Breathing Breaks

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Breathe easy……Take a breather……Take a breath ……Catching your breath

These are just a few of the different ways we express using breath to ‘take a break’. It’s in our lingo, part of our culture, and yet it’s something we rarely seem to do. Instead we ‘take a break’ by getting a cup of coffee or surfing facebook or Netflix on our pc…you know you do and your boss knows it too. We all need to take breaks from our work, even if we love what we do taking a break has many benefits ….

Better Circulation, increased muscle tone and flexibility

Sitting all day long can have a negative impact on the body, which is why it’s essential to get up and move at least once every hour. This increases blood flow improves muscle function, joint mobility and genuinely keeps you from feeling sluggish.

Boosts your Creativity

Get those creative juices flowing! Taking a break from the action allows you to recharge your mental batteries, improving the chances of coming up with that new genius idea.

Increased Productivity

Productive and engaged employees aren’t necessarily ones who work 80-hour weeks, it is usually someone who is engaged in the task at hand and productivity should be measured by the quality of the work.

Reduced Eye Strain

Taking just five minutes away from a computer screen is typically all you need to keep eye strain at bay, and it’s crucial to sustaining work for a long period of time.

Lower Stress Levels

Stress is one of the main things that causes burnout. To preserve your sanity, de-stress and improve the quality of whatever you are doing, you need to step back from the action. And remember it’s not goofing off,

it’s really about taking time to Refuel and recharge.

At the Cleveland Clinic they use yoga and modified traditional yoga breathing exercises as a way to help patients manage their pain and disease. Deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system — and maybe even the expression of genes.

Dr. Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, says that breathing can have a profound impact on our physiology and our health. “You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,” Golubic says. “There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions — they benefit.”  He’s talking about modern science, but these techniques are not new. In yoga, breath work is called pranayama and Yoga practitioners have used pranayama as a tool for affecting both the mind and body for thousands of years.

According to Psychology Today, breaks at work improve employee performances. Below is a list of breaks that may be effective during the work day (Fritz et al., 2011):

  • Meditation helps you detach from work thoughts by clearing your mind and focusing on relaxation.
  • Physical activity helps you increase blood flow to areas in the brain that are necessary for focus and attention.
  • Learning something new or playing a game will help you feel confident and boost motivation.
  • Setting a new goal and thinking about the future will help you see the bigger picture and re-evaluate life in a positive way.

Meditation, physical activity, learning something new, and setting a new goal can sound like a lot of different things you need to do to take that break, but the reality is you can do all these things by simply taking a ‘Breath Break’.

Instead of reaching for coffee to give you a boost, allow your breath to soothe your body, mind and spirit.

If you don’t have time to leave your desk here is a 2 min ‘Breathing break’ you can take to de-stress, invigorate the spine and enliven your brain…

Push your chair away from your desk, place your feet on the floor under your knees, sit near the front of the chair and lengthen your spine.

Now close your eyes and place your hands on your belly and begin to take long slow deep breaths. On each inhale lengthen a little more through the side and back body, while doing your best to keep the chest and shoulders relaxed. After about 5 or 6 breaths open your eyes and let the breath return to normal.

Then begin the deep, calm breaths again, this time taking your arms overhead on the inhale and bringing them down on the exhale, again about 5 or 6 times.

Then place the hands on your knees, inhale to lengthen the body and on the exhale ‘roll forward over your knees’ keeping the hands on your knees for support. Go as low as you are comfortable. Inhale as you bring your body up and exhale you roll forward. About 5 or 6 times.

You can do another round changing the dynamics if you like and if your back is strong enough….

On the Inhale raise your arms up and on the Exhale as you roll forward you release your arms out to the side (swan dive fashion) and towards the floor. If you need to support of your hands on your knees, please keep them there.

If you have more room and time, try the above sequence standing up…. Just adjust from sitting to standing in mountain pose for the first round of breathing, on the second round arms go overhead slowly as you inhale and slowly come down on the exhale. You can add a little bit of fun here, as you go up on your toes slowly raise your heels off the floor.

For the next round (keep the heels down) raise your arms up on the inhale and on the exhale, bend the knees and roll down towards the floor. And on the inhale bring your body back to standing.

Again 5 or 6 breaths for each round. And remember to smile and have fun.

Breathing is the original mantra and just a few minutes of deep breathing is easy, it is an act of self-care and it accelerates the benefits of the work break. And connecting movement with the breath enhances brain function and amplifies the benefits of your ‘Breath Break’.

I could be talked into a wee little video of the above mentioned breath breaks….Hummmm? Interested?

So try substituting the ‘coffee break’ for a ‘Breath Break’ do it every day for a week and let me know how you feel!

Namaste my lovelies 

Oh Shanti

Cheryl

For information regarding events, Classes, Reiki and workshops, please check out the FaceBook page for The Chattanooga Yoga Centre.

 

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Gentle Yoga

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As I started to write this month’s blog about the difference between Gentle yoga and the yoga everyone thinks they know…i.e what they see on magazine covers. I found myself journeying down memory lane.

I took my first yoga class sometime in the late 70’s…. 1976 or maybe 1977. I was visiting my sister in Alabama where she was a graduate student, she took me to the university gym and we took a class. No yoga mats, no lulu lemon clothes. No blocks, bolster or blankets Oh My!

Just yoga.

No jumping, no flipping your dog, no flow, no power and no heat.

Just yoga.

The students used beach towels and old blankets and gym mats (you know the thick one’s gymnasts use).

810b4b6a940ce9f91a852a96f8a765fb (This is pretty much what classes looked like way back when. Street clothes and no sticky mats)

I was hooked. I loved it! And over the years I mostly learned from books and I practiced on my own.

As I grew older and married and began raising a family my practice fell away, as is the case for a lot of people. But during the mid 80’s after a long illness and all of life’s challenges I began to teach fitness classes. Aerobics!

Yes I wore head bands and scrunchy socks and played “lets get physical” by Olivia Newton John on my boom box. But I always added yoga in my workouts, Always!…… now jump ahead a few decades and trust me yoga looks very different. I started teaching full yoga classes in the late 90’s and in early 2001 I was teaching at a gym in Nashville. A flow class because that’s what everyone was teaching. That’s what everyone wanted in the gym. But my practice, my own personal practice, didn’t look anything like the power classes I taught. You see, that long illness I had in the 80’s never really went away. I have had many diagnoses from Fibromyalgia to MS. And most recently (about 10 years ago) a neuromuscular disorder.

I don’t really care about the name of my disorder because any way you spin it, it means I tire very easily and that my muscles spasm and ache and don’t always work like they should. Oh we could chock it up to age at this point in life and I have been told by well meaning friends, family and even Doctors that this is all part of the aging process. Really? Then I have been aging for as long as I can remember.

The point of saying all this is that I am a ‘spoonie’…. A spoonie is someone who struggles with chronic illness or chronic pain. The term spoonie was coined by Christine Miserandino who created the Spoon Theory. The theory provides an explanation about what life is like for anyone living with chronic illness/pain. Check out her explanation here

What does all this have to do with how Gentle Yoga is different that Magazine yoga? Well for starters the way I teach yoga, or fitness for that matter, grew out of my own experience with chronic fatigue and muscles spasms. Even when I was teaching High impact STEP classes and Power yoga classes I taught them differently because otherwise I simply could not do them.

Personally, I hate the term ‘Gentle Yoga’ it implies a practice that is less than… that you do it because you can’t do real yoga… I cry bullshit on that! But what else can describe the class in a way that separates it from it’s Power / Ashtanga cousin. A description that lets people know that here is a class you can do. How is Power Yoga the Real yoga anyway. It is simply one way to do yoga.

Don’t be mistaken, Gentle Yoga isn’t an easy class and it isn’t a beginner class either, it is simply a class that doesn’t have a heated room, it doesn’t have Jump backs or head stands. It doesn’t have hand stands or any pretzel poses. And it doesn’t always ‘Flow’. It is a class that makes sense to the body and it makes sense to the brain. It moves, perhaps more slowly, but it moves. And it moves far more deliberately than many other styles of yoga.  What I mean by that is that it allows for a great deal of movement but interlaced with static poses and poses that protect joints and promote strength but gives the student choices for resting, modifying and changing poses so that their body can participate.

I started doing some research on what Gentle yoga was and I could list you all kind of benefits of gentle yoga and I could give you a stock definition of gentle yoga, no doubt written by someone more articulate than myself. But that’s not what I wanted to really write about, I guess I wanted to write about why gentle yoga is appealing to someone like myself.

You see someone in chronic pain or dealing with an on-going illness is often very frustrated with ‘regular’ classes, because some days they might be able to get through all the vinyasas and some days it’s all we can do to hang out in Childs pose. Also, yoga classes themselves are often taught by instructors that don’t know how to make the class accessible for everyone. Even I find it difficult to take public classes and I am often embarrassed that I can’t do everything that a yoga teacher should be able to do.

But a Gentle class (gotta come up with a better name!) is anything you want it to be. Anything you need it to be in any moment. Taught well a Gentle class will help ease pain, it will help you gain mobility and it will help you get stronger. And that extends off the mat too… well all yoga should extend off the mat. We’ve talked about that before haven’t we? Here and Here.

So in a nut shell the difference between Regular yoga and Gentle is …. Nothing… no real difference. They are both ‘Real’ Yoga, both styles help you make strength gains and changes in your body that are positive and both styles should also give you a better sense of yourself. They are simply two different approaches that help you bring yoga into your life.

That yoga class I took in the 70’s, well that is pretty much what my practice still looks like today. Simple but challenging, Gentle but never easy. Poses and movements done with an attention to the breath and stability more than linking them together and making it a dance.

What does your own practice look like? I really want to know.

Om Shanti!

Cheryl

 

 

 

Happy Holidays!

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Don’t let tension and stress dampen your holiday excitement.

Even if you’re having fun, adding just a few extra activities and commitments to an already full plate can be stressful. Remember that during all the holiday hustle and bustle it’s important to take care of yourself.

I’ve talked a lot about self care this year, I have felt a need to look after myself more lately and to fill up my cup, before serving others. That’s a really difficult thing to do. Self care can feel selfish or like your neglecting other people or other tasks. Have you ever laid on a massage table trying to relax only to find yourself thinking about all the things you should be doing instead? I have.

But I hope you know that true self-care is an act of love. So keep your cup full – You cant serve from an empty cup. You can’t take care of others if you’re sick, burned out, or just too cranky to care. Filling up your cup doesn’t have to be time consuming or do damage to your budget.

Being relaxed, in body and mind, makes it easier for you to accomplish all the wonderful things you want to do for family and friends. So here are some tips for making the holidays a little less stressful.

Breathe –  (you knew I was going o say that didn’t you)Take long, rich, centering breaths throughout the day. Spend just a few minutes in quiet breathing can help relax your body and mind.

Listen to your body – And not just in Yoga class. Many people ignore or even override their body’s needs. Doing that can lead to injury or illness and nothing is worse than being sick over the holidays! To increase your chance of staying healthy during the holidays listen to your body. For example, take time to eat if you feel hungry and nap if you are tired. Seriously Napping is my happy place!

Laugh it up people –  Humor is great for stress reduction. Do something that makes you laugh. Watch your favorite funny movie or check out comedians on Netflix or Youtube. Go hang out with friends and tell each other the stupidest jokes you know. You know the ones that make you groan….. Here I’ll start ..

 How many yoga teachers does it take to changes a light bulb?  ….. Only one, but she’ll need four blankets, a bolster, six blocks, and two straps

Listen to calming music – Soothing music helps relax your body. Nature sounds can also help reduce stress.

Take a holistic health approach – Self-care means paying attention to more than how much you eat or exercise. It also requires paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, expectations, and interactions.

Do something creative – Write a poem, start a book, get out the finger paints and a big piece of paper, and express yourself. Make. Create. Enjoy the process with no expectations.

Give – There are so many opportunities to give, so many people and organizations in need. Pick something close to your heart and give the way you can and remember most organizations get a lot of financial donations this time of the year but what they really need are your helping hands!

Be grateful – The day after Thanksgiving, Giving thanks seems to go right out the window! Keeping up with your gratitude practice  can help you stay upbeat, optimistic, energetic and less stressed.

Take a walk – I know I’ve talked about this before but the Japanese call it ‘Forest bathing’. I Love that! Go outside, bundle up if it’s cold and head out with the your only intention of just noticing the beauty around you. Don’t worry about burning calories or tracking steps, just enjoy yourself. Breath the fresh air and get that blood pumping.

Respect your budget – The old finance, banker lady in me is all about a budget. Once you figure out what you can spend on extras like holiday gifts, events, and other holiday things, honor that. If you splurge now, you pay even more later. And later comes sooner than you think.

Alright there you go a few ideas for staying happy and helthy during the holidays. Do you have any special things you do for self care? Let us know share your ideas in the comments or on my facebook page. I love hearing for all of you.

Namaste and have a wonderful Holiday season.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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Rock your Paripurna Navasana

 Rock the boat

Let’s talk about Paripurna Navasana aka Boat Pose, just a few quick tips for finding balance and connecting to your core strength.

In Sanskrit, “paripurna” means ‘full’, or ‘complete’, “nava” means boat, and “asana” means pose;  Full Boat Pose.

This is one of those poses that can truly challenge people even those that have been doing yoga for some time.

Getting Into Full Boat Pose:

Sit on the floor with knees bent, feet flat, and legs together. Slide your hands a little behind your hips, and lean back slightly on your ‘sit bones’ without putting to much weight on your hands.

Draw the navel center in and up (uddiyana bandha) and lift your feet a bit off the floor.

Try putting your hands on your thighs and make sure your front body stays open and that your back does not round. Try to maintain length in the spine throughout this pose.

Draw your shoulder blades back to open your chest and broaden through the collar bones. Keep the knees at about a 90 angle, parallel to the floor.

If you’re stable and comfortable you can slowly begin to straighten your legs.

Now, try reaching your arms forward alongside your legs, palms facing down. If you are unable to raise your arms while in Paripurna Navasana, you can gently hold the back of your thighs.

Breathe steadily and hold for a few breaths.

Taaa Daaa Boat pose!

Have fun with this and let me know how you do~

Benefits of Full Boat Pose:

  • Tones and strengthens your abdominal muscles
  • Improves balance and digestion
  • Stretches your hamstrings
  • Strengthens your spine and hip flexors
  • Stimulates the kidneys, thyroid and prostate glands, and intestine

bost cropped If I look very serious here it’s because I set the camera on a timer and I set the timer for what felt like 20 minutes LOL

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Heart and Breath of stillness

“The heart has no limit in regards to the body’s shape….If you want to know the shape of the human heart, simply take a look at your fellow human and behold the human heart before you”….. Gil Hedley

Our heart like the rest of our body is steeped in movement. It is movement.

Yes, it squeezes and releases, it physically moves blood throughout the body. But what other adjectives could you use to describe the human heart? I bet most of the words you thought of are descriptions of movement… the heart Pushes, Expels, Draws in, Squeezes, Contracts, Relaxes, Pulsates, Beats, Circulates, Pumps. Take a moment and sit perfectly still, feet resting on the floor and the body relaxed. Now put your hand over your heart and feel the heart, feel the beat and notice that you aren’t really completely still. So while on the outside you seem to be completely still, there is still movement in your body, and you are aware of that movement because you can feel it with your hand and consciously you know the heart beats.

But on an energetic level, the movement of the heart is much more subtle. The heart is filled with spirit and life, it continuously dances with the body and its favorite partner in the breath.

Gill Hedley, a wonderful anatomy teacher, talks about the dance of the heart and he even has an amazing, quirky video about it and I love it! But for me, I tend to think about hows things move together, how things move physically and energetically together. So when I think of a dance or the dance of the heart I think more about how it dances with the rest of the body.

In particular the heart and breath dance together, they could and can dance alone, but never for long, for without the breath, the heart couldn’t beat for very long and without the heart, the breath couldn’t move oxygen along the river of energy to reach out to all the body.

When healthy body moves, take walking as an example, all of its parts move together. The legs propel us forward, the arms swing by your side, there is an up and down motion as well, as the feet come away from the ground and then set back down. You may even have a slight sway side to side. Your head may bob. And your feet, oh the movement in your feet alone as you walk, well that’s a whole post by itself. Your heart beats faster, your respiration increases, your blood flows with more force, your body temperature increases and you sweat.

Walking is never just about the legs.

And a movement is never about only the body. Or only the body parts we see. When you peel away the layers you find movement everywhere. In the muscles, the joints, even the bones have movement to them. Blood flow through veins and arteries and the Breath brings draws in oxygen. The cells inside us move through out our body and within the cells themselves there is movement. The body dances with itself all the time.

All movement is a dance that is constantly happening not just physically but mentally and spiritually.

And it begins with the breath and the heart. Together they take to the dance floor and in that dance, you find a rhythm. The heart and lungs share space in our body and as we breathe, they dance creating a sense of rhythm and making room for each other. They change shape to allow each the other to function, each breath and each beat of the heart they are inseparable.

My friend Amber and I went to Nashville to listen to Gil Hedley lecture (it was amazing, He is amazing…Got a little FanGirl thing going on I admit) and after the lecture, we grabbed a bit to eat and chatted vigorously and enthusiastically about what was in the lecture and well as in our  own practices. You see Amber is a skilled body work expert and Neuromuscular Therapist, she is skilled in many different aspects of massage therapy and me I am a skilled Yoga therapist and teacher. And this is how I summed up the work we do…

Bodyworkers facilitate movement for those who can’t…. And Yoga Therapists, facilitate stillness with movement and facilitate movement within the stillness.

Stillness in movement?? Movement in the stillness?? What does that even mean?

I mean that when we dance with the heart we create stillness in the mind and when we become still we can dance with Spirit.

You need to learn to tune in deeply to the body and begin to listen to the stillness within the movement and then notice the stillness that resides in the movement. This, for me, is meditation. I have never been one to sit quietly in meditation, I try… Oh, how I try to be still, physically still… not a muscle moving, like all the great Gurus of the world … it’s torture and I die a little inside every time…Every damn time. But over the years as I would try yet again to sit in meditation I would say to myself ‘be still’ … ‘stop fidgeting’  but over time I began to notice that if I would just wiggle my toes or watch the movement of breath and listen to my heart that I was moving, that even in the stillness I was still moving. And then I began to incorporate the movement of the body with the movement of breath and I could slip away into the place of stillness in the mind even though the body was moving.

You see even in the stillness of the body I was moving and within the movement of breath and beats of the heart, I found stillness.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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This little piggie went to market

So as I sit here icing my foot it occurred to me that I haven’t ever written about the foot, which is odd since when I teach, no matter what pose I am teaching, the foot and its foundational properties are always at the heart of my classes. I’m applying ice to the foot that I dropped a 15 lb kettlebell on 2 – ish years ago and it still bothers me when I do certain things like lob (sorta like running but not) in the woods or if I try to do jump backs in yoga class, (when I know I shouldn’t) or maybe its just that I forget I am NOT 30 anymore. Whatever the reason some days the feet just require a little extra Love.

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Here is your basic foot structure… your foot (and ankle) have 26 bones, 2 sesamoid bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and 107 ligaments.  Not to mention almost countless nerves and blood vessels. It’s a complex thing your foot and it carries the weight of the world around every day.

How is this complex system the foundation of nearly every pose? First the obvious, it is the foundation of all standing poses…Warriors, standing crescent, chair pose, even poses like Crow and Prayer squat. In these poses it is easy to connect to the energy  of the feet and ankles. Instructors use cues like “feel your weight in all four corners of your feet” and “spread your toes and then press down through the big toe”… “feel the lift through the arch and into the ankle” ect ect ect.

This is the most common way to access the Bandhas in the feet known as PadaBandha.

I have talked about Bandhas before (check it out here) but it’s been a while so here is a brief overview …The bandhas are subtle uses of muscular awareness to promote strength in the physical body (think Uddiyana Bandha in planks) but to also redirect and to efficiently use energy throughout the body. The Bandhas help us to move with grace and to better incorporate the principle of Sukha (effortless work) in our movements.

PadaBandha on the physical level is all about engaging the muscles in the feet but without gripping or using force. As we stand in Tadasana, Mountain Pose, we first feel the weight of our body, the heaviness of our legs and the pressure on our feet as gravity pulls us down. But lets look at the subtleties of this standing pose. We want to feel grounded and connected but how do we do that without dropping all of our weight down or feeling heavy. We have to engage the muscles in the feet to create a sense of lifting up, especially in the  Medial Arch, this encourages stability in the ankle.

The arches are how the foot transfers energy. EX… when your foot hits the ground its the heel (usually) that comes down first, energy then moves up the Lateral arch( the outside of the foot) and up to the transverse arch and kinda of out the front of the foot creating the ‘push off’ then the Medial arch creates support for the action of ‘lifting’. It sends that energy back up into the body. Creating lift, movement, energy transfer. This leads to a strong supple and flexible foot.

So what can we do to keep our foot strong and flexible? Well Yoga of course! You knew I was going to say that didn’t you?

But it’s true, a balanced yoga practise combining standing poses with certain balancing poses allows the foot to move within its full range of motion. Creating a foot that is strong and flexible. A healthy foot contributes to healthy knees, hips low back and well pretty much  everything else.

Here is a sweet little practice for the feet and the ankle.… the self massage at the end is very nice to do anytime. The video lost some of its components while being uploaded to YouTube but it is Ok… well except for the fact my hair is in my face and there is a tag showing on the back of my yoga top LOL but no one is perfect. I will try to get the rest of the video corrected and loaded at a later date. For now enjoy and take care of those Happy Feet!

happy feet

Om Shanti

Cheryl

 

The Art of Self Care – A sacred practice

“You can’t serve from an empty cup”

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We live in a world that is so busy, a world that is filled with ‘stuff’, a world that bombards us with (in my humble opinion) useless information and sucks us into it’s drama. A world that makes us believe we are full and fulfilled, filled up and overflowing. But are we really? Or are we just so busy that we don’t notice the emptiness?

Self-care, especially when applied to women, is often interpreted as pampering or getting a spa treatment. And can often times have the feeling of being self-indulgent.

When in fact self-care, “is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” A report in 1983 attributed to the World Health Organization defined self-care as “the activities that individuals, families, and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness, and restoring health.”

Since then the concept of self-care has been taken in far reaching and almost ridiculous directions, which is probably why some people think you’re being selfish when you take time to de-stress yourself.

But men & women alike need to take time to recharge their batteries. To renew their spirit….To full up their cups.

And I’m not talking about the annual one week vacation to the mountains or the beach, but about changing your lifestyle to adopt the idea of caring for you and fitting those moments into your daily life.

Think for a moment about the energy needed to live your life….Go ahead think about it. Think about all you do to take care of your family, to be successful at your job, to help out in your community. Think about the tremendous amount of energy all that takes. Now imagine a large cup…. All the energy you need just to get through your day is in that cup. What would that cup look like at the end of the day, as you crawl, spent and devoid of energy into your bed? What would your cup look like?

Empty? … Barely a drop or two of that precious elixir in the bottom.

Now lets assume you don’t have a decent night’s sleep, what would that cup look like in the morning? Half full? Three quarters full? And so you get on with your day, your energy levels already at a deficit, you go to work, you deal with family issues, and maybe you have children that need help getting ready for school or day care. Maybe you have aging parents that need you. And after you work a full day you know there are still school activates for the kids, maybe you sit on a committee that meets right after work. Let’s just not even talk about laundry, dishes, house work and yard work….

Now imagine trying to get through that day with a cup that is only half full….

That’s how most of us live. And it’s why so many of get sick.

The concept of self-care is really about having a cup that isn’t just full, but over flowing, Because it is from that overflow that you can serve. You cannot serve from an empty cup.

Taking time for you isn’t selfish behavior it’s self-preservation. You wouldn’t run your car for 1000’s of miles without regular maintenance would you? You take time every day to plug your phone in and charge it up. So why don’t you do that for yourself? For your body and health?

And please know that taking time for you has to be something that you do not just to recuperate from a busy day just so you can get up in the morning and do it again. But as something that is part of your life. Your lifestyle should include time to read a book, time for a walk in the woods, time to play with the kids.

And maybe it is scheduling a spa day once a month or spending a few hours at the golf course. But it’s also about getting your workout in … everyday… it should be about nurturing your passion. Is your passion gardening? Then you garden on a regular basis. Is it painting? Then paint whenever you can.

These shouldn’t be things that take a back seat to the rest of your life, delegated to the role of ‘hobby’. A thing you do once in a while.

With a little bit of attention to your own self-care, you’ll feel more connected to yourself and the world around you. You’ll delight in small pleasures, and you have so much more to give to those around you.

Like that car or phone you must keep yourself in good repair and charged up to make sure that you don’t need a complete overhaul.

Here are a few tips for incorporating self-care into your lifestyle.

* Move your body…everyday. Take a Zumba class. Walk the dog. Dance around your kitchen and remember to smile and giggle a little.

* Take a breathing break. Instead of a coffee break during the day spend a few moments every few hours to be mindful of the breath. Inhale, slow and deep and watch the body. And notice how sweetly energized you feel.

*Do Yoga! Yea you knew I was going to say that right… but the combination of breathwork and movement not only heal the body but also help us with mental focus and give us energy to face life ahead.

Walk in nature. Walk somewhere green, the Japanese call this forest bathing. It cleanses your spirit.

* Help someone. Carry a bag, open a door, or just smile at them a stranger.

* Listen to your gut. Trust your instincts if it feels wrong don’t do it.

* Learn to say No 

* Learn to say Yes

* Say what you mean, but don’t be mean with what you say.

* Spend some time Daydreaming Take a deep breath and let your mind carry you away. It will help you to focus on more demanding tasks later.

* Love more  

* Fear less

overflowing-cup

You are a garden. Your body is the soil, your mind is the seed, your spirit is the rain and taking time to nurture yourself is the sunshine that helps your garden grow and to blossom.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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Restorative Yoga – Why we Love it!

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I seem to write a lot about restorative yoga… or maybe I just think about writing about it a lot.

I know I think about it a lot. I use restorative yoga with my private clients and teach it quite a bit, even in my vinyasa classes there are elements of a restorative practice. So it’s always on my mind.

In the last few years Restorative style classes have popped up everywhere. And that’s a good thing in our Go GO GO world. We need that quiet time, that meditative rest that is so good for the spirit as well as the body.

Physically your body gets many valuable benefits from your restorative sessions…

** Deeper stretches…… When we can release and let go of long held tension in the body the body responds by ‘unraveling’. Long, supported poses allow your body to completely release, soften, and allow that unraveling to happen over time, without the need to pull or tug.

** Increased flexibility….. And while all that unraveling and releasing does promote more flexible muscles and joints it’s not a goal, or even an end results we are seeking. Restorative gives you a sense of freedom to explore what happens when you release the tension you habitually hold in your body.

** Getting to know your body….. When you spend concentrated time setting up for a pose and exploring how it feels and then giving yourself permission the change that setup, to adjust what you need, you learn where your patterns of tension occur in the body. And when you connect to those patterns it’s then that you can begin to change your body’s boundaries. This is where you get to be Magellan or Lewis & Clark and you  become an explorer.

But a restorative practice is so much more than the sum of its physical benefits. There are countless mental and emotional reason to add restorative yoga to your life.

**Cultivate body awareness….. Wait didn’t I just say that in the paragraph above?? Yes.. but getting to know your body  eventually shifts from the physical and delves deeper into the mental and emotional layers. Most people are cut off from their bodies, especially when we experience chronic pain. But through the  practice of restorative yoga we can begin to explore a deeper intimacy with ourselves and we may find a profound sense of self-love and acceptance.

** Sooths the central nervous system….. In our crazy busy lives we seem to always exist in a heightened state of nervous energy. That ‘fight or flight’ we all hear about.  All those stress chemicals constantly trickling into our bodies does an inordinate amount of damage to our cells. But when we know how to turn on our Relaxation Response then we can counter the effects of those chemicals, some studies now show that we can even reverse that damage.

** Encourages a meditation mindset….. When are first encounter meditation or are first learning about it ir can be very challenging to simply ‘sit still’ to cultivate that deep quiet of the mind. But when we start with a restorative practice we discover that it might just be the hardest yoga we can do! Because we being asked to shut up a mind that never knows when to quit and that’s where the work can be. But in that work we can often times find the deepest benefits of the practice, the greatest growth of who we are, physically and spiritually.

Lets look at a few of the common restorative poses

First ‘Supported Child’s Pose –

  • Gently releases the lower back
  • May relieve shoulder tension
  • Quiets the mind and deeply calming
  • Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system

Key propping ideas – For more height (head higher than hips) you can put a block or another bolster under the front end of the bolster. This can help if the back isnt comfortable in this pose.

Another place to consider when propping is if the knees are tight.. adding a blanket between the knees the calves often helps this.

If the Ankles are tight add a small blanket under the ankles

Salamba Balasana

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supported childs pose

Next is Supported twist over a bolster

Salamba Bharadvajasana

Benefits Include

  •  quiets the brain, calms the central nervous system
  •  quiets distress and anxiety
  •  reduces tension in posterior muscles of back, lateral, and neck muscles

Key Propping issues – The bolster can be elevated on a block reducing the angle of the twist.

You can add blankets under the knee to reduce strain on the hips

And place blankets under the arms to support the shoulders

  • Proceed carefully if you have severe back problems
  • Can be difficult if you have sacroiliac joint issues
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Twist over the bolster

Finally everyone’s Favorite  Legs up the wall

Viparita Karani

  • reduces edema in the legs and feet.
  • relieves tired leg muscles.
  • gives you all the benefits of inversion, without the effort.

Key prop is a wall…that’s all…. But if you have an eye pillow thats glorious! And you can have someone put a sandbag on your feet thats a nice luxury!

 

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Legs up the wall

 

So give restorative a try and let me know how it goes!

I love to hear your thoughts about your practice so feel free to email me or to comment in the posts below.

And if you want to learn more come to the weekend Restorative Yoga Training Event! Open to all whether you are a yoga teacher or not!

Check out the website too http://cherylmurmanyoga.wixsite.com/certifications

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Oh those pesky Edges ….

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In yoga the phrases “find your edge” or “play with your edges” have been prominent for many years. But I haven’t ever really liked that way of teaching, at least not to my tribe. Finding one’s edge or playing with your edges always feels a little bit like playing with fire… closer (warm)…Closer (warmer)… CLOSer (getting hot)… CLOSER annnnnd you get burned!

Most people don’t know what the hell the edge means, let alone how to find it or play with it. And so they topple over that edge everyone else seems to know about. And they get hurt or frustrated. Playing the edge seems hard or harsh and it’s quite the balancing act if you think about it. And again us average Joes and Janes aren’t very good at walking a tight rope.

And I do know what teachers mean when they say those things, they want their students to grow in their practice, by pushing their personal limits. I get it… I want my students to grow and to expand too, but how about we talk about it in a different way. Think of that growth in a different way.

Let’s start by looking at other words we can use to convey the same message… these are words I use all the time to encourage growth while maintaining the concept of Sukha…. Effortless work.

Explore

I really want you to explore what you’re doing. Be Magellan, go somewhere you’ve never been. The mat is the perfect and safe place launch a personal expedition. From the security of your mat you can explore your body, look for ways to strengthen yourself, seek out new ways to release tension from the body and sift through the negative things your mind tells you about your body  to find ways to accept it for the amazing vessel it truly is.

Erode

From your mat your body can flow with your breath like a river, gently, slowly eroding away the borders of your personal riverbanks. As the erosion takes place the old is washed away revealing new life underneath. And your tension and stiffness are gently released revealing fresh new energy.

Expand

From the safety of your mat you can expand your horizons. You can approach a pose in a new way. You can spiral outward slowly expanding the territory of your own awareness, the awareness of your body but also the awareness of yourself. From your center you can reach outward through the action of expansion to create new boundaries.

Boundaries (my favorite)

Instead of edges think of boundaries, because a boundary can change, edges seem to be stationary, they are always there. But a boundary can shift and change as you change, as your practice changes. Over time you slowly build up strength to hold a pose longer and gently over time you increase your physical flexibility. But it’s within the boundaries of our minds that we can find the most change. As we ‘explore’ our boundaries our minds discover patience, as we ‘erode’ away the old energy we may find those old negative thoughts have less of a hold on us. As we ‘expand’ our practice we expand our heart and minds to see things in a new way.

Yoga is the perfect compass, and from the mat it can take us so many new and wonderful places.

Go explore your mat and let me know what you find there, tell me where it takes you.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Cheryl