Starting Monday, May 18, Precision Pilates & Yoga in Great Falls will have group classes, workshops and more. Leslie Steensrud is the owner, and we have a great group. I feel very fortunate to be able to teach out of this beautiful space, and have since summer of 2020.(Check out class deal going on through Sunday!)
I am so excited to get back into the swing of things! Plus, check out the Yoga Festival happening in Choteau in June. There are still a few tickets!
I hope you are well, and I hope to being seeing you soon!* Best, Audra
Whether you have struggled with carpel tunnel syndrome or neck/shoulder tension, you know: It can be a major barrier to day-to-day life.
From lack of quality sleep to pain, numbness and plain ol’ misery, the effects of imbalance in the neck, shoulders and arms can be frustrating at best and debilitating at worst.
Right now, some pain and minor debilitation is creeping back into my life. I want to share my process for relieving my carpool tunnel symptoms through yoga and what I’ve come to call movement restoration.
Hopefully, at the least, my story will give you some tools for managing your own symptoms and maybe help you on your path of long term management.
As always, make sure to listen to your body and the advice or recommendations of your Physical Therapist or other specialist.
So, here we go!
1. Stop the bleeding. Not literally of course, I mean stop doing the activity that is causing a flare up. If it’s your job that’s causing, seek options. Take a couple of long weekends in a row to have a longer rest time, or take more stretching/movement breaks at work. If symptoms are brought on by repetitive tasks, then we need to break the cycle.
In my case, it’s a combination of job and play. I will plan to back off of play activities and practice better self-care at work.
2. Open up. Stretching the palm, lower arm and front of the shoulder start “opens up” constricted fascia and promotes better blood flow and prana.
Postures I like for this are: Cat-cow, child’s pose (with open palms, pictured), star (try working your way to “spider man” wrists), and restorative bound angle.
Important: weight-bearing on the hands should feel good. If you are experiencing loss of sensation or pain in the wrists with palms on the floor, the issue may be with your alignment. Try performing at a wall until you can seek guidance on correct alignment.
3. Breathe. Practices that focus attention, activate the parasympathetic nervous system and open up construction have been key to my recoveries time and time again. Living with Carpel tunnel is not a one-and-done thing; it’s a lifetime of management and learning. To start, sit in a quiet place and begin to count your in-breath and out-breath. See if you can gradually get them equal to the count of four. Gradually, try to lengthen the short pause between those breaths, and maybe also make the pauses equal to that count of four. This is called the 4-Square breath, or in yoga: Sama vritti. Do this for a few minutes, and don’t struggle. There is no wrong way, so don’t worry about whether you’re “doing it right.”
As you breath, create an image in your mind of untangling a complex web or smoothing a sheet. Each breath untangles or smoothes the rough areas in your body.
4. Just move. I’m pretty sure the saying comes from physical therapy, but it’s oh so true: Motion is lotion for our joints. Move around, especially if you tend to be locked into a certain position most of the day. (I’m looking at you fellow desk jockeys.) Dance, do tai chi or some really ‘flowy’ yoga, swim, or find some other gentle, body weight fluid movement that works for you. Move each joint in all its natural directions, from the tips of your fingers to your toes. The body is connected by amazing, interconnected webs of facia. Loosening one thread may well relax the whole web.
Somatic exercises and somatic yoga are my go-to for this. I’ve had amazing results, and so have my clients. I also like tai chi for this! I went to a few classes a while back, but now I just make up my own stuff. It’s probably not really Tai chi, but it feels great!
If you’ve known me for a while, you may have suspected that I thrive on change. In the last 18 months, I have said goodbye to a marriage and a best fur-friend, moved twice, and started 2 new jobs. In the past, I’ve been a farmer, a caterer, and a bookkeeper. I’ve milked cows, packed horses, raised all manner of livestock, driven semi-trucks, and I know how to make mozzarella from fresh milk.
This past year, I’ve welcomed new love, new clients, gone back to school TWICE (for 2 different studies), and started new ventures with Dropstone Outfitting and Sun River Yoga. I have begun spending regular time in wild places again, a practice that I’m calling my rewilding.
Well friends, there’s more.
Effective today, I am no longer teaching Yoga at The Peak. While I’m sad that it will mean more good byes, I am excited for the opportunity to welcome in new and wonderful things. I don’t know the exactly what’s in store, but I hope you’ll stay in touch.
There are a lot of unknowns going forward, but here’s what I KNOW:
I will continue to take Private Yoga clients in Great Falls. I rented out my Choteau house and moved to Great Falls!
I am actively looking for a space in which to continue a small, part-time clientele in Great Falls.
I will continue monthly Sunday Yoga classes in Choteau (once I can that is), and will probably add in a potluck after- just to stay in touch 🙂
I will of course continue offering/make good on any session purchases through Sun River Yoga.
Monthly “Big Practice” 1 1/2 hour class/mini-workshop in Great Falls?
International Yoga Retreats? Iceland 2022? (This might be a stretch at this point!)
When people ask me, “How did you learn all this?” I usually say that I came by these life lessons honestly: Through pain and struggle. Yoga has given me the tools to be resilient in the midst of pain and change, to embrace it, and to grow. I want to keep sharing this magic that is Yoga.
Thanks for including me on your life adventure. I can’t wait to see when/where we come together again…
Everyone experiences times when they don’t have much to give: Time, money, or maybe attention. Some of the most profound experiences of my life have been at the very moments when I thought I had nothing left.
Whether it’s pushing through physical challenge, or a digging out of a deep emotional well, we humans have capabilities that surpasses even our own belief at times.
For many, yoga is a way to access that place. Of course, we tend to focus on the postures- even me. As a teacher, my brain sees bodies and their complex spirals and nuances, and I’ve chosen a role that helps bring awareness to that. I gravitate toward the physical postures and breath, asana and pranayama, with students, but it’s the internal work that holds the power of my attention in my personal practice.
Yoga helps us see the relationship between and among our various layers, and to navigate their complexity with awareness, if not ease.
To address this challenge, or any other, with a sense that our deepest abilities are limitless, is to begin trust our own innate power. We are infinite. We only need to believe.
Last week, several of us met at the Community Center to discuss how to keep yoga classes going here in Fort Shaw, while still make the necessary changes in light of my working full-time in GFalls. However, after more time to consider, I feel that to truly be fair to my family life, I must CONCLUDE CLASSES IN FORT SHAW FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.
Changing the ‘program’ is necessary for me to prioritize work-life balance. During my short time teaching, I have been fortunate enough to witness people make real, meaningful shift in their bodies and personal lives. I feel deep gratification in seeing realization spread over someone’s face, hearing phrases like “yoga is the best part of my week”, or seeing injuries healed and confidence lifted.
As much as I hate to end classes at the Community Center, I hope that people will continue to seek out opportunities. This has been a VERY difficult choice for me. My classes at The Peak will continue, as will periodic yoga workshops.
Truly, I have learned as much from teaching as any of my class participants may have during the past year, and look forward to contributing to the wellbeing of our community.
There is a plethora of advice on yoga etiquette available: “Never come in to yoga class late.” “Don’t fidget during savasana.” “Don’t leave early.” And on, and on.
First let me say: I get it. Coming to yoga 5 minutes late can be somewhat disruptive, both to students and the instructor. Fidgeting during savasana might disturb your mat-neighbor, and leaving class early sends the signal that you’re only there for the ‘exercise’ (asana) portion. (Yoga is SO much more than exercise by the way.)
Frankly though: I’ve been there. I’ve been the person who is so wound up from my life, that I can’t lie still and awake for 5 minutes in savasana. (“There is so much I could be DOING right now!”)
I’ve been the person who has an appointment at 11am, but need the 10am yoga class so badly, that I’m willing to suffer the embarrassment of being the one who leaves early. (It IS courteous to let your instructor now if you’ll be leaving early though.)
I’ve also been the person who is rushing, shouting, and running to get a child in daycare and drive across town to drop in on a much-needed yoga class- only to arrive 5 minutes late, sneaking into yoga like I stole something. (This is not acceptable for your very first class, however…)
Isn’t part of ‘living our yoga’ being compassionate toward both ourselves and others? In a group class, being around other people is simply part of the package. People who, with all their faults, odd noises and smells, are simply doing the best they can to cultivate a more satisfying existence. So, the next time someone is shuffling on their mat, packing it in early, or clambering for a mat space because they came in late, imagine they are someone that you love. Imagine your father, daughter, sister, or brother, and trust they are doing the best that they can. Tell yourself to just be glad that they were able to make it, because they most likely are. (:
Let’s face it: We CAN’T MAKE TIME. One of our biggest challenges in prioritizing self-care is ‘making’ the time. Something else is NOT getting your attention during yoga or other self-care. It’s fair to say though, that when we are taking care of ourselves and feeling our best, our work and other aspects of our lives share the benefit.
Yoga is the ultimate self care, because it’s designed to strengthen, relieve and revive: Body, mind and spirit.
I want to share a few tips for either starting or reviving your yoga practice at home. Practicing at home is the perfect compliment to attending regular classes, boosting flexibility, strength, and other personal goals through a consistent effort.
#1 Prepare a space. You don’t have to have or create a ‘yoga room’, but at least have a cleared corner in a bedroom or living space that is cozy. Choose to make it more inviting with decorations, or simply leave it uncluttered and easy to dive into and move around.
#2 Set a timer. Don’t set your goal for a full hour at first. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and commit to moving, stretching or sitting and breathing for 15 min. THEN you can clean, cook dinner, or make breakfast without worrying about ‘what you’re not getting done’.
#3 Train your family (and pets?) to respect this space. This is what I tell my 5 year old son: “I am going to do yoga now. What are you going to do to stay busy while I do yoga?” I am not available while on my mat: Not for phone calls, snacks or anything else besides a fire alarm. After a while, your family may welcome this time, particularly when your’e feeling exasperated or overwhelmed. (As in, “Mom, maybe you should do some yoga…” )
#4 Just move. It’s great if you can remember a few favorite yoga poses, but at first, just move. Take 3-5 minutes to center, and start to move. Yoga will happen. Yoga may also choose to use a video or stream a practice from YouTube, just be prepared to adapt the poses, and try to choose a video that matches your level of practice and energy level. For instance, if you’re seeking relaxation, stay away from a “vinyasa” style or “power” practice.
#5Prepare to accept setbacks. Don’t turn your yoga (or lack thereof) into punishment. If you set a goal for 15 minutes on weekdays, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen every day this week. Re-assess, revisit steps 1-4, and start again. It’s a PRACTICE, and practice creates presence, not perfection.
Life is what happens while you’re making other plans, right? So, you planned to go to your regular yoga class tomorrow, but slipped and fell today on the ice today. Should you still go?
I get questions like these often, whether it’s a recent fall or something more serious. Is doing yoga while injured good for us? First, let’s consider the injury:
Doctors orders: Did you see a doctor? If so, do what the doctor, NOT your yoga teacher, recommends first. (If a physician told you to rest, then REST.)
Chronic or acute: Did you experience injury from a particular event and can pinpoint the site (fell and bent wrist back for example), or is it a nagging injury they recurs? (“Oh my old aching back” and so on…)
Many chronic issues can be alleviated by a consistent, mindful yoga practice. BUT, there are many different ‘kinds’ of yoga, so choose wisely. An intense practice with a lot of up and down transitions may not be the best thing for an arthritic knee, and a deep, Yin-style practice might aggravate an area already under strain. Remember, each posture in each class is a choice, and you must always advocate for your own best interest. That may mean going against the tide of sun salutations, or maybe even getting up and leaving the class.
Acute problems- sorry to tell you- will probably heal faster with rest. Last week, a participant asked me how to stretch an obscure muscle that she felt she had pulled, feeling a ‘pop’ while exercising. In this kind of situation, without implying any diagnosis, my advice is that the best activity might be: Leaving that area alone to heal. Inflammation from a sprain or ‘pulled’ muscle might be aggravated by stretching the site of injury, lengthening the recovery. (Of course, there are recovery options that don’t include ‘activity’: Hydration, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, etc.)
That said, a gentle, restorative style yoga practice with an emphasis on healing breathing and avoiding the injury site might be just the ticket to staying loose, mindful, and calm while recovering.
This brief summary is, by no means, all inclusive, but here are two important ‘take away’ points to help you decide whether or not to hobble to your next yoga class:
Listen to your own intuition. Don’t worry about feeling like you’ll let your yoga teacher down if you miss class because of a slip on the ice. Our interest is in having you come to class and feel safe. Protecting an injury and feeling uncertain as to whether you should even BE THERE is counterproductive to yoga.
Yoga instructors are not physicians. Some do have more extensive training, or are also “Yoga Therapists” (or doctors for that matter) who are more equipped to deal with and offer help for an injury. Otherwise, yoga teachers are able to be helpful in discussing your injury or rehabilitation in the context of yoga, but certainly cannot design your recovery plan or make a diagnosis.
What ever you decide, DO keep sharing information with your instructor. They may have modifications to offer or alternative poses that have similar benefits. Hopefully, we are all healthy and injury-free to fully experience the benefits of a yoga practice. But if not, I hope this helps you decide whether to get back on the mat, or stay in bed! Namaste.
As the Chinook winds bring a winter thaw, Sun River Yoga will be experiencing yoga schedule changes in response to some life changes.
New out-of-town obligations for our household have resulted in a conflict with our Tuesday night Slow Flow Yoga class.
As such, Slow Flow Yoga class will change to 545pm on MONDAYS, beginning next week, Jan. 23.
Even in our small community, it is difficult to choose a day/time for ONE class to meet everyone’s schedule needs. However, I am optimistic that as attendance and interest grows, we will be able to add another class in the future.
I am also passionate about wellness and making it accessible in rural areas, and I will continue to work to assess and serve the needs of the Sun River Valley community.