You've just experienced the bandhas. True, there's far more practice, finesse and exploration to do, but it would be disappointing if 7,000 years of investigating the human body were completely revealed in a 30 second exercise. This is, of course, just the beginning.
In May's Yinyasative classes, we'll be using three different breathing techniques to connect to, engage and release and explore the usefulness of the bandhas. While pelvic floor connection and engagement does indeed have the benefits showcased on "The View," you now also see some of the more mundane, but at least as practically applicable benefits of exploring this connection.
We'll then take that sense of connection and apply it in a variety of postures to create experience and strength in the "true core."
Join us to be guided through a selection of some of these postures and techniques in every class (we'll get through this and more in the workshop on the 16th, with modifications available for all levels). Check out the small group class schedule and scroll down to register for your first free class!
Yin Yoga works differently than more vigorous forms of yoga and targets different tissues in the body - the fascia. You've seen fascia before if you've prepared meat for eating; it's the white-ish, tougher layer surrounding the chicken breast or other portion of animal muscle. You have it, too.
Yin poses are longer and focus on releasing effort, working with intense sensation and a cooling breath, generally through the mouth. It's a very meditative practice and is great for getting ready for seated meditation as well as a good night's sleep.
from a recent email responding to someone interested in fascia:
Fascia are the layers of connective tissue covering and connecting muscles. In normal function there is fluid that lubricates the muscles moving within these sheaths. The fascia is a different kind of tissue than muscle - more like cartilage than like muscle - so it responds to a different kind of treatment and movement. Fascia is effected by long, slow forces of stretch and compression in a cool environment - think braces on teeth, while muscle responds to fast, hot, repetitive motion. My favorite analogy is that fascia respond like teeth do: when you want to the change the alignment of teeth, you don't wiggle them back and forth every day (like lifting a weight). You apply braces and make small changes over time.
In addition, the liquid that lubricates the muscles' glide within the fascia can become stagnant with sedentary lifestyles, rest after surgery or even after a night's sleep. A morning routine and proper hydration are enough to address the night's sleep, but more dedication and patience are required after weeks, months or years instead of hours.
Yin Yoga specifically targets the fascia. I use yin poses at the beginning of each of my classes and teach a whole hour of it on Friday evenings. Want to feel how your body's connected, effect transformation on another level, slow down, work on your meditation seat or break through a plateau? Yin may be just what you're looking for. Here are a few poses below.
Want more? Sign up for Inspire Newsletter at the right and email me back when you receive your first missive. I'll send you a 5 page .pdf I used in an Intro to Yoga Class. Plus, here's Bernie Clark's youtube channel, where he posts great videos. He's the founder of this non-trademarked style and teacher of and with Paul Grilley (from whom I first heard the orthodontic analogy) and Sarah Powers (from whose Yin Yoga Workshop at the 2011 SF YJ Conference I benefitted greatly).
February's YinYasaTive classes could be called "Heart Opening," for Valentine's Day, Heart Month and Candelmas (half way through winter!), but I wanted to focus specifically on the theme of "connection." Connection is the theme of this year's retreats because it is vital to integrity.
When we move from connection - as opposed to isolation - we move with both sensation and awareness of the body as a whole. Often we're moving with such focus on a body part or an idea that other body parts nearly go limp.
We're using the isometric pull back of the arms often used in Sphinx pose to activate many of the less sensed and often missing muscles of the torso this month. You can try it now in a modified Warrior I, or even Mountain.
Remember to always end with your restoration pose when you're practicing on your own! One of the most integrative experiences you can have. Leave a comment here if you use these ideas in your practice this month - you'll encourage others and create even more connection!
"You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny." - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
A brand new, fresh year. Someone told me yesterday that they love January because everything seems so possible for him. Here in the deep, dark of winter we make time for one last hurrah on New Year's Eve (even if that's just watching a ball drop or clinking glasses with sparkling water before going to bed at 10pm) and then wipe the proverbial slate clean as we awaken the next morning.
But what slate? What's changed? People make resolutions every year and a dismal number are still connected to them just 6 weeks later at Valentines.
Often we imagine that by saying something, maybe buying a new pair of shoes or equipment, we can squeeze our eyes shut real tight, ball up our fists and click our heels three times to arrive where we said we wanted to go.
But what if we had more important places to go? What if the thing we chose was really just the tip of the ice berg - or even a distraction from the root of what we intended to change? More importantly,
What if you're already whole and complete?
If you're already whole (spoiler alert: you are.) then the best thing you can do is connect to your deepest driving desire, your heartfelt desire, and plant that seed in the nurturing soil of your embodied consciousness, visit it often and allow for organic transformation over time. A year is a good span to live with.
You have a two step plan to get started, but don't worry, you'll enjoy these steps. You can rinse and repeat often over time, and here's the kicker: you'll want to.
Step One: Practice Yoga Nidra 61 points relaxation with enough time after to rest and listen to your heart, body, wisdom, journal if that's your thing. The deepest driving desire, your heartfelt truth may arise as a feeling, words, images. Just listen. Whatever you come up with - and if it seems like nothing, that's okay - you can't do this wrong - state it positively. Whatever is true "I am whole." "I am relaxed and open to new experience." "I am listening." These are simply examples, the possibilities are endless.
Step Two: Come back another time, remembering your expression of your heartfelt truth. Repeat Yoga Nidra 61 points and silently repeat your heartfelt truth in the stillness you've created through the practice.
A Sankalpa is more than a wish, a resolution or a petition. Rather than imposing a goal on your life, you allow a deep longing, heartfelt truth, to arise and then you actually pay attention to it. In listening, you commit to taking actions that this longing calls you to.
The heart center - the place where people rest their hand organically when making a decision, where joy can sometimes be felt as a leap and loss can feel like an actual cavern - is called "Anahata" in Sanskrit: unstruck. Like a bell. Like your original nature before the ups and downs of this life gave you habits and grooves, armor and vices. Like you.
Connecting to this sense of original self, a self without agendas or pretensions, is a matter of peeling back layers, in yoga and Sanskrit called "Koshas." Think of these as layers of how we learn to relate to ourselves. In Sanskrit, from the first to connect to to the final, here's what they're called and what it means:
You can turn them into questions to guide your practice and, in Yoga Nidra, you can bring them into awareness and learn how to deeply listen for your deepest driving desire, your heartfelt truth, that thing that lies under all the other things. In January we'll be working with the questions in classes, they're very simple and you can use them at home and in other activities:
Yoga Nidra can be practiced alone or after practice and we'll be approaching it in Savasana often this month through the 61 points practice. Technically, Yoga Nidra is the state of mind and the practice is a method for creating it, though people often use the term "Yoga Nidra" to refer to the practices that can lead to it.
There are many recordings you can use to guide you in the 61 points practice and sustaining awareness in the stillness it creates. You'll receive a free Yoga Nidra Guided Imagery Meditation when you sign up for the newsletter at the top right and you can use this to get started. We'll use this during New Year's Day YinYasative Celebration as well as the Restorative Workshop on Saturday, when we'll have plenty of time to take this journey twice in a restful, supported, even pampered environment. We'll practice a version at the end of most January classes.
Leave a comment and share how your experience with 61 Points Practice or Yoga Nidra and inspire others!
YinYasaTive Class Plan December 2014: Putting it all together, Strength and Openness in the Side Body
All physical practice of yoga is some flavor of Hatha yoga. Yin Yoga targets connective tissue and is done "cold" - without warming up, which engages muscles preferentially to connective tissue - so it comes first. In this class, after breath observation and alternate nostril breathing to sense into your body and switch gears from work, traffic and chores, we take two gentle twists slow, long with a cooling breath.
The central portion of practice is formed of linked postures, with or without Sun Salutations depending on the aim and level of the class. Linked postures are often referred to as "Vinyasa," which also means "to place in an intentional way." We focus on transitions between poses, not just being "in" a pose.
We conclude each class with Restorative postures and practices including Savasana, or final resting pose, and seated meditation depending on the aim and level of the class.
We're closing a 6 month cycle during which we've focused on the core catch, deep core, shoulder lines, front and back hips, back bends, forward bends and inversions. Focusing on postures that engage and open the side body - the sides of the rib cage, the arm pits and the soft space between the rib cage and pelvis called the "flank," as well as the often chronically tight IT (illio-tibial) band - requires sensing into, engaging and softening not only in the targeted area, but intense core engagement, heart opening (back bending + shoulder articulation) and hip engagement and awareness. We're putting it all together with this side body focussed class for the end of the year: fire up your inner bonfire and bring all the parts together for one last hurrah before we start the cycle again!
Restorative Yoga class for December 2014 combines Pranayama, Simple Yin Postures, Figure 8 Sacral Pump, Chi Kung and Fully Restorative Yoga Poses with Guided Meditations for a powerfully enlivening, relaxing, fire up your digestion class.
We digest not only the food we take in (and maybe a little extra over holiday time!), but also our experiences, perceptions, emotions, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. The aim of yoga practice is to clarify the body, breath and mind so much that we process all of these varieties of experience as efficiently and effectively as possible, to release their energy and integrate their wisdom into every way we interact with and serve in our lives.
This class combines simple twists, powerful but simple chi kung and deeply restorative postures to invoke the parasympathetic nervous system - colloquially referred to as the "feed and breed" system, since in this relaxed but awake state our body sends circulation and nutrients to the core of the body, supporting these everyday processes of life. This is distinguished from (though interacts with) the more commonly known "fight or flight" - sympathetic - nervous response, which in the extreme shunts circulation and nutrients to the larger muscles of locomotion and away from digestion and reproduction.
Use this sequence to stoke your digestion of all you take in and share it with your family! One recent student experienced the relief of leg and low back pain she'd experienced for years after 3 classes:
"Thank you for Restorative Yoga class. My leg and feels better than it has in a long time, as well as my low back. After only three sessions it was a tremendous improvement in the leg that has been tight for a couple years." ~Chava"
Effective digestion of experience doesn't require reliving trauma or even necessarily knowing the exact cause. Chava reported no specific provoking factor or discrete injury, though she'd recently had a long car trip that seemed to aggravate the pain. Effective digestion does require bringing the body's sensation into the field of your awareness while integrating the breath. This sequence allows you bring those sensations gently to awareness, breathe and let go.
What are you digesting in your practice? What do want to digest on the mat? Do you ever surprise yourself with what comes up on the mat? Or what is resolved by your yoga practice? Share your experience here and let us know when you try this sequence or if you have any questions about how to follow it. Your practice - that's what this website is all about.