Tag Archives: gentle yoga

Shitali Pranayama

Shitali means cooling.  I thought it fitting to share this breath practice as the humidity of summer arrives.  This pranayama practice is great for my MS students to help deal with the heat and, great for my prenatal students to lessen their nausea.  My daughter and I routinely practice Shitali Pranayama when we are feeling nauseous from hormonal changes.

Benefits: 

*Activates the liver and spleen

*Improves digestion

*Relieves thirst

*Calm  feelings of anger

*Alleviates nausea

*Can help lower fever

Shitali

 

How to:

Find a comfortable seat with the natural curves in the spine.  Stick your tongue out and curl it, if you cannot curl your tongue as this is a genetic trait, make an O shape with your lips.  Inhale through the mouth, feeling the cool air flow over the tongue then, close your mouth and exhale through your nose.  I’ve read that you should do 5 rounds of this breath in order for it to be effective and, I recently read to do no more than 10 rounds in one sitting.   However, you can practice Shitali Pranayama several times a day.

Note:  Please discontinue practice if it does not feel right for you.  Also, if you start to get a sore throat, gargle with warm salt water.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Balance On and Off the Mat

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Ardha Chandrasana has become one of my favorite yoga poses.  By engaging the core and finding the strength of the standing leg, I can open into freedom, into a feeling of bliss.  I often tell my students that by practicing balance poses we can find balance in our life off the mat.  Hmmm….  With my children home for summer and my erratic work schedule, I seek balance on a daily basis.  As I mentioned in my post Disconnecting to Connect, I set aside a day each week to just be with my children fully engaged and present.  This helps me to have some balance between work and family time.   A recent trip my family and I took to Lakeside, Ohio offered me just what I needed to feel firmly planted and open.   At Lakeside, there is very limited access to Wi-Fi, the local coffee shop is the only place that offers Wi-Fi, so I refrained from my daily activity on email, only using my phone to tell my daughter when to return to the cottage.  Our days were spent riding our bikes, walking down to play by the lake and sitting on the porch reading and greeting the passer-byes.  I felt firmly rooted with an open heart and mind to be present for my family and myself.  Returning home I had a busy week of Yoga for Girls Camp yet, I felt so grounded and open to each moment of the week.  I’m still enjoying a sense of balance as a result of this week that my family spent away from the chaos of our modern life fully engaged and balanced.

How do you find balance on and off the mat?

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”  Thomas Merton

 

Bhramari

bee

Bhramari (pronounced brah mah REE), which means the “buzzing of the bees” according to Dr. Timothy McCall.  Bhramari is a breath practice that activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the calming nervous system by lengthening the exhalation.  Bhramari can help reduce anxiety and bring one’s focus into the present moment.    I recently taught Bhramari in my prenatal yoga classes.  I often teach them pranayama practices that lengthen their exhalation to bring about a sense of calm as well as relax the muscles of the body.  These practices are helpful in labor as well when a woman needs to stay calm and relax the pelvic floor muscles.   Even if you’re not pregnant, you can still benefit from Bhramari breath.  I invite you to give it a try.

Practice:  Sitting comfortably with the natural curves of the spine, close your eyes if it’s comfortable and feel the parts of the body in contact with the floor, feel the hips resting on their support, and notice your breath moving in and out of your nose.  Inhale through the nose and exhale through the nose making a humming sound.  Repeat maybe 3 more times then, on the last round, cover the ears and feel how the awareness of the vibrations increases.  Sit in silence for a few more breaths noticing the silence.

This is a great practice at the beginning of your meditation session to quiet the mind.  Children enjoy this practice too!

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.  Conscious breathing is my anchor.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

Yoga

Lately I’ve been seeing  so many photos of beautiful yogis in amazing poses that I can only dream of doing.  I know it is my ego causing me to feel insecure and less than.  I also know that yoga is so much more than a perfect body in a perfect pose.  After all I teach yoga to many populations that will never be able to attempt, Eka Pada Sirsasana, yet, they and I are still yogis and yoginis (female).   Yoga is more than the practice of asanas (postures).  It is also meditation and pranayama(breath practices).  I believe Yoga offers a set of tools to facilitate a life lived with presence and compassion.    I love yoga and am so grateful for finding yoga in my late 20’s!  I love how I feel after my practice and how yoga and meditation  help me to be more present and joyful in my daily life.   My hope is that if you have shied away from yoga because you are not fit, flexible, or are living with a disability,  you give yoga a try.  Find a studio near you that offers classes based on your needs and commit for at least 28 days and notice how your practice begins to affect you physically, mentally and spiritually.  It may just open your heart to yourself and the world!

“The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” 

TKV Desikachar 

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Urban Zen

UZ

“We believe that it takes a strong back and a soft front to face the world.”  Roshi Joan Halifax

Are you being called to serve?  Do you have a passion to help your loved ones who may be living with terminal illness?  Do you want to work with persons undergoing cancer treatment and be able to offer them comfort?   You may have heard me mention Urban Zen here.  Urban Zen is the calm in the chaos.  Urban Zen Integrative Therapy is a very powerful yet simple way to help people that are dealing with pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, constipation and exhaustion.  Let’s face it, all of us at one point or another have suffered from one of these issues.  Urban Zen is being offered in hospitals, outpatient centers,  rehab and hospice centers, universities, schools as well as, corporations and in other countries.  Urban Zen Integrative Therapy is meant to serve as a compliment to modern medicine and it really works.  For example, I have worked with patients suffering from nausea and pain at a level 8 on a scale of 1-10 and after 15 minutes of using the Urban Zen modalities, these levels dropped to a 4.   The modalities used in Urban Zen are, gentle movements, Reiki, Essential oils, Body scan meditation, Breath awareness and simple breath practices and, Restorative yoga poses.  I feel so blessed to have gone through this training and to be doing this work!  UZ has changed my life in so many profound ways!  I can nurture myself, my family and friends when they are not well.  I have developed the ability to be present and, let’s face it, being present for others, to really listen and see someone, is a missing piece in our health care system and  in our world.  I’m so excited to share this with you as there will be an Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Training this year offered in Columbus, Ohio through Yoga on High.  Here is the link to there site and more information about the training.  There is an informational conference call on June 3.

http://yogaonhigh.com/teacher-training/urban-zen-integrative-therapy-training#IS

 

 

Put on Your Oxygen Mask First

If you’ve ever flown before, you’ve heard this statement, “In the event of an emergency and the oxygen masks drop down, please put  your mask on first before assisting children or others.”  This serves as a reminder that we need to care for ourselves before we can care for others.  As women, it is part of our nature to be the care-givers of the people in our lives, while also caring for our homes and maintaining a career outside of the home.   We, at least many of us, tend to place our needs and desires last on the list.  I invite you to make a change and “put on your oxygen mask first”!  I often find that, when I take some time for myself, I  have all that much more energy and love to give to my family.   So, make a date with yourself!  Below are some suggestions if you’re at a loss for where to begin.  Enjoy!  Please share in the comment section your self care ideas.

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*Sit outside and read a good book

*Enjoy a cup of tea and some quiet time

*Take a relaxing bath

*Practice yoga alone or take a class with some friends

*Practice some restorative yoga

*Take a walk and be with nature

*Share a meal with friends

*Get a massage

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
Eleanor Brownn

 

 

28 Day Meditation/Mindfulness Journey

“When we take time to quiet ourselves, we can all sense that our lives could be lived with greater compassion and greater wakefulness.”  Jack Kornfield

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Meditation and mindfulness is spoken of everywhere now.  There are multiple studies being conducted on its effects in the corporate world, education, the health care system and the military.  Technology is and can be a wonderful tool to communicate world wide and get things done faster.  However, it can also lead to higher stress, heavier workloads and disconnection.  Meditation and mindfulness offers a tool for living in the present moment. In turn, lowering stress levels and increasing awareness and compassion for self and others.

I invite you to join me and my yoga students on this 28 day journey.  I will post a meditation/mindfulness practice each week.  We will start with 10 minutes of meditation.  I invite you to journal the effects and experiences of your meditation practice.  You are welcome to post comments in order to create a community of support.
How?  It is ideal to pick a particular time of day but if that does not work for you, choose a time that will.  Turn off phones and set a timer for 10 minutes.   You can sit or lay down if necessary.  Sit on a comfortable seat, either in a chair or on the floor.  I encourage you to sit with support under your buttocks to elevate the hips higher than the knees. This posture invites the spine to rest in its natural curves and allows the body to be open for optimal breath space. Once you are comfortable, close your eyes or let the gaze release down, keeping your head in a neutral position with your ears balanced above your shoulders.  Notice sounds, then bring your awareness to sensations of your body and the parts of the body that are in contact with your chair or the floor.  Then bring your awareness to your breath, not changing the breath.
First Week Theme:  “Simply” watch the breath.  I say simply as it is not really simple.  You will find that your mind wanders and many thoughts often arise.  That is okay and normal.  Let your thoughts become like clouds passing by in the bright blue vastness of the mind, not becoming attached or getting carried away by them.  Keep coming back to the breath and the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nose and inside the body.  You could notice the temperature, the texture or maybe the length of the breath. That’s it!

I invite you to notice how this practice begins to affect the rest of your day and your interactions with others.  I noticed how my meditation practice allowed me to respond instead of react to my son’s behavior which helped him to calm down more quickly.  I also noticed a decrease in my anxiety levels as well.