as it catches the sunlight
The wind on my face
waves crashing onto the shore
feels like home to me
Birds on the shoreline
dragonflies, fairies in flight
the sea beckons me
In an active asana class (Vinyasa, Flow or Ashtanga) we are learning and practicing the art of ‘doing’. Doing the pose, doing the breathing, doing the movements…. But with restorative yoga we are cultivating the art of ‘being’; Being in the pose, being with the breath, being patient, being focused, relaxed and aware.
Yoga as a whole is the art and science of being. Being human, being well, being Love, being you…..the art of restorative yoga allows us to more deeply cultivate that sense of ‘being’.
Judith Lasater refers to Restorative Yoga as ‘Active Relaxation’… that sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it. But if we aren’t actively involved in the process of learning to relax, if we are just going through the motions, then the body doesn’t respond in the way we want it to, it doesn’t actually relax. You might fall asleep during a restorative class, which is ok when you are first learning the process, but sleep is passive relaxation. We want to be able to turn on the relaxation response when we need to; we want the body to know when to relax and when to flee and then how to relax again.
When you’re doing a restorative yoga practice give consideration to gravity. Observe the gentle pull of it, the way it softly tugs at you, take time to notice it.
Throughout our daily lives we fight with gravity, we have work to stay upright, to walk, to move, just staying upright is a constant battle between us and gravity. And as we age if we think of gravity at all we think of it as the enemy. But gravity has a purpose; it holds us close to the earth….. Connected….. Tethered…. Gravity keeps us tethered to the Earth. And restorative yoga takes advantage of the tether, of that connection. Restorative yoga gives us a chance to use gravity, to work with gravity.
Now, go back to observing how the body responds to the pull that is gravity and then give up the fight, surrender to that gentle pull, honor it, it’s what keeps us from floating off into space, gravity is what grounds us.
Think of ‘being’ grounded the next time you are ‘doing’ restorative yoga and explore the tugs and pulls of gravity
WHAT IS YOGA NIDRA
Yoga Nidra in Sanskrit mean Yogic Sleep, but it is not sleep. It is a powerful meditation technique from the Tantra Yoga tradition. It is both a name of a state of being and of the practice that creates that change of consciousness.
The practitioner through Nidra learns to relax and to facilitate their healing and can manifest seemingly magical changes in their life, helping to clean up karmic debris in their life.
We can use different means to achieve the state of nidra but the following will always be included:
1) Pranayama: Control of breathing and the ability to control and direct Prana, the life energy force.
2) Dharana: Concentration, cultivation and heightening of inner perceptual awareness
3)Pratyharya: the withdrawl of the senses and influences of the mind.
The stages of the Yoga Nidra Practice are usually followed the same way, whether it’s a 10 min nidra or a 45 min practice.
1) Relaxation – you begin with a preliminary preparation of the body
2) Sankalpa– A personal goal is declared silently
3) Rotation of Consciousness – we then tour the whole body in a structured fashion
4) pranayama –awareness of the breath
5) Creative Visualization – Various images are visualized mentally
6) Your Sankalpa is repeated and, now in a highly suggestible state of consciousness, is programmed into the subconscious mind.
7) Return to Full Awareness – a careful and gradual return to a normal state
So what is a Sankalpa
‘Kalpa’ means vow, and ‘san’ is a derivative of the highest truth. A sankalpa then, is like a commitment in support of the deeper meaning of our life.
A sankalpa is the resolve, determination and good intention will that resonates precisely in your core and aligns with your highest intention . Swami Saraswati describes it as a will power that is flexible enough to account for changing circumstances changes begin to manifest in your inner and outer world.
Think of your sankalpa as the seed and your mind the garden, we plant a seed and for it to grow we must cultivate it, water it, feed it and encourage it to grow.
We can often struggle to hear our own true sankalpa. We sometimes develop it within the practice of Yoga Nidra, without really understanding what it is.
What it isn’t is a wish, or a new years resolution. It isn’t a ‘wanna’ (I wanna lose weight, I wanna quit smoking I wanna a new job). Typically this kind of statement lacks commitment; a sankalpa is a statement of deeply held fact.
Roger Miller calls it “a heartfelt desire, the calling of your higher self our DHARMA, it is what resonates with your true soul & what speaks of your true nature”. It takes time to find your sankalpa, to develop the deeper understanding of who we are before we can truly know where we are going.
You need to learn to listen to the deep voice within. Your heartfelt calling is already there, in you waiting for you to hear it.
Learning to find what you really want is a process that takes time; you have to dig through all the preprogramming that you have, the samskaras, the grooves in our record.
Transitional poses are the poses (and movements) between the poses. Some are obvious some are not.
The transitions are where the puzzle pieces fit together. They piece together a vinyasa practice. If we think of yoga as a journey, and the poses as the destination, then the transitions are the vehicles we travel in.
Transitions give us space to be aware of where we’re going but also where we’ve been. They are the bridges to the bigger picture. The full expression of a pose can come from the place within the transitional space.
Think of that moment between Plank and Cobra….we called it Chaturanga, we think of it as a pose but what it really is, is an opportunity to float between the poses. It is a continuation of the exhale of Plank into the inhale of Cobra.
Transitional poses are important in preparing you for the next pose. Both physically and mentally, they give your mind time to shift from one pose to the next and help you to prepare to shift your weight and give attention to alignment.
Some transitions aren’t really movements or poses but moments between the poses. An example would be Warrior I to Warrior III, both are poses and there isn’t a specific bridge to get you from WI to WIII, BUT that ‘moment’ when you ground your front foot and begin to float the back leg up, that moment is your transition. Give some thought, time and appreciate it’s importance to your practice.
When you are aware of the transitions in yoga you can focus more on breathing and movement instead of rushing to finish the sequence.
Being gentle with yourself doesn’t mean lying around doing nothing
Being gentle with yourself means practicing ahimsa with yourself
Being gentle with yourself is a gift…. Not only to yourself but to those who love you
Being gentle with yourself means recognizing your light and doing what is needed to fuel your fire
Being gentle with yourself today is needed
When yesterday depleted you
And tomorrow looms
For tomorrow may kick your ass and then you will be thankful for today
Be gentle once in a while
You are worth it
The writing prompt was “I am __________”
Tell me what you think, then tell me who you are………
I am_________Too many things to just pick one.
I am __________depending on my mood….
I am ___________ depending on who I am with….
I am _____________ because I refuse to be put in a box….
I am trusting and trustworthy. I am a healer, a seeker a teacher.
I am a woman, I am a little girl, I am 16, 37, 55 I am ancient.
I am loved and Loving.
I am kindness and I am expecting kindness in return, I don’t always receive it.
I am ok with that.
I am just beginning and I am endless….
I am __________ because that is how you see me.
I am ok with that too.
I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a foe.
I am________ because I am not done yet.
Tell me who you are….I am waiting to find out.
Lets look at this idea of being mad at pain. We get angry and treat the pain body as the enemy that is to be crushed or beaten, but is the pain really your enemy? Pain is just one of the ways that the body communicates with us.
Only one of the ways.
The loudest way for sure. Pain is like that bully in school who gets their way by pushing others around or the guy at work that always talks in the meeting, never saying anything productive but saying nothing louder than anyone else.
We can get mad and frustrated at the pain and it’s easy to do and understandable. But when we do that the pain gets all of the attention. Lets assume for the moment that it’s back pain, if all you do is focus on the pain you feel while forward folding you forget about the fact that you can do other things really well, maybe spinal extension or rotation.
So let’s try something together, just for now, just in this moment move your awareness from the pain and look for something in the body that’s working………… did you find something? Good. Now for just for right now, nurture that something. Encourage that part of you that is working pain free.
Nurture what’s working.
When you can do that then maybe you can also begin to nurture what may not be working so well and maybe you can stop being mad at the pain. It may not go away, especially if it’s chronic pain, but at least you can help to reduce the stress associated with that pain.
I was a skinny, nerdy kid and of course got picked on … A lot. and I remember my Mom always telling me don’t ignore them, but be the first to laugh at yourself and to not let them get to me. She also said to never let them win, and they could only win if they could get to me. It took years for that advice to sink in but she was right, by ‘killing them with kindness’ they eventually left me alone, because they couldn’t win.
Pain can be like that, don’t ignore pain, it’ is the bodies way of saying that something is wrong, but if you nurture what’s working and stop being mad at the pain, at least then the pain doesn’t win.
Nurture what works.
Really, if you think about it, all Yoga is ‘Yoga 101’ or beginner’s yoga, because your practice is always changing, always adjusting to who you are right now. My yoga has changed so much over the years, as my knowledge of yoga expanded so did my practice and yet if you look at my physical practice now compared to 10 or 15 years ago it almost looks like I’m going backwards, When in fact I am still expanding.
I took my first yoga class in 1976, yep I’m that old. Did you know there were no yoga mats back then? Seriously! And no fancy yoga clothes either. How ever did we do it! There weren’t yoga studios, at least not around here, there wasnt anywhere to learn yoga from a teacher in person, so the book-worm that I am I got books and learned a bit about yoga that way and my practice didn’t look anything like yoga does today, it wasn’t a vinyasa or flowy practice. And my practice now doesn’t look anything like what it did 15 years ago. 15 years ago it was still mostly a physical practice without as much understanding of the deeper meaning of the 8 limbs of yoga. 15 years ago I had heard of the sutras but hadn’t read them, 15 years ago I could still do a full wheel, 15 years ago I didn’t really have a meditation practice, 15 years ago I vinyasa-ed till I couldn’t breath (an oxymoron?…. perhaps), 15 years ago, I didn’t know what restorative yoga was, now I have a deep appreciation of a true restorative practice, I believe in its power to heal. 15 years ago I started studying more about yoga and began teaching. Over the last 15 years I’ve learned that yoga isn’t just meditation, that yoga isn’t speaking in Sanskrit, that yoga isn’t about tying your body in knots, yoga isn’t about performing gymnastic type poses and movements, yoga isn’t about eating vegan and never drinking alcohol. So I’ve spent the last 15 years learning what yoga isn’t……So what is yoga? Yoga is what you need when you need it; it is also the deep understanding of what that might be. Yoga helps you discover the layers of who you are and what you can be. Today, 15 years later, my practice is slower, much more spiritual, I no longer do full wheel and I meditate on a regular basis. Today, I have a deeper understanding of why I stuck with yoga beyond just the asana practice. Today I am aware of how little I really know and so I continue to read, to study and to learn. And today I appreciate how much I have to learn and look forward to it. Every day I am a beginner.
Oh and 15 years ago there was no Facebook or Instagram. Hell I didn’t even have a cell phone then. I KNOW RIGHT, CRAZY.