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.