“It Is What Is” – Maintaining Your Body-Mind Connection in the Present Moment

About Elaine:

Elaine has been interested in yoga since she was a teenager, practicing since 1981 and teaching yoga since 1999. Elaine Schuhrke holds an MAT from Colorado College and is certified through the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is also a certified Life Coach. She revels in introducing the practical, healing applications of yoga to people in every walk of life. Most of her yoga training has been in the Kripalu Lineage.

When you attend one of Elaine’s classes, schedule a private session or contract her for services with your business, you are sure to receive a personal and professionally competent experience that best fits the areas of your needs and concerns and aspects of your life where you feel you need the most assistance.

You can learn more about Elaine at ColoradoYogaDipika.com.

Let’s get into the interview!

Allison: Let’s get started! One of the things that I know you’re really passionate about is helping people with the, um, with your upcoming program, which is going to be focused on reestablishing that brain body emotion connection. Is that correct?

Elaine: Oftentimes in our regular, everyday ordinary life, something happens that’s an upset, whatever it might be. It might be something that really makes you angry or irritates you and you find yourself completely distracted. And you find yourself four blocks away from your house and you get to the second stop sign and you think, “How’d I get here?”

Your mind is taking your attention and running off with it. This happens in bigger ways where months go by and you’re like, “how did I get here?”

What I love about yoga is that it teaches us to stay present and focused with what’s going on in front of you without resistance and without attraction. And we can do this with a tool we have every single day – your body.

Allison: There’s a stigma around yoga teachers. Our students, friends and family may look at us and think we have our lives together. We “figured it all out” and we don’t have any problems. But that’s really not true. We get just as distracted as everyone else, we sometimes end up at a stop sign 4 blocks away too. But the difference is we have the tools of yoga to bring us back on track. Yoga helps brings us into this awareness that we are 4 blocks away. Some people may “drive” for miles without noticing but yoga brings us back quicker.

Allison: So I know that you have a retreat coming up where you’re going to help people reestablish this balance and learn to stay in the present moment. What are you going to be doing at the retreat and is it open for everyone?

Elaine: This retreat is open to all levels but we aren’t going to do Hatha Yoga 24/7. It’s a Friday evening, all day Saturday and a half day on Sunday. I adjust the yoga class to the people who come. I have taught yoga to a wide variety of people over the space of 20 years. I’ve come out of public education. And before that I was the lift operator and a construction labor. I’ve gotten really good at making yoga accessible to just about anyone.

Allison: Can you attend if you can’t touch your toes?

Elaine: Of course!!!! The only way people will benefit from yoga is if they do it. You can sit in a chair or in the front seat of your car (with it in park) and, and practice yoga.

Yoga is more than just asana and the postures. I’ve been doing a lot of mudras with my class recently because I work with students who are not very ambulatory. I can’t put them in a dangerous situation because of their balance issues. But I can teach them mudras that energetically help them align and energetically balance their physical, mental, and emotional states. It is such a rich understanding of how human bodies work in relation to the universe. It is continually fascinating to me.

So many people who come to me for yoga do it for free stress reduction of some sort. They, they realize they have disconnected from something and they want that connection back. They, they know that it’s there and they want that.

We can help them find that through the power of yoga.

Allison: This retreat sounds like it can help people re-balance their body, mind and soul and learn to come back into connection. Tell me more about the retreat- What’s included in the retreat?

Elaine: On Saturday morning, we will start with a Hatha class and a wonderful vegetarian breakfast which is included in the price. The Abbey staff makes wonderful vegetarian fare!

Then, we’re going to use a technique out of yoga therapy that integrative Amrit method calls energy diffusion technique. We use the felt sense of your body to become more present and put your attention on some outstanding sensation and work at that edge consciously and deliberately using your breath and practicing what I like to call nonresistance, just being present with it as it is and allowing it to be in your presence and you to be in its presence.

Our body typically avoids these sensations that we feel in our body and judges them as bad. But when we bring awareness to this area, your mind becomes familiar with that quality of sensation and your conscious attention activates the intelligence of Prana.

Prana is energetic intelligence. It’s not just fuel, it’s intelligence. It’s running your body all the time. So we want to use Prana to our advantage, to dissolve and resolve mental and emotional blocks that you may carry in your body. We use Prana to dissolve and resolve the blocks that your mind keeps on saying, no, I don’t want to deal with that.

That will be the majority of the work on Saturday. We’ll do some yoga nidra on Saturday night to wrap up, then go out for dinner on your own.

On Sunday morning, we will have morning yoga, breakfast and another session to tie things together and expand upon some of the things that people have experienced.

One of the things about yoga is that if you haven’t experienced it then you’re only talking about it. That’s intellectual understanding. That’s nice. But it’s not application and it’s the application of yoga that has effect . When you can feel that you can know through experience – that stays with you. It’s not that you memorized all the Sanskrit terms for 108 Sun Salutations. Yoga happens when you have it in your body.

To really experience it in your body, find a pose that you really need and hold it for at least three breaths. Come out of the pose. Feel the release of that Prana that was dammed up in the pose and relax with it and use your breath to keep your mind’s attention on experiencing that expansion of energy because the energy of your body follows the attention of your mind. And by putting your mind’s attention where your body is, not only do you conserve your energy more and more, but the level of energy in your body goes up and washes out some of these mental, emotional, habitual holdings in our body.

And that’s the other reason you’ll usually feel better after a yoga session.

Allison: You’re so amazing! Where is the retreat held?

Elaine: It’s at the Abbey in Canon City off of Highway 50. It’s a former Benedictine monastery. Monks aren’t there anymore. It’s now privately held. My yoga studio is onsite at that campus. This retreat will be held in the Abbey’s room in the community events center You go around the church part of the monastery and in the back there’s a rather modern looking building that’s the event center and there’ll be signs on the stop signs and stuff directing people where to go.

Allison: When and how can people register?

Elaine: The deadline for registering is this Sunday, April 21. If you’re interested, make sure that you visit my website and either call me or email me.
The amount is $195. There is lodging at the Abbey that’s very inexpensive and you can reserve with the lodging and events coordinator, Leslie Durham. That information is on the event flyer on my website.

Hope you enjoyed Elaine, I sure did! Until next time,

Allison
Yoga Teachers of Colorado – President

Kegels- Common Myths & Best Exercises

People mistakenly believe that pelvic floor weakness only affects child-bearing women. However, women, men and even children can suffer from a weak pelvic floor!

Our current sedentary lifestyle is one cause of weak pelvic floors.

Since so many people suffer from weakness, it’s important that we learn how to strengthen the pelvic floor to prevent weak or hypotonic pelvic floor symptoms. However, when we complain of incontinence, we are given a simple prescription of kegels with no explanation or instruction.

KEGELS ARE NOT SIMPLE!

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Kegels are a complicated exercise. Done incorrectly, they can do more damage than good. And what’s worse, some people have TIGHT pelvic floors and shouldn’t do kegels at all! 

Basically, there are three types of pelvic floor dysfunction:

  1. Hypertonic – a TIGHT pelvic floor
  2. Hypotonic – a LOOSE pelvic floor
  3. Hypertonic AND hypotonic – One part of your pelvic floor may be too tight, while another part is too loose.

Before starting kegels, check out the symptoms below to determine if you have a weak or tight pelvic floor.

Hypertonic, Tight Pelvic Floor Symptoms

  • Most painful symptoms
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during urination
  • Urge incontinence (difficulty urinating)
  • Difficulty initiating urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Decreased libido due to pelvic floor tightness
  • Vaginal Pain
  • Difficulty with conception *this is a new finding and needs further research

Hypotonic, Weak Pelvic Floor Symptoms

  • Stress urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage)
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Decreased libido due to weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Difficulty achieving orgasm due to weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Childbirth and a sedentary lifestyle can often lead to weak pelvic floor muscles, but not always! You can reverse this!

Remember, it’s first important that we end any pain symptoms before strengthening the pelvic floor. If you suffer from pain during sex or trouble urinating, you may have a tight pelvic floor. Check out this article on ways to end the pain and release your pelvic floor.

Once you’re pain free, start to strengthen the pelvic floor through various exercises and yoga poses.

Remember, a lot of people have hypertonic AND hypotonic pelvic floors. Your pelvic floor can be too tight in some areas and too loose in others. If this is the case, start with the pain free routine then add the strengthening exercises once you’re pain free.

If you suffer from severe pain, consult with a physical therapist that specializes in pelvic pain. She can perform massage and prescribe specific exercises tailored to your body.

3 MYTHS ABOUT KEGELS (and how to do them correctly)

MYTH: To perform a kegel, squeeze everything down there as hard as you can.

TRUTH: A kegel is much more complicated than this. To perform a kegel, sit down and visualize your pelvic floor as a bowl or sling. Just like in the picture below, gently pull this bowl up.

Gently pull up this bowl or your perineum (the place between the vagina and anus) and hold for 10 seconds. Release your pelvic floor for 10 seconds. Repeat 10x. If this is difficult at first, stick with the imagery and use your breath. Do not struggle and do not bear down. The releasing is just as important as the strengthening. You should never push down or hold your breath. Allow your breath to flow and engage just the pelvic floor.

MYTH: Everyone should do kegels.

TRUTH: NO! If you find that kegels cause pain or increased bladder or bowel frequency or urgency, stop! It may mean that the pelvic floor muscles are too tight. See a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction and read this to gently relax your pelvic floor.

MYTH: To perform a kegel, act like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine.

TRUTH: Using the muscles to cut off the flow of urine only works ONE section of the pelvic floor, the urethral sphincter. If you’ve been practicing this way with no results, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Proper kegeling takes time, effort and a deeper understanding of the exercise. Read on to work the full pelvic floor.

HOW TO DO A PROPER KEGEL

Proper kegeling engages the pubococcygeous (PC) muscle. The PC is part of the levator ani which is part of the pelvic diaphragm. Basically, we are trying to engage all of the pelvic floor muscles, not just the urethral sphincter.

In yoga, we call this contraction mulabandha.

To perform mulabandha, lie or sit down. Then find your perineum, the area between your vaginal opening and anus.

Gently lift the perineum (the pelvic diaphragm), then lift the urethral sphincter (like you’re trying to hold your pee), then lift your anal sphincter (like you’re trying to hold your poop). Hold for 10 seconds, then release for 10 seconds. Repeat several times throughout the day.

This should all be very gentle. You shouldn’t be bearing down or gritting your teeth.

THIS IS NOT EASY!!!

It can be very difficult to control all three of these areas. It takes a lot of concentration, focus and visualization.

Don’t forget to release between sets! Doing too many kegels can lead to a tight or hypertonic pelvic floor.

As you become more proficient, advance to standing kegels. Then complete kegels while jumping, doing lunges, squats, etc.

BE PATIENT WITH YOUR BODY.

Your pelvic floor didn’t become weak overnight so it will take time to re-strengthen these muscles.

For you moms out there, your body is a miraculous vessel that created a human!!! That’s so freaking cool and amazing!! Don’t expect too much, rather stick with these exercises every day and notice how you slowly improve over time. Consistency is key!

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Yoga Teachers – Are you ready to help your yoga students Restore Their Pelvic Floor? Attend my online workshop – Teaching Yoga for the Pelvic Floor- to learn stretches and strengthening exercises for the pelvic floor. By the end of this workshop, you’ll have the tools to teach your own workshop or class series!