Friday, January 23, 2015

January 20 Restore Series

A Portal to Being Present
I have this crazy feeling of claustrophobia in my walk-in closet at home.  It matters not if I am alone or there is someone else in there with me, I still can feel it.  My forays into the closet have to happen quickly or a tightness begins around my throat.   

Surprisingly, when I think of a wide open space as in the mid-west prairies, I also get a claustrophobic and tightening feeling.  I need to have an ocean at least 2-3 hours away.  So how is this related to restorative yoga?

I have discovered through my own restorative practice and via the feedback from students and teachers that restorative yoga can also hold its own surprises.  A completely supported and what may seem a comfortable pose can cause the most excruciating sensations somewhere in the body. Conversely you may be in a pose that is not aligned and be relaxed.  Everyone is different. Their bodies and minds are different.  This is why the practice needs to fit each person where they are.

For the beginner restorative student, there may be the expectation that this practice will bring on instant relaxation and perhaps certain poses do.  It is a process of unfolding and may take time.  This is why we offer the restorative class in a 4-part series.  Over time we build layers and layers of tension in our bodies, stressful thoughts in our minds, and emotional reactions in our hearts.  The unfolding takes time and effort, and there may be discomfort along the way.

One pose that gets me thinking about this unfolding is the Reclined Bound Angle Pose.  This is one of my students favorite poses as it supports the spine, is a gentle hip opener and heart opener, and easy on the breath.   On the other hand, I have the most intense pressure in my neck and face when I am in this pose.  I want to jump out of it in the first 5 minutes.  And then I breathe evenly and observe the sensations and not judge or form opinions around them.  Five more minutes pass may pass and the sensations subside.  I can feel my body say "Thank you" as my limbs relax and my bones get heavy. Tiny shifts happen.   It is a far cry from what this pose presented to me two, even 5 fiveyears ago. It is still not an "easy" pose today but I remain present to all.

The Breath
Breath of Joy - Conduct your own Joy
From standing mountain, inhale and bring arms out in front, continue to inhale as you swing arms horizontally by your side, then continue with inhalation as you again swing arms out front, finally exhale as you forward fold and arms come down towards the floor. Repeat at least 6 times and on the final exhale, hang there limply enjoying the energy you just created through breath.  As with any breath, if you begin to feel lightheaded, return to a neutral position and your normal breath.

The Poses
Lumbar Wrap
Props: 1-2 blankets
Benefits: supports low back, grounding, gentle hip opener, supports release and relaxation.

Open blanket so that you have a longer rectangle, fold this rectangle over approx. 4 times, smoothing each fold so no creases appear. Lay on your back with the blanket in the lumbar region, legs stretch out. Arms by your side, palms up.  Add a neck roll or blanket for head and cervical spine.  Option to bend legs with knees touching, feet wide to take any pressure off of the low back. Stay for 5 minutes or however long to let go. 


Savasana on Belly (Bent Leg)
Props: 2-3 blankets, neck roll
Benefits: gives lumbar spine support, ease strain on sacral ilium area, good for digestion, full release of the body to gravity with low back pain. Return the body to a state of balance after your practice.

Place a double or triple folded blanket under your abdomen as you belly down on the mat. One leg extended, other one bent at a 90 angle.  Fold arms under head and rest forehead on them or send them to a Goddess position.  Modify arm/head position for most comfort.

Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)


Props: 1-2 blankets, strap, eye pillow, blanket for warmth, neck roll, a bolster for behind legs
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.

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, January 16, 2015

January 12 Restore


Inspiration, what a beautiful word. Inspiration as defined by a medical dictionary, the drawing of air into the lungs.  As defined by Merriams, something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone
: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
: a good idea
...a force or influence that inspires someone.  Could this be the prana energy or chi that the breath embodies?

I feel that the drawing of air into the lungs does inspire me, my ideas, my creativity.  The act fuels my desire to create.  Just like the cycle of breath, inhalation to exhalation back to inhalation, there is a cycle of breath to creation.  An idea, a glimmer takes hold, then it grows in embodiment and quite possibly the idea passes from the inception to fruition which may spurn on more ideas. So when I focus on the breath flowing in and out, I can make the space for my ideas to cycle in and out. Maybe some of those ideas stick, maybe they pass on through.  However, when the breath becomes disjointed, shortened, erratic, it is like a stop gap to those ideas.  I get stuck. some ideas may still be born but they become lodged like my breath and my body.


There are a few breathing techniques that may inspire us to generate more ideas.  1) Controlled breathing where you breath in and out for the same count, perhaps adding to the count on the exhalation as you are able to, 2) alternate nostril breath (nadi shodhana) and 3) retaining the breath for as long as you can and then exhaling fully and completely.  This will improve mental clarity, balance the two hemispheres of the brain and relax the mind.

For an additional method to facilitating creativity, try this short meditation in the morning on the visualizing your intention and creativity.

Breath
Peace Breath


Steady flow of breath in and out at an even rate on the inhalation and exhalation while silently saying these affirmations (can create your own affirmations depending upon what you need).

Breath in Peace, Breathe out quiet
Breathe in Quiet, Breathe out stillness
Breathe in Stillness, Breathe out Balance
Breathe in Balance, Breathe out Light
Breathe in Light, Breathe out Love
Breathe in Love, Breathe out Peace

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)

Poses

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. 

Modify as needed with a chair or as a straddle.


Reclined Bound Angle on floor, minimal support (Baddhakonasana)
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 blanket 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.

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, January 8, 2015

January 6 Restore

It is beautiful how much life is filled with moments where we decide to act and then realize how those actions affect others.  This morning, I was on my way back home, when I spied a bird floundering in the road.  I kept driving but right away I knew that when I got home, I would turn around and return to see if the bird was still in the road.  I found a box at home to put the bird in and returned to the place on the road. That decision happened in a millisecond.   But the affects of my decision could potentially last a lifetime. I got out of my own head and went to someone else's aid and I stretched my heart a little more open to encompass all creatures big and small.  I am not looking for kudos or "Atta boys" in my testimony but I've come to realize that even the smallest gesture of kindness, compassion can alter a life (good or bad).   I hope I made that difference to this little bird as it took its last dying breaths.  As it lay warm in my bathroom, I spoke to it, telling it that it was okay to let go. One final breath and it peacefully rested. Thank you little bird, thank you split second decision.

So we begin our practice again, welcoming our dear friends back and new friends in to our community.  Each decision to come onto your mat and into your practice, no matter how hard or easy, makes a difference. You may feel it physically, or in your emotions or even mentally. This blog is yours to explore the many poses and breath techniques available, the inspirational articles and meditations.  This week's inspiration at the bottom of the blog highlights Sankalpa or Intention. Please feel free to comment on the blog about what you see or send me a private message.

The Breath
Equal Breath
1:1 Breath or Equal Breath
Find a comfortable seated position or laying down. Focus in on your breath, becoming aware of its pattern before beginning this breath. Make a conscious effort to inhale and exhale for the same count (2 to 3). Find a calm, steady awareness of the breath, the feel, the temperature, the way it enters and exits the body. Practice this breath anywhere. Continue this for 2 to 3 minutes. 

The Poses
Chest and Belly
Benefits: Very grounding, allows glut, thigh and low back muscles to relax while supporting the low back, can stimulate digestive system, ease anxiety
Props: 1-2 blankets
Place a blanket horizontally on your mat or floor. Lay down on the blanket with one edge of the blanket at top of thighs and the other end at low ribs to support the low back. Make any adjustments to height of blanket for comfort.  Another blanket can be used for your head. Extend arms out to sides then bend elbows at 90 degree angle (Goddess arms), turn head to a side. When you need to turn your head to the other side, do so as you inhale softly.

Revolved Abdominal Twist
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.

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, bend knees, left or top ankle can lay in arch of right foot or other comfortable position for feet. For added comfort, place blanket between legs. Lengthen body over bolster, laying bent legs in one directions and upper body facing down on bolster. Arms drape down sides of the bolster.

The Inspiration
Sankalpa

Give your New Year's resolutions a yogic twist—set an intention and infuse the new year with positive change.
By Catherine Guthrie
A new year's resolution is a noteworthy concept—start off the year with a change for the better. So how did it devolve into a subconscious exercise in self-loathing? Lose 10 pounds! (Message to self: You're fat.) Stop drinking caffeine! (You're unhealthy.) Call Mom and Dad once a week! (You're ungrateful.) Why not celebrate this new year by trading in your tired (and probably familiar) resolutions for a sankalpa instead?
POSITIVE POWER A Sanskrit word, sankalpa means "will, purpose, or determination." To make a sankalpa is to set an intention—it's like a New Year's resolution with a yogic twist. While a resolution often zeros in on a perceived negative aspect of ourselves (as in, "I want to lose weight, so no more chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese"), a sankalpa explores what's behind the thought or feeling ("I crave chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese when I'm feeling stressed or sad. I will set an intention to become conscious of this craving and allow my feelings to arise and pass, rather than fill up on fats").
EFFORT COUNTS A sankalpa also praises the nobility of the effort rather than focusing on what you are doing wrong. "New Year's resolutions leave me feeling guilty and mad at myself for not keeping them," says Wendy McClellan, a yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. So, last year, in a conscious effort to reject the resolution rut, she taught a special New Year's Eve yoga class and encouraged students to look back and let go. Her intention, or sankalpa? To open her heart to new possibilities. "An intention has much more of a global sense than a resolution," she says. "It helps me be softer with myself." With a sankalpa, the self-loathing that comes from dwelling on past transgressions can begin to dissolve. In its place is an exercise in effort and surrender—create an intention and open yourself to the universe.

Sankalpa Setting


LOOK INWARD For several days, set aside time to write in a journal and meditate. Mull over your typical resolutions. How do they make you feel? Anxious? Unsettled? Incomplete? Now contemplate how you would like to feel during the coming year. Is there any way you can reframe your results-oriented resolutions into something that will make this year's journey more joyful and worthwhile?

REPHRASE IT Create a short sentence or phrase for your sankalpa. Be careful not to set limitations based on fear. For example, instead of "May life bring me only happiness and joy this year" consider "May I be happy and open to what life brings me."
BE FIRM BUT FAIR Change doesn't happen overnight. When you stray from the essence of your sankalpa, don't berate yourself. Instead, gently remind yourself of your intention. But be firm in your resolve—it's a good idea to incorporate your sankalpa into yoru daily routine. Use it as a mantra during pranayama or meditation practice; post it on your computer, phone, or mirror; or simply say it to yourself quietly before going to sleep. —C.G
Catherine Guthrie is a writer and yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, and a regular contributor to Yoga Journal.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 18 Restore Series


Brrr...Baby it's cold out there.  Deceivingly cold. From my warm house, I see sunshine, plenty of it.  So I go for a walk, round a corner in the neighborhood and wham the wind hits me.  Now I am warm again and grateful.  Grateful for the warmth of my home but also grateful for my brisk walk outside.  I appreciated soaking in nature with all of its mighty thrust.  What can you do to stay active this winter, while still honoring the season, where hunkering down is natural and necessary.

Here are several practices to illuminate your winter. Compliments of several yoga teachers from Kripalu.

Visualizing the Light Within (Todd Norian)
(Meditation to build heat)
Visualize a candle flame in each of your chakras, starting at the base of your spine, and moving to the sacral region, navel, heart, throat, forehead, and crown of the head. Then visualize the candles glowing in both palms and on the soles of both feet. Now imagine all the flames simultaneously aglow.

Warming Breathwork (Erin Casperson)
Practice Kapalabhati, or Skull-Polishing Breath, a series of short, sharp exhalations and passive
inhalations done while pumping the belly. "Kapalabhati is a warming breath that clears the cloudiness from the mind while stoking the internal digestive fire," Erin says. It is also good for clearing the sinuses.

Daily Warm-up (Sarajean Rudman)
Move your body to the point of breaking a sweat everyday. "This can be a vigorous yoga flow, or perhaps dancing, some kind of calisthenics or martial arts, or a jog if it isn't freezing out, " says Sarajean.

Breath the Air (Erin)
Each morning when the sun comes out, I make sure to go outside and breathe, even when it's freezing cold or cloudy. Exposure to the morning light keeps us aligned with our natural diurnal rhythms, she says.

Move Inward (Miriam Greenspan)
Welcome the introversion that this season naturally encourages. "Just as the winter brings with it col and frost, many people in this season find their hearts constricting a kind of interior winter weather," Miriam says. "While tis can feel distressing, it's actually a signal to bring our attention inward."

The Breath
Ujjayi Breath (Victorious Breath)
A breath to center you, help with focus. Energizing and warming to the body. Great for better respiratory function.   Another benefit may be humidfied air going in, dust particles going out of the nostrils and lungs. Supports releasing feelings of frustration or anxiety.

Air is drawn in through the nostrils (inhalation) and the back of the throat (glottis) is slightly closed which moves the air down the trachea and into the lungs more efficiently creating a warmth.  The exhalation releases from the lungs and travels up the trachea through this smaller opening out of the nostrils.  The sound closely resembles an ocean wave moving into the shoreline or for Star Wars fans, Darth Vader sound. Don't tightly close the back of the throat in this breath, better a gentle close.

The Poses
Legs up Variation
Props: 2 bolsters, 1-2 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.  10 to 15 minutes, dropping the weight of your body on the exhalations.

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. 

Surfboard


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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 11 Restore Series

Driving in my car....


I am loving the opportunity to learn more about myself right now. I don't always feel this way as I have become habitual in my ways or as we describe those of us in the older crowd, "Set in our ways".  When we become set, we don't always know how set we have become and in what ways.  

Well, I am discovering these things as I take my 16 year old out on her lessons in driving.  She passed her learner's permit recently and we have made a few forays into this new experience.  Besides the natural inclination to push down into an imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side of the car, I think I am doing things right with my daughter. I didn't come into this zen place with her easily and I am not sure I will always be calm  throughout this training period.  I think my place with her right now has to do with my gratefulness that I get to spend time with her one on one.  We follow the typical mom/teenager life at home where she can escape to her room and I can busy myself with chores or computer stuff or be on her back about grades, etc.  What I have learned is that my gratitude in these moments, can alter the way I do things habitual or not.  And do you see that wonderful smile on her face above, I think she is digging it too.

Your homework, take a problem you are having or a relationship that is difficult for you right now and think of something in that situation that you could be grateful for.  Journal that down and the situation and bring that piece of gratitude up as you deal with it.  Maybe it changes the habitual way you always dealt with it.

I will keep you up to date on her progress and the roads we travel together.

The Breath
Buzzing Bee Breath (Brahmari)
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
Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddhakonasana - on the Wall)
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.

Supported Bridge
Props: 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow
Extras: blanket for warmth
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)

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.

Savasana 
Belly Down Pose with Hip Opener

Props: 2 blankets, neck roll or small pillow for head
Benefits: gently opens hips, lengthens leg muscles and tops of the feet, soothing for the belly, shoulder opener, grounding, lessens anxiety



Stack one or two blankets to the side folded in half. As you release to the floor, lengthen the body and then bend the leg at 90 degree angles to lay on the blankets to the side. Arms can come to goddess position, head turned to the side or stack hands as a pillow.  For those with tight shoulders, extend arms by the sides of the body.  When you need to turn the head, do so with a soft inhalation.

Friday, November 7, 2014

November 4 Restore Series

Yes it is the month of Gratitude according to the Hallmark cards and online reminders but we all know that Gratitude has no season.  It is everyday that we are alive.  Keeping this in mind, may put our troubles in perspective, our hearts to open a bit more and be more at ease.  Sharing the love people.

Gratitude Meditation with Breath

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and, for a few moments, focus on the gentle movement of your breath.
Then begin pausing briefly after each inhalation and exhalation.

As you inhale, visualize receiving the elements of your life - experiences, people who have touched you, things you are capable of - with gratitude. Pause after each reflection and take a moment to integrate and appreciate feeling fulfilled by these gifts.

As you exhale, imagine sharing that sense of fulfillment with others. Pause again and imagine others - your family, community, the world at large - receiving your offering with a similar sense of gratitude.

Continue this cycle - inhale/pause, exhale/pause - for several minutes, and then shift your focue back to the subtle movement of your breath before opening your eyes.

The Breath
Breath of Joy - Conduct your own Joy
From standing mountain, inhale and bring arms out in front, continue to inhale as you swing arms horizontally by your side, then continue with inhalation as you again swing arms out front, finally exhale as you forward fold and arms come down towards the floor. Repeat at least 6 times and on the final exhale, hang there limply enjoying the energy you just created through breath.  As with any breath, if you begin to feel lightheaded, return to a neutral position and your normal breath.

The Poses
Therapeutic Spinal Strip
Props: 2 blankets, neck roll
Benefits: reinvigorates the spine bringing fresh blood and oxygen. With deep breath, can give the effect of a massage on the spine. Releases muscular tension in tissues surrounding the spine

Open up blanket to mid-size rectangle shaped blanket, fold it over three times, smoothing down the wrinkles.  From a longer rectangle shaped blanket, also fold it over three times, smoothing down wrinkles. Smaller folded blanket goes vertically on your mat with fringe end toward head and longer blanket lays across 1st blanket like a cross (where your bra line would be).  Lay at end of bottom blanket, hips off the blanket, low back on it. Bring bolster either on end or flat as you place your legs over it.  Recline the rest of the way on the strip with longer blanket where your bra line is. Extend arms, palms facing up out to a "T" on blanket.  Use a neck pillow in cervical curve. A variation is to have knees together, feet wide apart.  Stay for about 5 -8 minutes.  A nice alternative to the Heart Bench. 

Revolved Abdominal Twist
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.

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, bend knees, left or top ankle can lay in arch of right foot or other comfortable position for feet. For added comfort, place blanket between legs. Lengthen body over bolster, laying bent legs in one directions and upper body facing down on bolster. Arms drape down sides of the bolster.

Friday, October 31, 2014

October 28 Restore Series

Ghouls and Girls ready for the Big Night

Happy Hallow Eve all.  Today and tonight all sorts of creatures, big and small will roam our neighborhoods.  Are you ready?  There is a somewhat contained feeling of excitement here in my household. Ghosts and goblins hardly slept at all and I know that I woke up feeling like I went through the Tales of the Crypt episodes.  All of our family and community traditions got me thinking about the origins of Halloween.  While I was researching these origins, I came across a lot of variations which helped me find my own connection to the holiday.  This is just one of the histories to share.  Perhaps weave your own traditions into the history of Halloween and enjoy yet another opportunity to be in the moment.

http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

The Breath
Pursed Lips Breathing
This is a great breath to control shortness of breath and can be done anywhere. Inhale through your nostrils for a count of 2 at the beginning, purse or pucker your lips, and exhale out of the pursed lips for a count of 3 or 4. As your breath regulates, you can inhale and exhale for longer counts. As with any breath, if you begin to feel lightheaded, please return to your normal breath.  This breath improves ventilation, releases trapped air in the lungs, induces relaxation, great for when you are exerting yourself in lifting, straining, climbing stairs, slow breathing rate.

The Poses
Seated Forward Fold on Chair

Props: chair or stool, bolster, blankets, neck pillow
Benefits: lengthens spine, centering, aids in relaxation response,
aids in moving digestive process, grounds through feet and seat

Bring chair or stool close enough to the wall where you can sit
in mountain pose and lean bolster at an angle against the wall.
Place blanket or neck rolls on bolster to rest head on. Additional
blanket on seat for comfort or under feet. Drape arms by sides or
on lap. Breathe into back body, sinking into the prop breath by breath.


Wide Angle Forward Fold


Props: chair, 2-4 blankets, neck rolls
Benefits: releases the pelvis which can help release tension in the buttocks, hips, belly and lower back.  Quiets the organs of digestion and elimination. Opens lower back area. As head rests on bolster, releases tension in frontalis where we hold stress in contracted state. Cooling and calming to overall body and provides a nice transition from day. Can help with sleep.

Add a folded blanket to seat of chair and another for you to sit on. You will straddle the chair bringing it in as close to your body as possible to support you as you forward fold.   Rest arms on the chair. Avoid too much pressure on the eyes.  To lesson any strain in the lower back, sit on a single or double-fold blanket.  Can add blanket rolls under the knees. Stay for 5 to 10 minutes. 
*note that for some students the breath can be constrained. Practice belly breaths to begin with.

Legs up on Chair

Props: chair, 2-3 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow
Extras: Sandbag, Webkinz stuffed animals
Benefits: relaxes the muscles of the lower back, legs, refreshes the legs, relaxes the muscles and organs of the abdomen.  Blanket on belly or legs.

Place a blanket on chair so you don't feel the hard surface.  If you need to elevate the body, you can place a triple fold blanket in front of chair, then place your hips on blanket to one side, swing the legs up onto the seat of the chair as you lower your upper body onto the mat or floor.  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.