Category Archives: Restorative Yoga

#TuesdayTips: Viparita Karani Mudra

20160504_203018Viparita Karani Mudra, or legs up the wall pose, is a deeply restorative asana meant to be held for long periods of time (5 to 20 minutes).

Inverting the body is beneficial to the body’s physical systems – aiding the circulatory, respiratory, and lymphatic systems, and allowing deep relaxation of the muscles in the legs. It is also beneficial for the nervous system – allowing the mind to relax deeply.

Even when the body is in a shape meant to be relaxing, the mind sometimes resists and struggles to remain active. If you find it hard to quiet the mind in this (or really any) asana, here are some tips to try:

  • If you’re feeling spacey or scattered, allow yourself to focus on the points where the body is making contact with the floor. Allow yourself to feel grounded and fully supported by the floor below you. Anytime the mind wanders, come back to this feeling of grounding.
  • If you’re feeling agitated, angry, or unhappy, focus on the flow of the breath. Imagine breathing in through the soles of the feet into the heart center and out in the opposite direction. Allow the breath to flow over you like a waterfall, washing away any tension.
  • If you’re feeling stuck or your mind keeps revisiting past events, focus on opening the heart center with each breath. The heart is the seat of balance, wisdom, and peace. Allow yourself to return to the peaceful present by coming back to the heart anytime the mind gets caught up in thoughts.

Enjoy a little rejuvenation whenever you can!

In peace and light,

Debra

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#WellnessWednesday: Reclining Butterfly

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a sequence that included reclining butterfly. You’ll find this pose not just in yin and restorative classes, but in other hatha class as well.

How to do it: Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor and bring the inside edges of your feet together. Bring the soles of the feet to come together while opening the knees wide. If your knees don’t rest on the floor, used blankets, yoga blocks or some other support to support the legs so that your muscles can relax. Turning your palms up helps roll the shoulders and collarbones open.

Benefits:

  • Increases blood circulation to the organs in the lower abdomen
  • Stretches the inner thighs and groins if the feet are close to the body; opens the connective tissue of the hip joint if the feet are farther away
  • Increases range of external rotation in the hips
  • Calms the nervous system

 

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Peace and love,

Debra

#ThoughtfulThursday: A Yin Yoga Resource List

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A teacher friend of mine introduced me to yin yoga a long time ago by teaching it occasionally in her yoga classes. I have to admit I didn’t love it at first. The long holds were a challenge for me to settle into and coming out of the poses made me feel like my joints were super old. I learned to accept the practice eventually and realized that it improved my more yang yoga practice.
Fast forward years later to when I was looking at teacher training programs. At that point, my intent was deepen my own practice and not teach. The evening I visited, the studio was culling some of their books and offered them to trainees and those of us visiting. I was looking over the books, when one of the trainers handed me Paul Grilley’s book. She simply said, “This looks like what you need.” I wasn’t sure what to think, but I love yoga and I love books so I thought, “What the heck.”
Fast forward again, and I teach yin yoga three times per week. It’s one of my favorite styles of yoga to practice and to teach. Here are some of the resources I use when I teach with a brief review of each.
Note: All of the resources here have sample practices included.
Clampett, Cheri, and Biff Mithoefer. The therapeutic yoga kit: sixteen postures for self-Healing through quiet yin awareness. Healing Arts Press, 2009.

I love Biff Mithoefer’s yoga kits. You get a book with discussion of the poses and more, a CD to use for practice or listen to cuing tips, and flashcards that are helpful to use when teaching. I admittedly haven’t used this kit as much as the one listed below, but this is a great resource for yin/restorative classes.

Clark, Bernie. The complete guide to yin yoga: the philosophy & practice of yin yoga. White Cloud Press, 2012.

This is by far the book I used the most. It has lots of detail about the poses and counterposes, the meridians, and a lot more. It’s fabulous.

Grilley, Paul. Yin yoga: outline of a quiet practice. White Cloud Press, 2002.

This is a great quick read from the person who helped make yin yoga what it is today. This is the book that made me want to dive deeper into yin.

Mithoefer, Biff. The yin yoga kit: the practice of quiet power. Healing Arts Press, 2006.

Like the kit referenced above, this is very user-friendly. I use the flashcards the most as quick reference points during classes. It’s also great to use the CD when I want to practice yin at home without keeping a constant eye on the clock.

Powers, Sarah. Insight yoga. Shambhala, 2009.

I use this resource the least but it’s good nonetheless. I did a great weekend intensive workshop with Sarah Powers several years ago and her perspective on yin has definitely influenced the way I teach. This is a great resource for those who want to mix more yang elements into their practice or teaching.

Feel free to share any resources you use or questions you have in the comments below.

Peace and love,

Debra

National Gardening Month: Yoga for Gardeners, Part 3

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During this National Gardening Day, we’ve looked at poses to do before and during gardening. After a long day of bending, lifting, and working against gravity in the garden, a few poses to counteract the day’s activities are in order. Reclined poses allow gravity to work with the body rather than against, twists help tone the spine and loosen up the back, and elevating the feet helps release the stress of the day.

May all your flowers bloom,

Debra

 

Restore from St. Paddy’s Day

Hope everyone had a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. Whether you partied and need to recover or would just like to add a gentle supportive pose to your yoga repertoire, a supported twist may be just what you need.

Supported Spinal Twist

Getting into the Pose:

  • Build a support with bolsters/blankets with or without blocks underneath
  • Use blankets under shoulders/legs and/or between legs
  • Sit next to a bolster with hips on the floor, one hip next to the bolster, and legs relaxed away from the bolster
  • Turn the torso so you face the bolster and let hands come to a rest on either side
  • Lengthen through the spine and drape your torso over the bolster

Modifications:

  • Knees closer to chest, intensifies the stretch in the lower back
  • Arms extended stretches armpits and shoulders
  • Turning the head away from the knees intensifies the stretch in the neck; turning the head toward the knees can be more gentle

Being There:

  • Relax space between shoulder blades
  • Exhale, release into twist
  • Inhale, create space
  • Feel the body lengthen over supports
  • Breathe quietly
  • Hold for 3 to 5 minutes per side

Benefits:

  • Relieves stress in backs, sides
  • Stretches muscles between ribs
  • Enhances breathing

Coming Out:

  • Bring hands under shoulders
  • Inhale come up

 

National Bird Day

wp-1483553444155.jpgHappy National Bird Day!

National Bird Day was established to coincide with the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count. The CBC has been conducted annually for more than a decade and is a wonderful example of citizen science . If the environment is important to you, it’s a great way to get involved, help collect data, and make a difference. You can contact your local Audubon Society chapter to take part in the next global bird count in May.

Some interesting facts for the National Bird Day site:

  • Today, nearly 12 percent of the world’s 9,800 bird species may face extinction within the next century, including nearly one-third of the world’s 330 parrot species.
  • Birds are sentinel species whose plight serves as barometer of ecosystem health and alert system for detecting global environmental ills.
  • The survival and well-being of the world’s birds depends upon public education and support for conservation.

Ready to celebrate birds? I am. You can visit Take Flight Learning to determine #WhichBirdAreYou, print off the mask, and share on social media. Also, there are many yoga poses named after birds, so pick your favorite and share it on social media, too.

I love the modified, restorative versions of pigeon pose. Usually in pigeon, the knee of my forward leg is in line with my shoulder, my forward foot is just under the opposite hip (as opposed to my shin being parallel to the top of the mat), and my hips are WAY up in the air. This is the safe, comfortable way for me to get into pigeon.

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When I do want to get my shin parallel to the top of the mat for a deeper hip opening, I use bolsters. There are lots of variations of this pose but these are my favorites. Both versions start the same — with a bolster to support the upper body. The difference between the two is the position of the second bolster.

In version one, my forward shin is parallel to the front and my back leg is supported by the bolster. In version 2, the bolster is placed to support the forward leg with the shin on the floor, the hip and thigh supported by the bolster (and because I’m so short, it catches most of the front of my thigh on my back leg as well). In version 1, there is a stronger stretch in the hip of my forward leg; version 2, allows me to relax that hip more.

If you have any poses you’d like to see modified, let me know. I love that kind of stuff!

Let your imagination take flight,

Debra

Festival of Sleep Day

wp-1483384284753.jpgRaise your hand if you get enough sleep.

Anyone?

I didn’t think so.

Well, today is the day to make sure to get enough sleep. January 3rd is the annual Festival of Sleep Day. It’s a day to sleep in, go to bed early, or nap.

Getting adequate sleep makes us more energetic and alert, and improves our health. A long-term lack of sleep and sleep disorders can negatively impact the brain and the heart. So grab your favorite jammies or go commando if that’s your thing, turn off the TV and computer, and hit the sack.

Looking for another bonus way to get a deep rest? Try Restorative Yoga. Drop in any Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. at Community Yoga to enjoy a little “adult naptime.” In my Restorative class, we use yoga props to completely support the body in less than a half dozen poses and end with deep relaxation or yoga nidra for a thoroughly relaxing experience.

Namaste,

Debra

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