Thursday, February 11, 2016

February 9 Restore Blog


Yoga Sutra 1.2 Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.

yogash chitta vritti nirodhah
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Recently in class and in this blog, I have been sharing some of the Yoga Sutras.  I will continue on with Yoga Sutra 1.2, which represents almost  a daily reminder of my own mind field. 

Originally chitta is the unconscious storehouse or reservoir of all impressions, and the function or ability of the mind to store.  It is one of the four functions of the mind (manas (the senses), buddhi (inner wisdom or intellect) and ahamkara (ego or the ability of the mind to take on identities "mine""I")).  All four of these aspects of the mind work together but are stored in the chitta.  Memories, impressions, emotions, attractions, aversions, habits, perceptions, etc. are all there and sometimes they can get stuck in the thoughts in which we think make us up. We think we are all that but there is more.  And if we can quiet the active conscious part of the mind, the unconscious sleeping part of the mind will awaken to create a connection with truly who you are.

We all may well aware of the term 'Monkey Mind", which actually dates back to Buddha.  From Chinese xinyuan and Sino-Japanese shin'en 心猿 [lit. "heart-/mind-monkey"], is a Buddhist term meaning "unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable" (Wikipedia).  Trying to reign in a monkey as it bounces from tree limb to tree limb, is not an easy task but we all have had moments of clarity and connection.

All pretty heady stuff.  But think back on a time or even presently, how you felt when you have a lot going on and your mind is racing, you multitask, you juggle various aspects of your life but you are not all in.  This is how chitta can go awry and create a disconnect to others and ourself.  Now reflect on a time when you really felt connected, deep down.  Were you focused on one thing?  Maybe you felt really creative or a deep attachment to another person, a pet, a place.  I recall such a time when the Buddhist monks (November 10th Blog) created the mandala at the studio.  I felt such connection up in the Moyo loft for that week while the  monks placed grains of colored sand on a board.  We were all there together with the singular intention to witness this loving act.  I felt closer to the Moyo community and to the complete strangers who visited the studio. And there were times viewing the mandala, where I felt a deep connection with myself.  I carry that as a seed within me to pull up when I need it.

What tools do we have from our yoga toolbox that can tame our monkey mind, honor our chitta and connect on a deeper level to ourselves, others and the divine?  Journal what they might be.  I have ideas and practices that I use but would love to hear your comments on what you would use. The skys the limit.

The Poses
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.

Grounding Version - extend legs so that feet touch the wall. Add extra blankets or bolster along spine to support your back. Cover with a blanket for extra comfort.

Supported Forward Fold at Wall
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract, digestive and reproductive organs. Relaxes the back and releases tension in the neck.
Props: bolster, 3 blankets or blocks (firm cushions and pillows are always an option) and one extra blanket for warmth.

Place a double-fold blanket on floor, sit on edge of blanket and bring soles of your feet together in Baddhakonasana). Option to cross legs. Bolster goes between legs and add blankets to top of bolster as necessary as you lean over the bolster.  Your neck should not drop down but be about level with the upper spine.  Allow arms to drape down. Feel free to add support under arms and wherever else needed.  Forehead rests on bolster.  Stay for 5-10 minutes. 

Grounded Savasana

Props: 2-3 blankets
Benefits: relaxes the nervous system, gentle stretch for chest, arms, shoulders, ease in breathing, grounding

Lay down on floor with feet touching the wall, arms comfortably by your side. Support head, neck, back and knees with additional blankets or pillows. Cover for extra grounding and warmth.

Friday, February 5, 2016

February 2 Restore Blog

1.1 With humility (an open heart and mind) we embrace the sacred study of yoga.

The Yoga Sutras - Pulling it all together

During class this week, I shared with you the first sutra of the Yoga Sutras. This first sutra is a wonderful way to begin this month of opening our heart.  Many of you asked for the name of the book I read from, which I'll share with you below.  But first, I would like to give you more information on the Sutras and why they are so important to our yoga practice and to living life at our fullest.

The Sutras are a compilation of elements from older yogic texts (like the Vedas, the Upanishads, Buddha's teachings, and the Bhagavad Gita) which when put together have created a comprehensive system for life.  There are 196 nuggets of wisdom in the Sutras which are easy to read as they may only be a sentence or two long.  But to really grasp these wisdom bites, spend time contemplating each and every sutra and then putting them into practice.  Nischala's book shares anecdotes for each sutra(s) as well as ways to put the sutra into practice.  One part of the Yoga Sutras are the 8 Limbs.  We are very familiar with asana and possibly pranayama from our yoga classes but these are just two of the eight limbs.  Jennie Lee's book will guide you through those 8 Limbs of yoga planting the seeds along the way for joyful living.

I feel that the sutras can be practiced anywhere, your car, your mat or even talking on the phone with your insurance company.  They are intuitive, practical and make a lot of sense.  In fact, some may call them common sense on how to live your life.  One sutra may really resonate with you and that becomes your daily inspiration.  Write it down, place it on your fridge, repeat it during meditation.  It is yours and what you do with it, is up to you.

Joy, Joy, Joy

*I highly recommend both books.
Sutra References
The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi

True Yoga - Practicing with the Yoga Sutras by Jennie Lee

The Poses
Heart Opener (Minimal Prop)
Props: blanket folded
Benefits: supports breathing, stretching the chest and shoulders, releases low back, can provide energy for someone lethargic

Fold a blanket over so that it is comfortable under the bra line. Shoulders should be rolling onto the floor. Arms can stretch out to the sides, palms up or come into goddess arms, as shown. Support under wrists and behind cervical spine.

Reclined Twist Pose
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, January 28, 2016

January 26 Restore Blog

You can bury your head, or get out there

Our recent Snowmaggedon has got me thinking about people's tempers and patience.  What I saw and what I heard were two different things.  Scenario: Pre-storm. Lots of grumblings about what Mother Nature was going to dump on us or how it was inconvenient to plans and fear of the unknown set in (fueled by the media hype).  Scenario: The day of and the day after.  Neighbors helping neighbors, people out and about in the neighborhood on foot, digging out the elderly, the injured and sick.  Those with plows coming to others rescues.  Those with 4WD driving workers to their jobs.  Communication and connection.  Scenario: Post-storm 2 days.  The grumbling begins again as the aches and pains of shoveling emerge, as the kids have an extra day off and a 2-hour delay on top of that.  Flashback two day: Connection, communication, community = Love.

Emotions are good to have but when suppressed or hidden can have catastrophic effects on our body and our mind.  My weekly inspiration from Ms. Mindbody highlights the need to express oneself and feel.  Enjoy.  To receive her weekly newsletter, subscribe to
Emotions Carry Messages. Are You Receiving Them?
Thursday, January 28 2016
Dear Diane,Kate irritatedIf we’re connected on Instagram (@MsMindbody) or Facebook (if we’re not, I’d love to be!), you saw this photo this week. It’s me, making my “Grrrr” face.
I was seriously irritated by something that I just couldn’t shake, despite doing all the things I know typically help me feel calm—I meditated, I talked to my husband, I wrote an angry letter (that I didn’t send, just to get it out of my head), I squeezed the stress ball my daughter made out of a balloon and some Playdough. But still, the aggravation was sticking to me like glitter.
I wanted to post a picture of myself all agitated because people have a perception that if they could just “get Zen,” they wouldn’t ever get upset about anything ever again.
And while it’s true that giving yourself regular opportunities to de-compress and to hear what you really think will in general make you less likely to have over-size reactions to things, you’re still human. You still have buttons. They will still get pressed. And that is actually a beautiful thing. Because emotions are messengers from the subconscious. They let you know when there’s something going on that needs your attention.
Most often, though, that something isn’t necessarily what you think it is.
I remember when I was doing my yoga teacher training, we also studied meditation with a high-level Shambhala meditation teacher. At that time in my life, I had just gone through an epic breakup, where my boyfriend, whom I thought I was going to marry, broke up with me because he’d fallen in love with his co-worker. Which, hey, love is funny like that. But I had just moved from New York City to New Jersey to live with him. Three weeks earlier. I was miffed, to say the least.
During those meditation sessions, I would sit on the cushion and feel my body temperature rise as my anger welled up. I felt so “un-Zen.” I felt like I must be doing something wrong. So I asked my teacher, “What do I do with all this anger?”
He told me, “There’s nothing to do. Just feel it and be curious. Because there is always something underneath anger, such as hurt or fear. And that’s what you need to be able to be present to for the anger to pass.”
Yeah. That. I was hurt that he’d chosen someone else, and afraid I’d be alone for the rest of my life. But it was easier to be pissed off than to admit that.
Ever since I’ve really let myself feel what I’m feeling. Emotions are like the stomach flu--you can’t talk yourself out of a need to vomit any more than you can talk yourself out of being angry. (This is kind of a gross metaphor—sorry about that!) But once you allow it to run its course, sure, you feel totally in the grips of something beyond your control for a bit, but it also subsides quickly. Pretty soon after, you’re back to your life feeling a lot lighter and like you survived something important.
Are you in the throes of some big, perhaps even scary emotion? Know this: There is something underneath all that swirling that is simple and true and that’s ready to be seen. On the most basic level, all you have to do is allow yourself to see it. But perhaps you have to get really stirred up and a little bit beaten down to get to the place where you will let it in. Whatever discomfort the emotion may be bringing, let it be in service of getting you to see what lies beneath. That’s when true healing happens.
And if you are in the throes of some major feelings and you’d like a little guidance as you walk through it, I can help. I save an hour a week for a sample coaching session for folks who are new to working with me. All you have to do to claim your spot is reply to this email and say, “Let’s talk.”
Kate signature

P.S. The message I finally saw underneath my extreme irritation this week was that I was scared to step out and do something on my own. The person I was dealing with definitely patronizing and rude, and that certainly pushed my buttons. But I can see now that the reason I couldn’t let it go was because I was angry that she was going to “make me” go do something my ego didn’t want to do. And I thank her for helping me have that realization. I don’t want to be friends with her or anything, but I can see she did me a service.

The Breath
Lions Breath (Simhasana)

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

The Poses
Reclined 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 to 15 minutes

Straddle Forward Fold (Childs Pose Variation)
Props: bolster, 2-4 blankets, may use a chair, if difficult to reach bolster.
Benefits: calming, gently stretches lower back, nice transition from the days activities.  A good pose to do if you need a few minutes break from your daily work, easy to do and easily accessible.  Good for headaches.  Breathing is easier since muscles of the respiratory system are relaxed.

Place blanket single-fold on bolster draping down. Legs can stretch through chair or straddle or cross-legged.  Arms placed folded on chair in front of you. Rest forehead on arms. Tilt chin slightly toward your chest.  Close eyes. For comfort or lower back issues, sit on blanket, add rolled up blankets under knees if legs in straddle, or blocks/blankets under knees if cross legged. May add a blanket at sacrum for grounding.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

January 19 Restore Series

Happy Dance

Last week, I shared with you the beginning of my journey to becoming a Yoga Therapist.  I never really did explain what Yoga Therapy is.  I want to share with you an article that came out this week explaining the difference between a yoga class and yoga therapy under the auspices of a Gentle Yoga class with therapeutic benefits.  If you have any questions after reading the article, let me know.

The Breath

Breath to Free the Mind for Meditation and Open the Energy Channels

This is a similar breath to Alternate Nostril Breath but here we are using visualization to breath through one nostril and the other nostril.

Begin in a comfortable seated position and notice as you breathe in through both nostrils which nostril is clearer.  Then using concentrate on that clearer nostril to bring the air only in through that particular one. Exhale only through that nostril as well. Keep the air moving in and out of that nostril for about a minute and then feel the air move in that nostril up to the space between the eyebrows and out for 4 to 5 breaths.  We are now moving energy up the central channel (sushumma).  Move to the other (less clear) nostril and begin bringing the air in that nostril and exhale from that nostril.  Continue for about a minute then focus the air in through the nostril to the space between the eyebrows and out for 4-5 breaths. Let that side go. Now breathe in through both nostrils feeling the air move in and out for about a minute then move the air in through both and up to the space between the eyebrows and out for 4-5 breaths.  You may stay longer if you are sitting in meditation.

Alternate Nostril Breath for Meditation (Nadi Shodhana)

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

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

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

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

The Poses

Therapeutic Spinal Strip

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. 

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. 

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.

Why “Gentle” Doesn’t Always Mean Therapeutic in Yoga

Why “Gentle” Doesn’t Always Mean Therapeutic in Yoga: Slow-flowing, inwardly focused yoga is not necessarily always healing. Here's why.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

January 12 Restore

What to expect when you are trying hard not to expect anything!

A Group of Ruffians 

In one day, it will be one full month since my return from the yoga therapy training with Inner Peace. I feel that it is now time to reflect on my experiences.  Grab a comfortable seat and maybe a cup of hot tea as I spout off about the beginning of my journey.

I went into this training with a lot of research time behind me.  Making big decisions usually takes me a very long time and constitutes many hours of researching the options.  It can, at times, be very  frustrating for myself but I like to feel that I weighed all of my choices.  After looking at all 23 programs in existence and writing my pros and cons list (a two year exploration), I decided on the very one that first resonated with me - the Inner Peace Yoga Therapy Program

The determining factors were: the timing of the training (two week segments) for the Level 1, and go at your own pace for the other levels and modules (within a 3 to 6 year window); the quality of the faculty from a wide range of disciplines; the comprehensive depth of learning listed in the syllabi; the cost; and the feedback that I solicited from past graduates.  I felt intuitively that this was the right program and did my homework to prove it.

So as I was poised to fly out to the first two weeks of training, I came up with an intention while I was in the program. I would have a 'Come what it may' attitude.  I had to practice staying present and focusing on what was on hand at that time.  I arrived the day before the training which gave the group one night to transition with good food and shy introductions around the dinner table.  Later, I met my two roomates (Whitney and Shelley) who I would be retiring with every night.  Before nodding off to sleep, I questioned myself as to whether I would be able to accomplish the goal of staying in the moment. 

And you know after a restless night of non-refreshing sleep, I showed up the next day to our first day of the journey without expectations or any preconceived notions.  I don't know if it was the hill country air or the beautiful surroundings of the ashram or even the delicious vegetarian food but I entered that first day of training with a present presence of everything.  I didn't even need to give my intention any effort in practicing.  

From the get go, the program felt right.  The faculty was just as outstanding as I predicted, the venue a perfect backdrop for so much learning and there were even some surprises which I could have never imagined.  The support of the training staff was top notch and I felt their presence in a comforting way. The other was the immediate closeness that the group of trainees felt for each other. A sisterhood was formed. A perfect fit for me, my life, and the group of 16 beautiful souls I now call my sisters of peace.  I left that first day of training and everyday thereafter with the widest grin on my face, not regretting, not lamenting but celebrating.  This truly is my calling to be a Yoga Therapist and this truly is the right program for me through mind, body and spirit.  It is all coming together.

Thank you for hanging in there while I share my initial experiences of the program.  I look forward to sharing more stories, teachings and guidance.

The Poses
Wide Angle Forward Fold
Props: bolster, two blocks, at least 2-3 blankets, neck roll
Benefits: decompression, good pose for transitioning from your day, stretches the hanstrings, spine, regulates the breathing pattern, good for digestion, create inner focus and awareness.

Place two blocks at height to accommodate you as you lean over bolster, place bolster on top vertically with a blanket or neck roll to support your forehead.  Sit at edge of blanket on the floor and if your knees need more support, roll up to blankets to place under the knees.  Lengthen the spine on an inhale and lean slowly over the bolster support bringing hands to legs, floor or even placing them on the bolster.  Stay with even rhythmic breath for 10 minutes of release.  Additional grounding if needed, add a rolled up blanket to lower back.

Legs up the Wall Variation

Props: 1-2 bolsters, blocks, blankets, neck roll
Benefits: drains fluid from the legs, releases pelvic floor, chest and shoulder opener, back of legs get a gentle stretch.

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

Legs up the Wall (full version)
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.

Belly Down with Hip Opener (Savasana)

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, January 8, 2016

January 5 Restore Series

Homeward Bound

I am here to tell you it feels so good to be back in the saddle again. To me, our class on Tuesday, felt like returning home.  I hope that you experienced the same thing whether this is your first restorative class or your 100th.  What we were coming back to was the reconnection with ourselves, our home.  When we are disconnected, dis-ease sets in, encompassing our bodies, minds and our spirit.

We tend to self-identify externally by stating, "We are this and we are that." Which then drives us to feeling separate from everything and everybody else. And even our modern communication technology like cell phones don't provide the true connection to ourselves.  We use it more and more to "connect" with others, separating ourselves from spending time to go inward. Try turning off your phone or placing it on vibrate for the next 10 to 15 minutes and contemplate the exercises below.  Don't fret if even the act of turning the phone off or on vibrate causes some dis-ease!  

Your Work, Your Journey
  • Reflect upon a time where you felt completely at one with yourself.  Maybe you were on a trip, maybe you were walking in nature, perhaps, creating some artwork or cooking.  Was it a time that you surrounded yourself with your loved ones?  
  • Now reflect upon a time where you really felt out of sorts, lost, stressed out, maybe forgetful.  
  • What did these two types of  memories trigger for you in your body (tightness, relaxation, ease)?  And where in your body was the sensation?
  • What about your breath pattern? Did it change when you thought of the connected version of yourself and how did it change when you were disconnected?

This is all valuable insight as once we recognize patterns in our life of stressors, we can then work to choose to change them if they are not benefitting us.  Some of these patterns arise during the restorative practice in the form of sensations in the body, fidgeting, shorter breath, racing thoughts and overall uncomfortableness and even pain.  Observe without sticking to the story behind the observation.  If that seems impossible, maybe you need to come out of the pose and grab your journal to jot down the awareness.  Then try to return to the pose or even a resting position where you can relax for the duration of the pose.

We all have different journeys, different work to do to reconnect and prevent dis-ease.  What is the same for all of us is that it is a practice that deep down we all want and desire.  Enjoy or with joy!

The Breath
Breath Awareness - bringing more awareness inside

Come to a comfortable seated position or lying down.

  1. Bring awareness to the air moving into the nostrils and out of the nostrils. Observe the feeling, the temperature and any other qualities of the air. Observe the air for at least 4 breaths and you can really notice the qualities of the air coming in.  
  2. Next, follow the air coming in the nostrils to the trachea (wind tunnel) and then follow the air out of the body back through the nostrils. Observe any qualities of the air like temperature, sound, pressure, etc.
  3. Finally folllow the air from the entry of the nostrils down to the lungs and then back out of the lungs through the nostrils.  What sensations do you have physically? What is happening with your thoughts and are you feeling anything emotionally?

The Poses
Supported Heart Opener with knees

Benefits: gently stretches the lower back, nice transition from day to relaxation, good to counteract effects of hunching over a computer all day and lengthens the spine.

Props: 1-2 triple fold blankets or bolster, 2 blocks, 1 blanket, and eye pillow

Place 1-2 triple fold blankets on top of each other lengthwise on your mat. Sit at fringe end of blankets with bent knees. Lower yourself down, laying the spine along the blanket and head at top end.  Bend top end of blanket to form a pillow for the head.  Place 2 blocks in front of blankets, medium height. Roll one blanket keeping roll flat and place on top of blocks (for the knees). Knees are placed on cushioned blocks, feet either together or straight out.

Revolved Abdominal Twist (grounding)
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.
Reclined Bound Angle 

Props: bolster, two blocks, at least 3 blankets, neck roll

Benefits: releases tension in pelvic area, hips, neck, low back. Good for PMS and menopause as the circulation moves
to the reproductive organs, stimulates internal organs.  Feeling of containment, security.  Good for anxiety to ground yourself.

Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline, add another block under bolster for stability.  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 and bring soles of your feet together. Roll up a blanket (longest length). This roll is placed over the feet and then tucked under the legs to support the knees and hips.  Add additional blankets or neck pillow for your head to rest on. Place another blanket over you like a poncho and tuck the ends under your arms so that you are swaddled in the blanket. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.