Friday, September 23, 2016

Sept. 20 Restore

Satchiananda at Woodstock - Opening Ceremonies

4 days post-training and I am still feeling the love.  I spent 6 days at Yogaville in Virginia with the beloved Nischala Joy Devi, immersing myself in Healing Relationships.  This program is an essential part of my training as a yoga therapist.  This being my first foray into the practice of Integral Yoga, I didn't know what to expect.  I had heard that Yogaville was a true ashram with monks, disciples and trainees of a guru named Swami Satchiananda (ananda meaning heart).

I came with a slightly open mind and heart to learn and immerse myself in their daily living.  It was my past experience with organized religions, that clouded my initial immersion.  With this in mind, I will share with you what Integral Yoga is, my experiences, and where I am going with this study.

"Truth is one, paths are many"

There are many, many styles of yoga and Integral Yoga is another style but is multifaceted in its offering.   
"The Goal of Integral Yoga, and the birthright of every individual, is to realize the spiritual unity behind all the diversities in the entire creation and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family. This goal is achieved by maintaining our natural condition of a body of optimum health and strength; senses under total control; a mind well-disciplined, clear and calm; an intellect as sharp as a razor; a will as strong and pliable as steel; a heart full of unconditional love and compassion; an ego as pure as crystal; and a life filled with Supreme Peace and Joy." (Swami Satchiananda).

There is a complete system of yoga under the umbrella of Integral Yoga and each branch covers the goals stated in the quote above.  It does not mean that there is only one way to do "yoga" but there are many paths.  Choose one that works for you.

Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga is the underlying Yoga philosophy as taught in the Yoga scriptures. Raja Yoga focuses on gaining mastery of the mind through ethical perfection and regular practice of concentration and meditation. Raja Yoga forms the foundation for all the other branches of Integral Yoga. As complex human beings, Integral Yoga offers practices for every aspect of our being – heart, hand, and head.

Hatha Yoga

To keep the body healthy and strong, and to prepare for meditation, we practice Hatha Yoga. This consists of asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), yoga nidra (guided deep relaxation), mudras (energy seals), bandhas (energy locks), kriya (cleansing practices), and diet.

Bhakti Yoga

To turn emotions into devotion we have the practices of Bhakti Yoga; kirtan (chanting), puja (worship services), prayers and prostrations. By constant love, thought, and service of the Divine (either as God, a divine incarnation, or a spiritual teacher) we can transcend our limited personality and connect with our true self through the image of our beloved.

Karma Yoga

Selfless service is Karma Yoga, the path of action. We perform our duty without attachment to the results of the action. In Karma Yoga we are dedicating the results of our actions to the divine or to the service of humanity.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is the practice of reflection and self-inquiry — developing the witnessing mind. It offers an intellectual approach where we access our inner wisdom. Through the knowledge of what really exists, what is not changeable, Jnana Yoga allows us to realize our essential oneness with the entire universe.

Japa Yoga

Sri Swami Satchidananda also emphasizes the importance of mantra repetition, Japa Yoga, by making it a branch of Integral Yoga. He explains that mantra repetition is a particularly helpful practice in the busy age that we live in. This is because mantra repetition is a little easier than other forms of meditation when there are so many distractions. Concentrated mental repetition of the mantra produces vibrations within our entire system which are in tune with the divine vibration, connecting us with our true nature.
When I first arrived at Yogaville, I was a bit unsettled, ungrounded.  It took me a full 2 days to feel my feet on the ground (we were in the Blue Ridge Mountains by the way).  It helped to go to a yoga class right away.  The Hatha practice is a systemized sequence of poses, breath, concentration and relaxation to move the spine, direct energy, and let go.  I didn't take to it at first.  Bhakti and Japa yoga still don't resonate with me but I have been practice Japa daily since my return but would benefit from further reflection and practice.  I have always had the idea of Karma yoga and service to others in my vernacular, so that yoga resonated for me.  Jnana yoga is not quite there for me.  I think further practice and reflection may?? help.  And my daily concentration and meditation practice is certainly one that I can continue with.  I believe that my ethics (8 limbs of yoga are consistent with Raja yoga.

Future Thoughts - I have heard that Integral Yoga is a useful and effective therapeutic application for healing and well-being.  As part of my ongoing training and education and service to others, I plan on investigating these therapeutic benefits and seeing where and how they can be incorporated into my practice with my clients.  Remember "Truth is one, paths are many".  There is no one right way.

If you want further information on this practice, check out the following website 

The Breath
Inhale "I am Calm"
Exhale "I am Here"

The Poses
Starfish Savasana Pose
Props: 2 or more blankets, neck rolls, eye pillow
Benefits: soothing to the nervous system, grounding, gentle chest opener,  releases the pelvis

Lay a blanket on  your mat for extra comfort and warmth, blankets for the arms as well.  As you lay down, place your feet towards the corners of your mat and arms about 10-12 inches from your body, palms up. Add your eye pillow, and blanket on top.  We adjusted the legs with our Double Dutch for optimal release of tension and proper alignment.

Childs Pose Variation
Props: bolster, one blocks, 2-3 blankets, neck roll for forehead
Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind.  Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release. Gently lengthens the legs.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum

Place bolster on the mat lengthwise and lay a blanket over it. Make a smaller roll for the ankles and place at the other end of the mat. Also place a block at top end with a neck roll or eye pillow on top. Begin on all fours and lower  your upper body onto the bolster. Settle the tops of the ankles on the smaller roll and adjust the body so that the tops of the thighs rest on the edge of the bolster.  Lay the forehead on the cushioned block and place the arms to the side, shoulders dropping from the ears.  Soften your jaw and let the body sink into the supports and the floor. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Restore Sept. 6

Books, pencils, folders, oh my!  Yes, we hit Staples this year and contrary to the ad on TV, I did not dance through the aisles.  The summer flew by, the days and nights melded into each other, - as one long sigh.  The earth letting the weight of its layers lie even heavier.  Awakening to the sound of the high school kids getting on the school bus, this is but a reminder, that we are in transition - some attachment to where we were but hope for where we are going.  With this in mind, I share with you the mantra for Overcoming Obstacles, setting forth from our very root and connection to the earth - springing forth from the long sigh of summer.

The Inspiration
Ganesh Mantra


The Breath
3-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama) - Expanding energy, circulation

Come to a comfortable seated or supine position, fully supported. Place hands on your belly and breathe in enough so that you feel the abdomen rise into your hand on the inhale and relax on the exhale.  Stay with the awareness of the rise and fall of the belly for at least 4 breaths (Part 1 of Breath).  Next, place the hands alongside your ribs.  Inhale deeply to feel the belly rise and the ribs expand under your fingers. Exhale and feel those parts relax and release.  At least 4 breaths here, (Part 2 of breath) slowly expanding the lungs.  The final part of this 3-part breath, is to place the hands on the chest, below the collarbones. Breathe in to feel the belly expand, the ribs separate slightly and the chest lift into the hands - filled with light and openness.  Exhale and witness the release of your body through the chest, ribs and belly.  4 breaths.

The Poses
Kyphosis Roll
Benefits: open thoracic spine to release tension in between shoulder blades, shoulders, stretch the pectoral muscles on front of the chest, relaxing, open breathing passageways, slightly energizing so can be used when you are feeling lethargic, not motivated.Great release after a long day.
Props: blanket rolled to height desired. Less = less opening

Create your blanket roll and place on your mat.  Come to sit in front of roll and lower yourself down onto your back so that the roll fits along the bra line.  Legs can lie flat on the mat or as pictured or any other position you want.  Adjust for comfort and ensure that the shoulders and shoulder blades are spilling over the roll. Add a small pillow for the head, a neck roll or an eye pillow to go deeper in.  Stay for at least 5 minutes.

Bridge Pose
(adding energy, vitalization)
Benefits: Expands the chest muscles, opens the lungs, balances the glands, quiets the nerves and releases tension in the nervous system, increases oxygen intake to the brain, can stimulate the immune system (thyroid)
Props: 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow, can also use bolster for more stretch
Extras: blanket for warmth

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift butt and slide the stack of 2 or 4 blankets under the base of your spine. Find a comfortable position, then let the upper back release on the floor. Arms are relaxed at sides or resting on belly. Feel chest and belly rise with each breath. Roll gently to one side when done and inhale up to seated.

Legs up the Wall

Benefits: increases circulation and helps venous and lymphatic flow from the lower body; relieves swelling and fatigue in the legs; helps relieve muscular skeletal stress in pelvis; quiets the mind and can help promote ease in meditation and sleep.
Props: 1-2 blankets, strap, eye pillow, blanket for warmth, neck roll, maybe a bolster (see photo)

Begin with using a double-folded blanket to be placed right above sacrum (see photo), setting it approx. distance 6-8" from wall (adjust in pose). Sit down on the blanket with one hip pressed right up against the wall. As you lower down, swing your legs up the wall. Once in the pose, you can adjust distance to wall, angle of legs to all, blanket and placement of legs all for comfort.  Hips and tailbone will be in space between wall and blanket. Arms rest by your side, palms face up or variation with Goddess arms (photo above).  

Variations: To ground legs, blanket or sandbag to hang from soles of the feet.  Strap can be placed around calves, so you lose the feeling of holding up legs.  Tight hamstrings or really uncomfortable with legs directly up the wall? Try a bolster angled into the wall to rest legs on, add blankets for more support or move hips further from wall.  Another variation is Legs up on a Chair or on a bolster with blankets on top to bring knees into a 90 degree angle.

Friday, July 1, 2016

June 28 Restore

Our final class of the school year, kids.  I was a bit sad to say goodbye to each of you.  For some, our paths will cross this summer; for others, we may touch base periodically. I am so grateful to have shared this practice with you each Tuesday.  Have a grand and glorious summer.

Setting the Summer Sun

The Inspiration
Accepting Loss - Food for Thought
Many moons ago, far far away, in a galaxy called my college years, I took a course called "Death and Dying".  There was a prerequisite for the course.  The student must have had a death of a person that was close to them.  My two grandparents had passed within 6 months of each other, so I qualified.

Throughout the course, we followed Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's  1969 book, "On Death and Dying".  In her book, she proposes that grief and loss occur in five stages.  

1. Denial and Isolation
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Those experiencing grief and loss may not follow the stages in order, or may not even experience a stage at all.  There also may be varying degrees of emotion felt for each stage. These stages help the person put their loss in perspective and only act as a guide.

Grief following a loss is not limited to losing a person close to you.  It also encompasses any major loss such as a job, a home, a way of thinking about yourself or how you live.  There are so many other examples of losses that can occur in our lifetime.  It is important to give and take the time to process the loss.  Listen compassionately to that person experiencing loss and be present for them.   When we are helping someone through those periods,  we can let them know that it is common to have difficulties in relation to normal everyday living.    

Sleep, eating and everyday living can be altered greatly., setting off dis-ease.  There is no 'normal'. Practices that normalize can greatly benefit someone going through grief.  This is where our yoga practice can step right in.  Balancing poses, calming practices like Yoga Nidra, Alternate Nostril Breathing, restorative yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic rituals all can create a sense of normalcy.

As you cross the paths of someone experiencing loss, keep in mind your own experiences and then step back to give them the space to experience however it plays out.

The Poses
Belly Down
Props: 2 or more blankets, neck rolls
Benefits: soothing to the nervous system, grounding, stimulates the
digestive system, gentle chest opener, lengthens the legs, ankles, releases the pelvis

Place a blanket for the chest to lie on as well as fill in the belly area and one blanket for a pillow. Lie belly down with legs extended, arms bent slightly out to the side. Can hold onto your neck roll to ground through the palms. Turn your head to one side and change direction when you need to.  Additional support at the ankles. Add a blanket over top for comfort and warmth.

Supported Forward Fold

Props: bolster, 1-2 blankets, block

Benefits: calming, gently stretches lower back, nice transition from the days activities.  A good pose to do if you need a few minutes break from your daily work, easy to do and easily accessible.  Good for headaches.  Breathing is easier since muscles of the respiratory system are relaxed. Massage for the digestive system.

Sit on a folded blanket and extend legs out in front of you. Place bolster lengthwise along the legs adding a blanket or block to top as headrest. Lay your upper body on bolster and rest your forehead on blanket or block. Arms can drape on bolster, along side or any other comfortable position.

Reclined Bound Angle Movements

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June 14 Restore

This has been a pretty rough week thus far.  I don't need to rehash why.  But where does one turn when the world seems a pretty rotten place.  How do we heal ourselves and others?  First step is inward and then outward.

Our approach to the inner realm must be slow, gentle and filled with compassion and respect.  How would you approach a snake in the grass? (Or maybe you wouldn't).  The approach is much the same; slow, gentle, compassion-filled and with full respect.

We come back to our inner stillness through gentle waves of breath, soft focus on our body, observation of our thoughts, affirmations of our deepest longing, and acceptance of all things present without clinging to those things.  A restorative practice is one of the best practices for going inward.  Your body is supported so that your awareness can rest on the subtle body sensations, the breath, the mind and not on the muscular actions of the body.  You may be guided via your own self-inquiry or by an experienced teacher to delve into the various sheaths of your being (see Koshas).

Once we are at the place of our inner sanctum, we can almost set a place marker there, so that when we return through our process of stilling ourselves, we know where we left off.  From this place, we return through spiral waves of breath and awareness to the outside.  You just don't leave the aspects of your inner being in that sanctum, some of it comes with you like pollen on a bee.  This residue will cling to all of your layers as you move to the surface.  This residue will also burst through your skin and deposit itself into others via our senses straight to the hearts of others.

Try a little inner work first, the outcome of this work will be felt no matter what.

The Breath
Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana)

This breath invites the calm in, balancing both sides of our nasal passages and our brain.  We tend to breath predominately with either the left or right nasal passage and we become unbalanced.  A few minutes at the start of a class or practice, can merge the two hemispheres of the brain and allow you to become more receptive.

Breathing through the right or left nostrils gives different effects.
Right Nostril
increases heart rate, increases verbal performance, stimulates left brain, increases rate of blinking
Left Nostril decreases heart rate, increases spatial performance, stimulates right brain, reduces rate of blinking,

The Practice: Find a comfortable seat or laying down.  Using the right hand, bring the middle and index fingers to rest toward the palm.  Alternatively, they can be placed at your third eye (forehead area). Begin with even breaths through both nostrils, gently close off right nostril, then inhale through left nostril and exhale through the right nostril.  Gently close off left nostril, as you inhale through right and exhale through left. Keep the same count for both sides. That is one round.  Repeat for 5 to 6 rounds or more.  Tongue comes to rest on roof of mouth.

Other variations of this breath are:
  • Retaining the breath after the inhale while keeping both nostrils gently closed. 
  • Extending the exhale longer than inhale
  • Cessation of breath after the exhale, with only one nostril closed
Mental Nadi Shodhana.  Mentally instruct the breath to come in and out through alternating nostrils.  Can even visualize breathing in from one far away place and breathing out to another far away place (Mt. Everest (Inhale), African plains (Exhale)

The Poses
Boat Pose or Incline Legs up Pose
Version with chair

Props: 2 bolsters, 2 blocks, neck rolls for neck and hand support, 2-3 blankets

Benefits: relaxes legs and drains excess fluid from legs, gives spinal support, gently lengthens the spine, shoulders relax, 
refreshes the legs, relaxes the muscles and organs of the abdomen.  

Place a bolster horizontally on your mat. If you need to elevate the body, you can place a triple fold blanket in front of the bolster, then place your hips on blanket to one side, swing the legs over the bolster so knees are supported.  Lower your upper body onto the bolster with blocks set up underneath. Use a neck roll to support cervical spine. Place a blanket or sandbag on legs to ground you in the pose. Arms release to the sides with palms turned up.  Use an eye pillow to shut out any light for ultimate relaxation. An eye pillow or some type of weighted object (I've used stuffed animals) can be placed in open palms to move and free up energy.  Stay for up to 10 minutes.  Your beginning practice may consist of only 5 minutes.  Feel the legs drain, the stress melt away.

Childs Pose
Props: bolster, two blocks, 2-3 blankets
Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind.  Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum

Place the two blocks at either the lowest or medium height, equidistant from each other bolster lengthwise on top of blocks. A s-fold or triple fold blanket on top of bolster.  It may be more comfortable without blocks.  Legs straddle the props at one end, and lengthen body over them. Head will rest on props.  Additional blanket(s) may be used behind knees. Ideally props should extend all the way to the pelvis area but this may not be the case with your body structure.   Stay here for 10 minutes to begin with, rotating head side to side. 

Variation: Straddle Forward Fold - for those with discomfort in their knees.  Support the knees with blanket rolls and straddle the propped up bolster with additional blankets on the top, if necessary.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

June 7 Restore

The last remnants of my oldest daughter's high school career are seen on our couch.  Every school day since middle school, she has placed her backpack on that couch, so that she could grab it on her way out.  Early on, I could be seen walking her to the bus stop. A year later that wasn't cool and I was relegated to the front porch, just watching the bus go by.  Fast forward to high school, where she was sometimes up and out of the house before I even woke up.  And some mornings, the goodbye was a "May I borrow the car?".

I will miss the sight of her heavy backpack on the couch.  Next year as she begins college at Montco., she may not even use a backpack and a few years after, may not even be home.  I've cherished watching her backpack grow - with knowledge and independence into the mature backpack that it is - Ready to take on the world (which coincidentally is right smack next to it!).

What are they and can they lead me to my center of being?

The five koshas, or 'layers' of the body, constitute a map for navigating the inner journey.
By Shiva Rea
When you are heading into new territory, it is helpful to have a map. Hiking in Yosemite, you need a topography map showing the mountainous terrain. In New York City, you need to know the city blocks and major sites to orient yourself. Within yoga, a different guide is needed—one that charts the landscape of the self. The koshas, "layers" or "sheaths," make up one such map, charted by yogic sages some 3,000 years ago. Written about in the Upanishads, the kosha model navigates an inner journey—starting from the periphery of the body and moving towards the core of the self: the embodied soul. While this may sound esoteric, the koshas are both a practical and profound contemplative tool that can help you deepen your yoga practice and the quality of your participation in life. You can use the kosha map the same way that you would when you travel—to orient yourself before you head out on the journey of your practice or when you are getting lost or stuck (e.g., in the chatter of the mind or in the discomfort of a pose). As we explore the koshas, you will find that you have been here before, and that your final destination, the anandamaya kosha, is the body of bliss.

According to the map of the koshas, we are composed of five layers, sheaths, or bodies. Like Russian dolls, each metaphorical "body" is contained within the next: annamaya kosha—the physical body; pranamaya kosha—the breath or life-force body; manomaya kosha—the mental body; vijanamaya kosha—the wisdom body; and anandamaya kosha—the bliss body. This is not a literal anatomical model of the layers of the body, although you can find physiological parallels to the koshas, like the nervous system and the "mental" body. As a metaphor, the koshas help describe what it feels like to do yoga from the inside—the process of aligning what in contemporary language we often call "mind, body, and spirit" or "mind-body connection."

From the kosha perspective, yoga helps us bring body, breath, mind, wisdom, and spirit (bliss) into harmony. Like a tapestry, the koshas are interwoven layers. You have no doubt experienced this in your own body: When you are tense or strained, your breath becomes shallow, your mind becomes easily agitated, and wisdom and joy seem far away. When you are filled with joy and communion with life, these feelings permeate your entire being. Separating the strands of the tapestry is a way to look at how your whole being can become integrated or in discord. The kosha map is not a rigid truth but a template for exploring the mystery of being alive. Let's bring the koshas to life now by seeing how this map applies to hatha yoga practice grounded in asana.
Navigating the Koshas
The first layer of the koshas is always where you begin your journey. It situates you in the present moment of your body like the arrow on a map that says "you are here." Take one of your hands and connect with a chunk of your thigh, arm, or belly. You are touching the annamaya kosha—your physical self—the first layer of skin, muscle tissue, bones, and organs. The annamaya kosha is often referred to as the "gross" body (sthula-sarira)—the tangible part of yourself that you can mostly see, touch, and feel. Annamaya means "food body," and there are long passages in theUpanishads drilling in this realization that we are composed of food from the earth, a beneficial contemplation that helps you pay attention to what you feed your first kosha. Like having good fertilizer for your top soil, all of the layers of yourself will benefit from a healthy, balanced diet. Just eat a funky meal or dubious bon bon and watch the changes in your breath and mental body.

In the beginning of your yoga practice, a lot of time is spent exploring your physical body. The first step is becoming aware of the entire field of your body from head to toe and all the little crevices that are highlighted through yoga postures, such as the arches of your feet and the side ribs. Learning how to align your joints, bones, and spine, engage your muscles, sense your skin, and even become aware of what is happening to your organs and endocrine system within the poses teaches you to harmonize your first kosha. When I teach yoga or do my own practice, I start with a keen awareness of the first kosha—the body sensations—to make the more subtle layers of the self more accessible. In other words, if you want to deepen your breath or affect your state of mind, you have to honor and pass through the gateway of the physical body.

The next three layers of the self are considered to be part of the subtle body or suksma-sarira, as they are unseen and cannot be tangibly grasped. They can, however, be felt, and they have a profound effect on the physical body: You would perish if your pranamaya kosha, or breath body, ceased to function. Throughout the day the breath body can go unnoticed and become limited in range, like a caged bird that forgets how to fly. To experience the pranamaya kosha, contemplate the reality of how your next inhalation literally circulates through your entire body through the oxygen in your bloodstream. On a physiological level, the layer of prana refers to your circulatory and respiratory systems—the rivers of life flowing in you—as well as to the flow of feelings in your body. The system of yogic breathing exercises called pranayama is designed to increase and cultivate the quality of the pranic body. When you start to know where you are in your physical body through the alignment of the poses, you will have more freedom to explore the flow of your breath. By shifting to deep, slow, and rhythmic breathing in your yoga practice, you are becoming conscious of and affecting this second kosha. As you increase the amount of oxygen in your body, this pranic body starts to come alive. The coordination of your inhalation and exhalation with the movements of your physical body, as in the Sun Salutations, is one of the ways in which the physical body and breath body become synchronized with the mental body (concentration and awareness).

This third layer, the manomaya kosha, corresponds to your nervous system and expresses itself as waves of thought or awareness. How active this third layer is becomes apparent within the stillness of a yoga pose: Try resting your eyes on a point and concentrating on the sensation of your breath rising and falling in your chest. See how long it takes before a thought-wave, or vritti,passes by.
Often our minds are as overloaded as a freeway in Los Angeles, constricting the flow of your journey or yoga practice. If your mind is obsessed or is going in different directions, your breath becomes erratic and your sense of physical ease and balance wavers. Your breath can serve as a bridge between your body and mind. Expanded breath = Expanded mind = A sense of openness in the body. For most of us, our yoga practice is devoted to learning how to get the flow of these first three layers happening. Like knowing the best route home, observation of how these three layers interact in your practice will also help in the flow of your daily life. Many teachers and students use ujjayi breathing during yoga practice to find this balance. Drawing the breath over the back of the throat helps to focus the mind and coordinate your movements within and between asanas.

The vijanamaya kosha is the intelligence or wisdom body and refers to the reflective aspects of our consciousness when we experience a deeper insight into ourselves and the world. As the first three layers begin to syncopate in your yoga practice, a different feeling arises as your wisdom body comes alive. All of a sudden you are not just trying to survive or breathe in a pose, but a shift inside you occurs, as if the spirit of the pose starts to emerge. In Tree Pose, you may begin to feel a steady strength and inner power. In a backbend, it may feel like the sky opens up inside your heart. You are still in the fourth layer of your body when a subjective witness observes these shifts—that inner voice that says, "That feels good!" When the witness of experience dissolves into the experience of the moment, the final layer, anandamaya kosha, the core of bliss begins to shine through. There is a feeling of wholeness and integration, a sense of arriving at your destination, even if you are only there for a moment. This is the radiant core where unconditional love and communion with life arises. In the Upanishads, this bliss body is described as having "joy as the head, contentment as the right arm and delight as the left, bliss as the heart, and Brahman [universal self] as the foundation."

This is not a VIP-only area. Throughout your life, you have accessed this part of yourself. Children go there regularly, as do musicians and dancers. And so do beginning yoga students. Whether we touch this bliss body every day or in every practice is not the point of the journey. Sometimes we make it through the gates or to the top of the trail, sometimes not. Sometimes we find ourselves more complex and difficult to unravel and other days we shift easily through the layers of ourselves. Just keep the center in your inner horizon.
Shiva Rea teaches flow (vinyasa) based yoga integrating alignment and intuition, strength and fluidity, meditation and wisdom in action at Yoga Works in Santa Monica, California. She is the author of the home practice CD, Yoga Sanctuary, and leads workshops and adventure retreats worldwide. She can be contacted through
Article from Yoga Journal You Are Here by Shiva Rea

The Poses
Props: blankets, including one for warmth, stuffed animals or eye bags for hands
Benefits: gently stretches the lumbar spine and para spinal muscles, and gives a release in the diaphragm, quiets the mind and comforting. Gives a sense of security.  

2 bolster fold blanket placed lengthwise on mat on top of each other. One blanket at end of mat for ankle support. Make roll for ankle support. Rest of that blanket fills in gap where shin does not meet the floor. Make sure no blanket is on knee. This supports the knee in the pose.  Top bolster folded blanket roll towards you in a wider roll to fit in chest and shoulder area. One more blanket folded so that its height is the same as the two bolster folded blankets. Come to all fours straddling the props, release to forearms and then fully recline on props.  Ankles rest on small roll at end of mat, shins supported by the rest of that blanket. Rest the rest of your body at hip crease on the bolster fold blankets and lay chest on wider roll of top blanket. Head rests on additional blanket at top, turned to the side. Arms come out to the sides, releasing shoulders down the back and away from the ears. Placing an eye pillow or stuffed animal in palms as they face floor is very grounding and comfortable. Additional blankets for pillows tucked in as needed with student to create boundaries or make more comfortable.
New Version includes laying tops of ankles over padded blocks for further draining of the legs.

Legs up the Wall Variation

Props: 1-2 bolsters, blocks, blankets, neck roll

Benefits: drains fluid from the legs, releases pelvic floor, chest and shoulder opener, back of legs get a gentle stretch.

Place one bolster horizontally on mat (for the knees) and one vertically (for the feet, ankes and lower legs). Arrange a triple-folded blanket horizontally (lumbar and thoracic spine area). Recline legs over the bolsters and lower the upper body on the blanket. Adjust so that the tips of the shoulder blades are right above the blanket. Add neck pillow under neck and move arms to Goddess position if comfortable for  your shoulders. Otherwise, they can go by your side or stack hands on top of your belly.  Cover pelvic area with a blanket. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

May 24 Restore

My brain is fried. This blog post will be pictures taken in the past few months, that have inspired me.  Tapping into my inner photographer.

Wildflowers of Texas

The Breath
Lions Breath (Simhasana)
Sit comfortably either in Sukhasana (Easy Seat) or on your heels. Take a deep inhalation through the nose. Then simultaneously open your mouth wide and stretch your tongue out, curling its tip down toward the chin, open your eyes wide, contract the muscles on the front of your throat, and exhale the breath slowly out through your mouth with a distinct "ha" sound. The breath should pass over the back of the throat.
Some texts instruct us to set our gaze (drishti) at the spot between the eyebrows. This is called "mid-brow gazing" (bhru-madhya-drishti; bhru = the brow; madhya = middle).Other texts direct the eyes to the tip of the nose (nasa-agra-drishti; nasa = nose; agra = foremost point or part, i.e., tip).
You can roar two or three times. Then change the cross of the legs and repeat for the same number of times.
Benefits: Useful for people with bad breath, relieves stress and can be used when you need to ease a tense situation, relieves tension in the chest and face, move stagnation in sinuses.
(Yoga Journal)

The Poses
Mountain Brook
Props: 2-3 blankets, neck roll, one bolsters
Benefits: counteracts the slumped position of our posture from sitting, computer use, driving, everyday activities. Opens the chest to help breathe easier. Improves digestion, reduces fatigue and can lift your mood.

Just like a babbling brook with boulders (soft ones!), imagine your body like the soft rushing waters laying over those boulders, smooth, flowing.  It will allow the natural curves of the body to be held up gently and the breath to flow.

On your mat, place one bolster where your knees will be and another where your lower legs can rest, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), and a neck roll for the cervical spine.  Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up or come into Goddess arms.  If ankles need support, use rolled-up blanket or dish towel.  Eye pillows can lightly rest on eyes or even be used on forehead (useful for headaches) or even on shoulders (wherever you need to release tension). To begin with stay in pose for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes.  Great to use in savasana. Feel the heart open, the strain from holding yourself up all day evaporate.
Variations: Feeling cranky in the lumbar spine? Place blanket to fill the curves.  Want to feel more grounded while still opening the heart? Place rolled up blanket against wall and soles of feet touching blanket.  Need to feel cuddled? Swaddle your head in a blanket cradle.

Reclined Twist
Props: bolster, 2-4 blocks, 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow
Extras: blanket for warmth
Benefits: Allows breath to come in to the rib cage and belly more freely. Detoxifying. Can reduce high blood pressure. Relieves fatigue and insomnia.  Safe for a Prenatal twist.
This can be a very prop intensive pose but once you are in it, it is worth it.  Begin with right side of body, place the bottom of your right foot against the wall with leg extended. Left leg is bent at a 90 deg. angle and propped up with two blocks and a bolster with maybe a blanket on top. at least two blankets, S-fold blankets, and/or pillows placed along spine for support, lengthwise.  Extend your left arm out to the left side and lay it on a smaller stack of blankets either s-fold or triple-fold out to your side.  Right arm extends out to the right.  This means the left arm is at a higher elevation than right. Head can remain neutral to ceiling or turn to one side.   Extra blankets can be placed in spaces that need more support.  Neck roll for cervical spine and eye pillow.
*we are digging placing the arms in Goddess pose (not pictured) so try that one out as well. Place blanket support under arms. 

Savasana on Belly
Props: bolster, 1 or 2 blocks, 2 blankets
Benefits: soothing to the nervous system, grounding, stimulates the
digestive system, gentle chest opener, lengthens the legs, ankles, releases the pelvis.

Place bolster lengthwise on your mat and lay an unfolded blanket over it.  One or two blocks can go in front of the bolster.  Come to all fours and release your belly and upper body onto the bolster with legs extended behind you. Head rests on block. You may need someone to cover you with the blanket as it swaddles you.  Add another blanket for weight to the legs.  Delicious!