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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.

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/Why-Gentle-Doesnt-Always-Mean-Therapeutic-in-Yoga

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.



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