I started my yoga practice as a way to bring order to my inner life. I was seeking less inner confusion and longing for divine order. Yoga was a peaceful practice incorporating the body’s physical alignment with fluidity and inner grace, calming of mind, and a fierce awakening of the human spirit. This month, our studio is offering and encouraging you to take a seat and quiet the mind with a formal meditation practice. Meditation is an inward journey. It’s systematic process promotes mindfulness and concentration. There is no goal in meditation except to be with yourself fully. The spirit of meditation is to reply to a call from within.
At first, stillness and quiet may seem unfamiliar and unlike how we normally think or act, but persistent effort coupled with letting go of the results brings on a natural blossoming of the spirit.
Here are 4 Steps to get you started (adapted from Moving Inward, by Rolf Sovik):
Step 1: Relaxation (preparation)
Relaxation practice is systematic. Begin in Savasana (lying down with the legs splayed open and arms gently extended out near your side body), and soften any tension in the body. Relax, breathe, and quiet the mind. Focus on something, either your breath, a body scan starting from top to bottom, or visualize a calming place. Bringing yourself from the outer world to the inner world.
Step 2: Stillness
Find a meditation seat that allows a feeling of steadiness and comfort. Some options: sit on a chair, cross legged on supportive props, on a meditation bench, or on the floor with legs folded and feet tucked. We want to feel the hips lifted above the knees, using support where necessary. Prop yourself as high as needed and make adjustments to feel a pleasurable seat. The low back is elevated, the chest lifted, the crown of the head upward reaching, you are relaxed and alert at the same time.
Step 3: Relaxed Breathing
Begin to recognize and observe what you are showing up with in your meditation. Tension and negative emotions may effect how you breath. Cultivate a smooth, relaxed breathing serving as a focus of concentration calming the nervous system and mind.
Qualities of good breathing:
Step 4: Attention to Breath
Focusing on the breath touching inside of the nose can be a satisfying practice for the mind. Why?
You may be drawn to meditation during times of need when the usual methods of dealing with life’s unexpected turns no longer serve you. Or, perhaps beauty and creativity (art, music, nature, poetry, etc.) may spark a desire to trace beauty to it’s source. Behind every reason, it is a response to a spiritual longing and desire for higher consciousness. Our life’s purpose may be a simple and profound as sitting in silence, as all things come from silence, exist in silence, and return to silence. It is in the quiet we can surrender our modest knowing of what is true and not true, learn how to heal and mourn, and the joys of simply being. OM.
You are Loved,
Open Your Heart and Be Healthier
I have always found heart opening yoga poses to be my least favorite. As an instructor, I would shy away from teaching them as they invoke feelings of being exposed and vulnerable. But, sometimes what challenges you is exactly what you need. Your physical structure can effect your thoughts, your feelings, the image you portray, and how others respond to you. Perhaps a heartbreak or trauma caused you to close your heart (physically and spiritually). The same results from sitting for long periods of time and jobs requiring monotonous posture. What happens is muscular tension in the ribcage, rigidness in the thoracic spine, aches and pains in the upper back from being over stretched and ultimately shallow breathing.
What to do? Back bending yoga poses can help you to be physically more open in the front body, allow for better breathing, and you will feel better. In each pose think open heart and invite the breath to gradually become a little slower, deeper, and smoother.
To open the heart and abdomen in a nurturing way, try a gentle and supported backbend. While lying over a rolled blanket or towel, placing the roll under the mid back and rest the arms with palms up (picture 1). This position gently expands the front rib cage and upper abdomen with each inhalation feeling your heart center expand. Stay for 2 – 5 minutes.
Next try: Sphinx pose (picture 2). Lie on your belly, firm your tailbone towards you pubis and lengthen towards your heels. Press the tops of your feet down while gently rolling the outer thighs towards the floor (helping to broaden and lengthen the low back). Now set your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms on the floor parallel to each other. Inhale and lift your upper torso and head away from the floor into a mild backbend. Scrub your hands back towards you without moving the arms to feel your chest draw forward. Stay for five to 10 breaths, then exhale and slowly release your belly and lower your torso and head to the floor. Turn your head to one side. Repeat.
BIG heart opener to try: Camel Pose (picture 3). Stand on your knees. Place your hands on your lower back, and squeeze your inner thighs towards each other and roll them slightly back. Engage your core, and tilt your heart towards the sky, squeezing your elbows together behind you. If it feels safe, touch your hands to your heels and look up to open your throat. Hold for five breaths, then sit back on your heels. Repeat 1-2 times, then rest in Child’s Pose.
Heart-opening poses releases tension in the chest and the throat and helps to restore your body to better health.
Liz Suchinda article from Ridgefield Living September 2015
Many sports such as running, football, volleyball, golf, and tennis involve repetitive movements in one direction developing certain muscle groups while ignoring others. Overtime, this leads to imbalances in the muscles causing injuries and long recovery times. The 5 most common injuries according to active.com:
I have new clients showing up for yoga classes only because they are recuperating from an injury. Often, these injuries are linked to lack of flexibility, weak core, and misalignment.
What makes yoga different?
Even if athletes stretch pre or post workouts, they are usually just stretching in one plane of motion they are already exercising. Yoga stretches and strengthens beyond your body’s comfort zone in all three planes — activating the little muscles that support the primary movers. With a combination of active and passive stretches yoga can help with faster recovery times and injury prevention. The other benefits include: improved range of motion, body awareness, balance, proper breathing techniques, mental focus and concentration.
Postures to practice (10 breaths on each side):
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Benefits: Stretches the hamstring, calf, sole of the foot (back line of the leg). Helps to prevent hip, hamstring, and knee pain.
How to: Lie on your back, place the strap in the ball of the right foot, and work towards straightening out your leg. Holding the strap taught in both hands keep the shoulders relaxed, with every exhale, draw the leg towards your chest. Repeat on the other leg.
Benefits: Stretches the hips, piriformis, hip flexors, and glutes. Helps to prevent hip and knee pain.
How to: From downward facing dog, bring the right knee towards the right writs, and the ankle towards the left wrist, drop the left knee down and continue to extend the leg straight back. Fold over the right leg relaxing the neck and shoulders.
Benefits: Release tension between shoulder blades, loosens wrists and shoulders, and increase range of motion.
How to: Keeping the arms shoulder height, reach them forward crossing the right arm over the left, bend the elbows, pressing the back of the palms together or wrap the hands.
Floss the Shoulders
Benefits: Stretches the shoulders and increases mobility
How to: Seated or standing grab a belt or yoga strap. Hold the strap a little wider than shoulder width apart, keeping the strap straight, take the arms overhead and bend the elbow bringing the strap down towards the neck, hold 3 breaths, and repeat.
Athletes may find it challenging to find time to stretch with grueling training schedules and other life distractions, but nothing derails athletic progress like an injury. Yoga helps the muscles, tendons, and core strength. 10 to 15 minutes at home or find a group yoga class to keep you healthy and injury free. There are a variety of yoga styles and studios to fit your needs.
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