Svadisthana Chakra, the chalice of life

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I have had many requests for information about the chakra system over the years. I even based the theme of last falls Autumn Retreat on the chakras.

So, I thought that since I am hosting and leading a workshop next Saturday all about the pelvis & Pelvic floor that I would touch on some of the information I will be talking about related to the pelvic floor and the chakra system. Particularly the Sacral or second chakra.

The Svadisthana chakras special gift is allowing us to experience life through feelings and sensations. Svadisthana in Sanskrit means ‘ones own abode or seat’. Another Sanskrit translation has part of the word meaning ‘to take pleasure in’.

The second chakra is the very center of feelings and sensations, emotions, pleasure, sensuality, intimacy, and connection all come from this chakra. And since this chakra is also the center of creativity it helps you to create change and feel transformation within your body.

But there is a problem, we live in a world where feelings are not valued, where passion, and emotional reactions are frowned upon. We are taught not to lose control and encouraged to hide our emotions. And because of this we can get disconnected from our feelings and from our body. Disconnected from our very center.

And the center of the body is the pelvis. From this place we create life. Even if we don’t have children we still have this space within us that creates. From this place we move forward, we use our feelings, our intuition, to guide us through life’s many changes.

The sacral chakra is located in the lower abdomen near the coccyx or tailbone, between the sacrum and pubis. The chakra color of the second chakra is orange, vermillion, and its element is water.

Imbalances in the sacral chakra can lead to:

  • Emotional overreactions or Emotional detachment
  • Excessive neediness in relationships
  • Codependency
  • Muscle tension and abdominal cramps
  • Fear of happiness or pleasure,
  • Lack of creativity and authenticity
  • Low libido
  • Pessimism, depression
  • Pelvis area infections and illnesses

 A balanced chakra can help you be more emotionally and creatively balanced. You will be less likely to be affected by the highs and lows of relationships, life, career, creativity etc.

You will less fearful about expressing your sexuality or other emotional needs. A balanced second chakra will help free from the blockages of ego and control issues. Often, our creative pursuits or focus get driven away by our emotional impulses, anger, frustration etc. A balanced chakra makes the person more self-aware, and able to express their emotions through creative work.

Sacral Chakra Affirmations

  • I have healthy boundaries.
  • I have healthy relationships.
  • I am open to experiencing the present moment.
  • I am open to feeling pleasure and abundance.
  • I know how to take care of my needs.
  • I respect and love my body.
  • I allow myself to experience pleasure.
  • My emotions are balanced.

Yoga poses to open the second chakra

Hip openers are primary in helping energize the second chakra. Poses such as Baddha Konasana, wide angle forward fold, and happy baby pose, just to name a few.

 

DSC03662 BKBaddha Konasana

DSC03671 seated wff Wide Angle Forward Fold

DSC03732 happy babyHappy Baby

Try a few of these poses and let me know how they feel.

Om Shanti!

Cheryl

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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.

 

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

 

 

 

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

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
dsc03908
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!

 

2015-10-13-10-23-00
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

Hello new yogi’s!

eistien-quote

To all the yoga newbies out there, there are a couple of things I really want to tell you…..

*Keep coming to class

*Keep trying new things

*Keep practicing (remember we call it yoga practice not yoga perfect)

And the next time you are in class look around at everyone with you in class ….We all started right where you are. Yep even the teacher was a yoga virgin at one time. Everybody started right where you are right now…Everybody!!

Talk to the people on the mat next to you, the ones that are doing ‘stuff’ you think you could never do, I bet you’ll find out they haven’t been doing this yoga thing very long. But they kept coming and they kept trying and they are still here doing things they were certain they would never be able to do. 

But please know that learning Yoga is so much more than just learning the poses. Yoga is about learning to express yourself and learning yoga is learning understanding, understanding who you are, where you are now and where you’re going.

That’s Yoga; a never-ending journey to be who we are right now. It is not now, nor has it ever been about trying to put your foot behind your ear, let me say that again! Yoga is not about tying yourself in a knot, that’s gymnastics not Yoga, but hey if you can that’s Great! Because I sure as hell can’t. Baby I don’t bend that way!

So when you take a Yoga class, remember, that your yoga practice is an opportunity to shake loose the stiffness, dump that junk we carry and wake up the body. And when the body is awake the Spirit very quickly follows and when the Spirit is awake there isn’t anything you can’t do.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Yoga is everywhere

pic-effectsYoga is more than the movement of your body; yoga is a journey that takes its path through your entire life if you let it…

What does it means to take your yoga off the mat and into your life? That your body is physically stronger and more flexible? Well, yes you certainly will be but that isn’t what we really mean. Taking Yoga into the rest of your life means being strong enough to face life’s up’s and down’s, to be flexible enough to face the choices we need to make.

Yoga teaches us to be flexible and resilient to smoothly bounce back from the chaos of life.
It teaches us to inhale fresh life, and exhale the things that hold us back; breathing in love, and breathing out anger,
It teaches us to face the fear of failing in life, much like the first time we tried headstand on our own,

A few months ago my hubby and his two daughters and I went backpacking along a section of the Appalachian trail, it was a tough trail, hubby thinks it was just fine, but me and Ashley beg to differ…. It was Hard! 

All up…every step was UP the first day. We climbed 1800 feet in 5 miles that first afternoon and 1300 feet in 7 miles the second day. The 3rd day wasn’t as bad…I mean we had to come down, right. But my legs we  were pretty toasted by then. What most people don’t know about me is that I have a neuromuscular condition known as Mcardles disease that cause extreme muscular fatigue and failure. It affects the body’s ability to process sugars for energy. It wont kill me but it makes some things, from walking up a flight of stairs to backpacking for 3 days, challenging.

What does all this have to do with yoga well if hadn’t been for my yoga practice, my long suffering hubby probably would have left me out there….still whining! As I walked along I remembered all that I learned from my teachers…. from yoga. The  basic tenets of yoga help us to make choices throughout our lives and in this case to get through what was both a wonderful, fun time with my family and a grueling, physically challenging event, that at times I wasn’t sure I could finish.

Yoga isn’t something that we do only when we roll out our mats, it weaves it’s way throughout our lives, in our minds and actions. Knowing how to practice Ahimsa, to do no harm, was a big help over that weekend. I had to know when I needed to rest, but I needed to balance that with getting to our camp site set up before dark. In Yoga there is a strong emphasis on having a ‘single point of focus’ a ‘Drishti‘. A drishti doesn’t move so you stay focused on a still place while moving  or being in a challenging pose.  For me during that those long climbs when I thought my legs weren’t going to make it, my breath became my drishti. Just being aware of my breath helped me to put one foot in front of another when my legs were telling me I needed to stop. Using the technique of a dristi can get you through many of life’s tough challenges. Having that stillness within you, no matter what is going on around you, gives you the focus to get through the Chitta vritti. Chitta vritti means chaos of the mind, literally means mental vortex or whirlpool. It’s calming  to know that when the mind is all over the place you have a place to go ‘be still’ and organize your thoughts.

Yoga can be everywhere and in every action. So when you are off the mat how does Yoga show up in your life. Where, in your life, can you start applying what you have learned from your practice? Give it some thought. And here are a few tips for taking your yoga off the mat and into your life.

  • Attend to your Breath: Just like in yoga class, breathe when uncomfortable situations come up, bringing with them emotions like anger, sadness and fear. Breathing helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system prompting the relaxation response. So just like on the mat breathing with purpose and awareness can help us to relax and therefore change a stressful situation. 
  • Be aware of what you feel: Notice your feelings, emotional stress can come up in the body as muscle tension, or headaches or an upset digestive system. But our feelings are not the problem. It’s when we try to control them or we refuse to face them that is the real problem.  So when faced with a stressful situation sit with it and allow the feelings the come up to move through you, without you trying to clutch at them. Use your breath to control that knee jerk reaction.
  • Witness yourself: Witness consciousness is the capacity to notice what’s happening without judgment, the ability to observe with deep compassion and understanding. When we can step outside ourselves for a moment and witness whats going on we can gain new understanding of the subtleties in life. Just like on the mat when we step away from a pose and look at the subtleties of movement and alignment we gain a better understanding of the pose .
  • Allow things to unfold naturally: If we can allow painful sensations to arise and pass on the mat then we can do the same in life. We can’t control other people, situations, or things, but we can learn to let things pass, to ‘let things go’ without always trying to fix or change them.  We can relax and experience  what’s happening instead of trying to force it.     

 

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson                          

Om Shanti

Cheryl

 

 
 

Seva

s of yoga

“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.

The intention of seva isn’t about getting something in return,

It’s about you taking action that benefits someone else.

 

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.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

 

Sweet Psoas

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.Iliopsoas

 

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!

 

Oh Shanti

C

 

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

Quotes About Moving On 0173-175 (Spiritual Quotes) (1).

Om Shanti

C