Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
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 –
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
supported childs pose
Next is Supported twist over a bolster
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
Finally everyone’s Favorite Legs up the wall
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
“Seva”(pronounced Say-va) is a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service, work done without any thoughts of getting anything in return. Seva, in many spiritual traditions is believed to help someone’s spiritual growth and to also support your community or your tribe.
We all have the capacity for selfless service, to give without expecting to get, to help without thanks, to serve without reward. Ram Dass famously stated that “Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.”
You don’t have to be a great sage, monk, priest or nun to practice seva, we can all practice seva in many ways throughout our daily lives. We can all spare a few minutes to pick up trash we see as we are walking through our neighborhoods or in the woods. If you have more time you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or help start a group that reads to children in hospitals. You can walk dogs at your local shelter or you can buy coffee for the guy standing behind you at Starbucks.
It’s important to note that true service doesn’t try to convert or save a soul; it simply serves for no reason other than lifting someone up.
That’s intention and I think seva is more about intention then it is about the act itself. If seva is to be a righteous action then the intention behind that action must come from the heart.
Think for a minute what the world would be like if we all thought that way.
It’s important to know that since yoga is about balance, there needs to be balance in our actions, in our seva. We don’t want to donate so much money that we can’t feed our family and we don’t want to give so much of our time that we become exhausted. One of my teachers Ma Jaya taught that we need to fill our cup up first, and let it over flow. The overflow is what we have to give, to share. It’s not a new concept, they didn’t make it up, the idea that you need to care for yourself first has been taught for countless generations. But somehow we’ve managed to get it in our heads, women especially, that we need to take care of everyone else first and we come last. But when you live that way you are depleting yourself and then you won’t have anything to give others. How does that serve anyone?
But if we can learn to live our lives with purpose……. on purpose…… if we move through our days deliberately and we are caring for ourselves, then we have the resources to serve wherever we want and to serve those that need us.
So with no strings attached, try to do random acts of kindness that come from your heart.
The Many S’s of Yoga
Sometimes to pursue a dream or just to move forward with our lives we have to make sacrifices. Just the act of growing up is a sacrifice; we have to sacrifice the freedom that childhood offers to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Yoga is like. You practice and you change. You breathe and you change. You meditate and change. Yoga produces changes in our lives, in our bodies and in our minds. It transforms us and helps us lift the veil around our spirit. These changes, this transformation requires some sacrifice, you may sacrifice time spent with family so you can go to class. You may lose friends who don’t understand what you’re doing or why. But you do sacrifice something to transform from where you are to where you want to be, to live your best life.
Yoga transformations are amazing but sometimes require difficult sacrifices.
Hi so watch the really short video, by a damn good teacher and then read my take on it and then leave me a comment……
Ok, so for the most part I like this guy. He’s an awesome yoga teacher, in that he actually teaches not just shouts out poses and expects the student to do them……But…. then he does this video and now I’m disappointed……
Jeezzee….I thought we were past this….the yoga shaming……the ‘oh, do you have to use a prop? Well it’s too bad you can’t do real yoga, bless your heart’ crap……(So I added the “bless your heart” but I live in the south) .
I get where he’s coming from and for the most part I agree, the postures are not the practice, they are one part and only one part of a rich, complex spiritual practice. But no single style of practice (western practice anyway) has done more to exclude most people than Ashtanga. Maybe not deliberately, but by only showing only the fancy postures (thank you Instagram & every yoga magazine…ever…) like crane and forearm balances…the jump back, pike into a handstand and float through to titibasana stuff, you know the yoga fluff. That kind of power practice has disenfranchised a lot of people. You rarely see an Ashtanga yogi in Instagram, just doing pranayama……
And the average person sees that and of course they think they can’t do it. And so they never….ever… get on a mat. They don’t try because they aren’t shown the years of work someone did to get ‘there’. (wherever the hell ‘there’ is )
Please know and understand I started my practice many years ago with Ashtanga and I deeply respect Pattabhi Jois and all he did to bring yoga out of the shadows. But as I grew as a teacher and as a student I knew that some (most) students, myself included, needed a different practice and so I was drawn to Iyengar yoga by its precision, by its application and use of props thereby allowing all to practice…..everyone. Iyengar didn’t use props because he wanted perfection in the pose; he used props to give everyone a means by which to practice. Without blocks, blankets, chair and other props most people would never be able to practice yoga….to live yoga.
And I do understand what he’s saying, that maybe using props can take away your learning something from the pose, from taking the pose deeper, that it takes away from you exploring the practice of yoga asana. And I personally don’t use a lot of props but I also don’t do 3rd series, hell I don’t do most of 2nd series anymore. But when I do I use props they don’t limit my practice…If my practice is limited (and it does get that way sometimes) then it’s ME that is the problem not the blocks, blankets or wall. My practice is eclectic, very eclectic. Somedays it’s Iyengar, and I work on specific poses and the alignment and other days it’s very Ashtanga, lots of Sun Salutations and movement. Most days, if I’m being honest it’s a mix, a blend of both. I think, those styles play very well together. And why shouldn’t they, they have the same ancestry. Krishnamacharya. Both Jois and Iyengar studied under the great yoga master Krishnamacharya.
Most people come to Ashtanga in their 20’s or 30’s and their bodies can adapt to the changes quickly, more quickly than say someone who begins practicing yoga in their 50’s. So what’s a middle aged person with no upper body strength or no core understanding let alone strength, supposed to do? Suffer? Push through the pain of the practice and hope they don’t get hurt in the process? Come on!?
He’s also saying that if you do use props that your practice isn’t meditative. Tell that to everyone whose yoga practice includes restorative yoga, a practice that heavily relies on props, and is deeply meditative. And if the practice is just meditative then why do the postures at all. You could just sit in sukhasana and breath. That’s yoga, that’s meditation.
What he is stating is that he assumes that everyone using props are doing so because they want to somehow deepen just the physical aspects of the pose. To open hips (to use his example). Nothing could be farther from the truth. Props just help to bring the pose to where you are, in that moment. And if you do want to deepen the pose, so what?
Props help you get into a pose and help you get the pose into the body, so that you can be strong, steady and stress free while practicing. Ahem, Patanjali states in the yoga sutra 2.46 that yoga asana should be sthira sukham asanam – that asana should be Steady and Comfortable.
Yes of course yoga is an internal practice. No one is saying it’s not. But does NOT using props make you more spiritual? More enlightened?…. Yea, I didn’t think so.
Look if using a prop allows you to practice yoga without struggling (Sukha) and gives you a sense of steadiness in the pose (Stirha) then use those tools. A block is a tool, just like the breath, bandhas and dristi are tools.
And come on, all asana practice should be meditative, whether it be Astanga, Iyengar, Kundalini or any other yoga practice, it should be meditative and there should be a strong focus on the breath work as well. And lets not forget there are 7 other limbs of yoga we should be studying along with Asana.
I have seen how yoga can transform someone’s life and I have lived that transformation as well. Just remember that whatever you practice, it’s your practice. Use props….don’t use props….I do not care. It’s about your choice, but don’t let someone’s idea of yoga, their dogma, take that choice from you. As long as you are on your mat, as long as you are giving all you have to your time on the mat and as long as you are always exploring why you’re on the mat, exploring the breath and the intention, that’s what I care about. Because then you can begin to take yoga off the mat…..and taking yoga off the mat and into your life, well, that’s where the big changes can happen.
Yoga is a practice of exploring who we are, where we are going and how we choose to get there. It is a practice of the breath, the heart, the mind, the body and ultimately the spirit.
Use whatever tools you need to strengthen your body, relax your mind and enrich your spirit so that you can transform your life.
I have a private client that was attending an event downtown recently and she was seated at a table with a local yoga teacher. During their conversation my client mentioned she did yoga but had a private teacher. The person she was talking to said she did not take private clients because private clients were ‘just too needy’……. Hummmm well my knee jerk reaction is “what a jerk!” but that’s not very Yogi like is it. So I thought about it for a minute and I know that each of us has our talents and the gifts we were born with. And I’ guessing that her gift is something other than working with private clients. It does take a specific skill set to be successful at working one on one.
But I think it’s her perception of private clients as being needy that I took the most exception too. It is way off base……They aren’t needy but they are in need. They need the specialized training that a private yoga teacher has. If you had a heart problem you wouldn’t go to a General Practice Doctor you’d go to a Cardiologist. If you need help with your teeth you see a dentist. If you are training for an Iron Man event you don’t go to your local gym and hire just any Trainer you hire someone who specializes in coaching athletes.
And the people who go to a dentist, cardiologist or hire a coach aren’t considered needy. But they do have a need.
And just as not all yoga teachers are gifted as private teachers, private yoga isn’t for every student. Most of you will never have that ‘need’. But don’t assume that because someone is hiring a private yoga teacher that they are needy and just want a lot of attention. All of my clients have very specific needs, such as pain reduction, mobility issues, illness or injury recovery to getting ready for a marathon or Iron Man (and many others). But whatever your reason it should be looked at as part of your self-care regime. Just like getting a massage, seeing a chiropractor or having your teeth cleaned it’s all part of what you do to keep yourself health and well.
You keep doing what you need to do to be healthy and well!
When I am teaching I often refer to the psoas in my classes and I have written about it many times as well and its a fascinating subject, far more interesting than most muscles. And in class recently someone asked me to explain why its important. But its such a big subject that talking about in class just takes too much time and I wonder if she was just trying to get out of doing the extra core work I had planned…..
Ok so what is the psoas? Well its two muscles actually, one on either side of the body emerging from the thoracic spine, T-12 to be exact and running down into the abdominal cavity and pelvis. It also attaches to each of the 5 lumbar vertebrae and it attaches to the lesser trochanter, the thigh bone. It shares the tendon attachment at the thigh with the iliacus muscle and so they work together and usually when we refer to the psoas in yoga we are actually referring to the iliopsoas complex. Take a look at the picture…. You can see where the psoas starts on the thoracic vertebrae just below the last rib…..follow it down, you can see the attachments on each of the lumbar vertebrae and where it flows down into the pelvis and where it finally attaches (along with the iliacus) to the inside of the thigh bone.
Ok now you know where it is, lets talk about what it does. It is most often referred to as a hip flexor, hip flexors are muscles in the front of the hip that act to lift the knee and bring the thigh towards the belly. But the psoas is actually more of a pendulum allowing the leg to swing free during the act of walking. So when the psoas is supple and expressive then there is a freedom in your walking, running and other movements. The psoas muscles are deeply affected by our movement patterns or lack of them. If you sit for long periods of time they shorten, tighten and dry out, losing their suppleness. They can pull the pelvis out of balance, strain the back muscles and result in back pain and sciatica. But a weakened, constricted and unresponsive psoas can also influence your digestion, affect the kidneys and adrenal glands which can then compromise the immune system. When the psoas is short, dry and constricted it can affect many things in the pelvis it can compress nerves and limit space in the pelvis.
The psoas isn’t just a muscle of movement it is also a deeply emotional muscle, it is affected by fear, love, anger, shame and trauma along with many others. It is also the muscle that moves through all three lower chakras, so it is deeply affected by chakra imbalances.
We tend to think of muscles (when we think of them at all) as two dimensional ‘things’. They contract, they expand, we can strengthen them or we can stretch them. That’s pretty much the extent of how we think of muscles. And if we were talking about your biceps I’d probably agree, but some muscles like the iliopsoas behave or act differently oh they contract and expand but they also ‘fire’ or ‘freeze’ and you can’t strengthen a muscle that is constantly firing and you can’t stretch one that’s frozen. That’s why when we talk about the deep muscles of the abdomen we often say to ‘release’ or lengthen them. These muscles need to be resilient and supple, they should be strong too but with a strength that is more of a tensile strength. We get this from rehabilitating our movement patterns and by liberating our breathing patterns. This is why yoga is so beneficial to those suffering from back pain. We aren’t just making your back muscles ‘bigger’ or ‘stronger’ yoga is changing the movement patterns that tightened up, dried out and created constriction in the deep core muscles.
In yoga it is the combination of breathing, that frees up tension and the subtle movements, that release constriction, that help create a supple and resilient psoas.
The easiest pose to do that helps release tension in the iliopsoas is Constructive Rest Pose; if you take my classes you see this a lot, whether in a gentle class, restorative class or a power class. CRS uses gravity to release deep muscle tension.
Lay on your back with the knees bent and have your feet and knees as wide as your hip sockets. Let the back be neutral neither lifting or pressing down the lumbar spine. Use no force. Let your breathing be easy, soft and relaxed. You can also try taking the feet a little wider than the hips and let the knees fall in towards each other. If you are in an active phase of back pain you can elevate the feet that can help keep the pelvis neutral.
Laying in CRP not only relaxes the physical body but also can activate the relaxation response and calm the central nervous system and that alone does a lot to ease back pain.
Try out CRP and let me know how you feel.
One of my favorite authors is a Somatic educator named Liz Koch she has been studying the psoas for more than 30 years her book “The Psoas Book” was groundbreaking in that it took a very complex subject and presented in a way that was easily digestible and it began my exploration of the workings of the iliopsoas more than 20 years ago. It is a wonderful and informative book that I highly recommend. Check it out!
Reiki is a spiritual healing art with its roots in Japanese origin. Reiki like yoga is not affiliated with any particular religion or religious practice.
It’s not massage; it’s not based on any particular belief or suggestion. It is a subtle and effective form of energy work.
Reiki is the life energy that flows through all living things. Reiki Practitioners understand that everyone has the ability to connect with their own healing energy and use it to strengthen the energy within them.
A Reiki session can help ease tension and stress and builds an environment within the body that can assist and facilitate healing on all levels – physical, mental, and emotional. A session is pleasant and relaxing and is often utilized for one’s personal wellness.
Reiki is a great tool for stress reduction and relaxation. While Reiki is not a cure for a disease or illness it may assist the body in creating an environment to facilitate healing. Reiki is a great tool to use as a complement to traditional medicine and is practiced in many hospitals and medical care settings.
A session is usually 45 – 60 minutes long, we take time before and after the Reiki session to discuss the session and to answer any questions you may have. For the actual session, you will lay comfortably on a massage table on with your shoes remove but still fully clothed. Loose, comfortable clothing is suggested.
A recipient of Reiki might feel a warming sensation or a tingling during the session or nothing at all but sheer relaxation. The session should be very pleasant, relaxing and invigorating.
During a Reiki treatment, you will feel calm and relaxed; you’ll breathe more easily and your heart rate will slow down. This is the state where the wisdom of your body takes over. After the session, you will feel rested and energised.
Whether you are in need of some general relaxation; or are coping with an illness, injury or chronic pain , Reiki treatments can offer a great sense of comfort and relief. Reiki treatments are a complement to any other traditional or alternative therapy.
By helping you to deeply relax, Reiki treatments simply enhance your body’s healing abilities; allowing your body to cope and heal more effectively. A few of Reiki’s benefits are:
To explore the benefits of Reiki for yourself contact me, I have a few session times available throughout the week.
Often times we don’t see it coming. The big event or the one little word that starts us on that roller coaster ride that shakes us, bounces us around and with twists and turns it brings us back to the beginning. It seems that we are trapped on that merry-go-round of emotions for most of our lives.
These moments or events can cause us to doubt ourselves, to create drama on the inside that doesn’t exist anywhere else. And most of the time its a big fat nothing that causes that shift in our perception, that brings up the old manifestations of negative self-worth. Some rigid idea that we aren’t good enough that we don’t matter as much as someone else. That our dreams are foolish or insignificant. And then we turn that nonsense outward, flinging poo at other people.
Don’t we know who we are. Don’t we know are significance, our value. When we practice Yoga & live by the basic principles yoga can teach us to respond in a manner that is compassionate, that requires Love to dampen that fire of doubt.
The practice of Ahimsa is a kind of self-love that is a cool rain on a sticky August day, it calms and soothes and then we can embrace our dreams and with love and peace we can ignore the outside triggers and we can surrender these old patterns of behavior to the universe, and allow things to happen as they should. No resistance, no misunderstanding. You learn to recognize that other people are not the ones who doubt, who question, who don’t understand those thoughts are within us. With a consistent yoga practise we become flexible enough to move out-of-the-way of the slings and arrows of someone else’s discontent, of our own discontent and then we begin to understand our divinity