Transitions in a Yoga asana practice

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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.

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OM Shanti

Cheryl

Be Gentle

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

Be gentle

For tomorrow may kick your ass and then you will be thankful for today

Be gentle once in a while

You are worth it

~c

Om Shanti

Restorative Quote

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A writing prompt

I-am

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.

~c

Tell me who you are….I am waiting to find out.

Om Shanti!

A new approach

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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.

~c

wellness

Still a beginner after all these years

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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.

~c

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Sensation

Sensation

The Merriam Webster definition

:a particular feeling or effect that your body experiences

: a particular feeling or experience that may not have a real cause

: the ability to feel things through your physical senses

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When you are doing yoga are you always looking for something to feel? Looking for a sensation? I have taught for many years and throughout those years I have taught a lot of newcomers, people who don’t  know they have a body let alone understand it. So a lot of my teaching has had the idea of looking for ‘sensation’. Feel this or look there. This is helpful to people beginning to explore their bodies and to understand what and where their pain may be.

Hopefully they eventually get to a point where there is no longer a need to look. Over time you learn to connect to your body,  you know it so well that you know your edges, your challenges and you know when they change and shift. But sometimes it’s the absence of sensation we should be noting. I’ll explain.

I had a student in class last week make an interesting point; we had been doing a yummy psoas release (notice I didn’t say stretch) using a block and after class he said he couldn’t feel his psoas. I said most people can’t since they didn’t know where to look, he said he was well acquainted with it since he had been in PT several times for sports injuries. He said no matter how hard he stretched in the pose he couldn’t feel it. I wondered if maybe he was trying too hard. That sometimes it’s more about the letting go of sensation not chasing after it.

Well that conversation got me to thinking about sensation and the need for it in a yoga practice. Yoga teachers, me included, are always asking for students to ‘find their edge’ but here’s the thing most people are on the edge all the time, whether in pain or  stressed out. Maybe we should add a few minutes in our practice to explore the absence of sensation.

I work with a lot of people in pain or at least a lot of discomfort. They feel sensation all the time, some even constantly, so for them we are usually working on letting go of the ‘sensation’, moving past it or around it. To learn to move in ways that aren’t the sensation of ‘pain’. But this idea can also apply to someone who may not be in pain, but their body is tight and stiff, rigid, stuck. Sometimes we need to change the need to feel a strong sensation when stretching (that  hard ‘pull’ or ‘tug‘) maybe we could work towards feeling no sensation at all. Instead try simply letting go of, moving away from, sensation. Sometimes when releasing tightness there may be no sensation, none at all. This releasing creates space in the body, the (guess what) sensation of spaciousness. That concept of creating space in the body is about letting go of the tightness that contracts and that contraction or constriction is what can contribute to a lot of pain. We hold ourselves tight as if braced for battle and of you’ve been in pain for a long time you are always braced for that battle.

Think of this as part of learning the practice of Pratyahara.  Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses from both the external world and the images or impressions in the mind.  When we practice pratyahara we gradually gain positive control over the mind being obsessively drawn towards the things that contribute to our pain.

Sense withdrawal, pratyahara, rests on the solid foundation of a steady, comfortable posture and smooth, deep, quiet breath. The combination of breath and steady, calm movements and postures can help us find that place where sensation is sukha, effortless.

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Try exploring the differences between stretching and releasing;  stretching to create length and releasing the concept of letting go of tightness and creating space.

Let me know what you think

Om Shanti

Cheryl

 

 

Sunday Haiku February 22 2015

Sooo yea I totally forgot to hit “publish yesterday’. I have been busy, I have seriously gotten back into writing fiction.  I don’t know where the inspiration came from but I am having a blast writing again. Any way here is my Sunday Haiku I hope you enjoy. Maybe someday I will ‘woman up‘ and start a fiction blog too.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Hand touching water

dip into the well

drops of water on your hand

glisten in the sun

~c