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Feb. 19 Restore Series

I avoid dark places.  When I was a child, it was the spot between the staircase and the bathroom or down in the basement by the stack of boxes in the corner. They were a version of no man's land.  Well into my forties, I still avoid dark places.  Some are real places but most are the darkness within me.   I just don't want to go there.  Soul searching is not for me.  No way, no how.  But looking at those dark places may be the only way to happiness.  One must traverse those paths before alighting upon their true selves. 

Journaling
What are you avoiding? How do you circumvent those dark places?  How does it feel in your physical body to actually face the dark places?  Check out the link below for some further introspection into the dark places as you embrace both the light and dark.

Ode to the Unbroken (Bo Forbes)


The Breath

Alternate Nostril Breathing (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

Supported Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Props: 2 bolsters, blanket, strap
Benefits: chest and abdomen opener which helps breathing and digestive organs. Counteracts slumped sitting position and corrects posture.  Release from the defensive mode to a softer heart.
Lay the two bolsters lengthwise on your mat, touching.  Put the strap either around your thighs or calf muscles and tighten until the legs are hip distance apart (Tadasana alignment).  Recline over the bolsters, tightening the strap if you feel that the legs are rolling off.  Your back of your head and top of your shoulders will rest on the floor.  Have a blanket handy if you would like to support and raise the head.

Childs Pose, Straddle Variation

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.
Props: chair, 2-4 blankets


Place blanket single-fold on chair 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.

Mountain Brook

Props: bolster, 2-3 blankets, block, neck roll, eye pillow
Benefits: counteracts the slumped position of our posture from sitting, computer use, driving, everyday activities. Opens the chest to help breathe easier. Improves digestion, reduces fatigue and can lift your mood.

Just like a babbling brook with boulders (soft ones!), imagine your body like the soft rushing waters laying over those boulders, smooth, flowing.  It will allow the natural curves of the body to be held up gently and the breath to flow.
On your mat, place the bolster will your knees will be, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), a block for the feet or the heels can come to the floor and a neck roll for the cervical spine.  Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up.  If ankles need support, use rolled-up blanket or dish towel.  Eye pillows can lightly rest on eyes or even be used on forehead (useful for headaches) or even on shoulders (wherever you need to release tension). To begin with stay in pose for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes.  Great to use in savasana. Feel the heart open, the strain from holding yourself up all day evaporate.
Variations: Feeling cranky in the lumbar spine? Place blanket to fill the curves.  Want to feel more grounded while still opening the heart? Place rolled up blanket against wall and soles of feet touching blanket.  Need to feel cuddled? Swaddle your head in a blanket cradle.

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