Karen Vasil-Busch prepares to greet her online yoga class in a room she turned into her studio in her home in Buckfield on Jan. 20. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

TURNER — Looking to de-stress and pick up a few coping skills as the COVID pandemic rages this winter?

Maine 52 Adult and Community Education program is offering online classes designed to ease anxiety. These include mind and body exercises such as yoga, lifestyle paths such as how to realize your visions, and — wait for it — group hypnosis.

These courses, many offered for the first time, are getting national attention, program Director Razell Ward said.

“We have registrations from as far away as Alaska,” she said. “These people are looking for something to do, something new to learn and something to help cope with isolation.”

Kelly Cabral, director of marketing and promotions for the program, chose the courses with a focus on managing stress and finding inner peace.

“The power we discover inside ourselves as we experience hardships is quite powerful,” Cabral said.

Anyone can register for these classes at [email protected]. Once registered, a Zoom link is provided.

Many school districts offer community courses. Readers should check with their local districts for more.

CHAIR & RESTORATIVE YOGA

Karen Vasil-Busch teaches an online yoga class in a room she turned into a studio at her home in Buckfield. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Every Monday, Feb. 1 to March 8, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Cost: $35

Instructor: Karen Vasil-Busch

Vasil-Busch is a licensed massage therapist and a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.

She has taught yoga, meditation and wellness programs since the early 1990s and has a massage therapy office in Buckfield village.

Restorative yoga encourages physical, mental and emotional relaxation and is appropriate for all skill levels. It is practiced at a slow pace, with poses held for 5 or more minutes.

It’s a great way to cultivate a sense of well-being, Vasil-Busch said.

She described it as “the science of the mind because through the practice of yoga postures (asanas), we prepare the mind for stillness, sitting, meditation. Planting flowers, pulling weeds in the garden of our mind.”

One of the first things she teaches her students is to follow their breath.

“This will signal how you are moving your body and will help cultivate a sense of inhabiting your body in the present moment,” she said.

She said most traditional poses can be adapted for chairs.

“Balances are easier with a chair for support, and I encourage students to move into and out of the poses as they see fit,” she said. Some of those pose series are “triangle” (aimed at mobilizing the hips and stretching the torso), “forward bend” (designed to wake up your hamstrings and soothe your mind), and “warrior” (a focusing and strengthening pose, meant to build a connection, grounding you with the Earth’s energy).

One of the most popular asanas is “legs up the wall,” Vasil-Busch said. This pose inverts the typical actions that happen in our bodies when we sit and stand.

“We use a chair instead of the wall because it is easier to get into this with a chair,” she said. “This is a safe, inverted yoga posture, which carries with it all of the benefits of the shoulder stand.”

Ayurveda — an alternative medicine system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent — is the sister science of yoga, Vasil-Busch said. The system is designated by the World Health Organization as one of the oldest continuously practiced health care systems in the world.

Vasil-Busch uses Ayurveda to teach people how to live a healthy lifestyle by following the cycles of the season, day and time of life, she said.

One of her early teachers predicted that the more high-tech we become, the more we need high touch, Vasil-Busch said.

“Moving forward, post-COVID-19, I believe that people are looking for practices that will fit into their lives, augmenting their health and well-being,” she said. “I am happy to be their guide.”

HYPNOSIS TO DE-STRESS

Feb. 9, 6-8 p.m.

Cost: $20

Instructor: Amber Cox

Amber Cox Submitted photo

Cox is a board-certified clinical hypnotherapist who has done extensive and advanced training in the areas of emotional intelligence, neuro-linguistic programming and clinical hypnotherapy. She works at the Maine Hypnosis Center in Lewiston.

Cox describes herself as a “client-directed change expert” and an expert at delivering presentations on the power of suggestion to change behaviors using mindfulness and resiliency techniques.

Hypnosis via videoconferencing is not as personal, but it is highly effective, she said. She has had Zoom training at the national level and has performed more hypnosis during the pandemic.

And group hypnosis? Not a problem.

“It really is the person’s willingness and openness to the process,” Cox said. “I explain it thoroughly to everyone so that they are comfortable and know what to expect from the process.”

She said hypnosis is an “amazing” way to help a person relax and release stress.

“The process in itself is very beneficial as it helps people learn how to relax and breathe in a way that releases hormones that calm a person,” she said.

She offers a complimentary hypnosis recording for those who take the class.

For hypnosis recordings to be effective, it’s important to understand how it works and to be in a comfortable place free from distractions, she said.

“All hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis, but with instructions from a hypnotist,” Cox said. “People can learn to formulate their own suggestions if they want to.”

She said she has offered the service for several years.

“I find that the majority of my clients love how they feel,” she said. “It is a different experience in that many feel much more relaxed than they have ever felt. People normally feel very empowered and motivated regarding the changes that they are seeking.”

LIVING THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

Every Wednesday, Feb. 10 to March 24, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Cost: $30

Instructor: Angie Welch

Angie Welch Submitted photo

Welch is a psychic medium, spiritual adviser, pranic healer and artist. She serves as vice president of the board of directors for the Etna Spiritualist Association, which she says is the oldest spiritualist organization in the country.

She spent eight years as a social worker before becoming a full-time spiritualist. She and her husband have an office in Brewer where they teach spiritual development classes.

She learned about the four agreements in a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, she said. They are 1) Be impeccable with your word; 2) Don’t take anything personally; 3) Don’t make assumptions; 4) Always do your best.

The concepts come from the Toltec people, a pre-Columbian empire in what is now Mexico.

“They are simple concepts that have the power to be truly life-changing,” she said. “It is really soul wisdom. It helps you to live your life in a way that you don’t beat yourself up for things you can’t control.

To incorporate these concepts into your life, she suggests reading the book — “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” — and taking a self-assessment.

“Ask yourself on any given day: Where have you succeeded and where have you failed with these concepts?” she said.

She keeps them posted around her home and office, she said, to keep them in mind and to help keep her in check.

“It’s not about self-shame or celebration,” she said. “It’s about staying in the moment and being honest and authentic.”

Taking the concepts seriously has allowed her to release old pains and trauma that put limitations on her ability to be positive, Welch said.

“I’ve found that I do far less emotional reacting and much more accepting, releasing and acting in a positive manner with myself and others,” she said.

Clients tell her the idea is simple, but it’s hard to do, she said. “And I agree. It is a challenge.”

Especially on difficult days or when she isn’t feeling well.

“Agreement four is ‘Always do your best,’” she said. “We expect that standard to be at the same level every day, but your ‘best’ changes from day to day.”

It’s easy to realize this and powerful to accept it, she said.

She has held mini workshops at holistic fairs and has offered private classes, once through her Facebook page, but it is being offered for the first time through SAD 52 adult education.

“My hope is this offering will reach a different audience,” Welch said. “If I can help one person with personal healing and offer a little guidance through this modality and venue, as with all of my work, then I’ve done a good job.”

MANIFESTATION MADE SIMPLE

March 16, 6-7 p.m.

Cost: $20

Instructor: Angie Welch

Manifestation Made Simple logo SAD 52 Adult and Community Education program

In this class, Welch teaches people how to get control of their lives by knowing what they want and envisioning it.

She describes manifestation as “what you think about, you bring about, or, like attracts like. Your words, your thoughts and your actions are constantly putting out an energy vibration that is magnetic in nature.”

People often think life just happens to them, she said.

“They don’t realize that they have the ability to affect and manipulate a good portion of their experiences. One of my passions is teaching people how to harness their manifesting power.”

She uses a simple four-step process: decide, declare, own it, give thanks.

Each step is important, but the first is often where big blockages occur, she said.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of that,” she said. “And people don’t spend nearly enough time on this step, and then wonder why manifesting isn’t working right for them.”

For example, people often tell her they want a “decent” boyfriend or girlfriend. That description is too vague and could mean something different to everyone, she said.

“What you most likely want is a kind, compassionate, faithful and loving partner,” she said. “See, those two things can be very different.”

The class is “very” interactive, Welch said. “It has to be. I will take people through the whole process.”

She usually works with a few people as examples, she said. She asks them what they want to manifest “and then go from start to finish.”

She also makes herself available for one-on-one coaching as part of the class.

“I teach from experience,” she said. “I’ve manifested some pretty amazing things in my life, as well as some funny, ‘Well, that’s exactly what I asked for but not what I meant’ things. My experiences can save others time.”

MINDFUL DRAWING

Session 1: Every Wednesday, Jan. 27 to March 3, 12:30-2 p.m.

Session 2: Every Wednesday, March 24 to April 28, 12:30-2 p.m.

Cost: $75

Instructor: Chris Reed

Chris Reed Submitted photo

Reed, a landscape painter in Portland, has been teaching drawing and painting through adult education and youth enrichment programs in southern Maine for more than 10 years. This is his first time teaching with SAD 52.

The class is described as “a mindful introduction to still life and landscape drawing.” The drawing techniques for developing composition and two-dimensional work can be shared with children as a family activity. The emphasis is on family/child learning.

Reed’s paintings have been exhibited throughout New England, he said.

“As a mindful practitioner, I’m always inspired when being in nature and exploring new places that eventually find their way to my canvas,” he said.

He described mindful drawing as the “application of mindfulness to the drawing process. It’s a very powerful tool for focusing one’s attention in the present moment while disengaging from the ‘analytical mind.’”

He incorporates mindful breathing techniques into his classes to help students be more centered and to minimize their fears or judgmental thoughts, he said.

“It’s a form of art therapy that is particularly effective at allowing feelings to be more fully expressed through art-making,” he said.

He teaches through Zoom as students follow his demonstrations.

“I like them to have the opportunity to share their work to generate discussions and positive feedback from one another,” Reed said. “I enjoy being a part of each student’s unique path and helping to bring out the very best in them.”

Classes are open to anyone who is interested in using mindfulness to learn the basic principles of drawing while exploring new techniques, he said. Being willing to step out of your comfort zone is the only prerequisite to express yourself artistically.

He said skills learned in his classes can affect other areas of life, “especially during this pandemic when finding alternative ways to connect with each other is essential.”

He added, “With fear and uncertainty lingering in the air, participating in a relaxing family-oriented activity can be very therapeutic. When we focus on taking care of ourselves in areas that need it most, then we are only doing a greater service to those around us.”


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