Imagine a lotus plant as it floats peacefully on the surface of the water. Its beautiful petals extending wide open to receive the light. You can see its perfection, its radiance. What you cannot see is that its stem is tethered to dark, debris filled mud.Continue reading “Ascend into Beauty”
“Pranayama has slowly pried open some of the tighter places in my body and so provided me with new openings in my asana practice. This, in turn, affects my breathing and, so on and so on, asana and pranayama oscillating back and forth to each other’s advantage.” – Richard Rosen
Pranayama or breath control is defined by B.K.S Iyengar as: “… techniques to make the respiratory organs move and expand intentionally, rhythmically and intensively. It consist of long, sustained subtle flow of inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath.”
With the guidance of some of the world’s wisest yoga teachers, I have made it my quest to incorporate pranayama into my practice. Breaking down the art of breathing into separate stages has helped me to gradually meld it into my daily yoga routine. Over the next few weeks, I will share my personal journey towards pranayama with you. Here are the four main categories we will explore: Continue reading “Support A Steady Yoga Practice: Breathe”
The final week of April is upon us. And all around are signs of new beginnings, new openings and new creations; from the buds in the trees to the baby calves in the fields.
This week, I encourage you to take these signals of Spring and apply them to your yoga practice.
Each day as you roll out your mat, mark the action as a starting place for unfurling your body. Dedicate yourself to expansion, to clearing out those winter cobwebs and stimulating new growth.
Back bends are capable of generating many openings. The front body, heart center and lungs, as well as the abdominal area all benefit from the practice of back bending. As a result our posture improves and we are able to pump blood and nutrients more effectively throughout the body, expanding our lung capacity and unblocking our digestive system.
Clear Out the Cobwebs
The cooler temperatures keep us bound both literally and figuratively. In shedding our winter coats, we remove old deposits and unbind ourselves emotionally. The simplest forms of back bending are known to trigger release and improve clarity.
Stimulate New Growth
When we make space for ourselves physically and mentally through back bends, we give the body room to flourish. We discover that we have the capacity for more energy to flow within. With this newfound energy, we experience greater joy in our lives.
Sounds amazing doesn’t it?
Although back bends are the perfect opportunity for unfurling yourself, this task is not taken lightly. In general our bodies are resistant to opening. We are fearful of bending back into the unknown and exposing the front of our bodies. This is instinctual. Think of the way many animals behave in nature. The “underbelly” holds critical systems without which we could not survive. So we protect and naturally draw inward. Therefore, we should begin a back bend practice slowly so that the action is easily accepted by the body. Like the fern in the forest, you will be unfurling yourself open, bit by tender bit…
So let’s get started! The following poses are fine to do alone or along with your usual practice.
Day 1: Restorative Back Bend Create a small roll with a blanket to place underneath the body just at or below the shoulder blades. Lie supine on the roll (your arms should stretch out just above roll). While it may be slightly uncomfortable at first, your body should accept the opening. If it is too intense, try bending your knees or decreasing the height of the roll. Stay in the pose for 3-5 minutes.
Day 2: Ardha Salabasana or Half Locust Lie on your stomach. Keep your pelvis and legs on the floor and as you inhale begin to lift your torso up off the mat. Be sure to draw your shoulders away from the floor and keep your head in line with your body to avoid overstretching the neck. Keep your arms extending along your sides and press your fists into the floor, thumbs toward the body. You can either keep the movement as a flow; inhaling as you lift and exhaling as you descend or maintain the lifted position, breathing as you hold.
Day 3: I call this one Purvottanasana Prep or Reverse Plank Prep From a seated position, place your hands behind you so that your fingers are facing forward just outside and behind your hips. Bending the elbows, exhale and allow your front body to collapse and sink back. As you inhale, straighten your elbows and press your sternum forward to expand the front body. Repeat for several rounds. You can make slight adjustments or increase the action by bringing your hands further back.
Day 4: Setu Bandha or Bridge Vinyasa This posture flow begins with a gentle pelvic tilt. Lie on your back and bend your knees. As you inhale, arch the lower back, keeping the sacrum/tailbone area connecting with the ground. Exhaling, press that same lower back area into the ground. Bit by bit, increase the lift of the pelvis and begin to roll the shoulders under to lift the belly and chest further off the floor. Once you have flowed sufficiently, begin to decrease the height of the lift graduallly until your sacrum returns to the ground. Spend some time in constructive rest pose with your feet spread widely apart and your knees resting together.
Day 5: Urdhva Hastasana or Upward Hands Pose Begin standing in Tadasana or Mountain Pose. As you inhale, lift your arms up from the sides and bring them up above the head. Lifting from the sides of the body, gently draw the upper back forward, looking upward if it is appropriate. Exhale the arms back down to your sides. Repeat for 5 breaths.
These are wonderful postures to begin opening up the front body. Proceed with awareness and utilize the breath to deepen the effects. Enjoy!
All of us do whether we know it or not.
Our fast paced worlds yearn for a yin-like existence; one that is slower, more reserved, sensitive and quiet. Because most of the time we live in a yang domain that is full of activity, fluctuation, and intensity.
In yoga, a yang practice is certainly a dynamic one. More vigorous practices are usually labelled as ashtanga, vinyasa or power but yang yoga can be any style that is connected with active major muscle movement.
On the contrary, yin yoga is associated with passive movements that are held longer. The specific yin poses are designed to bypass the large muscle groups and delve into the deeper connective tissues; the areas concerning the ligaments, the bones, or the joints. These connective tissues are the more sedentary elements of the body that provide stability and subtle movement within the hips, pelvis and lower spine.
Although a yin yoga practice can be restful, it is not to be confused with a restorative practice. Great awareness and a keen focus should be taken when performing these poses. Sharp sensation or pain is to be avoided at all times. Over-extension and overexertion can lead to dire repercussions for these tissues due to their slow healing times.
Yet, the benefits are plenty. The object of Yin Yoga is to stress these deeper tissues through traction as opposed to active stretching. By bringing yourself near the edge of your limit and holding for a significant length of time, you are fully stimulating the ligaments and the joints to provide greater opening, suppleness and health.
“The essence of yin is yielding. Yang is about changing the world; yin accepts the world as it is.” – Bernie Clark
As we progress through life, we periodically encounter times of stress and bouts of physical, mental and spiritual imbalance. Although this blog primarily focuses on the system of yoga, there are various modalities available for releasing tension – methods that can direct us back to balance so that we may reconnect with our true nature. Most of these techniques complement the practice of yoga, making its effect even more beneficial.
Jin Shin Jyutsu is one such method of healing. Known as the Japanese art of harmonizing life energy, it is a noninvasive approach to restoring the body that utilizes energy channels or meridians to unlock stress and pain.
The sessions involve light touches on certain areas of the body that correspond to specific energy pathways. Although many times a practitioner facilitates the flow of energy for re-opening, it is the participants themselves who are the true intuitive healers through this sensation of touch.
Jin Shin Jyutsu has the potential to correct many imbalances that we experience. There are several flows or holding sequences that are centered around the organs of the body and the major meridian channels. These are best introduced with the help of a practitioner. Currently, I am undergoing sessions for assistance with trigeminal neuralgia at A Spa For You here in Sedona.
There are also basic finger flows that can be self administered. Your challenge this week is to use the chart below to locate any area(s) that may be valuable and healing for you.
“Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing, where something might be planted, a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.”
The Fragile Vial by Rumi