Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 14 Restore

Mudra
Jnana Mudra - Gesture of Higher Knowledge for Awakening Clear Seeing

This is a mildly stimulating mudra for awakening the clear seeing through the power of witnessing and enhancing one-pointed concentration as well as giving you the ability to discern between the limitless true Self and the limited personality.

Touch the fingertips of your index fingers to your thumbs on each hand, creating a round, open circle.  The pinky, ring and middle fingers all extend straight out.  Rest the backs of the hands on the lap or thighs and relax your shoulders as you hold the mudra.



  1. Notice how the breath is directed into the upper chest, neck and head.  
  2. Feel the fuller breath coming into the upper part of your lungs, creating an uplifting feeling. 
  3. Supported in this uplifting feeling, the attention is directed into the frontal brain, your area of higher reasoning. 
  4. Sense the space between the brows, as your center of clarity allowing you to witness all that arises in your mind. 
  5. Take several breaths to sense the silent space between your thoughts creating even more stillness in the mind and letting go of the need to identify.  Your true Self arises in this stillness and space.  
  6. Stay as long as your are comfortable. 
  7. Maybe adding an affirmation which you can say silently or out loud.  "Through awakening clear seeing, I experience the silence of my authentic being."
  8. When ready, release this gesture and rest in complete silence.
  9. When you are ready to go about your day, open your eyes slowly and gently.

(source: Mudras for Healing and Transformation by Jospeh and Lilian LePage)

The Breath
Straw Breath
Benefits: increase range of motion of diaphragm, aid in continuous and smooth movement of the breath, support complete exhalation and removal of toxins in the body, calming practice.
Props: narrow opening straw or just pursing your lips.

Begin in a comfortable position, either seated, lying down or even standing supported.  Inhale through the nose in a natural relaxed way, exhale evenly and naturally hrough the straw or pursed lips. The head position is neutral with the straw facing forward not down. A variation is to take the straw out for the very last bits of air releasing and exhale through the nose but it takes some practice to do this evenly.  Try 4-5 rounds at the beginning, returning to your natural breath between rounds.  


The Poses
Reclind Bound Angle
(Supta 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, 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), 4 blankets and one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow


Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline, add another block under bolster for stability. We used the wall in this week's class placing the bolster at a higher elevation. Place a double-fold blanket on floor next to low end of bolster and a long rolled blanket on top next to bolster (for sacral support). Sit with your back to the short, low end of the bolster. Place two blocks where your knees will rest (can top with a soft blanket or use other props as necessary for propping knees)  Bring your legs into Bound Angle Pose with the soles of your feet together. Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment.  Lie back on the bolster. Place supports under your arms so that they are not dangling and there is no feeling of stretch in the chest. Stay in the pose for 10  minutes.

Scissored Leg


Props: 1-2 blankets
Benefits: gently stretch the IT band along side legs, stretches the glute muscles of lower leg, facilitates breath into top side of body.

Place one blanket on the mat to cushion the lower hip and one folded blanket for head rest (keeping spine aligned).  Lower down to your side, extending the top leg down the mat with the foot on the floor and the lower leg out to the side with foot to the floor.  Arms can rest on top of each other while the head rest on the blanket.  May add another blanket or pillow between arms. Stay for up to 5 minutes on each side, maybe rolling onto your back to bring legs to the body between sides.

Mountain Brook Pose
Props: bolster, 2-3 blankets, block, neck roll, eye pillow
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 the bolster will your knees will be, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), a block for the feet or the heels can come to the floor and a neck roll for the cervical spine.  Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up.  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.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 7 Restore

I suggest reading this article in Yoga Journal on a Buddhist approach to dealing with difficult times that may be out of your control. It is from Tara Brach's book, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. Click the link for the full article.
http://www.yogajournal.com/article/philosophy/let-it-rain/

In a nutshell, RAIN stands for 
R - Recognize what is happening
A - Allow life to be just as it is
I - Investigate with an intimate attention
N - Nonidentification: Rest in Natural Awareness

The Poses
Support Childs Pose
Props: bolster,  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 bolster in front of you and a blanket on your lap with one end folded over. Before folding into the shape of childs pose, inhale to lengthen the spine. Rest your forehead on the bolster with space to breathe easily. Adjust blanket if it is too confining.  If you feel tension in the ankles or behind the knees, add another blanket.  Stay for up to 5 minutes. 

Supported Bridge Pose (2 variations shown)

Props: 3 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow, bolster, block
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.


Half Legs Up

Props: 2 blocks, bolster, 2 blankets, eye and neck pillow
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.

Use the 2 blocks, setting one at a lower height than the other, place bolster lengthwise on the blocks inclined.  One leg will rest on the floor with a blanket covering and one leg will rest on the inclined bolster with blanket covering.  Arms can stay at your side, move to Goddess (shown) or hands can rest at belly. cover yourself for more warmth and add an eye pillow to shut out the light for deeper relaxation.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Yoga Therapy News

I am honored to be part of the Center for Integrated Health in Harleysville. I will make my Yoga Therapy debut there and presenting on the Emerging Field of Yoga Therapy and How Does It Benefit Me or Someone I love?

Here are the details for this upcoming informational and practice seminar.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

January 24 Restore

How cozy are these trees, draped in their blanket of snow

A light snow falls this morning
Tiny angel flakes sliding in from the west
I'm leaping, crouching, dancing about
Trying to catch these little buggers

Neighbors see this madwoman out there
Dancing with the crystals
And think, "Aww to be free, to catch a
Nugget on my tongue or warm mittens".

It's lovely from the inside too.
It just requires a little more stillness
And quiet.

 - Diane

The Poses
Reverse Frog Pose on the Wall
(No photo)
Props: few blankets, neck roll, eye pillow
Benefits:hip opener, lengthens spine along its natural curves, rejuvenates legs, brings circulation back to the heart, mild energizer.
Place 1 or 2 blankets next to wall so that your pelvis and upper body are laying comfortable on the blankets.  Face the wall and bring the legs up the wall. Slide the feet down until knees are bent at 90 degrees (your pelvis may be a foot or so from the wall). Turn your toes out and rest your hands anywhere they are comfortable. Stay 5 to 10 minutes for full relaxation while energizing.

Side-lying 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.

Belly Down 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.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 17 Restore

What a delicious practice it was this past Tuesday.  Carmen invited me to join you in the first restorative pose and I felt so grounded from there on.  I thought about energy as I relaxed in the Therapeutic Spinal pose and how we can manage our energy using such practices like restorative and breathing.  What I was feeling prior to that magical pose, was a mind not at rest and full of whirling dervishes.



On this particular day of class, I was experiencing Prana or the life force energy of Vata.  Vata is one of three such Ayurvedic Doshas or constitutions of a person.  According to Ayurvedic philosophy, everything takes on the qualities and energies of our natural world.  These are the elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth.  So my mind was vacillating from thought to thought, like wind moving to and fro among the limbs of a tree. This essence of movement is Vata (light, airy, dry, mobile, ...).

It is important to understand the flow of Prana.  Then to address when it is out of balance and finally decide what practices will bring it into balance.  Enjoy this image that I drew of the 5 Prana Vayus or pathways that energy can take in you.  Sometimes our energy is non-exsistent, we may feel lifeless.  Or other times like in class this week, we feel the energy moving fast and furious.  There may also be times that the energy is stuck and we are lethargic.  These vayus correspond to many of our biological imbalances and disease when not regulated.  This is also just another way of describing your own feeling of energy in your body, mind and soul.

In my state of anxiety, I needed a practice that would ground me and bring my energy downward. The restorative practice and the gentle guidance and energy of Carmen, provided that grounding.

Try these poses at home and notice your energy at the beginning of the practice and at the end. Which one for you was most grounding? Which one provided more upward energy? Which one did you feel below the navel or above?

The Poses
Therapeutic Spinal Strip (Heart Opener)

Props: 1 rolled up blanket, lengthwise, 1 blanket double-fold, neck pillow
Benefits: reinvigorates the spine bringing fresh blood and oxygen. With deep breath, can give the effect of a massage on the spine.

Roll a single-fold blanket keeping the roll more on the flatter side.  This becomes your spinal strip.  Lay this strip down on the floor and place a double-folded blanket at one end (Letter T).  Sacrum is on the double-folded blanket and carefully lay the spine and head down on rolled up blanket.  Use a neck pillow in cervical curve.  Arms relax by the sides, palms turned up.  A variation is to have knees together, feet wide apart.  Stay for about 5 -8 minutes.  A nice alternative to the Heart Bench. 

Sublime Side Lean
Props: bolster, 2 or 3 pillows or blankets
Benefits: Stretches the torso and provides a gentle twist which allows a release in tension in the lower back area.
Lie on right side of bolster with hip at the base of it.  Torso should rest on the stack.  Right arm should be under the head.  The left arm can reach over the head to increase the stretch.  Close your eyes and allow your body to relax and release any stress or tension. Slowly sit up and switch sides for the same amount of time.
Focus on your breath.  Breath into your right side allowing that gentle stretch to travel from the tip of your fingers down your lower spine.  Sense the left side of your body gently melting and surrendering to the ground beneath you.  All tension and stress being recycled by mother earth.  Sense the gentle letting go of your muscles and knowing that you are safe and supported.  Breath deep and exhale soft and long.

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".

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 10 Restore

Velveteen Principles



Advice from a Rabbit (On the Way to Being Real)

I just finished unloading my books from an old relic of a bookshelf onto a new bookshelf, and came across a book that my mom gave me years ago but I never read - The Velveteen Principles, A Guide to Becoming Real by Toni Raiten-S'Antonio.   In it are nuggets of wisdom to our own self-realization. Practical advice abounds in this book.    When we stray from our "realness" all kinds of maybe not so good adventures await us and it takes much practice (i.e. time and discipline) to return. Yoga fits into a practice that is a tool to becoming Real again.  However, let's talk rabbits, specifically Principle #3 Real is Emotional.

How truly are we in touch with our feelings? Do we brush them off, bury them deep down, or even recognize what they are? Even our upbringing can dictate our future awareness of our feelings. My own familial experience was that my mom when asked how she was, would always give the answer of her daily activities. "We went to breakfast, the store, then stopped by the ...", was a typical response.  I was always glad to hear of how she was moving around but I really wanted to know how she was, how her heart was.  It may be typical of her generation to not talk about feelings as the focus was always on others.  I grew up in this environment.  So I didn't acquire the vocabulary of feelings. Sure, I had words like "I feel good", or "I feel okay", or even "I feel sad that such and such happened".  They weren't words that accurately captured my true feelings.

The Principle #3 Real is Emotional section includes a list of words to try using in your daily journal. Here is the list.  Look it over and notice if there are even emotion words there that you don't use often or never have used.  Keep this list handy as you record your own feelings, using any word that fits your day, your mood, your heart.

It may seem silly at first or even conjectured but you are developing self-empathy which will eventually extend empathy to others. You will have a better understanding of the depth of your own self, then others.  


The Poses
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.
New Version includes laying tops of ankles over padded blocks for further draining of the legs.

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.  

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. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

January 3 Restore



Ganesha - The Remover of Obstacles

We began our first class of the New Year on the right foot as does Ganesha - the elephant deity.  I pulled the Ganesha Mudra from the book of Mudras  for Healing and Transformation by Joseph and Lilian Le Page (Integrative Yoga Therapy, 2nd Edition, 2014).  Listen to the recorded mudra and accompanying meditation that I will send separately, as you begin this new year, a new project or make a life change.  Below is the Ganesha Mantra for removing obstacles. However, you begin to manifest your dreams, your life, your new beginnings, may it begin auspiciously.

Ganesha Mantra


OM GAM GANAPATAYE NAMAHA

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4552/Remove-Obstacles-with-This-Ganesh-Mantra.html


The Poses
Reclined Bound Angle

Props: bolster, 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), 4 blankets and one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow

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. 
*This week's class featured a foot wrap, adding comfort and support for the feet, as well as a way to bring the feet in closer to your groin, opening the hips a little more.  Hope that you enjoyed.

Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline, add another block under bolster for stability. We used the wall in this week's class placing the bolster at a higher elevation. Place a double-fold blanket on floor next to low end of bolster and a long rolled blanket on top next to bolster (for sacral support). Sit with your back to the short, low end of the bolster. Place two blocks where your knees will rest (can top with a soft blanket or use other props as necessary for propping knees)  Bring your legs into Bound Angle Pose with the soles of your feet together. Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment.  Lie back on the bolster. Place supports under your arms so that they are not dangling and there is no feeling of stretch in the chest. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.

Legs up the Wall
Props: 1-2 blankets, strap, eye pillow, blanket for warmth, neck roll, maybe a bolster (see photo)
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

Mountain Brook
Props: bolster, 2-3 blankets, block, neck roll, eye pillow
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 the bolster will your knees will be, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), a block for the feet or the heels can come to the floor and a neck roll for the cervical spine.  Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up.  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.