Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas The Night Before Christmas.....

Here we are on the eve of another major holiday. As I type this, I'm sure the malls and parking lots are packed with last minute shoppers. And once those prized packages are purchased for friends, family, co-workers, and kids, they still have to be wrapped, right? Holiday themed paper, decorative ribbons, and brightly colored bows to complete the package. Then, of course, placing the precious gift underneath the Christmas tree ready to be unwrapped to thankful eyes in the morning.

So, for this holiday blog entry, we pay tribute to the bow on top of the newly wrapped gift. It symbolizes the time and effort put into buying or making the gift inside. Let's top your holiday season with Bow Pose.

Bow Pose actually is named after and resembles the bow that is matched with an arrow, not the bow on top of a gift. But since it's Christmas, when I think of a bow, I think of that bright red ribbon resembling a flower that brings life to the wrapped treasure.

Start by lying on your belly on your yoga mat. If you need extra padding, use a blanket or towel underneath you. Since Bow Pose is a backbone, you want to be mindful of your breath to protect your lower back. Take a few deep Ujjayi breaths to engage your core muscles. When you inhale, create a lengthening in your entire body: point your toes to help lengthen your legs and feel the crown of your head extend forward. Your arms are down by your sides. As you exhale, feel a tilting of your pelvis in order to create support in your abdominals and space in your lower back. With this same exhale, your pelvis is gently pushing into your mat and at the same time feel like your belly button is pulling away from your mat. Continue this breathing effort several times to experience a greater connection to your core body.

Next, bend your right leg and reach back with your right hand to hold onto your foot. If you're able, do the same with the other side. This will put you into a full Bow Pose. Continue the same breathing effort to help support your back as you are in the pose. To modify the pose, since this is a deep posture, do one leg at a time. For example, when you're holding onto the right foot, the left hand can extend out in front of you with your hand or fingertips on the floor to help support the pose.

Bow Pose, like many backbends, can be considered a heart opener. (If you haven't already, read the previous blog entry to learn more about the intention of a heart opening yoga pose.) Bow Pose, since you are resting on your pelvis, can aid with digestion and lower back muscle strengthening. Further, it acts as a stretch for the abdomen, chest and neck.

Whether you're in the full posture or in the half posture, think of yourself being on top! You've made it through another holiday season which can tend to be engulfing and exhausting. Celebrate your accomplishments and the gratitude of making it through another year. Spend time (on top) with your family and friends this Christmas. Enjoy!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Open Your Heart

As we rapidly approach another Christmas holiday, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on this as a season of giving.....and receiving. Whether you're hitting the sales at the mall or crafting a homemade sweater for a loved one, keep in mind the intention of this holiday season: give from your heart. By the same token, when your next door neighbor gifts you with (another) fruit cake, receive the gift with your heart. I guess what I'm saying is that it doesn't really matter what is given or received as gifts, just as long as the intention is heart focused. This yoga practice will prepare your heart for this special time of year.

Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Backbends in yoga are typically known as heart openers. Camel Pose is a good introductory pose for moving into deeper backbends or heart openers.

Start by kneeling on your mat. If you need more padding for your knees, please feel free to kneel on a blanket or fold your mat underneath your knees to provide more support. Gently push your hips forward so that your hips are directly over your knees. Maintain this alignment through the entire pose.

For a modified variation of Ustrasana, place your hands as fists on your low back. Gently push inward: this will maintain your hip to knee alignment. And gently press downward at the same time: this creates space in your low back since you will be moving into a backbend. As you are doing this with your hands, inhale deeply to feel a spinal extension as if you were lifting yourself off the floor. Another way of experiencing this sensation is to lift your heart and chest toward the ceiling. (If it feels alright on your neck, look up.) On your exhale, carefully and slowly lean backward. The sensation here is to feel like a pole vaulter; you are lifting upward to create length and height, then you soar over the imaginary pole. Continue this series of breaths and movements and feel how it puts you deeper into this modified version of your backbend/heart opener.

For a more advanced variation of Ustrasana, rather than placing your fists on your low back, sit back onto your heels then hold onto your heels with your hands. With a strong inhale, lift your heart upward as you rise up from your heels. On the exhale, gently press the hips forward. Continue this breath and movement sequence until your hips are aligned over your knees.

Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. Keep your breaths strong and intentional. Think of opening your hearth as an invitation to receive good things coming into your life. Also, experience this posture as a way to give of yourself openly and honestly.

As a counter posture, move into Child's Pose (Balasana) for 10-20 breaths. Here, hold onto the intentions you have set. Also take the time to reflect on this season of giving and receiving and set the intention to do so with an open heart.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Let It Grow! Let It Grow! Let It Grow!

From A Seed to A Tree - Let It Grow

Have you ever had an idea that just sat in your mind, but never really became a reality? Are you holding some wonderful, creative, and thoughtful ideas right now that would benefit you, your family, your job, or your community right now? Then why not plant your seed of an idea and allow it it to

Your practice today will help you focus on your idea so that you can begin to nurture it into fruition. Start by coming to Child's Pose on your yoga mat. Here, take a few moments to become acquainted with your breath. These can be gentle easy breaths as you guide your mind and body into your intentional yoga practice. Keep your eyes closed as you place your forehead on the mat. This posture allows one to move deeply into themselves. Further, it allows the mind to clear and opens the internal eye. Here is where you can begin to think more intently on your idea or dream. Create a clear picture of your vision in your mind's eye. Imagine that while you are in this pose, body is like a seed that you have planted into the earth.

If you're able, experience the feeling that would accompany the act of completing the task and bring your idea to life. The next yoga sequence will be a series of movements that walk you through the growth and nurturing of your idea.

First, rise up to Hero Pose. Keep your hands lightly on your thighs, sit up tall, open your eyes, and take a soft easy gaze forward. Imagine you are looking ahead at your path toward growth and manifestation. Walk your hands out in front of you until you are on your hands and knees. If you'd like, proceed with a series of Cat and Cow Poses to help move the breath and your body. Allow the flow of breath to create a rising energy within you as you continue this sequence.

Second, move the hands slightly forward so you can lift your hips and knees into a Downward Facing Dog Pose. Hold this posture for five breaths. From Downward Facing Dog, shift your body so you are now in Plank Pose. Your shoulders are positioned over your wrists and your legs are strong and straight behind you. (For a modification, feel free to place hour knees on the floor.) With an exhale, lower your body toward the ground to Chaturanga Dandasana. Inhale to Upward Facing Dog. Here, imagine that your idea has sprouted and the new plant is breaking ground. Your head is the delicate stem of the plant desiring to reach toward the sunlight. From here, return to Downward Facing Dog.

Inhale to lift your right leg up behind you. You can think of this motion of the body as a means to reach toward the sky asking for the resources you need to inspire the growth of your plant - your idea. The sun and the rain help a plant to grow. Think of the people and other reliable resources that will help your idea to grow. With your next exhale, bring the right foot up to the top of your mat so you are now in a lunging position. Rotate the back (left) heel to the floor to create a solid connection to the earth, then rise into Warrior One. Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths. Imagine your plant - your idea - really experiencing growth at this point. Your feet act as firm roots in the earth from which this idea came. As your arms lift over head, see and feel your idea grow into its greatest manifested potential. Inhale here and on your next exhale, bring your hands back to the mat. Lift your left heel off the floor then step forward so you are now in a forward fold with both feet at the top of your mat. Think of the folded body as the strong trunk of a plant or small tree that is ready to blossom. Leading with the mid-back, slowly roll upward one vertebrae at a time until you are standing tall. Continue the flow of breath as your arms reach toward the sky. Then bring your arms down by your sides. You are now in Mountain Pose. Here, your idea is fully maturing and growing.

Because both feet are firmly balanced on the floor, your idea has established strong roots. Now you are ready to finish this portion of your sequence by moving into Tree Pose. Keep your right foot rooted into your yoga mat, then slowly lift your left foot and place it on the inside of your standing leg. Hold here with your breath for at least 5 breaths. To move deeper into the pose, either bring your hands to heart center or reach your arms overhead. Experience the strength and balance of your body. As your arms extend upward, imagine they are the branches of the tree reaching upward and outward, reaching to those who want to enjoy the pleasures of this work of nature.

Your idea can be the same as the growth of your tree: extended upward and outward to reach those who will benefit from it's strength, it's shade, and it's fruit.

Set your left foot down and bring your hands to a prayer position. As you lower your hands to your heart space, think of the benefits of your manifested idea that are moving in you.

Feel free to continue with a Sun Salutation so you can repeat the sequence on the other side. As you flow through this series, continue to see and feel your ideas and dreams come to life.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Slow Down

Earlier this week, Salt Lake valley was buried in about 5 feet of snow. Needless to say, I was up early one morning, shoveling snow from my driveway and sidewalk. It also meant a slower commute to work as the roads were still slick with snow and ice. Everyone else was driving more slowly, too. (Thank goodness.)

Sometimes, it is a very good idea to slow down. Weather like this is a good reminder for us to pay closer attention to our actions as well as the actions of others....particularly when you're driving.

Another way you can slow down and move throughout your day more calmly is to pay closer attention to your breath. If we really took note of the flow of breath, we may find that we breath shallowly. We rarely take deep breaths and if we do, we have to do it consciously. But because we breath involuntarily, our breathing style can be pretty sporadic. In times of stress, for example, we may even STOP breathing! That's right, we actually stop breathing....momentarily, of course.

Let's take a moment, especially as the weather is changing and we're entering into another busy holiday season, to slow down the pace by paying close attention to the breath.

Find a comfortable sitting posture. This may be on the floor on your yoga mat or even sitting comfortably at your dining room table or on the sofa. Close your eyes and begin to take note of your breath. You don't have to do anything special with your breath at this point...just realize that your breathing. Breathe with intention.

You are welcome to keep the breath easy and light or you can engage your Ujjayi breath to raise the energy and intention of the breathing effort. To engage the Ujjayi breath, inhale through your nose while engaging your throat muscles to move the breath. Feel breath rise and expand your lungs and extend your spine. When you exhale, draw your navel in toward your spine in order to hold the breath high up in your body. Keep breathing like this for 5 more breaths.

Now begin to pay attention to the pace of your breath. Using a slow count (1...2...3...) count the pace of your inhale. Do the same with the exhale (1...2...3...). Notice how many beats it takes to draw in breath and how many beats it takes to release breath. They may or not be the same. If they are not the same, take the next few moments of this breathing exercise to bring your breath into balance. You may need to increase the pace of your inhale by one or two beats or slow down the pace of your exhale to match the inhale. Do what ever feels right to bring your breath to balance. By doing this Pranayama exercise, you are completely mindful of your breath. This is a great practice to bring more attention and intention to your everyday life.

Continue your Balanced Breath for 5-10 breaths. After you are done, notice how you feel. Do you feel light? Relaxed? Less hurried? If yes...then good work. Namaste.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Make Your Black Friday a Light Friday

In the United States, we have just celebrated Thanksgiving: a time to rejoice and give thanks for the many blessings that surround us. Then, ironically, we move into the day after this day of thanks and call it Black Friday where millions of Americans will be swarming to department stores scrambling for early Christmas sales and specials. Along with the territory comes the less than thankful attitude and demeanor of the shopping frenzy. Instead of indulging in this blackness, I encourage you to step out of the darkness and into the light.

Rather than submit to the tempting sale at Macy's, stay some or take a walk in the park, or treat yourself to a cup of herbal tea in the garden (or a piece of leftover pumpkin pie.) Bring lightness into your day. If you are able to find a quiet moment, perhaps sit in meditation for a few minutes and be mindful of all you are truly thankful for. Yes, perhaps you got to do that with your family and friends around a loaded dinner table on Thanksgiving. But now you can do it in silence on your own. Without the pressure of others watching and listening with hungry stomachs, you can take your time, think, pray, honor, and be grateful.

If you do decide to do some shopping to catch some of those store specials, take with you this lightness. Other shoppers may be amazed by your sense of calm, your bright demeanor, and glowing smile. They may see in you the true Christmas spirit.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Honor Yourself

I had the pleasure of assisting an amazing yoga instructor during an intensive yoga retreat recently. Not only was it hard work holding the emotional and energetic space, but it was also humbling, to say the least. I walked away feeling so deeply connected to those I assisted during those 5 days. They opened themselves up and trusted in the process, trusted me, and trusted themselves. It was a display of honoring the authentic self.

In our many ways to practice honor (e.g. praying and singing in places of worship) that honor tends to move outward. We applaud the outstanding performance with a standing ovation. We say thank you to the kind person who opened the door for us and show appreciation for those who love us unconditionally. But what about ourselves? We must not forget to honor ourselves. That same praise, ovation, thanks, and appreciation should also be directed toward yourself.

In your home practice, you will do a simply seated forward fold as a symbol of bowing to yourself - and honoring of yourself.

Sit on the floor or yoga mat. If you need props like a blanket or block to help you to sit more comfortably, please use them. Sit with your legs extended out in front of you. (Your knees can remain slightly bent.) Inhale to extend your arms over head. This will also help to extend your spine. On your exhale bring your hands down to your knees. On your next inhale, lift and lengthen your spine. Feel as if you're sitting up against a wall to straighten your back. Exhale to hinge from your hips and slowly walk your hands down your legs. Guide yourself slowly and gently downward, repeating those last two steps several more times, until you are in a deep forward fold. Your forehead may or may not touch your knees. Either posture is correct. Adjust your pose as needed so there isn't too much strain on your back or neck. The main intention here is to focus your awareness inward.

Once you have found your deep forward fold, hold this position for at least 20 slow breaths. Spend time here thanking yourself. Send gratitude and appreciation to yourself. Another option for this exercise is to sit in Child's Pose. Sit on your heels with your knees bent, bring your forehead to the floor, and your arms extended out in front of you or along the side of your body. Take those same 20 breaths as a way to quiet the mind and appreciate all that you are.

Remember YOU are worthy of honor and praise.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Opening & Release: Part 4 - Neck

This is the fourth installment of our 4-part series focusing on opening and release. This practice will focus on releasing tension from your neck. This is a nice practice because you can do this simple exercise just about anywhere: your car, at your office desk, or sitting on the sofa.
First, find a comfortable sitting posture. Make sure you're sitting up nice and tall. Take a few cleansing breaths to focus your mind and body. Look straight ahead to insure your head and neck are in the same alignment as the rest of your spine.
Take your right hand and extend it toward the ceiling. Then reach over your head so your hand rests lightly on your left ear. Inhale here. On your exhale, slowly and gently pull your head down toward your right shoulder. Hold this position for the next few breaths. Take a full inhale and breathe directly into the left side of your neck. Exhale and hold the posture. Take at least five more breaths then return your head to it's neutral position. Do the same thing on the other side.
To prepare for your next neck stretch, again, be sure you are sitting up nice and tall. Take a few deep breaths to ensure your spine is lengthened. Now, slowly turn your head to the left so that you are looking over your left shoulder. Hold this posture and take at least five breaths (more if you'd like.) Return your head to center and hold there for about three breaths before turning your head to the right.
These are very simple postures that can help relieve tension in your neck. Try them about....right now.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Opening & Release: Part 3 - Shoulders

Today's entry is Part 3 of our 4-Part Opening & Release Series. The focus of this home yoga practice is your shoulders.

Shoulders rare a very delicate part of the body. They allow our arms to move in every direction and when they are injured, they can take a significant amount of time to heal. Shoulders can also hold a lot of tension, so this practice will help to release some of that tension.

Start by standing in Mountain Pose. Inhale to lift your arms overhead to Extended Mountain Pose. Hold this posture and continue to breathe deeply. As you inhale, reach even higher toward the sky. This process is to help open up the shoulders along this range of motion. With your next exhale, bring your arms down by your side.

Now begin a simple vinyasa (flow) of extending your arms overhead with an inhale and return your arms downward on an exhale. Do this three times.

Next, extend your arms overhead then bring them down behind you. Clasp your fingers together. (If you're unable to clasp your fingers, hold onto a towel in both hands.) lengthen your arms so that your fingers are reaching down toward the floor. Meanwhile, inhale to lift your and open your chest. On your exhale, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Continue this for at least five breaths. You may experience the sensation of stretching and opening in the front part of your shoulders.

To complete your practice, repeat the Standing Forward Fold that you learned in the previous blog entry. In the posture, allow gravity to assist you so you feel like a heavy weight moving towards the earth. Gently move your shoulders, head, and neck to help release any tension still lingering in your body. Remain here for at least 10 breaths then return to a standing posture (Mountain Pose) with your hands at heart center.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Opening & Release: Part 2 - Back

Today's entry is Part 2 of our 4-Part Opening & Release Series. The focus of this home yoga practice is your back.

The Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) is a basic yoga posture that help you to find and feel relief in your lower back. It can also help with release of tension in your neck and shoulders.

Start by standing in Mountain Pose. Stand very tall with a lengthened spine to begin the process of creating space in your back. Inhale to extend your arms overhead. this is Extended Mountain Pose. Hold this pose for 3-5 breaths. This, too, will continue that lengthening process.

Inhale again to grow even taller then Swan Dive forward and downward. Feel free to keep your knees bent as much as you need to. By bending your knees, you will be able to main a flat back as you descend forward to touch your toes. At the end of the picture with your hands or finger tips touching the ground, your back will curve naturally. In this posture with gravity assisting you, you may experience a delightful stretch rough your lower back. Allow your head to hang heavily, too. This will help to release any tightness you may be holding in your neck and shoulders. If it feels good, gently twist left and right to add more of a release sensation in your low back and hips.

To ascend, lift your head and extend forward to re-lengthen your spine. Complete a full inhale to return to a standing posture with your arms over head. Exhale to bring your arms down to your sides. Repeat this sequence one more time.

If you need more relief to your back, repeat the home practice described in the "Back Massage" blog entry.

Be sure to provide feedback by posting a comment. Thank you and Namaste.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Opening & Release: Part 1 - Hips

Where in your body do you hold most of your tension? Your shoulders? Your neck? Back? Hips? Maybe in all of these places, right?

For the next four blog entries, we will focus on these four areas of your body to help relieve tension and tightness. We will start with your hips. Pigeon Pose, described below, is a fantastic hip opener.

Pigeon Pose
Come to you hands and knees on your mat. Starting with your right side, gently slide your right knee toward your right wrist. Once your knee is touching your wrist, move it slightly to the right of your wrist. If you are able, guide your right foot closer toward to the top of your mat until your bent leg forms a 45 degree angle. If you happen to have more flexibility, perhaps you can align your right shin so it is parallel to the front edge of your mat.

Next, extend your left leg straight out behind you. To deepen the pose, use your knee and your toes to extend that leg farther back. You will experience a deep stretch in your inner right thigh, outer hip, and glute. Moving slowly, lower your heart down toward your right leg. This, too, will deepen the pose. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths. To release the posture, rise back up to your hands, bring your left leg forward, then return to your hands and knees. Repeat the sequence on the other side.

If this pose is too stressful on your knees, here is an alternative way to experience a similar stretch. Lie flat on your back, knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee (actually just below the knee). With your right hand, gently push the right knee away from you. You may experience sensation in your right glute as a nice stretch. This will also open the hip. To add more sensation to this pose, lift your left foot and draw that knee toward your chest. Continue to gently push the right knee away from you. Hold for at least 10 breaths and repeat the sequence on the other side.

Complete your practice by lying in Savasana for 3 to 5 minutes. Use this restorative posture to continue the intention of tension release.

Our hips tend to hold a lot of emotional stress and tension. Use this practice to help find emotional relief and relaxation.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Back Massage

Fall is here. We are entering a season of change. The leaves of the trees are turning colors and they are already falling from their limbs. Have you begun to rake up those dropped leaves yet? A typical Fall day chore, right? For some reason, raking leaves makes me think of the back muscles: the bending, the pulling, the twisting, the repetitive motion. Or how about those that work in a job where one sits at a desk all day. I think of the many software designers, secretaries, or teachers that find themselves glued to a desk chair staring at computer screens, spreadsheets, or Timmy’s history assignment hunched over their work. Or perhaps you work in a job where you stand all day. One of my yoga students is an anesthesiologist and he finds himself standing for up to 18 hours a day. I can’t help but think with these professions...what is happening to their backs?

This home yoga practice will focus on finding release in the back. We find ourselves in a constant state of "forward folding:" sitting, bending, etc. This, among other things, can cause stress, tension, and tightness in the back. Let's find a way to counter that state of the body to find release and opening. We will focus on two simple poses that flow from one to the other...

Cat Pose and Cow Pose

Start by coming to your hands and knees on your yoga mat. Feel free to place a blanket underneath your hands and knees to relieve any tension on your joints. Be sure your wrists are directly underneath your shoulders and your knees are underneath your hips. With an inhale, lift and head and heart toward the sky. At the same time, arch your back creating a U-shape with your back. Further, tilt your pelvis back toward the wall behind you. This is Cow Pose. As you exhale, tuck your pelvis drawing your navel up toward your spine. you will create a bow shape with your back as you round it. Finally, your chin will tuck in toward your chest. This is Cat Pose.

Continue to move between these two poses. Focus on each breath and the flow of the body. See if you can initiate movement with the breath. That is, start the inhale first, then begin to move your body. Likewise with your exhale. Further, see if the tail-end of your body can be the first body part that moves as you initiate the breath. For example, begin the exhale, then tuck the pelvis creating the rounded back.

As you move through this fluid sequence, you may experience an undulation of the spine, I like to think that you are giving yourself a gentle spinal massage with this simple flow. Perform this vinyasa flow 5-10 times. Finish your practice in Child's Pose.

Hopefully, with this practice, you will have experienced a release and an opening of your entire back.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Sit In Your Perfect

Take a look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? I hope you do. You are beautiful. You are handsome. You are amazing! Do those words sound foreign to you? They shouldn’t! Because they are true.

Sometimes we look at ourselves and become our own worst critics: I’m overweight. I have blotchy skin. I’m too short. My hair is going gray. (Shall I go on?)

We forget about the beauty that we possess inside and out. We forget that we are only human a human experience, capable of making mistakes, but also capable of accomplishing great things. We sometimes forget about our gifts, traits, and talents: I’m organized. I can play the flute. I can make a mean pumpkin pie!

In spite of our perceived flaws....we are perfect. YOU are PERFECT! You are the way you are supposed to be. Media likes to tell us differently; we need to be someone or something else. Turn off the television!

Let’s take a moment in our yoga practice today to remember the reality of your perfection.

Take a seat on the floor. You will move into what is called Perfect Pose. It’s like sitting in a cross-legged position, but you will place one leg in front of the other or stack one leg on top of the other rather than interlacing the legs (see picture).

The Sanskrit word for Perfect Pose is Siddhasana. Siddha means Semi-Devine Being with Great Sanctity. The posture gets its name because the person performing the pose attempts to emulate a sage who is perfect or a prophet who is accomplished. (That sounds just like YOU.)

This pose is suitable for a seated meditation which is what you’ll do for your home yoga practice. As you sit in Perfect Pose, begin your deep yoga breath to bring awareness and focus to your inner self. Call to mind all your positive traits, talents, and qualities. Name the things you like and love about yourself. Even bring to mind events or circumstances in your life that made you proud and smile (e.g. job promotion, graduation.) Sit in your perfection. If negative thoughts, ideas, or beliefs enter your consciousness, take a deep Ujjayi breath to clear that thought from your Being. That is NOT your TRUE SELF. Only bring to mind those positive aspects and features of yourself. Remain here for 3-5 minutes.

After this practice, return to the mirror and say THREE POSITIVE things about yourself OUTLOUD. Then smile.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Work & Rest

What does a typical day look like for you: out of bed, rush through breakfast (piece of toast and slurp of coffee), feed the kids, drive them to school, off to work for a full day of meetings and deadlines, pick up the kids, run to the grocery store, prepare a quick meal at home, watch the evening news, then off to bed. Then you get to get up the next day and do it all over again....right?

With this type of daily routine, you may start to feel you’re running on empty. How do you regain the energy you need to get through each busy day? Are you eating enough? spending enough time with your family? spending enough time with yourself?

With a busy schedule like this, one sure prescription is rest....Yes, rest! Sit down....relax.....take a nap...sleep 8 hours a night. Are you offering yourself these luxuries?

In the yoga practice, we move through a series of poses. We bring stress, tension, and sensation to the body. At the end of the practice, what is the one pose that is always performed? Savasana. Corpse Pose. This is the time to rest, relax, and acknowledge the hard work you have put into the last 50-80 minutes. One intention of the yoga practice is to work through the tension and stresses of the body so that you can sit and meditate without bodily distractions.

Perform this yoga sequence at home to practice the gift of rest at the end of your hard work.

Start in Mountain Pose and perform 5 to 10 Sun Salutations. This may take some time to do. You will generate heat in your body, muscle fatigue perhaps, and even sweat. After your flow, come to Corpse Pose and remain here for at least 10 minutes. Give your body (and breath) an opportunity to find ease and relaxation.

Remember this sequence as you walk through your daily routines. Find times throughout the day to take at least 3-5 minutes of rest time: take a walk outside, sit still in your office, doing a breathing meditation in your car before picking up the kids, go to bed early and get at least 8 hours of sleep. Your body, mind, and spirit will appreciate the gift of rest.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Reconnect With Self

As you may have noticed when I write these blog entries, I refer to our "very busy lives." Isn't that the truth, though? We are constantly on the go. Busy busy busy. No time for that. Little time for this. And practically NO TIME for OURSELVES.

My intention is to help us recognize that sometimes we expel well too much of our energy by going going going.....doing doing doing! We need to remember (myself included) to slow down.

We work for others, we care for others. In these types of activities, we may forget to take care of ourselves. We can lose site of ourselves....even lose site of our visions and dreams when we are always working for or caring for others. In this home yoga practice, we will remind ourselves to RECONNECT with Self. In our lives, we may move away from our center. Today, we will reclaim that center, that balance, that connection with two poses: Marichi's Pose and Eagle Pose. Both of these are binding and twisting postures. They will highlight how you have to rely on self and focus on self to maintain balance and focus. You will also be aware of bodily sensations like breath, tightened or stretching muscles. When doing these poses, pay close attention to these sensations. It is a wonderful exercise that reconnects You to YOU.

Marichi’s Pose

Sit in staff pose. Sitting on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you, sit up very tall and flex your feet. Place your hands next to your hips. Push them into the floor to help extend your spine. Pull in your right heel underneath your hips. Make sure your right knee is pointing directly forward on the floor. Take your left foot and step over the right knee. Extend your right arm forward and then wrap that arm around the bent knee in front of you. Take your left hand and place it on the floor behind you; use it to lift your self up so you can extend your spine. Inhale to extend the spine and sit up very tall. On your exhale, draw in your navel toward your spine. Continue to twist in the left direction. Hold the pose. Be aware of the sensations of all body parts and how they make contact with other parts of your body. Ask yourself, “what des this feel like? What am I feeling inside? Continue to hold the pose. With each exhale continue to squeeze in toward your spine. Inhale, to sit up a little taller. Exhale, twist a little deeper. Continue to feel the sensations within your body. Hold for at least 10 breaths. Begin to move very slowly to unwind and come out of the pose. Return to staff pose with your legs extended out in front of you. Hold for five breaths. Allow the body to re-align itself. Do the same pose on the other side.

Eagle Pose

Stand tall in Mountain Pose. Take five full slow breaths. Inhale, extend both arms up over head. On your exhale, bring the arms down. Watch your arms and bring the right arm behind the left arm crossing at the elbows. Lift the crossed arms, and then wrap the arms around each other clasping the fingers together. Bend your hips to take a seat into Chair Pose. Keep the right foot rooted into the floor and lift your left knee crossing the left leg over the right leg. If you are able, wrap the big toe around your right calf. On your next exhale, squeeze the muscles of your body together. Lift your elbows slightly. Push your elbows forward slightly. You may feel a sensation of stretching across your upper back. Hold the pose for at least five breaths. On your next text inhale, unwind your arms and uncross your legs. Return to Mountain Pose. Do the same pose on the other side.

Please remember to provide feedback on your home yoga practice experience. Namaste.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Sigh of Relief

Have you ever encountered a challenge in your life, but then felt relieved after you successfully overcame the challenge? What is one of the first things you did? Perhaps experience a big sigh of relief, right?

What happens within your body when you sigh? Typically we have held some sort of tension in the body then when you breathe out, usually through the mouth, that tension is released. You may even make a sound: an audible sign indicating that the tension is no longer in your body. One may feel a sense of lightness, a weight completed lifted.

In our yoga practice, in order to move deeper into a pose, it may be necessary to experience that audible sigh of relief. Let's try this breathing sensation with the following pose:

Standing Forward Fold

Start by standing in Mountain Pose. Begin your Ujjayi Breathing. Remember, this flow of breath is typically through the nose; your mouth is closed. You will feel the dynamic breath move in and out of nostrils, but the effort of the breath comes from the muscles in the back of your throat. Once you feel a greater connection to the breath, begin your Sun Salutation. Complete a Series A (3 Salutations) to bring warmth and opening to the body.

Series A
Mountain Pose
Forward Fold
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Forward Fold
Mountain Pose

After you have completed your warm up, return to the Forward Fold Posture. It is perfectly fine to be in this pose with bent knees. (There is no rule that says you have to be in a Forward Fold with straight legs!) In order to experience more release and straighter legs (if that is your intention) then you can use your dynamic breath – and a sigh of relief – to help you achieve that goal.

While in your Forward Fold, hold onto each elbow or the backs of your legs. This will create more weight in the body allowing you to go deeper into the pose. Pay attention to your breathing: breathe in through your nose, then, with a sigh, breathe out through your mouth. See if your body went deeper into the pose.

You can continue to move deeper by doing the following: allow your hips to lift a little higher toward the ceiling while at the same time feel the backs of your knees move toward the back of the room. These do not have to be big movements. Move gently and carefully into the depth of your posture. Don’t forget to sigh.

Physically, over time, this will create more length and flexibility in your hamstrings. Emotionally and mentally, think of this exercise as a way to experience release of tension; as a way to create more space in your heart and mind so you can move forward on your life journey.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Slow Down

As we get older, it seems that we have MORE to do with LESS time. (How did that happen?) We constantly try to cram too many things to do in our already business schedules. Often, we run out of time, and the daily list is rarely completed; more items just seem to be added to the never-ending list.

“If only there were more hours in the day,” we say to ourselves. “If only I could move faster to get all of these things done.”

Why not do the opposite? Appreciate the number of hours you have in the day and actually move slower to complete your to-do list. You might find that by taking the time to slow down, your mind is clearer, more rational, and can make logical decisions that lead to successful completions rather than running around constantly worrying rather than doing.

In today’s yoga practice, try moving through a simple Sun Salutation slower than you usually move. The idea is to move with a slower pace of breath. Start by standing in Mountain Pose and become aware of the sensation of breath. Once you have made this breath connection, begin an engaging series of Ujjayi Breaths to bring yourself to greater awareness of each inhale and exhale.

Continue to stand still and silent in Mountain Pose engaged in the breath and begin to pay attention to the pace of each inhale and the pace of each exhale. Breathe in a fashion where the pace of the exhale matches the pace of the inhale. Now, count the beats associated with the pace of the inhale and the pace of the exhale. For example, when you draw in one breath, you might find that it takes 3 beats. (Try counting slowly, like this….”one –Mississippi, two-Mississippi, etc.)

Once you have taken note of the pace of each breath, try slowing down the pace of the inhale and exhale so the rate is now 4 beats rather than 3. Try doing this two more times until the pace of your breathing effort has slowed down significantly. Now it is time to move. Still using this new pace of breath, begin your Sun Salutation. Each movement now coincides with the pace and rhythm of the Ujjayi Breath. You’ll find that you’ll move through your practice much slower.

The intention is to practice moving slower through the course your day. Pace yourself. Take your time. You may find that you are more calm and collected and able to get more done in your busy day.

Feel free to provide feedback on your yoga practice. Leave a comment to inspire others to also slow down.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Butterflies In The Jungle

Butterflies In The Jungle
Mini-Blog Entry from Peru
Written August 25, 2010

One thing I did not expect while traveling through the Amazon Jungles of Peru is the multitude of corful butterflies. Such a surreal scene: extremely tall trees surrounding the narrow beaten paths. The background sounds of birds, crickets, and monkeys. The plethora of mosquitos. The damp mossy ground. Then, the occasional blue large-winged monarch butterfly as if dangling from an invisible string manipulated by some unknown source in the sky.

Learn to expect the unexpected. It is so very easy to get stuck in our everyday routines and schedules. In your home yoga practice today, try a new pose. Instead of your regular routine, experiment with a new yoga posture. Try an easy one just to break your pattern. Or allow today to be the first day to begin teaching yourself a new and more challenging pose.

Start with a few Sun Salutations to find your breath, warm your body, and open your mind. Then move to your new pose. Try one of these if you haven't already:

Crow Pose
Bird of Paradise

Don't feel a need to master your new pose on your first try. Take pride in yourself that you gave yourself the permission to try something outside of your comfort zone. You might find that you'll change from a caterpillar into an amazingly brightly colored butterfly. Expect the unexpected.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Mini-Blog Entry from Peru
Written August 27, 2010

Today I had the wonderful experience of hiking to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru. At it's peak of 9900 ft, one is able to view the entire ancient Machu Picchu City. The trek to the top, to say the least, was quite a task. The entire climb consists of rocky steps that continue to go up rarely leveling until you reach the top.
Not knowing exactly how long the trek would take or how high the mountain top was (since it was hidden amongst the early morning clouds) I made my way upward by focusing only on the next step. I created a mantra for myself, "One Step. One Step," that I continued to repeat as I climbed higher and higher.
Although I was thrilled with the achievement I experienced after reaching the mountain peak, I was more content with the journey I took to get there. Maintaining my mantra kept me focused on only the next step. I knew eventually I would reach my goal as long as continued to move forward one step at a time.
Perhaps for your home yoga practice today, you can create a simple meditative mantra that will help you reach your day's goal. Make it simple, just a could of words. For example, "Move Forward," "I Can," or "Just Do It." Repeat it throughout the day. You may be surprised at how powerful a few words can be to help you find and experience achievement.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Mini-Blog Entry from Peru
Written August 22, 2010

"When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don't even understand the language the people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends upon them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. And you accept any small favor from the gods with great delight, as if it were an episode you would remember for the rest of your life."

As I travel through Peru, I have experienced these words from Paulo Coelho from his book, "The Pilgrimage,"; I feel like the fetus in the womb dependent on the resources outside of me to survive. On my journey, I rely on our trip organizer as a local who speaks Spanish. I, however, do not speak Spanish and will turn to him when I need assistance. Likewise, I cannot rely on him entirely; I must also rely on myself.

So as not to be become overwhelmed with any uncomfortable feelings like fear, anxiety, or worry, I take a moment in stillness and silence to Breathe. In this process of breath work, I remind myself of inner calm, ease, strength, self reliance, confidence, and support. These internal resources help me in those periods of perceived difficult situations.

As a home yoga practice, you can strengthen those inner resources. Have you ever heard or used the term, "I've got your back?" It's a way of saying, "I will support you." Backbends in yoga are not only considered Heart Openers, but since they are backbends, they also strengthen your back. Think of your back as a friend, loved one, or community that supports you unconditionally.

Starting with a few Sun Salutations, with particular awareness on Upward Facing Dog (a backbend) include one or more of the following poses:

Cobra Pose
Bridge Pose
Camel Pose
Wheel Pose

Hold your backbends for 5-20 breaths thinking of the strengthening you are providing to your physical body as well as the internal resource of support you are practicing. As you develop, enhance, and nurture this part of your Being, remember to rely on it in times of difficulty when outside resources are limited or nonexistent. You will find that you can fully support and rely on yourself as a means for survival and perseverance.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Discover Something New

Mini-Blog Entry from Peru
Written August 21, 2010
As part of our journey in the Jungle, we had the rare opportunity to swim in the Amazon River. It's waters were warm and refreshing; a nice break from the heat and humidity of the jungle climate.

Another opportunity we encountered was the viewing of the pink dolphins. In our small motor boat we found a family of these sea creatures and watched them expose themselves from their underwater world. When these dolphins are young, they are black in color, but as they mature, the turn a bright shade of pink. We had never seen anything like this before.

Discover something new today. Move from your regular routine to witness something about your environment....about yourself. It can be as simple as taking a different driving route to school or work. Or pick up the book you've been dying to start reading. Immerse yourself in something new.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Seeing New Sites

Mini-Blog Entry from Peru
Written August 18, 2010
"There were lovely patches of greensward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rising and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies."

This passage is taken from the second chapter of the classic "The Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy's house lands in Munchinkinland. Dorothy, since her arrival as an orphan to live with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, lived in a land of gray. The only thing that made her laugh was her dog Toto. But Dorothy was given a special gift to view the colorful world of Oz.

Are you living in grayness? If so, what is your cyclone that can carry you away to a land of color? Perhaps the means to your Oz is not as dramatic as a cyclone, but something more subtle and simple: sipping some iced tea on your porch in the sunshine; a walk around your neighborhood park; or maybe sitting in your favorite chair reading a book or magazine. Whatever the means, take some time today to visit or revisit that place.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Mini-Blog Entry from Peru
As I embark on a spiritual vision quest to Peru, I set my personal intention: Release & Receive.
My work with the Shaman in Peru will focus on releasing beliefs and thoughts that no longer serve me. My prayer work will allow me to let go of those things that block or inhibit my life journey. My work will also focus on receiving. Once I have allowed myself to release, my mind, body and spirit will be open to accept the gifts that are waiting for me.

Set a Vision Quest for yourself TODAY at HOME. What intention can you set that will allow you to continue forward on your journey? Once you have this set clearly in your mind, meditate using Ujjayi breath for 3-5 minutes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Getting Over Obstacles

As you prepare for this home yoga practice, take a moment to think about the things in your life that seem to hold you back from moving forward. It can be anything from a a lack of money, depression, or a boss that is reluctant to give you a raise. Whatever it is, we often see these things as obstacles in our lives. What do you do in response to these obstacles? Do you remain stuck with no vision of advancement? Do you continue to beat the wall, but feel like you’re not making any progress? Do you become angry, frustrated, disillusioned, or feel betrayed?

What if you could see yourself moving past these obstacles? Recall the strengths that you have (organized, intelligent, fast learner, excellent chef, etc.) It is these same strengths, talents, and traits that will allow you to move through, past, and around these obstacles.

For this yoga practice you will need a block.

Begin in Mountain Pose. As you begin here, take a moment to recall the calming feeling of your breath. Be aware of the unguarded nature of the breath. Experience how it continues to flow without much effort. Allow this experience of breath to guide you through your yoga practice today.

Featured Poses:
Eagle Pose
Pigeon Pose
Transition from Downward Facing Dog to Warrior I & II

Start your flow with three Sun Salutations to warm the body. As you move, call to mind the obstacles with which you are currently dealing. As breath guides you through these few Sun Salutations, experience the opening quality of the breath. The breath will be your tool to break down the walls that might hold you back from advancing forward on your life journey. Each pose in the Sun Salutation has a definite intention of opening you. Give yourself the same permission to open yourself up, to move through your current challenges, and press forward.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Journey From Home

This yoga practice will take you from your home base, The Breath and The Sun Salutation, to other places that may be new, uncomfortable, or risky. The intention of this practice is to demonstrate that sometimes we can feel very far from home, but we can still have a connection to home, our foundation, even when we are far away.

The Ujjayi Breath:
The Ujjayi Breath (or Uplifting Breath) will be the foundation of your practice. It will guide you through your yoga journey. To engage the Ujjayi Breath, start in a seated posture (e.g. Easy Pose, Half Lotus, Perfect Pose) and begin to breathe easily through your nose. Just take a moment to realize that you ARE breathing. Feel how the air moves in and out of your body. Experience how breath is filling your lungs. Now, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Continue to breathe through your nose, but the sensation of your breath will be from your throat as if you’re breathing through your mouth. (It may feel and sound like you’re fogging a mirror with your breath.) Continue to breathe in this fashion as you deepen your connection to the breath.

As you continue to engage the Ujjayi Breath, experience the calming effect of this breath style. Feel how peaceful you feel. Allow this way of breathing to feel like home: a place of safety, refuge, and relief. This foundational breath is your comfort. Take slower and deeper breaths as you experience this greater connection to your home base.

Once you’ve established this connection, slowly rise to a standing posture: Mountain Pose, to begin your Sun Salutations. As you stand, be aware of this new base you’ve created. Take note of your feet connecting to the floor or yoga mat. Even grip the mat with your toes to be fully aware of this grounded feeling you’ve created. This, too, is your home base. Create for yourself a solid foundation. be aware of the even distribution of weight between both feet. Feel solid and centered as you stand tall in Mountain Pose.

Begin your sun salute, but only add one pose at a time then return to Mountain Pose. For example, start your flow with an inhale to extend your arms upward to an Extended Mountain Pose. Exhale to return your hands to your side or heart centered. In this very simple flow, you have moved away from home, Mountain Pose, but quickly returned home. Continue by adding your next pose, Swan Dive to a Forward Fold, then return to Mountain.

Move through an entire Sun Salutation only adding one pose then return all the way home to Mountain Pose. Stay completely aware of your breath as you travel. The breath is constant. It is always with you. No matter how far you travel from home, you will always have this reliable resource: the breath. Each step you take away from home, you always have the choice to return to your starting point.

Feel free, in this practice, to add other poses: perhaps new or challenging poses that really take you away from your comfort zone. The intention here is to remind you that even when you stray from your original foundation, you can always turn around and come home.

Think about your current life journey. Have you found yourself on new ground, exploring new paths, but uncertain of the destination? Have no fear....remember that you have your reliable resource, the breath, that guides you through these life challenges. Allow the breath to remind you of home: that sense of safety, comfort, and ease.

Let this practice be a reminder to you that you don’t always have to stay home or remain in one place. Explore what is out there. Be willing to take risks. Open new doors. You may find that you create new foundations or even multiple home bases. This will keep you moving forward on your life journey. You’ll never feel stuck or limited. The road is endless.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Letting Go of What No Longer Serves You

As you begin your yoga practice today, bring to mind thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that you hold onto. As you stand in Mountain Pose on your mat, connect to your breath. Gain a greater connection to yourself with full, deep, and complete breaths in and out of your nose.

As you continue to connect to self, again, be aware of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs you hold onto. Are these thoughts and feelings ones you want to guide you through your days? Do the beliefs you have truly your own or do they come from other sources like your parents, teachers, or church? Take a moment with your breath and determine how they influence you and how you walk through your life. Do they serve you well? Do they reflect who you are today? Do they reflect who you want to be? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, then maybe this is your opportunity to begin releasing the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that no longer serve you. Begin the process of opening yourself up to new thoughts and beliefs that truly reflect who you are today and/or who you would like to be in the future.

This yoga practice will feature poses that invite release and create an opening for which to generate new thoughts, new feelings, and new beliefs that may better serve you on your life journey.

Featured Poses:
Begin with a few Sun Salutations to bring warmth to your body. Integrate the following poses and intentions as you invite more opening to your life.

Pigeon Pose:
This pose allows for the body to experience both resistance and release. As you focus on the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that may no longer serve you, also be aware of why you still tend to hold onto them. Do they give you a sense of satisfaction, fulfillment, or sense of identity? What would happen if you decided to let go of them?

Let’s say, for example, that you are holding on to a notion that you are not talented in a certain area. Ask yourself: “who told you that you were not talented?” Did someone say you could not sing, play baseball, or write poetry? Because of these external opinions, have you limited your singing, ball playing, or writing? If you feel that you truly hold a talent or strength in a certain area, give yourself the permission to express it. Move through the resistance of external influences and open yourself to your greatest potential.

In Pigeon Pose, be mindful of the sensation in your outer hips and thighs as you hold this pose. If you feel tightness or even discomfort, this may represent resistance. As you continue to breathe with ease (slowly in and slowly out) you might find yourself more comfortable in the pose, even moving deeper into the posture. This is you giving way to the resistance, the external influence, and rising into your own. Stay here for at least 10 breaths. Perform the same pose on the other side.

We would love to hear your experience with this practice. Please post a comment.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Opening & Listening To Your Heart

Often in our daily lives, we can feel consumed by our responsibilities and obligations. We have responsibilities at work: deadlines, meetings, travel, etc. At home, we have to take care of our families, housekeeping, the dry cleaning, and much more. Meanwhile, our minds are running a mile a minute often thinking about the next thing we have to do. It’s rare that we can keep our minds in the present moment.

Here are the defining questions: When do you have time to take care of yourself? Do you have the opportunities to just sit and relax; watch television or read a magazine? Do other people take care of you the same way you take care of them?

Here’s another scenario: have you ever had an idea, a goal, or an intention that rolls around in your head, but you just can’t seem to find time to allow it to flourish? We tend to give ourselves all the regular excuses like, “oh, I just don’t have time. I’m too busy.”

The intention of this practice is give yourself permission to take care of yourself; to create space and time for your ideas to manifest, and to allow those ideas to come to fruition. This practice is about getting out of our heads and into our hearts.

Featured Poses:
Warrior Two
Bridge Pose

Block (Optional)

Stand in Mountain Pose near the top of your mat, close your eyes, and begin your slow, deep, Ujjayi breathing. Even after a few breaths, realize that you are giving yourself the time and permission to be with yourself and to take care of yourself. Listen to the sound of your breath to draw you to a greater awareness of self.

Begin to breathe even slower and deeper. With each inhale, experience how you are filling your lungs and expanding your rib cage. Experience the lengthening of your spine as well as the lifting and opening of your heart. Keep your focus on your heart space and continue to breathe into this part of your body. As you pay attention to this sensation, you are beginning to shift your attention away from thinking and more toward feeling. Another way of thinking about this is to experience how you are turning down the volume of the voice in your head and turning up the volume of the voice in your heart. Listen.

Begin your Sun Salutation:
Extended Mountain Pose
Swan Dive to Forward Fold
Monkey Pose
Jump or step back to Plank Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Jump or Step both feet to the top of the mat
Monkey Pose
Reverse the Swan Dive and return to Mountain Pose

Repeat this opening sequence two times. On the third time, add on the following poses after Downward Facing Dog.

Extend Right Leg into the air.
Step forward into Warrior One.
Open into Warrior Two

As you stand in Warrior Two, be aware of your body posturing: your arms are extended away from your torso and your legs are extending away from your pelvis. Here, you are creating more space in your body. Allow this to be a representation of how you want to create more space in your life. Also, your heart is more open here. Continue to breathe deeply into your heart space: feel the expansion of your lungs, ribs, and heart.

Windmill the left arm up and over and return it to the floor.
Step back into Plank Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog

Proceed with the left leg until you return to Warrior Two.

Again, pause here to be aware of your posture, breath, and the creation of space. When you create space in the body like this, you are allowing new ideas and feelings to enter the body. It can also be an opportunity to release ideas, feelings, and sensations that may get in the way of this creative flow.

Continue this same sequence one more time on each side until you return to Downward Facing Dog.

Step or jump both feet to the top of your mat.
Cross your legs and sit down.
Roll all the way down to your back.
Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
If you have a block, place it between your thighs.

Why a block? This tool is a reminder to keep your feet and hips aligned, but more importantly in the yoga practice, it reminds you to always move inward toward your midline: your spice. If the legs open, you drop the block, an indicator of moving away from self. Holding onto the block reminds you to stay connected within.

With a strong release of breath, tilt your pelvis to allow your lower back to move deeper into your yoga mat. On that same exhale, lift your hips into the air. Be sure you are holding onto your block, feet are flat on the floor with your knees directly over your ankles for support, and begin to squeeze your shoulder blades together underneath you. You are moving into Bridge Pose.

Bridge Pose is a back bend, but more accurately, a Heart Opener. In this pose, you are emphasizing the opening of your heart energy: raise the volume of the voice in your heart. Use the breath to continue supporting your body in this pose.

With each inhale, feel the heart lift up and over your head. With each exhale, continue the tilting of the pelvis to help support your core (your low belly and low back). Take at least 10 breaths here to help settle into the pose. Not only be aware of what is happening with your body, but also be aware of what new ideas and feelings are entering into you. You might also find that Heart Openers, like Bridge Pose, help you release negative energy as well as help you to solve problems.

When you move away from thinking for a moment, you shift yourself away from the analytical and sometimes critical mind. Enjoy the silencing of your thinking and listen intently to what your heart is saying. Here, you may find the real answers to questions and problems you’ve been trying to solve. Of course, these answers may not come during the yoga practice, but perhaps after your practice; even a few DAYS after your practice. Think of the yoga practice as a method to bring more opportunities for change to occur off the mat. If you continue to honor the opportunity to listen to your Heart Voice, even off the yoga mat, those answers and ideas will continue to flow in.

To safely come out of the pose, take a small step forward, lift your arms over head to release your shoulders, and carefully lower your body to the floor. From here, feel free to move into the pose one or two more times, then recline fully in Savasana.

Because Savasana is a relaxation pose, it also gives the mind the opportunity to rev up and start thinking again. Be aware of those thoughts that want to enter your mind again. Instead of fighting the thoughts or chastising yourself because you “should be” relaxing in this pose, simply be aware of the thought then return to the flow of your breath. By doing this, you shift your focus from thinking to feeling – to being present in the moment. Remain in Savasana for at least 3 minutes before concluding your practice.

If you have any questions about this practice or want to share your experience with this practice, we’d love to hear them. Post them here.


Friday, July 16, 2010


The intention of this yoga practice is to bring yourself to greater awareness of self. Sometimes this can be a challenge, especially when we’re faced with so many responsibilities and activities in our daily lives. We find that we are continually distracted by life’s events that it gives us little time to take care of ourselves. Again, this practice is for YOU so that you can put aside those obligations for a moment and pay attention to your inner needs.

This will be a relatively simple yoga practice. It will focus primarily on your breath. It can also be considered a type of meditation. Breath is the foundation of the yoga practice. It provides a base and structure that allows one to be at peace with self.

Start by sitting comfortably cross-legged on your yoga mat or on the floor. You will be here awhile, so be sure you are very comfortable. Sit on a cushion or blanket to help support your sitting posture. If sitting up on your own is uncomfortable, sit up against a wall. Sit up nice and tall, with your hands and arms fully relaxed. Close your eyes. Take a moment just to settle into your space. Make any adjustments in your body so that you feel as comfortable as possible.

Breath: As you sit in stillness and silence, begin to pay attention to your breathing. You don’t have to do anything special or different with your breath at this point. Simply be aware that you are breathing. Inhale and exhale through your nose.

As we focus on the breath, the foundation of the yoga practice, we begin to tune OUT the things going on outside of us and begin to tune IN to the things going on inside of us. Just sit here with breath. Feel your breath. Listen to the sound of your breath. Breathe as if there is nothing else to do. If you cannot hear your breath, begin to breathe a little slower and deeper. Truly begin to experience the flow and feel of your breath.

Let’s begin to add more energy to this breathing sensation so that you can be even more aware of the breath inside of you. What follows is a breathing technique that will help you engage the breath and bring more energy to the breath. Right now, you are probably feeling air move through your nostrils. We are going to shift this way of breathing to another that will allow for more intentional breathing. We will engage what is called Ujjayi breath. (Pronounced oo-jah-yee.) This involves using your throat muscles to help move the breath with more effort.

For a moment, open and breathe through your mouth. Breathe out as if you are fogging a mirror. You may feel a sensation in the back of your throat as you exhale. You may even hear a sound, something like the waves of the ocean rushing onto the beach. Inhale the same way; feel the throat muscles engage as you draw in breath into your body. Now, continue to breathe this way, but with your mouth closed. This is one form of Ujjayi breathing. You may find that you are able to inhale and exhale more slowly with a greater capacity of air. Continue to feel the breath and listen to the sound of the ocean as you exhale.

Breathing this way keeps your attention and focus on yourself. You are breathing with intention. You may discover that you are no longer thinking about your other life obligations. You have simply set them aside for a moment to pay more attention to yourself: awareness. If you are new to this way of breathing, practice this dynamic breath work for 30 seconds to 1 minute. That doesn’t sound like a very long time at first, but it’s enough time to grow more aware of yourself. It grounds you and you’ll feel more connected to yourself. As you continue this breath practice, you may find, over time, that you can do it for a longer period of time.

This is a relatively simple yoga practice and can be done ANYTIME and ANYWHERE. Here’s a perfect example. Imagine yourself at work faced with deadlines, to-do lists, and other responsibilities that take up a lot of physical and mental energy. As the work piles up, do you find that “you just can’t take it anymore” and need a break? Once you are aware of this thought, stop what you’re doing and come back to this practice. Sit in your office chair or better yet, close your office door, shut off the lights, sit on the floor, and take 1-2 minutes to practice your Ujjayi breathing. You may be amazed at the results. Do you feel more relaxed, clear headed, present? Perhaps this little breathing exercise is all you needed to get through the rest of your day. It’s sometimes better than grabbing that candy bar or a cup of coffee to get that boost of energy.

Try this exercise if you are having trouble sleeping. Usually, we are distracted by running thoughts in our heads. We may be worrying about tomorrow’s assignments or recounting the events of today. With an active mind, it can be difficult to fall asleep. Lie comfortably in your bed. Bring your attention to your breathing. Feel your breath. Listen to the sound of your breath. You’ll begin to be more in tuned with your own being which allows those other thoughts to dissipate. Whenever a straying thought emerges, however, simply be aware of the thought, acknowledge it, then return to the breath. Continue this exercise and you may find that the mind and body begin to relax allowing you to go to sleep.



This blog was inspired by a yoga class that I taught at Centered City Yoga in Salt Lake City, Utah called “Happy Hour.” This was an hour-long yoga practice that involved introspective work during the progression of yoga poses. Each class had a theme that was related to everyday-life experiences. One learns to take the message from the yoga mat and apply it to real-life scenarios that are common to all of us.

The intention of this blog is to create a home yoga practice. You can even use some of the yoga techniques “on-the-go.” Use the lessons of this blog to guide you through challenging obstacles in your life and move toward freedom, alignment, and balance. The messages written in this blog will guide you toward a greater connection to self and stimulate change in your life.

The first yoga lesson will not involve any yoga postures. It will simply be a breath practice that helps you to discover relaxation, mindfulness, release, and awareness. Breath is considered the foundation of any yoga practice, so this is a good place to start. What is wonderful about this particular yoga practice is that you can do it anytime and anywhere. Think of it as a quick remedy to ailments that can strike us at anytime during our daily lives.

Read the practice then try it on your own. I welcome your feedback and self-observations as you engage in these lessons. Share with us how and when you used the practice and what were the immediate or long-term results. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability. There is usually no one right answer. My comments will be based on personal experience with my own yoga practice and as a yoga instructor. Feel free to connect to your yoga community through this blog to receive a wide range of answers to your questions.

Before you begin this journey, let me thank you for taking the time to read this blog, try a home practice, and share your personal experiences. The yoga practice is one that can be done alone, but worth sharing with everyone.