Applying the lessons of the Ashtanga Yoga practice for a healthy life.

How the ashtanga yoga practice improves digestion

We experience emotions through our gut. Along with food, this is where we digest our human experience. All of what we eat is being processed by the body. ALL of what we eat is contributing to our evolution. It’s going to take more than a 30-day detox to clean out thousands of DNA-coding proteins. Yet, sometimes all it takes is a second to release a samskara that we have been holding on to, processing.

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Morgan Lee
Ashtanga Yoga for improved digestion (part 1)

The practice of ashtanga yoga is a formula designed to keep us paying attention. It keeps us on our toes and keeps us able to pursue our spiritual journey. 

On a physical level one way the practice restores or sustains our health is by keeping our digestive system strong. 

The digestive system works to serve the other organ systems. The cardiovascular/respiratory, neuro, reproductive, endocrine, etc. These other systems work to keep us on our spiritual path. The digestive system is made up of a number of organs, glands, and tissue. Digestion begins before we take the first bite.

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The Dark Matter: COFFEE

Embracing the dark matter: COFFEE

It’s the worlds most widely used drug. It’s an adenosine antagonist, and it’s delicious.

I take mine black. Single origin (Unblended) in a V60 pour over. I prefer a light roast because of the more complex flavors.

Coffee and the effects of caffeine can improve attention, dilate the bronchial tubes, improve memory, and stimulate bowl movements. Caffeine is proven to enhance muscle strength and power* and increase the body’s metabolism. But it elevates your blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels. Caffeine can also enhance the effects of NSAID’s (Motrin) but so can ginger, and turmeric.

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Morgan Lee
Ashtanga Yoga and the Nervous System

I wanted to talk about the digestive system but I can’t talk about digestion without first taking a side road into pain and the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. They are interrelated. All of the organ systems are interrelated and dependent on the other. Together they make up the whole of us on our spiritual journey. 

If we take the sequence to be a formula, a medicine to heal. First we move through the practice to move away from pain and suffering.

In a limited sense this is showing up every day. Standing on the mat. Ekam, inhale the arms up. Period. 

That is moving away from the pain and suffering of our life before we practiced.

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Morgan LeeComment
Recognizing the brilliance in the Ashtanga sequence

Is there any danger practicing beyond an asana that you can’t do?

Here is a practice designed to heal, and restore the basic needs of an individual before working on the psychological needs. The needs involving intimate relationships, family, friends, achievement, and respect. Those all come ONLY if we have a sense of safety and proper nutrition/digestion. 

I’m doing a terrible thing and assuming you are practicing this method for more than exercise. If you are doing this practice for exercise the danger is that the Ashtanga police will give you a ticket and make you pay a fine. BUT there is the possibility of driving a pathogen or disease inside the body. 

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Your Asana is in the way

The asana that we stop at in our daily Ashtanga practice can be looked at as a metaphor for a samskara, or issue that we are dealing with in our life outside of the practice space. Each day we get up to that asana, that samskara, and each day we work at it. Some days we do better than others. Some days we believe it is possible to move past the samskara or asana. Somedays it feels impossible. 

Sometimes we simply need to shift our perspective.

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Morgan Lee
How to practice Yoga alone

I’m afraid of the dark. I still run for the bed after turning off the lights at night. The bed is safe. Under the covers, I’m protected. Maybe I watched Gremlins, or Jaws, or It and they left an impression that plays out every time the lights go out until I’m safe in bed?

The point is I’m a grown man. I shouldn’t be afraid of the dark, but I am. And only at night. At 4am when I’m stumbling around to the shower before practice, the darkness doesn’t bother me. I have no fear at 4am. I’m not thinking enough to be afraid.

The first 10 minutes of my practice is on autopilot.

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Why practice Ashtanga yoga?

There was a time when practice was a form of punishment. A punishment worthy of the crime I felt I had committed. Getting up in the AM to be alone on the mat was part of my penance. I was, Doing Time. Doing Mysore.

The beauty of these feelings being contained to practice was that I was able to work through my crap. Examine it, dissect it, experiment on it, and own it. 

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Stretching tells you the truth

We practice this yoga for ourselves, for a connection to our core, and that ripples out effecting everyone we come into contact with. Everyone we are in a relationship with.

A relationship requires two happy and healthy individuals. . .

How do these individuals survive the distance, the hours, the diets, clothing, habits of a Mysore practice?

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Give Yourself Permission

I don’t go to chow-chow-flow classes much anymore. I don’t know what rabbit pose is, or how to do happy baby, without sucking my thumb and giggling like my nephew who is, in fact, a baby. When I practice with an advanced teacher, I get precise advice. Advice directed at my practice. Advice at a moment when I’m ready to learn it, incorporate it. 

I practice Ashtanga Yoga. This means . . . I don’t know what it means exactly except, that my aim is always getting re-focused. Practicing this method means that I’m forever pulling back layers and finding new ones.  I’m a student.

When my elbow started to hurt in practice I asked for advice about what to do. Push down through the metacarpophalangeal joint of the first finger, she said.

She wasn’t the first person to tell me this. I had heard it in a workshop back in 2008, I had heard it in countless chow-chow-flow classes I had taken over the years, and dis-regarded. I disregarded it as if it were a script that every teacher said, something to sound intelligent, something to fill in the time between each 'downward-dog.' 

Find out how to give yourself permission and click [here]

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Morgan Lee
Are you part of the 95%

90 to 95% of the population will take this way out if given the option.

When The Boss flip-flopped his hand at me and said, 'You do.' I was being guided through Inhibitory learning. I was being allowed to fail and test out my fear in a safe environment. I wasn't endangering myself or others, well maybe Angela, Lu and Danny, but I wasn't endangering my future.

I was being pushed beyond my comfort zone.

Dr. Sam has a direct link to your local pharmacy and a vast array of 'gifts' for you. Western medical science has come up with a patch for many health problems. Taking a CNS depressant for PTSD, panic-attacks, OCD, or Social-Anxiety Disorder. (BACK BENDS?!?)

Are you in the other 5 percent?

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Yoga for healing

What if someone offered to help?

Would you accept it?

While learning Eka Pada I got the right foot behind the head. And then I pushed the chin up with both hands. I felt a sharp pull along the QL, a knife stabbing me somewhere near the spine. I could feel my toes. But I was aware that something wasn’t right.

In this Mysore practice not much is said. Exam inhale, arms up . . .
We aren’t told to, ‘Inhale, activate the quads, soften the gluteus, retract the abdomen, don’t let the low ribs lift, soften the traps, lift the chin away from the shoulders, fix the eyes on the thumbs. Dve . . .’

That gets figured out later, when we need it, maybe by a teacher, maybe not. 
Mysore isn’t a self-help book. It’s not a band-aid. 

It is self-exploration

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Morgan Lee
Yoga for injuries

Have you ever been in intense physical pain and then adding insult to injury you get some emotionally devastating news? Do you let it stop you? Or do you rise up agains it?

The first time I went into the mysore room after fracturing and dislocating the clavicle, I was afraid, scared, sad, and confused. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I unrolled my mat and stood at the top. I closed my eyes and surrendered.

Ekam - Inhale, arm up

Dve - Exhale, lower

Trini - Inhale, head lifts

Catvari - ( I can’t lower down, I can’t jump back, I can’t . . .)

My head was filled with I can’t.  And that would have stopped me. But I wanted to figure it out. I was determined not to let an injury take this away.

If this practice is for anyone and everyone, then the injured can do this practice too!

Read how to modify your practice to fit your injury HERE

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Life is not an Advice column: HT get back on track after a holiday . . .

Around this time of year everyone seems to have advice. Everyone seems to have a New Year’s resolution. 

I propose you create a New Year’s excuse.

    “I can’t do (blank) because of (blank)” 

No one forces you to eat anything as a grown adult. No one MAKES you follow the governments recommendations for nutrition. And those recommendations are based off of a FOR-PROFIT industry anyway. They make money off of you eating what they tell you is OK. And then they make money off of you when you get sick. 

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Where do you get your medical information?

I know you care about your health!
I know that when we are sick we don’t always have clear, level headed thoughts.

Every doctor, nurse, physician, tech, janitor that I have worked with, the good one’s at least . . . know that they don’t have all the answers. We turn to each other for help.

Compiled below is a list of websites that I and fellow colleagues turn to for help.

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Thinking about food?

Student Question: Why don't we drink water during class?

Have you ever gotten a cramp during a run? 
Muscles used for peristalsis (the movement of food along the intestinal tract) are locking down trapping food that produces gas. 
When running your heart can’t keep the necessary blood volume up to digest food AND give blood to the muscles engaging in a fight-or-flight response. 
The primitive part of the brain takes over and shuts down the entire GI system. The brain thinks it’s being chased by an animal and going to die.

Navasana is a beast! It want’s to eat you.

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Yoga for flexibility

The Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series is about moving forward. Moving forward into your best possible self; healthy, flexible in mind and body, and strong. 
The muscle groups that primary series targets are the hamstrings, abs, chest & shoulders. The muscle group that most people use as an excuse and hold themselves back from trying a yoga class, tight hamstrings. 
The standing sequence and standing asana’s of primary series lengthen the hamstrings, among other things.

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