Bakasana

Bakasana, sometimes translated as crow, sometimes as crane pose. I went with crow for this one, pairing it with a photograph of crows on a rooftop at sunset. In hinduism they are special birds. They are believed to be our ancestors and are fed and taken care of.

This image is a part of my visual series, a Yoga Journey. The poses aren’t perfect and aren’t intended as an example of perfection. They are just a reflection of my experience. Click to see the series.

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malasana

Malasana, garland pose is a great one for autumn. It creates a sense of grounding in a season that can sometimes feel a little chaotic. This image is inspired by my recent trip to India. I have paired the pose with a image of flower garlands freshly strung at a local flower stand.

This image is a part of my visual series, a Yoga Journey. The poses aren’t perfect and aren’t intended as an example of perfection. They are just a reflection of my experience.
Click to see the series.

navasana

After a long break, I am back on track with my visual series, a Yoga Journey. Here is the latest one inspired by my visit to the Ganga, and navasana.

Grounding

Fall is definitely in the air in New York. This season ayurvedically speaking is classified as Vata, the air and space element. I am certainly feeling the effects of the dry, windy weather physically and mentally. And paired with my realization that I probably will have to wait another year for 80 degree weather I can use all the help I can get.

To enhance a sense of grounding and staying in the moment I have been relishing the sense of touch in my yoga practice. Feeling the weight of my finger tips on each other, the texture of the floor under my palms, and even the sensation on feet pressing in towards one another in bound angle pose.

They all work to reinforce my connection to the moment. Letting me be exactly where I am supposed to be.

A sequence to commemorate Iyengar a week after his passing

Home Yoga Practice

bks-iyengar-memorial-sequence-964x367

Today at 8:30 pm EST, Iyengar communities throughout the US will be doing the above sequence in memoriam to Guruji who passed away a week ago today.

As seen in one of my earlier posts, I wrote that asanas can be used for other purposes. In this case, the sequence is devotional (bhakti) as the asanas are used for the higher purpose of  commemorating rather than just physical exercise.

The standing sequence is also stabilizing, reminding us that Iyengar’s legacy will be strong and will last many many years even though he is no longer physically with us.

I invite you to also take part in the sequence and know that thousands of other practitioners will be doing the exact same sequence at the exact same time for the same purpose…to remember the man who has given so much to humanity.

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Supta Baddha Konasana, the one stop shop for ultimate relaxation

Its been a pretty intense winter by New York standards. But it’s now March, we have had a day or two of warm weather and I am getting restless. I have got a couple of things planned for the coming year and I cannot get wait to get started.

Probably instinctively to counter my excited self, I have started incorporating Supine Bound Angle pose, Supta Baddha Konasana into my practice and my classes. Its my one stop shop for ultimate relaxation.

SuptaBaddhaKonasana

To start out, the physical shape alone is open and expansive. It fosters a sense of release. Modern research shows the posture affects how we feel. The hips and groins get a stretch, and the entire front side body including the heart, chest, and shoulders also get opened up.

But like most yoga poses the benefits go beyond  stretching. Supta Baddha Konasana encourages the parasympathetic nervous system to take charge. Its the part of our response system that is responsible relaxing the muscles, lowering heart rate and promoting sleep. Take a look at this graphic to see all the organs touched by the parasympathetic system (pretty much all of them). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1503_Connections_of_the_Parasympathetic_Nervous_System.jpg 

When we are in balance, the sympathetic and parasympathetic work optimally and complement each other. But in times for stress the sympathetic nervous system takes over and keeps up in a super alert state ready to react to everything that comes our way.

There are a variety of positions for your arms in this pose. I find that palms on the upper abdomen is a great way to start working into the breath. Its easy to feel the rise and fall of the body with each inhale and exhale.

The attention to good breathing and the softening of tense muscles calms anxiety, and brings more blood flow to the stretched areas. T Krishnamacharya also recommended this pose for women as it can help with issues related to the reproductive system.

If you decide to try it be sure to use some props to support your body. Holding the pose for more than 5-10 breaths gets too intense without some help. Blocks or other padding (even 2 big books) under your thighs, and a blanket or bolster to lay on allows you to relax more effectively.

Through repetition its meaning becomes clear.

Japam

The Sanskrit word for repeating a word or phrase is Japam. This concept of word or prayer repetition is not unique to yoga and Hindu philosophy, but in fact is used in many religions like  Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism. Prayer malas have become increasingly popular thanks to the yoga explosion, but in fact they have been the tool of choice for many in different cultures across the globe.

Different beads, seeds, rocks, threads are used to make prayer beads. Some are unique to the faiths, others are chosen for the qualities they impart to the user, and a few are specific to chosen mantra or japam. The thing that’s the most intriguing about them is that by having a tangible object to hold we start to connect thought and physical action. Its the building block to finding stillness in mind. See prayer beads from different faiths. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_beads

The yoga sutras mention that by repetition the meaning (of om in the case of sutra I.28) becomes clear. At the very basic level repetition draws our attention to the power of the word. We start to consider the effect of words. We start to notice that every sound produces a vibration that can be felt and we start to become aware of the effects of that vibration.

In yoga philosophy Om is considered to the most elemental of all sounds. It is also the most comprehensive of sounds. Which is why it is often described as the sound of the universe, and is the most popular form japam.

Yoga sutra I.27:  The ultimate being is represented by Om. 

Oil pulling, how, why and when

Many people have asked me about oil pulling, how, why and when. Like many things in our society today, it’s been all the rage one day and the subject of snarky exposés the next. Here is a really informative article that breaks down the ancient and modern science of oil pulling.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/the-truth-about-oil-pulling/

I am a fan of oil pulling. It has helped me with my sinus issues, skin break-outs and stomach stuff. Here is why I think its worth a try.

Oils is natural and effective. If you are concerned with the chemicals that are put into oral care products this is a great alternative.  For those of us who wonder every now and then if our all natural products are effective this is a good addition to your routine.

It works because oil when swished around and pulled through the teeth acts like soap (soaps are made of oil).  It dissolves fat soluble toxins present in the mouth. Between that and the friction caused by liquid swirling around, your entire mouth is being scrubbed clean. This should be followed up by brushing your teeth and some gentle tongue scraping of course.

The health of the tongue is important in ayurveda and chinese medicine. It is an indicator of digestive health, which in ayurveda is the root cause of most diseases. Aside from hygiene alone, if the tongue is overly coated with bacteria or toxins, taste is affected. Also an important concept in Ayurveda, when it comes to healthy eating (every meal should have 6 tastes). This helps clean it without too much abrasion which is also not great.

Aside from the cleaning and subsequent healing aspects, like other yogic practices this take discipline. Its a  15-20 minute built-in silent retreat to start your day off right. Besides who amongst us couldn’t benefit from a little quiet time.

And for those of us who tense and clench our jaws at night it loosens up the facial muscles, and promotes relaxation.

A self help kit for yoga teachers

I was at a workshop this weekend and one of my assignments was to think about some self-help tools for yoga teachers. We give a lot of ourselves when we teach, so we do need to be mindful of replenishing what is sent out.

The timing couldn’t have been better… after the most intense week of juggling a full-time job, teaching classes and squeezing in some self improvement, I was the perfect person for the assignment. Here are my thoughts, based on my own experience. I would love to hear from you if you have anything you want to add.

I think it all comes down to taking the time to idenitfy the things that make it easier for you to get in touch with the best version of yourself. Ofcourse ultimately no “thing” or action can fill in for something that comes from the mind and heart, but its nice to have some props when we need it.

Make some space

Identify a space that you can call your own. It doesn’t have to be a lot, maybe its just a corner of your bedroom. Make it simple, comfortable, and have a few things in there that give you joy. And if its not big enough to do yoga, take the time to at least sit or lay there for a few moments between activities.

Make a mini practice that you love.

We all have trouble areas in our bodies and know that some poses make us feel sooo good.  Make a little sequence for your self. On days when you cannot get a full class in, are cranky, or need a little refreshment you can get right to it. Having set sequence will get rid of any procrastination, decision making, and allow you to get a little more meditative.

You make want to make a couple based on different times of the day or energy levels.

Eat a snack

If we really listen to our bodies we will find that we want to eat something different everyday. Some foods can satisfy you physically and mentally (I know we all have that experience). Keep them on hand to avoid getting h-angry or running your fuel tank to empty.

Smell something nice

Keep handy a little essential oil. One that makes you want to take bigger and a bigger breaths! A couple of drops in your palms or in a scent diffuser will transform you. Incense works too. 

I also find that my favorite teas work great. In addition to the hydration the herby aromas work to uplift, calm and restore.

 Book it

Words bring pictures to my mind. They take me away from the physical moment into a very rich place. If you enjoy reading make the time for a few paragraphs or pages. To me its an exercise in letting someone else hold the reigns and show me something new. You will find you feel a little more nourished when you put it down.

Mindfulness in School

“When I’m mad, sad or frustrated, I go to the peace corner.”
-Alia Briglia, 6.

http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-kids-meditate-20140301,0,3995267.story#ixzz2v1i02iJf

I took a workshop this weekend at OmSchooled and learnt many of the techniques mentioned in the article. My inner 7 year old and the 30-something-me found them super useful. It was nice to be reminded that meditation doesn’t always have to happen in a candle lit room. I think my favourite technique is to examine my food with ALL of my senses.

Being able to identify and accept whats going on inside, recalling and using the tools you have learned, and making conscious decisions are amazing skills. I am really glad that kids are learning them early and putting them to the test.

Knowing that you have control over who you are and how you feel is empowering and everyone of us deserves that.