Thursday, November 30, 2017

Wild Geese





My husband teases me that I say yoga is great for everything. Maybe it's not good for everything but yoga can prepare us to move through life’s joys and sorrows with ease and grace and to unify our minds, our bodies and our spirits so that we can live happier, healthier lives. 

In many ways joy can be as challenging to contain as grief. The intensity of joy floods the nervous system with exhilarating feel good hormones. Joy can be thrilling, exciting and stimulating. Grief, likewise creates a similarly intense response. Both emotions affect us profoundly; physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Moving through the asanas (poses), breathing practices, and meditation of a full yoga practice allows us to move stagnant energy from the body and helps us to remember and reunite with our true natures. Our mats can be places to return to again and again to clear out the cobwebs and relieve stored tension in the body.

This week I am recovering from wedding joy. (Yes, recovering from intense joy is a thing!) There is also the letdown after all the planning and the full weekend of festivities and celebrations. It was so much fun, extremely emotional and touching to see family and friends gathered to celebrate the happy couple. It was also exhausting.

I need yoga this week. I feel tired but am also flying high like the wild geese I keep seeing these past few days. There was so much love for this couple, my daughter and her now husband, our sweet new son-in-law. He could barely contain himself when those church doors opened to reveal his bride. Tears flowed from both of them even before her father and I walked her down the aisle. It was stunningly beautiful, sweet and sacred.

Have you noticed all of the wild geese flying overhead lately? I am in love with the geese. A few years back I recorded this, Mary Oliver’s Snow Geese, a poem about joy and it’s fleeting nature. I love this poem because it captures beautifully how transitory this emotion joy really is. Joy often seems like it's gone soon after it arrives. If only sorrow was as short-lived!

For ancient Celtic people wild geese symbolized God. Much like God, geese can be disruptive, surprising and sometimes unexpected, but also quite awesome and beautiful just the same. Like the geese, God sees from a higher vantage point and moves with perfect precision.

Consider the expression “wild goose chase”, meaning to chase after something that is hard to catch. Sounds a lot to me like our souls, our true selves, or God. There are times when God does seem elusive. This can be especially true in times of stress or sorrow. We may look and look but cannot find a trace of God in our lives. When this happens, I need to find something like those miraculous geese to tide me over until I can reconnect with what has been there all along. Yoga always helps. So does prayer, sacred writings, meditation, time with a dear friend, a good long nap…

Why do they fly in a V? I looked it up. It conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for a long time before they need to stop to rest. They know when to fly, how to fly and where to fly. How do they know all of this? Their formations are precise. The sound of the wings flapping as they fly can be deafening if you are close. And their loud bossy honk, their communication with one another, is fascinating to observe as they encourage the slow, slacker geese to fly faster. They are individuals, yet their unity allows them to move through the sky with great power and mighty impressive precision.

A pair of geese will get together to raise a family and, for the most part, will stay together the rest of their lives (up to 25 years), raising new families each year. Geese have very strong affections for others in their group (known as a gaggle). If one bird in the gaggle gets sick, wounded, or shot, a couple of others may drop out of formation and follow the ailing goose down to help and protect him or her. They try to stay with the disabled goose until it dies or is able to fly again, then they catch up with the group or launch out with another formation. 

Geese are social animals who suffer when confined in individual cages. Confinement such as this also can lead to lesions of the sternum and bone fractures, as well as foot injuries from the cage floors. 

My prayer for us is that we can take a lesson from the wild geese and learn to fly together, to take care of one another, to share  leadership and to honk loudly when someone needs a little encouragement to do better. And for those of us lucky enough to find a partner to travel this journey with, may we honor that relationship with deep reverence, remembering to look deeply for the divine spark in the other as well as ourselves.

Joy and sorrow move through the emotional and physical body throughout our lifetime. As I wrote in my book Back to Happy we cannot hold on to joy anymore than the geese can stay forever in the air. They must find fields on which to land. Joy is a gift to be cherished but not clung to. 

Sorrow, although it does pass, can stay with and affect the body in a negative way if we allow it. We can, however, choose otherwise.

Next up on the Happy Healthy You! podcast  we talk about the issues that can land in our tissues after trauma and how to move through the tough times. 

Like the geese, we must keep moving though the seasons of our lives. Practices like yoga can help. To practice with me, visit my yoga page at www.conniebowman.com

Namaste,
Connie



                                          SOMETHING TOLD THE WILD GEESE
                                                            By Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, "snow."

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, "frost."

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,
Summer sun was on their wings,

Winter in their cry.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Checkin' In With Your Soul


This week has been a lot to take in. The news is difficult and scary and sad. What are we to do with all of the emotions?

I am not a psychotherapist but I have experienced the trauma of sudden loss. I wrote Back to Happy to tell my story and to give my experience meaning by possibly helping others in their grief. What worked for me might not work for you. But in everyone’s story there is something to take away and try on for ourselves.

I encourage you to take time to ask your soul what it might be needing this week. Be gentle with yourself and others. Pray, meditate and gather with loved ones or your faith community. Read sacred literature or texts. Make soup. Take a yoga class. Soothe your soul. 

When tragedies happen, like the one in Las Vegas this week, we are all affected. Even if we didn't  personally know any of the souls involved, we are touched. Our collective soul is wounded and we all must heal together. Once we accept that what happens “to the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) happens to us, we are headed to a much more joyful and peaceful world.


This week we celebrate the 200th episode of the Happy Healthy You! podcast with best selling author Thomas Moore talking about his new book Ageless Soul. He was a delight to speak with and so wise. He also addressed the news and how our souls are deeply affected by violence directed at one another. You can listen to our conversation here.

In the meantime, be well, happy and healthy.

Join me for yoga here or on YouTube here.

Many Blessings,
Connie










Thursday, September 28, 2017

Football, Yoga & Beginner's Mind

I have been trying to jump back from crow pose for years. I have built up my arm strength. My core is ready. I can successfully do the pose itself but still have not been able to jump back to plank from crow. I watch other yogis do it with such ease and “I think I am strong. I can do that.” Over and over I have tried through the years and have never been able to do it.

Until today.

Today I watched a video that gave me some simple tips I hadn’t learned before. The three tips were to press my finger tips into the mat, so much so that they become white in color. The second tip was to look forward and not down or back as I had been doing. And the third tip was to expel an audible exhale as I sent my legs backwards to plank.  Boom! That was all I needed. I got it on the first try. It was thrilling, but then these kinds of things make me happy. :)

Sometimes pure brute strength is not enough to achieve a goal. Sometimes we need a fresh new way of thinking to get there. It takes beginner’s mind. 

Beginner’s mind is a concept that comes from the Zen tradition. It means having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and freedom from preconceptions when approaching anything. Beginner’s mind is actually the space where the mind does not know what to do. It is that delicious state when we are sure of nothing, yet completely fearless, totally available to the moment.

This morning my husband asked a question that touched me to my core. He asked, “What can I do about this football thing?” Now, I could give two tiddly winks about football but it means a lot to him. He’s a guy’s guy. He has season tickets to our local team, the Baltimore Ravens. He is also a vet. His father served in Viet Nam and Korea. His sisters were also in the military. When it comes to racism, he is the most intolerant person I know. He will firmly stand up to anyone who makes a racist comment. It's a core principle that he lives by and it’s one of the first things I loved about him when we started dating back in college.

Several years back I interviewed Hawah Ever on the Happy Healthy You! podcast and I asked the same question of him. I honestly wanted to know what a regular white suburban mom could do to help put an end the insanity of racism. 

Listen to the podcast. There are no easy answers. But asking questions can be a place to start. Also, taking action by supporting the efforts of people like Hawah or Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene House, and so many others.

Perhaps adopting a beginner’s mind is the answer. Let’s get back to that space of openness. Clearly, we don’t know what to do. Which can be a good thing. 

What I do know is that love is always the highest and best choice. And that it's up to each of us to examine the way we live our lives to make sure we're doing all we can to lift one another. And that to achieve anything great it does require courage and strength.


A rising tide lifts all boats. ~~John F. Kennedy


Yet, what I learned this morning as I jumped back to chaturanga from crow for the very first time was that I wasn’t sure what I was doing when I started.  So I had to let go of old ideas of how to jump back. When I did, that’s when the magic happened.

We’re not going to magically love one another and treat each other with the respect and dignity we all deserve overnight. (Although it would be nice if we could). But with practice and beginners mind, we can let go of tired old ways of relating to one another that don’t serve the highest good for any of us.

And then maybe we can just enjoy the game. Or yoga.



Peace Love and Namaste,
Connie

Join me for a yoga class:
http://conniebowman.com/yoga.php

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Breath and Happiness

“Remember to breathe. It is after all, the  secret of life.” 


A lot of us walk around with neck, shoulder and back pain. It’s almost epidemic in this culture that spends much of its time slumped over a computer or steering wheel. Aside from the problem of inactivity there is a subtler influence this is having on us that can affect our minds, our bodies and our spirits. 

In a July, 2009 edition of the Journal Cephalalgia, a pilot study on dysfunction of breathing in chronic neck pain patients resulted in findings that chronic neck patients have decreased breathing capacity as well as poor breathing muscle strength. They also found a significant association between forward head posture and low breathing muscle strength in neck pain patients. They consider the relationship between breathing and neck pain to be an important factor in the assessment of neck pain patients, as well as in rehabilitation and medication use. In a June, 2013 edition of the Manual Therapy Journal, a study was performed to assess breathing weakness in association with chronic neck pain. The authors noted that individuals suffering chronic neck pain have weak respiratory muscles. They advise professionals treating chronic neck pain patients to consider breathing assessment and also treatment when necessary. 

Interesting findings, but we yogis knew that!

Correct breathing from the diaphragm is essential to our health and even our happiness I would venture to say.

Take a moment and just notice how you breathe. Is it shallow? Do you use your neck muscles when you inhale? How long does it take you to finish a full breath? Notice any movement in the belly, ribs and lungs. There should be some.

The way we breathe is crucial to our health. Breath brings us oxygen for our cells and restores us to balance. Each inhale is an opportunity to reboot our systems. Each exhale releases waste products from our body. It’s something we all must do but most take for granted.

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” 

A series of good long deep breaths calm the nervous system. We send a signal to the brain that it’s time to relax. We are better able to think more clearly, to rest and digest. 
All the Yogi, Sufi and Taoist masters as well as the early Christian monks and mystics focused on the breath and used the it in their prayers and rituals. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find any genuine spiritual teacher or path that does not teach the vital importance of breath.

“And Lord God took the dust of the earth, and formed the body  of man; and breathed into the nostrils of man the Breath of Life; and man became a living soul.” 
~~Genesis 2:7

Please join me for yoga where we practice breath and movement to become more aware of patterns that can hold us back and keep us from living full, happy healthy lives. To find a class visit my website: http://conniebowman.com/yoga.php.

Happy healthy breathing my friends and Namaste,

Connie

Friday, August 18, 2017

Choose Joy

I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ~~Jesus the Christ

It doesn’t take much to make me content these days. A shaft of sunlight, a ripe piece of fruit, a smile or a hug can cause my heart overflow. Life is good and sweet and dear. People are mostly good and sweet and dear. What is right in front of me is just as it should be and, without question, I am happy.

It’s quite beautiful and miraculous actually when I consider, by comparison, the depths of my grief. There was a time when managing the stressors of life and the sadness over losing my child was unbearable. I couldn't see an end to the pain. How did this abiding contentment come about and when did I notice it was perhaps here to stay?

Here’s the thing, it didn’t happen overnight. I had to do some serious inner work and it took some time. I had to learn to accept the loss and change the way I was in relationship to our daughter who was no longer with us. I had to let go, surrender and remember what sacred teachings have told us for eons. Once I was able to let go, even a little, things began to be much easier and light slowly slipped in through the cracks.

Many of us in this country and the world are struggling with the pain that comes with change. It can be intense. We are resisting, fighting against ideas, symbols and structures that no longer serve us, rather than gracefully letting the new, better version of ourselves emerge. 

We are in perilous times, there is no doubt. The hatred and vitriol that is arising is ugly and scary and feels like unstable energy. Statues are falling and symbols of past belief systems are crumbling away. This always causes tension, fear and even violence.

I can however see through this to find the good. Can you? Just like a pretty yellow flower grows from a weed, something is flowering in us and from the bottom up. I have to believe we are blossoming into the humans we were created to be. We are looking less to the people we (sometimes blindly) trusted in the past and more to our (sacred) inner selves. This is also similar to how we grow into mature adults. 

In one episode of the Happy Healthy You! podcast I shared  that I attended a ten day silent retreat to practice meditation. In that podcast which you can listen to here, I talked about the unraveling that happens when we get still enough to notice the thoughts that constantly ramble around in our minds. Our teacher warned us that day two of the process would be particularly dangerous for us as we settled in to our practice. Some dropped out on that day as the intensity of their own mind chatter became overwhelming. What I observed in myself that day was a serious almost addictive tendency to let negative thoughts overtake others that would have been much more productive. As I released these thoughts from consciousness tears flowed. Fortunately I had a teacher to remind me that this day two phenomenon was perfectly normal and would pass. And it did. By day three a peaceful sense of well-being pervaded my mind and body as I continued to practice.

Learn to get in touch wth silence within yourself, and know that everything in this life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from. ~~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross


This too will pass, as everything does. The Buddha reminded us that impermanence is a given. Nothing stays the same. 

No thing is sacred. Statues are not sacred. Even structures like churches are not sacred. It is the energy from people praying in them that creates a sacred space. We are sacred. All. Of. Us. And while we all carry a spark of the divine, we are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. In fact we are fatally flawed and that’s what makes us so darn interesting. We get pissed off about injustice. We get addicted to our beliefs and what makes us most comfy. Sometimes we do and say stupid things. We make no sense much of the time.  We are human.

To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer the universe. ~~Eckhart Tolle



What we have here is an opportunity to change for the better by using that sacred energy that emanates from stillness to become aware of what no longer serves our highest good. We can then let go of past ideas of separation and competition. We can choose to see each other with new eyes of compassion and love. (Hint: that’s a key to happiness.)

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
~~Maya Angelou


Like it or not we are growing. And we can choose to grow together and blossom together or fight it kicking and screaming. The problem is, when we kick and scream, others can be hurt and that’s not cool. It’s OK to be angry but it’s not OK to hurt one another. 

Happiness, contentment, even joy is a choice. It’s a choice to take the path of growth through peaceful conflict resolution. What will you choose today?

Prayer: Help us see through the unreal to the real and love one another as You have loved us.


Affirmation: In the silence of my heart I choose joy.


Practice:  A short yoga practice to help move energy through the body. Yoga for Serenity.




Connie Bowman is an actress and yogi and author of Back to Happy a Journey of Hope, Healing and Waking Up. 

For more about Connie including her yoga classes and workshops, visit her website at www.conniebowman.com.



Monday, July 3, 2017

Finding the Light in the Darkest Places



The biggest rocking chair. Casey, Illinois.
My husband and I have been on a quest this summer to have fun and visit places that we have never seen, even if they seem touristy or trivial. If we are in an area that might have a fun or funky attraction, we are stopping! And we are having a blast doing it. When our children were younger we were often too practical and less spontaneous. Now that we are older and hopefully a little wiser we see that there is value in spontaneity and a lighthearted approach to life. 

Life is serious enough so why NOT visit the biggest rocking chair or wind chime as you travel through Casey, Illinois. As the Archangel Michael (played by John Travolta) said to his fellow travelers in the film Michael, 

"You gotta learn to laugh, it's the way to true love. "

Balancing the seriousness with some silliness has gotten me through some tough times. Some of my most joyful memories have happened in the midst of the greatest turmoil. I often think how funny it is that this can be. Remember that iconic scene in The Mary Tyler Moore Show during the funeral for Chuckles the Clown? Hilarious! There is a fine fine line between our human emotions and sometimes we just have to let ourselves cross it. 

In Nothing to Do, a film I recently had the privilege of working on with some very talented folks, I played a woman who was dealing with the slow demise of her father. She (my character) was taking it upon herself to try to control the situation and things got very serious. Thankfully the brilliant screenwriter and director Mike Kravinsky (Nextnik, Geographically Desirable) came up with a scene that brought some comic relief to an otherwise stressful situation. I cannot wait to see it in the Fall when the film is released. Not only was it a good complement to the seriousness of the subject matter of the film, it was also a joy to play. And we did play, and play and play…I laugh just thinking about it. (Thanks Mike!)
The formations can take hundreds of years to grow just an inch!



On our most recent adventure my husband and I went to see Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia after attending a wedding close by to there. Neither of us had seen the caverns although we had known about them for many years. The caverns were discovered in the late 1800’s when a prospector felt a rush of wind coming from a small opening and his candle flame was extinguished. When he investigated the source of the wind he found an opening to amazingly beautiful and mysterious underground caves. He kept the discovery a secret for a while and then eventually the caves were revealed and opened to the public. The Dept. of Natural Resources has checked out the caverns and authenticated that some of the formations are seven million or more years old! Some of the stalactites and stalagmites are still growing. It’s a natural wonder that one would think would be government owned and operated. Nope, those gorgeous wondrous caverns are privately owned by a family; a family that doesn’t get along.

It’s ironic to go into those caves and experience the awesome stillness and otherworldly beauty there right below the surface of a pristine freshly mowed grassy field. It's hard to believe that there is stress, chaos and struggle amongst the folks that have operated this gorgeous place for decades.  

Humans are funny. We like to have things looking all perfect on the surface but things seldom are. When we take time to really listen and get to know one another, we find that our lives up here are seldom tranquil and are far from perfect. We are just really good at wearing the mask. Eventually though the mask will crack. It has to for us to grow. 

Which brings me to yoga and meditation. C'mon you knew it would happen! We have, right below the surface, a beautiful place to retreat that, like the caverns, is cool and still and silent. It is where our true self resides and it's just a matter of closing the eyes, stilling the thoughts and getting beneath all of the stuff on the surface that can be so distressing to our bodies and psyches. Visiting the caverns reminded me that I have just to visit my interior cave a little more often to rebalance from the demands of the life up here on the surface. 

The stalactite organ in the room they call the Cathedral


According to yoga sutra 1:12 (“Abhyasa vairagya bhyam tan nirodha”), the ability to calm the vrittis comes through detachment and practice. Vrittis, or agitations, are caused by our ego reactions to situations that we perceive as threatening. When we pause and go “beneath the surface” of all of this we see things for what they truly are and, eventually with patience and practice, our true self can emerge. And that is key to growth, lasting happiness and peace.


But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  ~~Jesus


On the surface we humans quarrel, we fret, we stress over trivial matters. Beneath the surface there is peace, stillness and beauty. When we go there we can practice detachment from our fluctuating thoughts and feelings and reclaim our true nature. Our true nature knows intuitively that all is well and that God or the great mystery that forms things like planetary systems and vast oceans and majestic caverns has got our backs. 


Our guide at the caverns told us that it can take as long as three hundred years for one of the formations to grow just a half an inch. The caverns are still growing. We are all still growing too, hopefully into our loving, mindful true selves. We just need to be patient with ourselves and each other.

Prayer: May you find joy and lightheartedness in your everyday adventures and may you find the courage to explore what is beneath the surface.

Affirmation: I am meeting life with joy and spontaneity. I welcome the peace and stillness that rests beneath the surface of everyday awareness.



Connie Bowman is an actress and yogi and author of Back to Happy a Journey of Hope, Healing and Waking Up. 

For more about Connie including her yoga classes and workshops, visit her website at www.conniebowman.com.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Happy Healthy Knees for Life

How often do you think about your knees? If they are painful, probably more often than not. We humans tend to take for granted those body parts that just work well. How often have you looked down at those beautiful bony hinges and just said “Thank you knees. You da’ bomb”?

The knees are important joints to consider. Hanging out right there in the middle of the feet and the hips, the knees provide our means of moving forward in life, of taking the next step. When they are good they are very, very good, but when they are bad they are, well, horrid.

Knee replacements are commonplace nowadays. With a large, increasingly healthy aging population, this will no doubt only increase. But wouldn't it be better to avoid replacement all together in favor of keeping the knees safe and stable and strong and happy and healthy? I think so.

My Dad recently had a knee replacement. The recovery has been difficult. At 80, he was not prepared for the toll it would take on his body, soul and psyche. The family often would remind him, “You know Dad this was an elective surgery.” It did little to console him however. He is still rehabbing that knee three months later and will be doing so for a while. 

My Dad was a jock in his youth (that is up until about age 75). He worked out, skied, waterskied, swam and enjoyed a healthy life. He worked hard and he played hard. But this took a toll on his knees. Now, I would venture to guess that he wouldn't have had it any other way, but the transition from being an active, vital participant in life to one who is much more sedentary and restricted has been hard on him. He is now having to take a serious look at how he wants to live his remaining years and where adjustments can be made. This inquiry requires both strength and flexibility. Strength to accept that things are just not the same and flexibility to try some new ways of living that will work with the limitations of the body. I imagine it is very humbling.

In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali refers to the qualities of sthira and sukha.
Sthira means stability and strength. Sukha refers to comfort, ease and openness/ flexibility even joy. Both are helpful in our yoga practice and in life. Whether you're out to guard against injury and disease or regain strength and flexibility after an injury, yoga can be a superb antidote to knee trouble. An article in Yoga Journal gives us some good tips for staying safe while we practice:

7 Ways to Protect Your Knees in Yoga

1. Avoid Hyperextending: When joints are overly mobile and flex too far back, they're hyperextended. In the knees, hyperextension often occurs in poses in which the legs are straightened, such as Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), putting an unhealthy tension on the ligaments. If you're prone to hyperextension, keep a slight bend in the knees during standing poses and keep your weight evenly distributed among the four corners of your feet. In seated forward bends, place a rolled-up sticky mat or towel under the knee of the extended leg or legs.

2. Start With Your Feet: Proper alignment through the feet is the key to building strength evenly in the ligaments on both sides of the knee; when all the ligaments are equally strong, the kneecap glides effortlessly up and down and the cartilage doesn't get worn down. Separate your toes and press actively through the four corners of your feet in every pose, even inversions. If your feet are out of alignment, your knees are going to suffer.

3. Keep Your Knees in Line: When moving into deep knee bends, such as Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II) and Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose), first align your bent knee over your ankle, then draw your kneecap in line with your second toe. Maintain awareness in your back foot, pressing down evenly, while lifting up from the arch of your front foot. "If you let the arch drop, the knee falls inside the big toe, and you're set up to suffer a number of different kinds of overuse and acute knee injuries," says Angela Smith, a professor of orthopedic surgery.

4. Tune in to Subtle Signals: "Oftentimes, the knees don't give immediate feedback," explains Iyengar teacher Joni Yecalsik. "Only later do you realize you've gone too far. When it comes to the knees, the sensation that would normally proceed the red flag is the red flag." If you feel achiness when you come out of a bent-knee pose, you may have worked too hard.

5. Build Strength by Balancing: Balancing poses, especially those that require moving through a bent standing leg, such as Garudasana (Eagle Pose), are especially beneficial. "Very dynamic balancing protects the knee against future injury by training the functional alignment, not just working the muscle," Smith says.

6. Be Prop-Friendly: When it comes to seated asanas, nothing makes a tight knee happier than a bounty of props. In Virasana (Hero Pose), try raising your seat with blankets or a block. Anytime the knees are deeply bent, such as in Balasana (Child's Pose) or Marichyasana III (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi III), pressure can be relieved by placing a rolled-up washcloth as far into the knee pit as possible before bending the joint.

7. Warm Up With Hip Openers: "If your big joints aren't open, your small joints will always take the stress," yoga instructor Sandy Blaine says. "Many people hurt their knees doing Lotus when their hips aren't ready." She recommends warming up with hip stretches like Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) and Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose).

"Life is a balance of holding on and letting go" - Rumi


Yes, our healthy knees keep us moving forward in the world. When there is injury to the knee joint we might ask ourselves “What is it I am not wanting to move into?” Perhaps a reflection on this question would be helpful. We can strengthen our knees with exercise and/or regular yoga practice but we can also go within to look more honestly at what is keeping us from moving fluidly and easily forward in this life. Paying attention to the subtle clues that show up will point us in the direction of healing and further growth. Oftentimes what is keeping us stuck is simply our dear old friends Ego and Pride. The knees also represent humility - think kneeling in prayer or kneeling during a knighting ceremony. Being able to crawl is a natural stage that comes before walking (aka moving forward). It is interesting that many ancient Buddhist temples were built high on a mountain. The image of crawling up the mountain to one’s healing or enlightenment is evoked. Jesus (who knelt before John the Baptist at his own baptism) said, ‘He who humbles himself shall be exalted while he who exalts himself shall be humbled’. To crawl, to kneel, even to get “weak in the knees” from time to time points to living a full human experience. To remain strong but flexible in this complicated but miraculous joint, as in our lives, is a reminder that we are humbled by creation itself which loves us and is there to serve our highest good always. 

To keep knees happy and healthy in general, here are a few pointers: 

1. Lose weight if you are overweight. Excess pounds raise your risk of knee arthritis.

2. Play it safe. A knee injury will triple your risk of knee osteoarthritis. When you exercise, take proper precautions to avoid getting hurt.

3. Strengthen your quads. Weak quadriceps muscles are associated with knee arthritis, so work them out regularly, along with your hamstrings and all of your other leg muscles.

Prayer: May you come to an appreciation of this jazzy joint that we call the knee and may you move forward in your life with sthira and sukha, strength, stability, ease, oh and also flexibility. Here’s to our knees. We love you. We are grateful for you. You da’ bomb!

Affirmation: I am flexible and flowing. I forgive, let go, understand and look to the future with eager anticipation. I bend and flow with ease, and all is well.

Connie Bowman is an actress and yogi and author of Back to Happy a Journey of Hope, Healing and Waking Up. 
For more about Connie including her yoga classes and workshops, visit her website at www.conniebowman.com.