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March 6, 2012 Restore Series

It's coming and fast - SPRING that is.  Everywhere I turn, signs of it are [ah hem] springing up.  With this wave of energy bursting forth from the ground up, what are we to do?  Time now seems so precious as one season begins to close and another opens.  But don't fear, you have time. Slice it, dice it, however you want to - you can carve out slivers of time to relax.  All to often, we think of watching t.v. as relaxing time, or spending time on the computer as downtime.  Your mind never gets that rest as it is being fed millions of bits of information through the eyes.    Be adamant with your family, that you are taking some time for yourself.  They will respect you for that over time.


Perhaps after your 5 minutes reading through this blog, you can shut your door, turn off your cellphone, and try one of the poses from our class or any of the other ones that seem interesting to you.  Begin with 5 minutes.  Take another 5 minutes to think about your Sankalpa, your intention.  At the bottom of this blog entry is a helpful article on Sankalpa.


The Breath
Initiating the Pause
Adding a Pause to the end of your exhalation.  Inhale and exhale but add a 1 or 2 second delay at the end of the exhalation for it to finish out before bringing in the next breath.  Calms the monkey minds, better regulates your breath, adds space.


The Poses
Supported Bridge


Props: 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow
Extras: blanket for warmth, strap for legs
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)

Make two stacks of two double or triple fold blankets on top of each other.  Placed the two stacks end to end. Height and width of blankets can be adjusted for your body.  Sit down straddling one of the stacks and carefully lower yourself down onto forearms, swing your legs on to other stack and lie down. Neck roll is placed at top stack, lower shoulder and head to floor.  Neck is supported by neck roll and head is completely flat on floor with forehead and chin on the same plane.  Arms stretched out to the sides. The stacks of blankets should be long enough for the entire body to be resting on including the feet.  Option to put strap around calves if the legs are rolling outward.  Stay for up to 15 minutes. Roll off blankets slowly and bring knees to chest with some movement.


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. 


Reverse Savasana


Props: 2 blankets double-fold stacked end to end, towel
Benefits: Relieves stress in the back muscles, allows for a more secure feeling than in a basic savasana, replenishes the body with oxygen after practice, and quiets the mind.

Place two double-fold blankets side by side, stacked next to each other lengthwise. Lie down on your belly, as you turn your head to the right (place a towel where your head is).  Bend your right knee at a 90 degree angle and place on blankets.  Bring arms to goddess arms out to either side.  To stay warm and secure, cover yourself with a blanket before settling into the pose. Stay with the right side for 5 minutes and then gently switch to other side as you turn the left knee out and the head to the left.  This is an alternative to savasana with back on floor or a side-lying savasana

Sankalpa

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

LOOK INWARD For several days, set aside time to write in a journal and meditate. Mull over your typical resolutions. How do they make you feel? Anxious? Unsettled? Incomplete? Now contemplate how you would like to feel during the coming year. Is there any way you can reframe your results-oriented resolutions into something that will make this year's journey more joyful and worthwhile?
REPHRASE IT Create a short sentence or phrase for your sankalpa. Be careful not to set limitations based on fear. For example, instead of "May life bring me only happiness and joy this year" consider "May I be happy and open to what life brings me."
BE FIRM BUT FAIR Change doesn't happen overnight. When you stray from the essence of your sankalpa, don't berate yourself. Instead, gently remind yourself of your intention. But be firm in your resolve—it's a good idea to incorporate your sankalpa into yoru daily routine. Use it as a mantra during pranayama or meditation practice; post it on your computer, phone, or mirror; or simply say it to yourself quietly before going to sleep. —C.G
Catherine Guthrie is a writer and yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, and a regular contributor to Yoga Journal.

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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.
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Bridge Pose - Supported
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