Expansion

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When I left for the Toronto Yoga Conference last Wednesday, these tulips were about a quarter open. They were tall and strong and vibrant. They looked like what we expect a tulip to look like. When I came home on Sunday, they looked VERY different – they had opened to their full capacity. The colour was still vibrant but they had gained a softness and an expansiveness.

I feel the same way after spending 4 full days immersed in the world of yoga philosophy, breath, meditation, and asana. For awhile now there has been a glimmer of something more, a part of myself waiting to be recognized. Along with that glimmer has been a little bit of fear; fear of the unknown and unknowing. Over the course of those 4 days that glimmer has become a spark.

It’s impossible for me to put my finger on what exactly has changed or what this new discovery is and really the specifics don’t matter but I can definitely say that my consciousness has been expanded. My body can be soft yet tall and strong and vibrant. Slowly opening up to my full capacity is a beautiful experience.

If I had stayed home, I probably would have tossed the tulips after they opened a little bit more and began to droop. Then I would have replaced them with new, fresh tulips and started the whole cycle again. What if instead of tossing the tulip because it is changing its preconceived shape and replacing it with one that is fresh and new, we just leave it be and see what it can become?

It was a tad scary and overwhelming to leave my familiar yoga world and travel across the country to study with new things with teachers that I didn’t really know anything about. But if I had stayed home, I would have missed what turned out to be an amazing adventure.

By moving beyond our preconceived ideas of how things should be or what is familiar and opening ourselves up to new experiences, we can expand our hearts, our bodies, our consciousness.

 

 

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Yoga Saturday

Yin Yoga

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Short After Work Practice

Thank you to Teresa, a student who came to my Stress Release class on Saturday and asked about what to do after work to let go of her busy, stressful day.

Sometimes our days are BUSY. Whether we’re stuck at our desk*, in meetings all day,¬† running around doing all kinds of errands, or chasing after children, we can feel physically drained at the end of the day with a mind that just won’t stop whirling around, despite being physically tired.

Inspired by my conversation with Teresa, here is a short practice of a breathing exercise and three asanas that you can do to help shed the day. Practicing the breath and postures as listed will take about 10 minutes but feel free to extend the holds, change the order, practice other variations, try the postures reclined or standing or even add other postures if that feels like the right thing to do.

Remember when you are finished your mini-practice, take about ten breaths in stillness before carrying on with your day. You aren’t a Poptart in a toaster – you don’t need to jump up and run away as soon as you are finished.

Enjoy!

*If you’re a desk jockey, you might want to check out my post about Chairga.

 

Alternate Nostril Breath

This is a great breathing exercise to calm a busy mind by clearing out the accumulated stresses of the day. It slows the the breath and brings equilibrium back to our system by harmonizing the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

  1. Sit tall. It’s much easier to breathe if the spine is long and shoulders are relaxed. Relax your jaw.
  2. Gently touch the right thumb on side of the right nostril. Touch the right ring finger on the side of the left nostril (let the pinkie rest beside the ring finger). The index and middle fingers can softly rest on the third eye (between the eyebrows) or curl into the hand. The thumb and ring finger are used to alternately block and open the nostrils while you breathe. The left hand can sit in your lap palm up or you may wish to cradle the right elbow for support. (If you are left handed, use your left thumb and ring finger on your nose.)
  3. Close the eyes.
  4. Breath in and out of both nostrils normally for a few rounds. Notice that you might be breathing more dominantly through one nostril; this is very normal.
  5. Inhale again smoothly and slowly through both nostrils.
  6. At the end of the inhale, use your thumb to block the right nostril and exhale smoothly and continuously through the left nostril until the lungs feel empty.
  7. Inhale slowly, and deeply through the left nostril until the lungs feel comfortably full.
  8. Close the left nostril with the ring finger, lift the thumb and exhale through the right side slowly and completely.
  9. Inhale slowly, smoothly, and deeply through the right nostril.
  10. Close the right nostril with the thumb, lift the ring finger and exhale fully through the left side.
  11. This is one full round of Alternate Nostril Breath. Continue for 9 more rounds. Remember to keep the spine tall and chin parallel to the floor.

 

Cat / Cow

I really enjoy the movement of Cat and Cow through the spine. The inhale rounds the spine into a forward fold and the exhale helps to open the chest through a back bend. By attaching movement to the breath, we settle into a gentle meditation, following the breath as it moves up and down the spine.

  1. On all fours, stack the shoulders over the elbows and elbows over the wrists. Fingers are spread wide with the weight distributed evenly through each hand. Arms are straight but elbows are not locked.
  2. With the legs hip width apart, stack the hips over the knees. Lower legs are straight down from the knees; push down on the tops of the feet into the floor to take pressure out of the knees or curl the toes under.
  3. The spine is flat like a table top. Keep the neck long, don’t drop the head.
  4. Exhale, tuck the tail bone under, round the spine towards the ceiling, opening across the upper back and shoulders. The chin slightly under as you look at your belly button.
  5. Inhale, curl the tail bone up, scooping the lower back, belly expanding towards the floor. Chest opens as the chin lifts and you roll the eyeballs up, looking behind you.
  6. Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths.
  7. When you are finished, move your bottom back towards your heels and take a few resting breaths in Child’s Pose. Roll the wrists

 

Side Bend

Side bends are great for creating length in the rib cage and opening up space for your organs. They can also help with lower back discomfort. Energetically, side bends open the Gall Bladder meridian which helps with indecision.

  1. Sit cross-legged, sits bones rooted down, crown of the head reaching up, spine long. Soften the neck and shoulders by rolling them a few times. Come back to centre, sitting tall.
  2. Extend the arms out to the sides, walking the finger tips along the floor until they just touch the floor.
  3. Inhale, lift the right arm up, fingers towards the ceiling, lower the shoulder away from the ear lobe.
  4. Exhale, keeping the arm long, bend to the left, walking the left fingers away a few steps, keeping the knees heading down towards the floor. Think about the right shoulder staying inline with the torso and not rolling forward. Open the heart.
  5. Inhale, lift the right arm up, fingers towards the ceiling.
  6. Exhale, lower the hand to the floor. Give the shoulders a little roll.
  7. Repeat on the left side.
  8. You may wish to repeat, moving from side to side with the breath as above or after a few rounds, you may wish to hold the pose for a few breaths on each side.

 

Twist

Twists are probably my favourite poses. I love the feeling of my torso becoming a spiral, creating space, massaging my insides. Twists also create a lot of space for breath. It’s important to remember to take your time entering a twist – don’t lead with the head! Start with the lower torso and spiral your way up the body, the neck and head are the last parts to move. Think of a corkscrew or a spiral staircase. There are many different twists and variations, this one is a simple seated twist.

  1. Sit cross-legged, sits bones rooted down, crown of the head reaching up, spine long. Soften the neck and shoulders by rolling them a few times. Come back to centre, sitting tall.
  2. Place your right hand on your left knee, left arm is behind you, near your bottom with finger tips on the floor. The torso, neck and chin are inline with your left knee.
  3. Inhale, find length and grow tall.
  4. Exhale, using the hand on the knee and hand on the floor as leverage, begin at the bottom of your waist, turning your torso to the left. Push the knee down, don’t lift it up.
  5. Inhale for space.
  6. Exhale, stay where you are or maybe you twist a micro-millemetre more.
  7. Breath in the twist for 3 full inhales and exhales.
  8. Gently unwind back to the centre on an exhale.
  9. Repeat, twisting to the right.
  10. You may wish to repeat the twist to each side a few times.

 

 

 

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Yin Yoga Workshop

Yin Yoga for Shoulders & Arms

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Yoga & Meditation Retreat

SAVE THE DATE!

June 24 to July 1, 2017, join me and Andrea Jones from Videri Health in Italy and turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Indulge in seven days in the heart of Tuscany, immersing yourself in meditation, yoga, beautiful hillside country views, and fresh food.

Prices start at $2,400. A $500 deposit saves your spot.

Full details coming soon!

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Il Borghino, our retreat center, is up in those hills.

 

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Balancing Breath

Some days we just feel off energetically. Maybe it’s a sluggishness and we just can’t get motivated to do whatever needs to be done. Maybe our mind is whirling around in so many directions we can’t focus enough to do whatever needs to be done. If we have the opportunity to take a walk, it can do wonders to clear our mind and motivate our spirit. Think about how awesome you feel after a walk. But what if you don’t have the option of going outside? What to do?

Breathe.

When we use our breath consciously, it has an profound effect on the body and mind. The best part about the breath is that it is always with us and we can be in total control of it when we choose.

I learned this breath technique from my amazing acupuncturist Cheryl. It balances the Yin and Yang energies of the body. The bottom half of your body is Yin because it is closer to the earth and the top half of your body is Yang because it is closer to the sky. If you’re feeling listless, your Yin energy is in excess and isn’t allowing the Yang energy to provide the action. The reverse is true if you feel like your mind is going crazy and you can’t be still. Too much Yang and not enough grounding. This breathing exercise will gather up both energies and mix them together so that we feel balanced with a clear and calm mind. It can be practiced whenever you feel you need it.

How To

  1. Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart, knees slightly bent. Arms by your side, palms facing in. Feel your feet connected to the earth. Feel the crown of your head reaching towards the sky. (You can also sit in a chair with your feet on the floor.)
  2. While inhaling to half of your capacity, lift your arms to shoulder height.
  3. Continuing the inhale, turn the palms up and raise the arms overhead, hands may touch.
  4. Exhale slowly, lowering your arms down to your sides.
  5. Repeat for at least 10 breaths.
  6. When you are finished, allow your breath to return to its normal rhythm, close your eyes and notice.
  7. Carry on with your day.

*This breath is like a beacon for animals. If you have a pet, don’t be surprised if they¬† seek you out and come lay near you, absorbing all the beautifully balanced energy you are creating.

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Yin workshop

Yin for Hips & Legswith Kyra

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