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

More off the mat chat

I’ve been talking about the concept of taking Yoga off the mat. I want to delve a bit deeper into that concept. Yoga has the reputation, certainly in the West, of being ‘only’ a fitness regime, a physical health program. And that’s part of it for sure, but at some point you realize that yoga is something else. Your practice then becomes so much more. And that’s when the real struggle begins, because you start to question things in your life. And that can make the people in your life uncomfortable. It can make you uncomfortable.

Odds are when you first come to yoga, whether through a studio or a gym class or even online it was through the lens of the physical practice, the asana practice, and so for many that’s all yoga is, only a bunch of postural exercises.

But after a while yoga begins to take on a different meaning, you start to recognize something in your practice that you can’t quite put into words.

I tell my students all the time that yoga will slowly worm it’s way into your life, it will start to move you in ways you hadn’t expected. Slowly and over time your yoga practice becomes your own…. Not your teachers practice, not your friends but your practice. Even if it looks similar on the outside, on the inside it’s unique. It’s intimate and subtle and you find yourself looking at the rest of your life through that now intimate and subtle lens.

You may change behaviors in your life, like drinking less or eating differently. You may stop smoking or maybe you start going to the gym or the park to exercise. You may stop participating in conversations with friends that marginalize other groups outside your own. Your prayer or devotion time might now start with an asana practice. You start to find the subtleties of yoga in the way you wash the dishes, in the way you actually listen to someone when they talk. You may also look at yourself differently. You may see your beauty, where before you saw only flaws. You may start realizing your strength is in the very same places that others had only seen weakness.

Yoga off the mat is an ambiguous phrase but the truth is yoga will change you and you will reflect that change in your life. As your practice grows so will you, you will blossom and flower into a new, better version of yourself.

For me Yoga is the basis of my life, it is the foundation of who I am and every single day yoga reminds me of where I come from and how I can continue to move forward. If I never get on the mat again, if for some reason I never do the movement practice again, yoga will still be an integral part of my life. It is how I breathe, it is how I move, it is how I face the challenges of life, and it is the foundation for my relationships, my relationship with my students, with my friends, my family and with God. Yoga isn’t about perfection it’s about reaching deeply into myself so that I can then reach higher and find the better parts of me.

Yoga is my spiritual practice.

Yoga doesn’t take away the responsibility of our daily existence, yoga doesn’t teach us to run away but instead to be grounded and rooted in the experience of life so that we can see the beauty in our daily lives.

Om shanti

Cheryl

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Seva

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“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

 

Sacrifice

The Many S’s of Yoga

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Sacrifice

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.

 

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Swinging on a pendulum

So the question is Does God actually have a hand in the direction life goes? Not just the life or death stuff but the everyday stuff, or is everything in life a flip of the coin, chance?

This seems to be how people view life, as only one or the other. Either God has a hand in everything single thing going on in every single life or that everything is happenstance.

Either way you have no control over your life…..If you believe that a power higher than yourself makes all the decisions, bends you, twists you, challenges you, denies you, gives and takes, well then some outside force is controlling your life. Or perhaps you believe that everything in your life is a game of chance, a roll of the dice, there again, you’ve given your power away.

Here’s the problem with living your life at those edges, it’s too easy. It’s easy to say “Well God will take care of that” and so you sit back and wait……do nothing.  It’s also easy to say “Well that was just bad luck, maybe it will get better with time” and so you wait, for the next roll of the dice…..and you do nothing.

When the fact is Life happens on a sliding scale….with a pendulum like motion. Life is fluid; always changing and we have to understand that we have control over all of our circumstances. But when we begin to view the pendulum like motion that life is, we realize that we have choices and that we can step up and make the changes in our lives that will benefits us and ultimately give us control over our own lives.

Make no mistake I believe in a power higher than myself, God, and I believe that power does contribute to my life in many forms. But I believe that we are given the power to choose and that what you believe influences your decisions and prayer and meditation have the power to changes us. I have the power of choice.

But I also believe in chance, sometimes it’s just bad luck; that guy pulls out in front of you causing a crash…a blown out tire…getting fired….a divorce. It’s how we respond to that roll of the dice that matters. How do we deal with life when life has spiraled out of our control?

Life happens on a spectrum, an ever swinging pendulum and sometimes God takes over completely, but never for long and sometimes the happenstance of life forces us to make a different choice.

Always living at one edge of the pendulum, at the far ends of the spectrum, diminishes your life, keeps it small. Remember that life happens all along the spectrum and that it takes a lot of courage to grab hold and swing with that pendulum. Life happens all along the spectrum and it’s not the end points or the length that’s important but that you keep swinging.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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What is Reiki Healing?

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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.

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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:

  • increases energy
  • provides deep relaxation
  • reduces stress symptoms
  • calms the mind
  • promotes the body’s ability to participate in the healing process

To explore the benefits of Reiki for yourself contact me, I have a few session times available throughout the week.

Om Shanti

C

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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

Settling in for the changes to come

 

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Well here we are, 1 full month into 2016 how is it going for you? The New Year can bring so many different emotions. For me it’s always a season of change, some new challenge is always waiting for me after Jan 1. Last year at this time I was deep into writing again, something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I couldn’t seem to stop. It was tough to try to get the stories perfect or the articles exactly the way I wanted. It was a challenge, but I loved it.

I have a friend who is the opposite; this time of the year is more about quiet contemplation. About time spent reading or searching for answers to deep questions he asks only himself. But he enjoys this time to rejuvenate because he knows when warmer weather comes his life will be busy. And I know another sweet soul who struggles with the long dark days in the form of seasonal depression. She is a sun worshiper and cant wait for the days to get warm so she can spend more time in the sunshine.

So what is this time of the year like for you? So you feel energized? Do you take this time to cocoon or do you count the days till spring?

Most of you know what my challenge has been this year. The big changes all have to do with The Chattanooga Yoga Centre. I’m so busy trying to figure out the schedule and book new clients and …and…. and… I haven’t had time to write like I want to. So the big challenge is time management. I have hired a new accountant so that will free up some of the burdensome paperwork. And I hope to hire someone to take on the challenge of marketing and doing other paperwork. It a big hairy glorious mess! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So let me know what the New Year has brought for you. Reach out through the blog comments, or come to a Yoga class or workshop or schedule a Reiki session to help you find clarity and focus.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

C

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