Saturday, June 30, 2012

More Hip Action

When I'm in class these days my body craves hip openers.  When inactive or under emotional stress the hips become tight, blocked and overflow with emotional toxins. San Fransisco yoga teacher Stephanie Synder has an excellent explanation for the hip-emotion connection;  "We hold stress and negative emotions- such as fear, guilt and sadness- in our pelvis..... For this reason alone.... its particularly important to do poses that move prana ( life force) through the area.  You know your junk drawer at home?  The pelvis is like the body's junk drawer.  Whenever you don't know what to do with a feeling or experience you put it there."  

For a period of time I had a weekly Forrest yoga practice with an absolutely magnificent teacher.  Over the course of a little less than a year my hips released powerfully and stayed open and happy until last year when my father became ill.  I can see it's time again to wander into the Forrest.  Unfortunately that wonderful Forrest yoga instructor moved away and on to other adventures.  Its good for him, but too bad and really sad for those of use who took his class.  Forrest is intense, difficult, and the practitioner experiences a lot of physical sensation that's not easy to sit with.  Literally we would all at some point in the class be moaning.  He made the experience very OK for numerous reasons.  Nobody ever left feeling bad and we all returned week after week for more.  One of the reasons I stopped going was that when he left the studio there were no other teachers to replace him.  For some reason there are hardly any Forrest instructors in this area.  I have found one class  not too far from my home.  I'll venture out and see how it goes, I shouldn't count my chickens before the eggs hatch, but I have high hopes.  In the meanwhile here's is a nice little hip opener sequence from the magnificent Brenda P. Iyengar  yoga teacher, Grounding Through The Sits Bones.
Hip Opening Sequence
1. Sukasana (Easy Pose) Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position with the sitbones on a folded blanket. Increase the height of the blanket if you can’t sit without rounding the lower back. Take a few minutes to really concentrated on balancing the pelvis and lengthening the spine.
2. Dandasana (Staff Pose) While keeping the spine long and the pelvis balanced, stretch your feet in front of you and press the soles of the feet away so that the leg muscles engage.
3. Paschimottanasana (Forward Bend) Wrap your belt around the balls of the feet and begin to pull yourself forward, leading with the belly button. You are now tipping the pelvis forward to lengthen the back of the legs. Don’t round your lower back!
4. Tadasana (Mountain Pose) Come to standing and realign the spine and pelvis.
5. Gomukhasana (Cow’s Head Pose) Stretch the arms into the Cow’s head position, while maintaining the neutral curve in the lower back. Do the stretch on both sides.
6. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) Concentrate on keeping the hips squared so that the belly button faces the same direction at the breastbone. Roll the thighs out so that the knees are aligned with the tops of the feet. This pose is a powerful hip opener, because your muscles are working very hard to keep the hips squared and support the weight of the torso at the same time. Try to hold the pose for 6-7 breaths.
7. Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-angle forward bend) Step the feet apart another foot or so from your Warrior stance. Check to see that the edges of the feet are parallel and the feet are grounded evenly between the inner and outer edge. Don’t let the ankle collapse. Keeping the spine long, fold forward from the hip crease and rest your hands on your block or the floor beneath your shoulders and breath into the length of the spine and the work of the ankles. Then release the back and walk your hands towards the feet, letting the head hang toward the floor. At your deepest bend, check that the ankles are still engaged and, if you want, tip your tailbone towards the ceiling to lengthen the back of the legs. This pose involves the same kind of work as Warrior. After a few breaths, re-engage the spine and then come back to standing.
8. Tadasana (Mountain) Let your body realign and check the curve of the lower back.
9. Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) Try this pose seated against the wall or, for greater relaxation, lie on the floor (See June 12 for more details).
10. Savasana (Corpse Pose) Release the belt and stretch out the legs. Take a moment to really align the spine before relaxing into the support of the floor. 
©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Benefits Big and Small

I've just started my lit review.  Right now I'm reading other dissertations with similar subject matter to my research.  I'm definitely a geek when it comes to this area.  I really enjoy the reads.  Right now I'm reading someone work on yoga as a healing method with drug and alcohol addiction.  In the research there are some fairly extensive interviews with yoga practitioners who found healing and recovery through yogic discipline,  What strikes me is the similar cord in each of these personal experiences.  I call it the peeling of the onion.  With each layer the practitioner discovered new aspects and feelings states.  Each discovery brought a new level of insight and healing.  Slowly, in small steps, the practice grew off the mat and into the every day world.  

I think this is a universal theme for all who study and practice yoga.  It starts off as a nice thing to do that feels good and grows into a healing practice which expands into all daily life.  Stressful events that happen off the mat may not become easier but somehow more manageable.  Recognizing stressful events and breathing through the experience, sitting with your feelings even if they are uncomfortable, allowing others to own their own distress and resisting the urge to join in confrontations are all incredible benefits of a long term practice.  You don't have to be in recovery or have had a stressful trauma to benefit from a yoga practice, being human on this planet is the only criteria needed. 

Blessings to everyone and happy Friday!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I think there's a little bit of fantasy, myth and wishful projection about the transition period between hot mess and getting your shit together.  As I have placed my personal life on a shelf for the better part of two years and am in the initial stages of reclaiming the self I can honestly say this is a period of chaos, peppered with confusion and a dash of freaked out.  When you let thing go as long as I have it becomes abundantly clear from the start there is a tremendous amount of work to do in all areas, body, mind, spirit and environment.  I get into class and it's truly work, every part of my body is raging mad, screaming, "how could you do this!"  I'm finding I'm truly exhausted during everyday activity and a little freaked out at the amount of neglect I have given to all aspects of my life but my job.  This is a process.  I did not get to this place overnight and it will not resolve itself magically.  Right now each day is a discovery in how lost I became and the importance of slowly and methodically reclaiming the self and building a solid foundation so I never make the mistake of returning to that ugly place.  I have many things to address and a tremulousness amount of feelings to work through.   uuh.. this is hard stuff. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

One Step at a Time

I've now officially moved into the next chapter on my journey. This feels a little like the beginning of a new season.  In the north the beginning is never what the weather will actually be for the entire season.  Autumn starts out warm but becomes progressively colder.  Spring starts out quite cool but will feel warmer for most of the season.  I'm entering this chapter exhausted and achy.  Everything feels tight, right down to the heels of the feet.  My life is as disorganized as my body is a shambles.  Putting everything on hold has left a big pile of clean up.  My first actions are to clean and organize my surroundings.  Start with the most pressing items and work my way through the clutter.  Paperwork, car repairs, laundry, you name it, it needs to be taken care of.  I think that's the theme for this summer, taking care of my life, all aspects.   I see this as the beginning, a place to start, a solid foundation.  This is a start, one step at a time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My friends mother used to say, "be a flower."  It was a sweet things to say.  She endured many hard times and had her own mental techniques for keeping her head up and carrying on.   As I close the chapter this week I find myself drained and in need of infusion.  In a couple of days I'm off to the mountains for little camping trip.  This is the first step in healing my soul and tattered spirit.  It's all baby steps for a while. This is a process and it will take time.  So for now I'm going to stop and smell the flowers and deeply appreciate the I am able to move on to the next phase in my life's journey.
wishing everyone peace and tranquility.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's better together!

                                               Triple downward dog for the adventurous! 

Rainbow Kids Yoga teacher training in Montreal was fantastic!   Our teacher Amanda Mcfadyen was truly a wonderful inspiration.  We left armed to the teeth with a large bag of games, ideas, and joyful, playful ways to teach children yoga.  The experience left us all with an open heart and a reconnection to why childhood can be such a fantastic experience.  I would also like to give a shout out to Equilibrium Yoga Studio in Montreal for hosting the event. Equilibrium is beautiful, warm, welcoming community, dedicated to bringing yoga and healing to everyone.  

Teaching children is tricky, as I discovered myself they will soon become bored and restless with a traditional approach.  This course taught me how to present the class through a series of games.   I wrote my first lesson plan on the flight home and tried it out immediately.   I hit a home run with the 7-9 year old crowd.  They loved it!  I also tried the class on a small group of highly distracted very young preschool children without much success.  Luckily the groups I will be teaching are in the 7-9 year old range.  Children need yoga too, the key is in the presentation.  Thank you Gopala Amir Yaffe  (founder) and Amanda Mcfadyen for this opportunity! 

If your interested in a training  I recommend looking on the Rainbow Kids site.   Trainings are available across the globe ( literally!).

Peace, love and rock and roll!
Shine on!