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.