Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 15 Restore Series

This week's class was brought to you by the Letter J and the Letter P - that is Jillian Pransky.  The inspiration for the poses and the guidance was Jillian Pranksy's new Yoga DVD, Calm Body Clear Mind.  I am adding the link to her website for ordering information and to experience a free restorative Goddess pose.

I've been a witness to so many struggles this week and to so many triumphs.  Each of these people or groups of people have experienced the lows and highs, sometimes simultaneously. How could that be?  Sadness and joy from the family of one of my yoga students who passed away last night, frustration and then space and healing from my boyfriend who is having elder care issues, and even the unsure scariness of a bomb threat at my daughter's school, followed by their school community coming together to sing the National Anthem at the Phillies game.  

The Inspiration
Ms. Mind/Body speaks to Surrender in her recent blog. See below and to receive her weekly newsletter, go to her website

white flag“Sometimes your only available form of transportation is a leap of faith.” –Margaret Shepard
I am a big fan of taking action. All kinds of action, really – small consistent steps that add up to greatness over time, anything that’s different than what you would normally do, anything that gets you out of being stuck, anything that will give you feedback that you can use to decide what action to take next.
After all:
But there is one action that’s always in your back pocket that it is all too easy to forget about. And maybe even a little scary to contemplate. But it is so powerful. Like, dropping an eight in a game of Crazy Eights powerful. Lay this puppy down and bam! Everything changes.
It’s surrender.
There is only so much that’s in our control. And that is a beautiful thing, because how exhausting would it be if absolutely everything that happened to you was up to you?!
The equal and opposite force to putting things out there is to receive.  If you have been working like the dickens to make progress on something but you’re still bumping up against an invisible wall, there’s your cue: It’s time to give up your effort.
I’m not saying you wave the white flag, admit defeat, and let go of the dream. I’m saying you set an intention to leave some space for someone or something else to come in. You need to be open in order to receive. Soft. Not striving. Not irritated. Not trying so damn hard. So you go off and do something that makes you feel restored, at peace, supported.
When I first started practicing yoga a million years ago (OK, it was 1995), I saw people go up into headstand during my first class and thought, “WHAT IS THAT?!?” I’d never seen anything like it. A part of me wanted to do it something fierce. But I am kinda chickenshit when it comes to going upside down. As a kid, I never even learned how to do a cartwheel.
Nevertheless I swallowed hard and started doing all the prep that would get me to standing on my head in the middle of the room—bringing my head to the floor in a downward dog, eventually coming up into a little upsidedown-egg pose at the wall. Gradually straightening my legs. Moving my mat millimeters away from the wall. Once, while taking a yoga class in a gym, I moved about 6 inches–woo!—away from the mirrored wall. It was great, until I rolled out of handstand and my rump smashed into mirrored wall and cracked it like a hard-boiled egg. People, I worked hard and long on that headstand.
After about five years of this, I started to break out in a cold sweat whenever the teacher called out headstand in class. I thought I detected disappointment in my teachers’ eyes when they saw me move my mat to the wall.
That’s when I stepped away, didn’t even try to come up for a few months. Ah, peace. I focused on other things.
And then one magical day, I decided to try again in the comfort of my own home. I will never forget the way my legs floated up, like buttah, into my very first unsupported headstand. I consider it to be one of my major achievements. And it was all because I worked hard and then I surrendered.
So, where could you give up? And what would you do instead?

The Breath
Hands to Belly and Heart

This is one of my favorite breaths because I can actually feel the movement of the breath through my body, like a "hands on".  This brings greater breath awareness and it is considered a "complete" breath where the entire lungs are filled up.  I use it to calm me down, center, become more in tune with my physical body.

Can be done either laying down, seated or standing.  Try all three positions.
Begin the first part of the breath by placing one hand on your belly, the other hand on your heart. Inhale long and deep to the belly. Feel the abdomen press against your palm and fingers with inhale. Keep breathing in to chest so that it rises.  Exhale from heart to belly feeling the chest fall and the belly deflate with the exhale.  Stay for as many breaths as you feel comfortable.  Inhaling from belly to heart and   exhaling from heart to belly.  Feel the connection between the two. The breath may be so deep and full that the complete breath may even be felt to the base of the skull.

The Poses
Elevated Legs

Props: 2 blocks, 3 blankets, neck roll and other support
Benefits: reduces fatigue, reduces swelling in the legs and feet, soothes the nerves and eases mental agitation.  Great for after a long day on your feet.

Place two blocks medium height at end of your mat, roll a blanket smoothly and place over blocks.  Two bolster folded blankets are in front of blocks stacked on top of each other.  Use a neck roll and eye pillow and any additional blankets for comfort and grounding. Can add a blanket to lower legs.  

Surfboard Pose

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.

Reclined Goddess
Props: 2 blocks, 2 blankets, neck roll
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems. Shoulders release their tension. 

Bring blocks to lowest height, place rolled up blanket on top of blocks, smooth any wrinkles.  Two longer blankets folded in half go lengthwise on mat. Fold top blanket down for head pillow.  Sit between blocks and long blankets and put legs over blocks, soles of the feet together.

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 1 Restore Series

I have been a juicing and smoothie mama lately.  A few months ago, I bought a refurbished Vitamixer from my friend Inna*.  Perfect condition!  It only has been loved before by someone else.  My daily kale and a myriad of other fruits and veggies intake has been astounding to me.  I slip a little shredded coconut in to bring an island flare to one smoothie and some chia seeds into another so I can eventually resemble a Chia pet.  And this is our secret, but my daughters are unaware of all the yummy nutrients that I am throwing in.  I think we have all felt the heavier, richer foods of winter and now want to move them out.  These foods were perfect for sustaining us through this long, cold season.  In Spring,  we move on and out.

What better way to do so then to add a cleanse to your spring routine. This is a perfect time to begin such a cleansing out for the digestive system.  I've included an article from Lisa Scarborough, Moyo's Ayurvedic Consultant.

The Cleanse Lens
The new buzz word in the natural health realm seems to be "cleanse". There is a liver cleanse, a kidney cleanse, a cellular cleanse and a cleanse for just about everything. What exactly is a cleanse and why should we or should we not practice cleansing? My view of cleansing is through the lens of Ayurveda, the 5,000 year old health science from India. According to this profound system of healing, it is important to give the body, especially the digestive track, a break occasionally in order to "flush the system" so to speak. It is a means of healing and purification.
The western diet in general is very difficult on the digestive system, especially if you eat meat (even poultry). It can be a struggle for the system to keep up with digestion, often leaving undigested food in the digestive track. This stagnant waste creates a by product known as "ama", a sticky substance that causes blockages in the energy systems of the body. Just as cholesterol clogs the arteries restricting blood flow, ama blocks the "nadis" restricting the flow of energy. Regular cleansing helps reduce or eliminate ama, allowing you to readily tap into all the energy available to you.  
A cleanse should not be taken lightly. It requires much preparation and for some, it is quite spiritual, as well as, physical. A cleanse is NOT a diet or a means of losing weight, however it does help to jump start a more healthy and pure diet and it creates more awareness of our tendencies.
The traditional times of cleansing are spring and fall. However, after the holiday season, when we've all overindulged just a bit, an occasional one day cleanse can be beneficial. Choose a day of the week when you are able to create some down time. A day or two before your cleanse, begin to drastically reduce sugar, caffeine, dairy and processed foods in your diet. On the actual day of your cleanse, you will eat only juiced fruits and vegetables, no solid foods. Be sure to balance the fruit with vegetables. I know many people who go heavy on the fruits, not including many vegetables. One of my favorites is apple, ginger, carrot and kale.
I promise it tastes delicious( even if it  does look a little unappetizing). Use this day to rest, relax, enjoy nature, take a long bath, journal, meditate, anything that refreshes you. Avoid turning on the t.v, computer, cell phone etc. Read only inspirational material (no news, murder mysteries or work related material). Sip warm herbal tea throughout the day. You may want to stay close to home as it's not uncommon to visit the bathroom often. After your mini cleanse, begin eating things that are easy on the stomach such as rice and oatmeal. Try keeping the sugar, dairy and processed foods at a minimum for as long as possible. The goal would be to continue eating in a more pure way than you did prior to your cleanse.
Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a cleanse if you have blood sugar or other metabolic issues. As we get near to spring, I'll be blogging about our five day spring cleanse. I'd love for you to join us.
If you have any questions or specific nutritional questions, feel free to contact me at Under The Bodhi Tree is my boutique at Moyo Yoga where I carry nutritional supplements and all things yoga, to support you on your journey. For more information or to schedule an ayurvedic nutritional consultation, contact me, Lisa Scarborough at or online at Moyo Yoga.
Enjoy this blessed season!

*For information on Vitamix or tips on using your Vitamixer, please contact Inna Heasley at

The Breath

Buzzing Bee Breath (Bhramari)
On the spot relaxation, soothing.
Sit comfortably either on the floor or in a chair with spine straight and shoulders relaxed.  Hand placement is as follows:
Index and middle fingers of each hand lay across the eyes. Can place one at brow line and one on bridge of nose.  Ring fingers touch at upper lip.  Thumbs gently placed at indentation by ears. The pinkie fingers can rest on the lower part of the face or just hang there.  Breathe in and on the exhale, make a buzzing sound until all air is exhaled. Begin again with the deep inhale, exhale with the buzzing sound.  Continue for at least 5 breaths until you feel a sense of peace, calm wash over you.  If you feel like you are forcing the exhale, come back to your normal breath.

The Poses
Supported West Pose

Props: bolster, two or more blankets, neck roll

Benefits: lengthens spine, grounding, gentle stretch for hamstrings, calf muscles, tops of feet, quiets the mind, good for anxiety, aid with digestion

Sit on a folded blanket and place bolster under knees. Bolster can be flat on ground if legs are shorter.  Place one or two blankets on your lap between belly and tops of legs and rest upper body on blanket.  Head can also be turned to the side. Allow arms to be comfortable either draping forward or by your side. Take some breaths to settle into the pose and stay for a minimum of 5 minutes. Come up slowly.

Revolved Abdominal Twist Variation (Bottom leg extended)

Props: bolster, 3 blankets, 1 extra blanket for warmth and or laying on lower back to ground
Benefits: Gentle twist for the spine (quadratus lumborom) Releases stress on the back muscles and a stretch to the intercostal muscles. As muscles relax, breathing is enhanced.  This variation stretches out lower leg especially through the IT band and around the knee.

Set one bolster lengthwise on your mat.  Depending upon your comfort, height can be elevated with blocks under bolster. Lay one blanket on top double-fold and one double-fold at end of bolster where your right hip will go. Sit next to bolster with your right hip touching it, bottom leg will straighten out to the side and other leg bends on top.   For alignment and comfort add blanket between legs. Lengthen body over bolster,  upper body facing down on bolster. Arms drape down sides of the bolster.

Bridge Pose Variation for Heart Opener

Props: bolster, two blocks, strap, additional blankets, neck roll for comfort
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). stretch out lower back, release tension in the shoulders.

 Lay bolster lengthwise on mat and place one block at about 9 inches away from bolster and the other block about 9 inches from the first block.  Place a strap around the middle of your thighs and tighten so that legs are hip distance apart. Sit on bolster and gently recline yourself down onto the blocks. Adjust the first block to be directly under the shoulder blades and adjust the other block so that your head is resting on it like a pillow.  Shoulders should drape between the blocks.  You may need to add blankets to the blocks for further comfort.  Stay in pose for at least 5 minutes.  Take care when rolling off the bolster and blocks. May bring knees to bend.  Pause before lifting up to sitting. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 25 Restore Series

Life is full of ups and downs like the weather, like the sun and the moon.  We have darkness and we have lightness.  The constant line in life is that there are ups and downs and we ride the curves finding a little peace, a little stillness, and a little balance.  These are our moments of bliss.   So it may be a matter of your weight fluctuating, your moods shifting, your income rising and falling, so many facets of life rise and fall.  How do you ride these waves, these curves?  Can you stay steady on your surfboard when the waves crest as well as drop?

Notice the Warrior stance?

Take out those journals and whether it be documenting your daily food intake, your moods, the way your physical body feels, your interrelationships, inspiration, or devotions...

Write Daily and Often

Journaling allows people to clarify their thoughts and feelings, thereby, gaining valuable self-knowledge.  It's also a good problem solving tool.  Journaling about traumatic events helps you process them by fully exploring and releasing the emotions involved and by engaging the hemispheres of the brain in the process, allowing the experience to become fully integrated in one's mind.  The health benefits of journaling have been scientifically proven.
  • decreases symptoms of asthma, arthritis and other health conditions
  • improves cognitive functioning
  • strengthens the immune system
  • counteracts the negative effects of stress

Steps to Journaling Successfully
  • Buy a journal. This may seem simple but what kind of journal you purchase is important. Blank pages versus lined pages or perhaps even journaling on your computer. There are many on-line options.  Use your book to reflect your creativity or go with function first.
  • Set aside time. One of the most difficult of parts of journaling. It's important to block off about 20 minutes each day to write.  Is it the morning you prefer to start you day or in the evening, to wrap up the day.  And maybe the only time you have is during a lunch break.  Take whatever time you get.
  • Begin writing. Don't think about what to say, just begin writing, and the words should come.  If you really need help, here are some topics you can begin with:
 - dreams, possible purpose in life, childhood memories and feelings surrounding them, where you would like to be in two years, best and worst days of your life, if you could have three wishes, what are you grateful for........
  • Write about thoughts and feelings. As you write, just don't vent. Write about your feelings, but also about your thoughts surrounding the emotional events. Relive events, and try to construct solutions and 'find the lesson'.
Keep your journal private. If you are worried that someone else may read it, you may self-censor and you won't achieve the same benefits from writing.  Lock away the book or if using a computer, password protect it.

Lastly, some tips for writing:
  • Aim to write at the same time each day
  • Reread the entries
  • Notice patterns in your writing
  • Writing for 20 minutes is ideal but if you have only 5 minutes, use it.
  • If you skip a day, or 3, just keep writing when you can
  • Don't worry about grammar or neatness
  • Try not to self-censor, let go of 'shoulds' and just write what comes. 

The Breath
Left Nostril Breathing
Benefits: Left nostril breathing is a very quick and effective way to wind down and get into sleep mode. This is because the left nostril is connected to the right hemisphere of the brain, which can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system counteracts the stress effect, calming you down, slowing heart rate, cooling you down, and increasing digestion.  For more information, check out the term "ida" which is the left side of our brain. The opposite is "pingala" the sympathetic nervous system, right side. 

Use the thumb or index finger of the right hand to gently close the right nostril. Breathe long and deep for three minutes or until you fall asleep. You can do this sitting or lying down. Lying on your right side will help open the left nostril. I like to allow my tongue to travel to the roof of my mouth in this breath to root my focus on my third eye (middle of the forehead).  Also placing my index and middle finger at the third eye assists in activating the parasympathetic nervous system. 

The Poses
Reclined Bound Angle
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems. 
Props: bolster or firm pillows,  or rolled-up blankets,  one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow

Set up bolster or firm pillow lengthwise on mat, add neck pillow to top. Place pillows or rolled up blankets on either side to support legs. Recline over bolster or pillow and bring soles of the feet together, with bent knees, open legs to either side.   Strap can be added to contain the legs and deepen pose.  Place around your midsection and other end goes around edges of feet. Tighten so that legs get a feeling of being held up.  Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment.  Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.

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. 

Nesting Pose

Props: blankets, bolster
Benefits; Nurturing, sense of security, well-supported pose to regulate the nervous system, good for when you are feeling anxious, keeps body in alignment, supportive for the spine, hips, shoulders, head.  Allows for optimal healing and sleeping position. nurturing, sense of security, optimal for sleeping

Create a big enough folded blanket to place between the knees to align the legs in Tadasana. Add a folded blanket to rest your top arm on. Recline on a side that is comfortable, resting your head on a blanket. A neck roll can go under the ankles for support.  Bolster can rest along spine for further support and grounding. Finally, cover yourself with a blanket from head to toes.  Sink down with each long exhalation.  Mantra to accompany pose "I am safe, I am supported".

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 18 Restore Series

Spring Musings

First Day of Spring 2014: Vernal Equinox

A Sign of Spring

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In 2014, spring begins with the vernal equinox on March 20 at 12:57 P.M. EDT. Here’s more information about the equinox, signs of spring, and stunning spring photos!

The Vernal Equinox

Ah, spring! This season brings increasing daylight, warming temperatures, and the rebirth of flora and fauna.
The word equinox is derived from the Latin words meaning “equal night.” Days and nights are approximately equal everywhere and the Sun rises and sets due east and west.
At the equinoxes, the tilt of Earth relative to the Sun is zero, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun. (However, the tilt of Earth relative to its plane of orbit, called the ecliptic plane, is always about 23.5 degrees.)
See your local Sun rise and set times—and how the day length changes!
Find last spring frost dates.

Vernal Equinox Questions and Answers

Question: Why doesn’t the vernal equinox (equal night) on March 20 have the same number of hours for day and night?
Answer: Our former astronomer, George Greenstein, had this to say: "There are two reasons. First, light rays from the Sun are bent by the Earth's atmosphere. (This is why the Sun appears squashed when it sets.) They are bent in such a way that we are actually able to see the Sun before it rises and after it sets. The second reason is that daytime begins the moment any part of the Sun is over the horizon, and it is not over until the last part of the Sun has set. If the Sun were to shrink to a starlike point and we lived in a world without air, the spring and fall equinoxes would truly have ‘equal nights.’”
Question: According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox. Is this true?
Answer: One spring, a few minutes before the vernal equinox, several Almanac editors tried this trick. For a full workday, 17 out of 24 eggs stood standing. Three days later, we tried this trick again and found similar results. Perhaps 3 days after the equinox was still too near. Try this yourself and let us know what happens!

Signs of Spring

Spring is also the time when worms begin to emerge from the earth, ladybugs land on screen doors, green buds appear, birds chirp, and flowers begin to bloom. The vernal, or spring, equinox signals the beginning of nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere.
You can track when the seasons change by recording animal behaviors and the way that the plants grow. Listen to the new sounds and observe what you hear and see.  
Article from


The Breath
Humming Breath (Brahmari)
  • Excellent for speeding up the healing of body tissues
  • Alleviates stress and tension, anger, anxiety, asthma, insomnia, and high blood pressure
  • Strengthens the voice and relieves thyroid ailments
  • Benefits are enhanced when practiced after Nadi Shodhana
  • Balance air and ether, especially in the vata Fall season (Ayurvedic)
How To: 

  1. Sit comfortably, with lips closed and teeth slightly opened. Make sure the jaw is relaxed.
  2. Raise the arms to the sides, bend the elbows, and bring the hands to the ears, plugging the ears with the index or middle fingers.
  3. Bring the awareness to the center of the head (ajna chakra) and keep the body still.
  4. Inhale through the nose, and while exhaling make a deep, steady humming sound like a bee for the duration of the exhale.
  5. Then, while inhaling, contract the throat to produce a humming sound on inhalation (if this sound is difficult to make at first, focus only on producing the sound while exhaling).
  6. Practice 5 rounds, ending with a humming exhale.
The Poses
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. 

Supported Bridge Pose

Props: bolster or 2- 3 blankets stacked, neck roll

Benefits: gentle backbend, supports immune system, lengthens spine, chest opener to aid in breathing and abdominal support for digestive health, supports good posture

Set up the bolster or stacked blankets horizontally on your mat. Sit on the set-up and begin to carefully recline down onto the floor. Shoulders resting on the floor and arms by your side with palms up.  Knees bend and can rest together with feet as wide as the mat if your low back gets uncomfortable.

Elevated Legs up on Blankets
Props: 2 blankets, neck roll
Benefits: increases circulation helping venous and lymphatic flow, relieve inflammation and swelling in the legs and feet taking weight off of the lower part of the body, quiets the mind, releases tightness in the pelvis.

Fold both blankets in a large rectangle then fold into thirds into long strips, fold in half (as seen in photo). Place lower legs on folded blankets with little wedges for the ankles to reside on.

The Inspiration - Journaling

You may have noticed a change in the air.  Literally, the air seems much drier, crackly.  The shifting winds of the spring season have brought on this change.  We have been aided in the change by the longer days. It is now time to transition.  That may mean different things for different people.  Take a few moments to check in with your own shifting.  Journal about what you are feeling in your mind, body and deeper within your soul as these larger forces are at play.  Are you going with the flow? Or putting on the breaks?  Are you holding onto something?  Reflect with your breath, a walk or some song.