wouldn’t go away. I lived in this continuous pain cycle that later turned into two surgeries and a career change.

Bridging the Gap Between Yoga and Healthcare 

When I realized that yoga lessened my pain, and the practice continued to heal me on  so many other levels, I had this desire to become a teacher. I always told myself that if I ever returned to school, I would train to be a teacher or a nurse. Maybe I would start as a yoga teacher and see where the path took me. My hope was maybe I could help others prevent physical issues or even supplement others’ lives with a mindful body awareness.

I took my first 200-hour Teacher Training in 2010, which was agreed upon as a good idea by my orthopedic doctor at the time. I continued to complete my advanced 300-hour training program, and at the same time I served as an assistant teacher for three of Les Leventhal’s 200-hour teacher trainings in San Francisco, Seattle and Bali. I continued to focus my studies on ways to bridge yoga and healthcare and completed an additional 800-hour program and an additional 150-hour Mentored Practicum to become a Certified Yoga Therapist. 

Whereas a yoga teacher is focused on teaching yoga techniques to students, a yoga therapist focuses more on applying those yoga techniques to individuals or groups to help ease specific health issues or concerns. The IAYT-accredited program with the Stress Management Center of Marin was perfect, as the program director and team works with the local healthcare community, and the program provided tools that immersed me into a deep dive of both classical eastern yoga and western medical approaches. The program prepared me for working with clients with a wide range of conditions, including mental health, pain, major illnesses, neurological issues and complications, digestive issues and healthy aging. 

Helping Others on Their Healing Journey  

All of this has led me to today, where I’m now a yoga therapist and educator at my own private practice and within a clinical setting. Through my teachings, I serve to guide others to experience their own bodies, educating them on their own healing journey. I continue to manage my pain, which has become a life-long practice. Having the empathy and understanding to relate to my clients has been a blessing in disguise. Afterall, my own healing journey is what led me here today, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve my clients and community.

If this story resonates with you, know that you are not alone on your healing journey. I hope that you will join me learning how to live your most pain-free and  balanced life.