Sunset Meditation, Your Beautiful Self

Spending an evening enjoying a sunset is yoga in action!

Sit or stand quietly with a long spine, and the soles of your feet grounded. With every inhalation, breathe in the beauty of the sky. Invite the colors of the sunset, clouds, and sky to fill you. Feel the beauty within you.

With every exhalation, breathe out, imagining that beauty inside the people in your life.  As you think of each person, visualize them spending their day beneath the very same sky as you. Different colors, but one sky.  Think of how each person embodies  beauty.

As the practice becomes more familiar and easier, include not only the friends and family whom you love, but also folks who aggravate and annoy you. Fill your mind with something beautiful about each person.

When you are done, take a deep in breath and wish beauty for every person in the world, without exception.

Take a long slow, deep breath as you again return your thoughts to the lovely sky and appreciate being your own beautiful self.

When will I get it?

New students often ask, “When will I get yoga?”  implying a time frame, say in a year.   New students in the studio often show up saying that they are “experienced” yogis and they are ready for an advanced class when, in fact, they’ve only taken one session with another teacher.  Fast results are the American Way! It’s a part of our mindset, for better or worse. The new student signs up for one class per week and believes she’ll look like Christy Turlington in no time.

The reality is that though many students of this ancient art experience life/body -changing moments after only one or two classes, many more find results of practice only after several months of  dedicated effort.  The results are often stunning, don’t get me wrong.  But they do take time and effort.

I like to think of my yoga practice operating  on a geologic timescale.  B.K.S. Iyengar, who practiced five hours per day until he died at 95,  “Got it” after many many years of rigorous daily practice.  Above is a video from the Ann Arbor Y in 1976, thirty-eight years ago when Mr. Iyengar was 57! Below is an interview thirty years later,with Charlie Rose.  If you scroll past the George Clooney interview, you’ll reach Mr. Iyengar’s inteview.

Mr. Iyengar died today after giving the world his body and mind.  I’m saddened by his passing,  but endlessly grateful for the insights and teachings he shared for so many years.  They’ve changed my life in deep and dramatic ways.

If you have a pain in the butt . . .

If your pain is located smack dab in the center of your buttocks cheek, and is giving you trouble sitting and going up stairs, you very well may have a tight or inflamed piriformis muscle.  It is a deep muscle that enable external hip rotation.

Here is a video by the posturedoc that explains a way to relieve the symptoms of a tight piriformis. It’s  how to do Chair Pigeon Pose correctly. If you are my student, you will know this is highly recommended since we go over it in class frequently.  Even if you don’t have a tight piriformis, it”s a great pose to stretch the hips.

 

A consistent practice of stretching that muscle (including  Happy Baby, Thread the Needle, and Pigeon) will go a long way towards preventing further occurrences.  As always, though, get advice from your medical practitioner and Don’t OVERDO!

Here is a video stretch by an osteopath from UK that demonstrates clearly two stretches. Though he does not call them by their yogic names, I can tell you that the first is (don’t laugh) Gas Relieving Pose, and the second is the third part of Supta Padangusthasana that is not often taught and if it is, is taught in a slightly different version called, Rock The  Baby.

Siren Call of Retreat

A SWIRL OF WHITE FLOWERSWho says you need to go someplace expensive to re-center and refresh yourself? Who says a monastery or ashram is needed?

After traveling in Europe that involved some intense genealogical study, I have embarked upon a one week retreat. I did take breaks while overseas and I meditated a lot while traveling. Click on the following links if you would like to read further how I practiced away from home:

I chanted Lovingkindness mantra for myself and others in need.

 I practiced gentle yoga everyday.

I even went on a little pilgrimage, and 11 mile hike, chanting lovingkindness most of the time. Afterwards, I needed a backbend.

After I returned home however, I found I wanted to bring those practices into my everyday life, not just my “traveling” life. The siren call of retreat rang in my soul.  It’s a time to re-group, re-center, and reconnect with my life. And yes, admittedly, I want to detox … that German chocolate, wine, and bread needs to go. I need to return to a more vigorous practice. OUCH! My body needs to adjust.  And that can’t be rushed or I’ll end up injuring myself.

The game plan is to spend more time exercising, yoga-ing, including daily savasana,  reading or listening, art-ing, writing.  Cutting back on socializing and going out.  Even talking is on the back burner! Sounds luxurious, doesn’t it?

For five days,  I’ll try to post daily to let you know how it’s going.

Perhaps you’d like to join me? If even for a day or an hour. It’s a tried and true yogic practice and in my experience, yields delicious rewards even better than German chocolate!

 

 

Meditating on-the-go

Meditating on train in Germany
Meditating on train in Germany

I love meditating while sitting on a public conveyance, such as a plane or a train.  In some ways, it’s easy to minimize distractions.

For the past year or so, I’ve been practicing Metta, or Lovingkindness meditation.

I sit up tall, with my feet planted on the floor, close my eyes, and begin to chant.  Sitting with eyes closed, folks usually don’t try to interact with you. This is not necessary, but when I’m in public like this, I usually do lower my eyelids to minimize visual distractions,

The mantra can be done for oneself  (very important!!) or for another person.  Since I noticed that I had defaulted to berating myself in my self-talk, I’ve been doing the mantra A LOT for myself to try to create more love within me, knowing that how I treat myself mirrors the way I treat others.

As a reminder, then, here is what I might chant:

May I live without fear.

May I live in physical health.

May I live in mental health.

May I live a life of ease and abundance.

The transformation has begun! For one thing, I cannot remember the last time I called myself a name such as Stupid, or Idiot.  Hopefully, my heart is opening with greater compassion for others as I think of them with less negative language.

 

Supported Backbend

Supported Backbend on bed
Supported Backbend on bed

After hiking the St. Wendel pilgrimage trail for a ways, then the Teiffenbach Pfad in St. Wendel, Saarland, Germany, a bed backbend was a must! This works after a hard day of gardening or whenever the back feels achy. Backbends raise energy, so be prepared for a surge of energy afterwards. Be sure to exit the pose carefully, drawing the knees up towards the chest and rolling on your side to release the spine. You an use a footboard or headboard during this maneuver to assist your return to standing.

 

Hot Yoga!

(c) 2014 barefootphotos
(c) 2014 barefootphotos

With the temperature tipping 97 degrees Fahrenheit in Mannheim,  and no AC in our apt. , a cooling pose like supported shoulderstand on the couch really helped. Not only did it take the swelling out of my feet, it deeply rested and cooled my body and mind. Ahhhhh…

Warm-Up Yoga Sequence

Here’s a sequence based upon a holiday Saturday Slow Flow class that’s nice and gentle. It can be used as a primary practice on days when you have missed yoga-ing for a while, as a warm-up to a more intense physical practice, or on days when you need to nurture yourself a bit more than usual, i.e. when you are sick,  mourning, or very tired or sore. It’s important to practice something on those days as well.

1. Cat-Cow, Cheetasana (Bent arms flowing cat-cow), Lat stretch, ChildPose

supta three

Supta Padangusthasana

 

 

 

2. (Reclining Back of the Leg Stretch). Use strap as needed. First take left leg by using a tie or a strap around foot as much as necessary.

 supta two at wallcompressed

 

 

Threadtheneedlecompressed2. Reclining Through the Hole stretch. Dorsiflex (lift toes toward ceiling) foot on thigh. 

 

 

 

Kneeling Lunge3. Kneeling Lunge, High Lunge

 

 

 

4. Supported Bridge: Use block beneath sacrum.

Setu Bandasana Sarvangasana

 

 

 

 

Reclining Cross-Legged Twist

5. Reclining Cross-Legged Twist

 

 

 

Yoga Mudra ArmsYoga Mudra Arms side view6.  Yoga mudra arms, while sitting. or standing, Clasp hands behind back, stretch them towards floor, then exhale and lift them towards ceiling. Hold for 5 breaths. Release.

 

7. Marichiasana 3Marichiasana3

 

 

 

 

 

Camel8. Camel

 

 

Reclining Pigeon9.  Pigeon

 

 

Legs Up The Wall

10. Legs Up The Wall

Using Our Feet

Have you noticed an area of your body that has become “numb” or dysfunctional over time? Perhaps it was due to an injury or to sub-optimal posture, or simply because your awareness had drifted away and other parts of your body had taken over the function of the original area.

The toes, feet, and ankles are often areas that lose dexterity, strength, and mobility over time of dis-use or un-use. Sometimes an injury that occurred when we were children or teenagers, such as a broken foot or sprained ankle, comes back in the form of osteo-arthritis in our later years.

In yoga class, we have been working to develop awareness of how our feet, especially the soles of our feet,full of energy-sensitive chakras and plenty of touch-sensitive neurons, can aid us in the yoga poses. our lowest extremities can help the way we walk, stand, and, balance. Developing strength and flexibility in our feet should be a priority as we age.

 

 

Embodied Intelligence

What happens when the body wakes up achy and tired? When practicing yoga is the last thing on the mind? After a strenuous practice last night compounded by a sciatica flare-up, I woke up in precisely this shape this morning.

Fortunately, there are many faces of yoga and that is exactly the day NOT to skip practice. I sat on the mat and began a short meditation.

And then listened. For what the body prompted. It wasn’t the practice I thought I should do. But then it rarely is. After a couple of shoulder stretches, the tightness in my shoulders softened. A mindful forward fold released my cranky back. I continue to be amazed at what intelligence is embodied within.

With the achy muscles residing, I was able to continue. Not much more, but enough. Just what my bodied needed.Today.

The practice that started out tired and achy became an affirmation of listening within. I settled into the knowing that I have much to learn. A practice I need to return to often.listneing