Sunday, May 1, 2016

April 26 Restore

Graduation Day - receiving my 500 hour certificate

I felt so welcomed by everyone in the class on Tuesday. It certainly made my transition home much easier.  The two weeks of yoga therapy training were much more intense than I could have ever predicted. Our subject matter consisted of Yoga for Depression and Anxiety, Grief, Pain, and Cancer.  I felt like I was dragged through the mud at times and lifted to the skies at other times. Balance was forthcoming from some of our 'out of classroom' romps; like feeding turtles, numerous hikes through the hills, river wading, chilling in Austin, countless opportunities to laugh and love one another, and of course, delicious vegetarian and vegan meals.

One of the main themes from the training, which I learned, was the idea of holding space.  Sacred space for our clients, our students, and ourselves. I recently came across this article which shares the author's story as well as 8 suggestions for holding space for somebody.  Read through and try it out at your own (s)pace and time.

Friday, April 8, 2016

April 5 Restore

Mother Nature is so fickle and stubborn. She won't give up on her tight hold on winter weather.  And now I sit with patience, biding my time until spring erupts in a fury of color, sound and smells.  Actually I don't need to sit very long as I am departing on the second part of the first part of my yoga therapy training (confused yet?).  The first leg of this journey is earning 300 credit hours of learning, study and practicum.  The program was split into two segments of two weeks each, to make it manageable for life. So back to Austin I go.

I am so happy with the program with Inner Peace and look forward to the next two weeks with the various faculty, the facilitators, and of course, my colleagues in-training.  We will be wrapped up in the study of Yoga for Depression, Yoga for Grief Relief, Yoga for Chronic Pain, and Yoga for Cancer.  Intense study aside, we will have time for romping in the hill country of Austin and maybe a night or 
two out on the town.

Looking back on the past three months, I feel that I have been very much engrossed in my studies of yoga therapy.  My case studies will make an excellent learning tool as I go forward.  I am happy about my choice to pursue this certification and also proud of my accomplishments thus far.  I am keen on learning more, applying that knowledge and getting more hands on experience. Finally, I am very grateful to Peter, Zoe, Holly and my parents for their support and love.  My heart also goes out to my students and fellow yoga teachers and friends as well.

The Breath

2 to 1 Breath or Extended Exhale
A basic breath that you can take anywhere when you need to.  Lengthening the exhale kicks the parasympathetic nervous system up a notch, allows more space between thoughts, eliminates more waste and toxins from the body and allows the body to settle more.   Much like the Equal Breath, we use a count to inhale but then we exhale for double that count.  Find a comfortable seat or lay down on the floor, hands can be placed on the belly or wherever they are comfortable.  Begin with the inhale to a count of 2, then exhale for a count of 4.  Slightly constrict your back of throat as you exhale (similar to Ujjayi breath). As you practice and progress in deepening your breath, perhaps the counts will get longer.

Lengthening the exhalation and pausing after the exhalation invokes a feeling of profound quiet and stillness.

The Poses

Supported Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirasana)

Props: bolster, blankets, neck roll

Benefits: Stretches hamstring and back of leg, centering and calming to central nervous system, gently stretches back, mild hip opener.

In the variation that we practiced in class, we placed the bolster upright on short end on our thigh and draped the arms over it letting the fingers and hands relax.  Use blanket support under knee and possibly to sit on to take pressure off of the low back.  Add a neck pillow or other cushioning for the head to rest on.  Stay for up to 5 minutes and switch sides mindfully.  We warmed up some with a flowing Head to Knee pose prior.  Try out the Mental Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Reclined Bound Angle

Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems. 
Props: bolster, 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

Friday, March 25, 2016

March 22 Restore


Spring transition means letting go of the old relationship, situation or event and making a new beginning. As spring leaves bud and flowers bloom, you, too, will find new energy to make a new beginning.
  • Give yourself time alone. What do you need now? Think about what you want right now. What is waiting in the back of your mind to begin? Who would you like to be? What would you like to do in the time you have remaining? Visualize your future unfolding the way you want.
  • Accept that past achievements can no longer be the standard for satisfaction in the present. Don't cling to old identities, roles and routines if they no longer meet your needs. Focus on today and all that you can enjoy and accomplish before tomorrow.
  • Set realistic short- and long-term goals for yourself. When you know what kind of changes to expect and what you cannot predict, you are more likely to set realistic yet flexible goals. Start today to realize your dreams of who you want to be and what you want to do.
  • Reward yourself for your progress. Give yourself healthy treats and pats on the back. Seek supportive, positive companionship. Compliments and encouragement are invaluable for avoiding past ruts and for making new beginnings.
Learn to notice and experience the changing seasons of your life from fall (making endings) to winter (experiencing your pain) to spring (making new beginnings). You will feel a renewed energy, a renewed hope, and a renewed desire to grow and give to others.

*This excerpt was taken from Transitions and Changes: Practical Strategies by S. Quick, R.J. Fetsch and M. Rupured (6/11) See September 23rd blog for full article on transitions. 

The Breath
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
Mountain Brook
Props: 2-3 blankets, neck roll, one 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.

Sublime Side Lean
Props: bolster or 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.

Place bolster or the 2 or 3 blankets or pillows horizontally on your mat or floor. Lie on right side with hip at the base of the blankets or pillows.  Torso should rest on the stack.  Right arm rest on the floor with the palm up.  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.

Belly Down Savasana
Props: bolster, 1 or 2 blocks, 2 blankets
Benefits: soothing to the nervous system, grounding, stimulates the
digestive system, gentle chest opener, lengthens the legs, ankles, releases the pelvis.

Place bolster lengthwise on your mat and lay an unfolded blanket over it.  One or two blocks can go in front of the bolster.  Come to all fours and release your belly and upper body onto the bolster with legs extended behind you. Head rests on block. You may need someone to cover you with the blanket as it swaddles you.  Add another blanket for weight to the legs.  Delicious!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

March 15 Restore

The Chakras

The theme of our last class was the Muladhara or root chakra. The poses grounded us to help stabilize our nervous system. I used the elements of this chakra to guide you to a deeper, fuller experience in the restorative pose.  It dawned on me later that afternoon, that perhaps the chakra system is unknown to you.  In this blog, I will share what the chakras are and a few elements that I used to guide you through the practice this week.  Enjoy!

What is a Chakra? a whirling vortex of energy like the sun's rays sending out energy in all directions and receiving energy. They are in the subtle body, along the spine. The energy at these points can be in 3 states of nature, tammasic (inactive leading to inertia), rajasic (hyperactive) and sattvic (balanced).  If you were to visualize the three states of a plant, tammasic would be the seed, rajasic would be the growing plant from the seed and sattvic is the fruit or flower of the plant. There are 7 chakras which are closest to the systems of the nerves and the endocrine.  There are also similarities with the Christian sacraments and the Jewish Tree of Life of the Kabbalah.

*Note Mantra sounds are called Bija or seed mantras as you chant them they stimulate that chakra. 

1st Chakra - Muladhara (Root) - LAM mantra sound

  • red
  • earth
  • your tribe, connection to others, sense of belonging, identity, trust
  • sense of smell
  • fear resides here and desire for survival
  • organs of elimination (digestive, skin, kidneys), musculoskeletal system
  • belief systems and honor come from this chakra
  • emotional imbalances (depression, insomnia)

2nd Chakra - Swadhisthana (Sacral) - VAM mantra sound

  • orange
  • water
  • relationships with others, creativity, procreation, awareness of self
  • sense of taste
  • duality of attraction/repulsion resides here, passion
  • reproductive organs, liquids in the body
  • sense of morality, emotional ebbs and flows
3rd Chakra - Manipura (Solar Plexus) - RAM mantra sound

  • yellow
  • fire
  • source of power, intellect and vitality
  • sense of sight
  • idea of thinking, ego resides here
  • digestive system, endocrines
  • emotion of anger, rightness, judgemental or powerless (addictions)
4th Chakra - Anahata (Heart) - Yam mantra sound

  • green
  • air
  • feelings, love, compassion, joy, intuition
  • sense of touch
  • the immune system, glands, heart, lungs, breasts, arms (extension of heart)
  • duality of sun "ha" and moon "tha or ta". When the come together, we become ONE, living in harmony with all
  • the crossing over point from the earth element to the subtle element (diaphragm)
5th Chakra - Vishuddh (Throat) - HUM mantra sound

  • blue
  • ether, the final earth element
  • truth, communication (speaking and listening), faith
  • sense of hearing
  • thyroid gland, mouth, throat, gums, vocal cords
  • place where time begins and ends, time doesn't exist here
6th Chakra - Ajna (Third Eye) - OM mantra sound

  • purple
  • above duality
  • place of intuition, beyond wisd
  • om, clairvoyance
  • eyes as organ of sense
  • Pituitary gland, brain, neurological system
  • discrimination between thoughts motivated by fear and those by strength
  • here you have a combination between what we know and what we believe to be true - discernment
7th Chakra  - Sahasara (Crown) - OM mantra sound

  • clear color
  • our spiritual connection
  • where our karma is stored
  • energy from the universe pours into this chakra and nourishes the mind, body and spirit and connects with the lower 6 chakras.
  • influences the major body systems: central nervous system, muscular and the skin.
  • energy of devotion, connection to mystic power
  • fear of loss of identity, connection with life and others

The Poses
*This week, all poses were done at the wall.

Childs Pose
Props: bolster, two blocks, 2-3 blankets
Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind.  Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum

Place the two blocks at either the lowest or medium height, equidistant from each other bolster lengthwise on top of blocks. A s-fold or triple fold blanket on top of bolster.  It may be more comfortable without blocks.  Legs straddle the props at one end, and lengthen body over them. Head will rest on props.  Additional blanket(s) may be used behind knees. Ideally props should extend all the way to the pelvis area but this may not be the case with your body structure.   Stay here for 10 minutes to begin with, rotating head side to side. 

Modify as needed with a chair or in a straddle position.

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

Begin with using a double-folded blanket to be placed right above sacrum (see photo), setting it approx. distance 6-8" from wall (adjust in pose). Sit down on the blanket with one hip pressed right up against the wall. As you lower down, swing your legs up the wall. Once in the pose, you can adjust distance to wall, angle of legs to all, blanket and placement of legs all for comfort.  Hips and tailbone will be in space between wall and blanket. Arms rest by your side, palms face up or variation with Goddess arms (photo above).  
Variations: To ground legs, blanket or sandbag to hang from soles of the feet.  Strap can be placed around calves, so you lose the feeling of holding up legs.  Tight hamstrings or really uncomfortable with legs directly up the wall? Try a bolster angled into the wall to rest legs on, add blankets for more support or move hips further from wall.  Another variation is Legs up on a Chair or on a bolster with blankets on top to bring knees into a 90 degree angle.

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.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

March 8 Restore

Battle Royal
Toilet 1  Us  0

This won't be a How To advice column because frankly, we don't know how to do anything with our own personal nemesis, the Throne.  This has been our home for 7 years and for 7 years we have had constant issues with our half bath toilet, from it constantly running, gaskets leaking, valves malfunctioning.  We've put in band-aids galore to this throne but these last two weeks, no matter the band-aid we affix, it won't work.  Time to bring in the professionals.  

So sometimes in life we are handed lemons, sour tasting lemons.  Lemons aren't all that sour tasting if you can make lemonade or per Ayurveda, lemon water.  It is what you do with the lemons where sweetness can lie.  We were given a lemon of a toilet with the purchase of one house.  How do we make lemonade from our lemon?  I begin with gratitude for my love, Peter and his valiant attempts to fix the toilet.  He persisted not with blind rage at the toilet but with the truest intention always to fix the thing.  Another ingredient for our version of lemonade is the lesson of going with the flow (literally, as I dry the floorboards!).  This could have been the end of the world but I (we) managed to take it in stride and deal with what is in front of us.  A final ingredient to our lemonade mix was the education that we received from the whole enchilada. We now know enough to be dangerous.

**A Journal Opportunity**

What in your life right now is sour?  Can you find a certain sweetness with your lemon, enough to make a delicious lemonade or lemon water.  Write down what sweet nuggets of come from difficulty or what you think may arise from your lemon?

The Breath
Sitali Breath (Cooling)

This yogic breath will help calm the mind and soothe the emotions such as anger, anxiety and frustration. Also good for fevers or when you feel overheated. Will give you a feeling of contentment. Regulates digestive and sexual energy and detoxifies.
Open mouth and curl your tongue like a taco. 
INHALE through the curled tongue. Close mouth and EXHALE through the nostrils. Continue this cycle.
Sit up with a straight spine on the floor or in a chair. Hands in gyan mudra ( pads of thumb and index finger touching)

Practice this breath for 3 – 11 mins bring contentment into your life.

Sitkari Breath (For those whose tongue doesn't curl)

Open mouth and bring the top and bottom teeth together, breath in deeply through the touching teeth making a hissing sound. Close the mouth and exhale completely through the nostrils.  You may add breath retention at the end of the inhale and breath cessation at the end of the exhale if that feels appropriate.

The Poses
EZ Spinal Twist

Props: bolster, 1-2 blankets for the arms
Benefits: gently stretches the hip flexor, creates expansion in the chest for better breathing, organs get a mild twist promoting circulation, creates space in the intercostals making more room for the diaphragm to move.

Place a bolster next to your mat and a blanket on the other side.  Come onto your back and bring the feet to the floor, knees bent. Lower the legs to the bolster so they rest easily.  Another blanket or neck roll can be under the neck or head. Extend arms out to the side or in goddess arms for more of a shoulder opener.  Stay for at least 5 minutes per side. Take time to bring some symmetry between sides by either bringing both legs in for a hug or extending both legs out to stretch.

Reclined Bound Angle

Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems. 
Props:  2-3 blankets and eye pillow

Set up a blanket as a pillow for your head.  The other blanket is going to be wrapped around your feet. Spread open a blanket completely and begin to make folds about 12" apart until the whole blanket is rolled up. Wrap the blanket over your feet and wind the remaining length under your shins and in toward the groin. You can adjust the depth of the pose by pulling on the ends of the blanket to bring the legs in closer.  Remember the soles of your feet are together. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes

Face Down Savasana

Props: bolster, 2-3 blankets
Benefits: excellent for grounding the body and the mind, gentle massage to the abdominals, release for the legs to reduce swelling, pain the feet

Place the bolster at the end of your mat for your shins and feet to rest on.  One blanket will be folded into 12" to 15" width folds and laid across the mat horizontally. Come to all fours and lower down to your belly with the horizontal blanket under the pelvis and belly.  Add a blanket as a pillow. Your head can turn to one side and change sides when you feel necessary. Options for the arms are to bring them to a "T", have one arm by your side body and the other arm by your head or have both arms by your side either straight or bent.