Friday, December 2, 2016

November 29 Restore

Versace's Golden Throne i.e. Comfort and Ease

Deep Thoughts not Deep Pockets

Within the past two weeks, I have been a driven Christmas shopper.  I cringe as I think about my credit card bill at month's end. I have savings for but it still will be a jaw dropper.  As I have been gathering gifts for others in my closet and mentally going through the wish lists, I have come to the conclusion that this Christmas has a theme.  Unbeknownst to the people on my gift list, this theme has everything to do with Comfort and Ease.  Without going into the gift list (just in case prying eyes may see this), 99.9% of the gifts that I have bought, could bring some comfort or ease to a person's life.  Think snuggly, warm things.  Or gifts that make a persons life a bit easier.  I didn't intend to go this direction but honestly, maybe it is me that needs some comfort and ease right now.  If I need some, perhaps others do as well.   I am not going down that political road, but there is a lot of unease out there.  Whatever party, candidate, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual persuasion, and multitude of diversities that exist in our world, we could all use some comfort and ease.

Think of your own wish list and what three things are most important to you?  This may translate to a material gift you give yourself, an experience that you will have, or even a relationship that you develop with yourself or another.  What do you seek this Christmas?

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
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.

Supported Forward Fold with Chair or Bolsters
Chair Version
Wall Version
Benefits: great transition for decompressing the mind and body. Energy flow to the urinary tract, digestive and reproductive organs. Relaxes the back and releases tension in the neck.
Props: bolster, 3 blankets or 1 blocks (firm cushions and pillows are always an option) 

Place a block at lowest height and rest the bolster on it horizontally. Sit on a blanket in front of the props and swing your legs over top of the bolster. Adjust the height of the set-up to fit your legs. If your feet do not reach the floor, add a blanket or block. Before folding over the bolster, extend the spine on an inhale and then fold over.  Rest hands either on the bolster or on the floor.  Add support under arms and wherever else needed.  Forehead rests on bolster maybe adding a neck roll.  Stay for 5-10 minutes. 

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

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

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



Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 15 Restore

Setting the Tone
Yoga Sutra 1.1
With Humility (an open heart and mind), we embrace the sacred study of Yoga. (Nischala Joy Devi in The Secret Power of Yoga)



The First Yoga Sutra: What It Means and How You Can Practice It


BY CAROLYN GREGOIRE  |  


Yoga Journal co-founder Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, and her daughter, Lizzie Lasater, have 

partnered with YJ to bring you a six-week interactive online course on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.

Through study of this fundamental text, the Lasaters, with more than 50 years of combined 

teaching experience, will support you in deepening your practice and broadening your 

understanding of yoga. Sign up now for a transformative journey to learn, practice, and live the

 sutra.

Patanjali’s first teaching, atha yoga anushasanam, which means “now, the practice of yoga 
begins,” is easy to dismiss. But Sutra I.1 isn’t something to skip over on your way to the 
good stuff, according to international yoga teacher Lizzie Lasater. Here Lasater explores the 
meaning of the first sutra and offers a home practice to honor its wisdom.
Yoga Journal: What does Sutra I.1 mean to you?
Lizzie Lasater: My mom says that she likes to think of this sutra as “Now the practice of yoga 
is shared,” instead of “begins,” and I think that’s a really nice idea about yoga. It is a direct 
hand-to-hand lineage, and it is always about sharing.
But when I first started reading the Sutra, I didn’t take this verse that seriously. Now, the more 
time I’ve spent with the text, the more enamored I am. I think it’s a very powerful sutra and it’s 
one of my favorites. I like that it’s just three words—it’s extremely simple to hold onto and lends
itself easily to being chanted.
YJ: What is the significance of the first word, atha?
LL:  If we had to reduce the Yoga Sutra down to a single word, that’s the one I would pick. 
Atha means now, and that is fundamentally one of the deepest insights of spiritual practice: To
bring us very deeply into the present moment. Atha is this kind of call of action for us to wake 
up now. It can be a mantra for daily living that moves off the mat and into our lives, bringing us
back to what’s happening now.
You could build a theme for a whole class or a whole practice around atha. Asana itself is 
fundamentally a set of building blocks—these positions are designed, in my opinion, to bring 
us into the now. They are focusing techniques. When we focus on the breath and on the 
sensations of the body, those are all occurring in real time. They are always happening in the
present.
YJ: Can you give us an example of a practice based on this Sutra?  
LL: This is a home practice, which ties in perfectly with this sutra. Practice is a space for being
in reality with what’s going on right now—in my body, in my day, in my life. I’ve done this practice 
a lot in my own life and I find it to be quite powerful.
Here’s what I suggest: Take your phone, put it on airplane mode, and set a timer for 15 minutes. 
Roll out your mat, lie down, bend your knees and spread the feet wide to the edges of the mat. 
Then let your knees come gently together, close your eyes and bring your hands onto your 
belly. Now, think about the idea of atha and ask it to yourself as a question. What do I need 
right now? What does my body want right now? Listen in stillness and silence for the answer
to arise.
The “worst” thing that could happen is nothing—you lie there for 15 minutes or you straighten 
your legs and do Savasana (Corpse Pose). That’s the risk, and for most of us that’s actually 
really wonderful considering how jam-packed our days are. But every time I’ve done this, 
something arises and I start moving and breathing intuitively. This is a much more receptive 
kind of practice than imposing our idea of practice on the body.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
About Our Experts
Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, PT, has been teaching yoga since 1971. She trains students 
and teachers throughout the United States as well as abroad, is one of the founders of Yoga 
Journal magazine, and is president of the California Yoga Teachers Association. She 
has written eight books. Learn more at judithhansonlasater.com.
Raised in San Francisco and trained as a designer, Lizzie Lasater, MArch, RYT, teaches 
yoga internationally and online. She sometimes jokes that she’s been practicing yoga since the 
womb because her mom, Judith Hanson Lasater, has been teaching since before Lizzie’s birth.
Lizzie lives in the Alps with her Austrian husband. You can find her schedule and classes at 
lizzielasater.com.
The Breath
Breath Awareness - bringing more awareness inside


  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
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.

Supported Forward Fold 
Chair Version

Wall Version
Benefits: great transition for decompressing the mind and body. Energy flow to the urinary tract, digestive and reproductive organs. Relaxes the back and releases tension in the neck.
Props: bolster, 3 blankets or 1 blocks (firm cushions and pillows are always an option) 

Place a block at lowest height and rest the bolster on it horizontally. Sit on a blanket in front of the props and swing your legs over top of the bolster. Adjust the height of the set-up to fit your legs. If your feet do not reach the floor, add a blanket or block. Before folding over the bolster, extend the spine on an inhale and then fold over.  Rest hands either on the bolster or on the floor.  Add support under arms and wherever else needed.  Forehead rests on bolster maybe adding a neck roll.  Stay for 5-10 minutes. 

Belly Down with Bolster

Props: 2 or more blankets, neck rolls, bolster for feet
Benefits: soothing to the nervous system, grounding, stimulates the
digestive system, gentle chest opener, lengthens the legs, ankles, releases the pelvis





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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 8 Restore


One day at a time

The Poses

Supported Forward Fold with Legs Extended (Paschimottasana)
Benefits: calming, gently stretches lower back, nice transition from the days activities.  A good pose to do if you need a few minutes break from your daily work, easy to do and easily accessible.  Good for headaches.  Breathing is easier since muscles of the respiratory system are relaxed. Massage for the digestive system.
Props: bolster, 1-2 blankets, block
Sit on a folded blanket and extend legs out in front of you. Place bolster lengthwise along the legs adding a blanket or block to top as headrest. Lay your upper body on bolster and rest your forehead on blanket or block. Arms can drape on bolster, along side or any other comfortable position. 

Bridge Pose - Supported
Props: 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow, can also use bolster for more stretch
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.


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".


Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 25 Restore


INSPIRATION - it doesn't get any better than this folks!

Daily Affirmations


Swaddling
When was the last time that you got tucked into bed?  Maybe you are the one doing the tucking these days.  With the busyness of life (work, errands, phone calls, commutes), we then feel uncontained, our energy spilling out and subsequently not having enough energy to keep up.  Our final pose in class this week cleverly used the technique of swaddling to comfortably contain our physical body which may have, in turn, sent a signal to our nervous system to slow down, reset.  The message sent was "We are safe, supported, now let go of constriction."  

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

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


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

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

October 25 Restore


INSPIRATION - it doesn't get any better than this folks!

Daily Affirmations


Swaddling
When was the last time that you got tucked into bed?  Maybe you are the one doing the tucking these days.  With the busyness of life (work, errands, phone calls, commutes), we then feel uncontained, our energy spilling out and subsequently not having enough energy to keep up.  Our final pose in class this week cleverly used the technique of swaddling to comfortably contain our physical body which may have, in turn, sent a signal to our nervous system to slow down, reset.  The message sent was "We are safe, supported, now let go of constriction."  

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

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


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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

October 18 Restore

This too shall pass
So why the photos of rug cleaner, paper towels and a sponge?  Isn't it obvious that we now have a puppy in our household?  Armed with these three things, I can get through this puppy "pee" stage.  But I just don't want to get through it. I want to thrive and be in the moment during our new family member's young life.  Flashback 12  1/2 years ago, when I had a newborn baby girl to take care of.  My mantra then was "This too shall pass".  Oh, pass it did, and too fast. She is twelve now and where did the years go? What I wouldn't do to get those twelve years back.  Armed with this knowledge and my arsenal in the photo, I am determined not to adopt the same mantra.  I am living for all of the moments with this baby boy (actually toddler now).  I look into his brown, brown eyes and the world lights up.

On the human side, my day to day interactions with my daughters are less and less, as they grow up, and develop into the beautiful young ladies they are inside and out.  But when we are together, I am looking into their brown and hazel eyes, and seeing all the luminescence of the world too.  At least they are housebroken by now!

Had to place cute puppy pic here

The Breath
Apa Japa Breath - The Breath of Awareness
Come to a comfortable seated or supine position, supporting your posture.  Direct your attention inward.  Keep your breath natural, not changing it at all.  Focus on the length of the inhalation and exhalation.  Notice the air moving in the nostrils and out of the nostrils.  Where do you feel the breath? Do you fee lit as it comes in through the nostrils to the lungs and then out?  Notice expansion in your ribs, your chest and any other expansive feelings in the body as you breathe in.  Notice the release or relaxation of your body as you breathe out.  Stay for at least 2 minutes of this breath awareness, working up to 5 minutes with practice.

The Poses
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. 

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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 11 Restore


When life gives you lemons, make lemonade 

(various Carnegie, Hubbard, etc.)

That is how I feel about my Daily Lessons in life.  And boy do I get them.  Not a day goes by that I don't learn something about myself.  It could be the smallest inkling of understanding that I will store away in my memory bank or something major to shift even my belief systems.  I had this period of time over the summer where the lightbulb was turning on frequently.  It didn't change who I was at this point of discovery, but just made things awfully clear of who I was.  That is this gist of yoga.  To aid and support on your way to becoming more clear of who you are.  Bringing the hyperopia (far-sightedness) lens into focus, where things closer to you are blurry.  

Maybe you feel it as you move in asana and feel that brick wall of your edge, or try to take a deeper breath, and let it all go, but can't.  Maybe you discover that your thoughts are invading the stillness in savasana.  These are all discoveries, big and small. They move you closer to who you are, through all of the layers of your being, we uncover.  

Check out this article on the Koshas and how we are multi-layer beings and start your own journey of discovery.




Each layer has a corresponding sanskrit name.

Physical - Annamaya Kosha
Energy - Pranamaya Kosha
Mental - Manomaya Kosha
Wisdom - Vijnanamaya Kosha
Bliss - Anandamaya Kosha
SELF

Everyday we may don several hats and become a mother, father, friend, co-worker, lover, nurse, and so on.  Separate identities but intrinsically YOU.  Essentially, these koshas are the various parts of you which are not separate but connected to your intrinsic self.  In the practice of yoga, we strive to get to this self by ways of discovering our parts.

In asana or postures, we connect to our physical body, feeling the weight of the bones, stretching and relaxing our muscles and fascia.  We feel our physical presence, our Annamaya kosha.  With breath we move prana (energy) to various parts of our body.  We can then begin to observe if we feel tired, restless, dull, calm or energized.  We tap into our Pranamaya kosha.  This kosha moves through the physical one.  The mental body, the Manomaya kosha is the part of you that creates some type of semblance out of this world around you. We notice this as thoughts, images, perceptions and emotions passing through us.  These mental bubbles are formed from beliefs, opinions and assumptions that have been formed over our lifetime influenced by people, situations and history.  The witness or observation part of ourselves is the Vijnanamaya kosha.  Our innate wisdom is present here, our intuition kicks in and a feeling of embodiment seeps in.  Inspiration may be derived from this layer.  And finally the bliss body, the Anandamaya kosha.  This is not the be all to end all body or layer.  It is just one more dimension to your self as you flow in and out of the layers. This state of bliss is where  you may find yourself in meditation where you recognize this natural state of happiness, contentment, and freedom.

Uncover these layers through awareness in asana, breath, journaling thoughts, of observation of you in space and time, and meditation, chanting or during a deep savasana.

Journaling & More
Who Am I??

  1. Begin with your physical self, practice asana (postures) and observe your physical being. Write down what physical sensations you are feeling before and after the practice.  
  2. After warming up, do a restorative pose of your choice.  Before entering the pose, observe your breath, your energy in your body.  Write this down in your journal. Upon releasing from the pose, write down how the breath feels now. 
  3. Sit down comfortably and observe your thoughts (racing, calm, quiet, anxious, future/past thoughts, etc.). Write these down.  Then consider what you would be without these thoughts. Just notice your breath, energy and any shifts.
  4. As you are doing something, observe yourself as in I am here doing such and such.  Just witness you at that moment.
  5. Post-meditation, savasana, chanting - go on, move on, stay present. That's all!
The Breath
Three Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)
The “three parts” are the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest. During Three-Part Breath, you first completely fill your lungs with air, as though you are breathing into your belly, ribcage, and upper chest. Then you exhale completely, reversing the flow.  Bringing your hands to your belly with a round of abdominal breathing may be the first stage of the breath, followed by hands to the outside of the ribs and then finally hands to the heart center, feeling the breath move in and out of these three parts. Practice this breath for a few minutes prior to your yoga or meditation practice. The benefits to this deeper breath is that there is more flow of blood to the body, the lungs expand for better circulation, creates calm and centering and readies you for your yoga practice and/or meditation.

Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana)

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

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

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

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

The Poses

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.

Straddle Forward Fold (option for folding over chair, couch, bench)


Props: 1-2 bolsters, 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.

Legs Up Variation (Wrapped Legs)

Props: 2 bolsters, 3 or more blankets, eye pillow, neck rolls
Benefits: grounding, calming to the nervous system, allows the lymph to drain supporting the immune system, releases tension from the legs and feet, helpful for insomnia.

Place one bolster vertically on your mat, lay a long blanket over it horizontally and then another bolster on top of the blanket. Lay your legs on top bolster and pull one end of the blanket over tucking under your legs.  Other end of blanket lays over the first layer.  Add a blanket to the belly and neck pillows for under the neck and wrists.  Eye pillow for the eyes.