Friday, May 27, 2011


I had the unfortunate circumstance of experiencing a minor back injury last week which limited some of my regular activities like working out at the gym and my personal yoga practice. I found that it was a challenge to stand up straight, sit down for a long time without experiencing pain in my back, or moving quickly from a lying position to a standing position. It made me greatly appreciate and admire those that live daily in chronic pain. They have to live and work with bodily pain everyday of their lives. I know my circumstance is temporary, but even after a few days, it became, not only a physical challenge, but an emotional, one, too.

Because of my limited ability, I had to call on friends for help. Again, I am grateful for the friends who were willing to step up and help me; to give me support when I needed it most. The Back is associated with Community. The Back represents your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and all those you consider close to you. I'm sure you've heard the expression, "I've got your back!" It's those member in your inner circle you rely on - they are there for you whenever you need assistance or a shoulder to cry on. Not only can we rely on our Community for support, but we can also rely on ourselves. We can "have our own backs" when we may not have that strong circle of friends. By building a strong back-body, we also build a greater sense of self-support. This yoga practice will focus on a particular pose that will begin to build that greater connection to self.

Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
This is a lower back strengthen posture. I wanted to share this particular pose, as opposed to other backbends, since my personal back injury occurred in my lower back. Start by lying on your stomach on your yoga mat. Your arms will be alongside your body with your palms on the floor. Let your body remain completely relaxed before you begin. While relaxed, set your personal intention for your practice. Perhaps it will focus on building inner strength and self-confidence. Know that by having a strong spinal base, you also build a stronger core of self-support.

Position your head so you're looking directly downward at the yoga mat. Your forehead will rest on the mat. With an inhale, simply lift your shoulders off the yoga mat by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Exhale and begin to engage your core. This is important because you are creating a backbend in which you need proper support, strength, and space to be in the pose safely. When you exhale, push your pelvis more firmly in the floor. Another way to describe this is to lift your navel away from the floor and up toward your spine. (Your navel may never leave the floor in this posture, but just experience the sensation of lifting your bellybutton toward your spine.) The effort in this breath activates your core body: it strengthens the abdominal muscles as well as creates space in your low back so you can complete the backbend.

Continue to squeeze the shoulder blades together and allow this action to lift you higher. Keep your neck and head neutral. Try not to lift your upper body off the map with your neck muscles. Instead, use your back muscles to lift your body. Remember to exhale to be sure your core body remains engaged. As you are able, lift your feet and legs off the floor. Lengthen you legs by reaching toward the wall behind you with your toes. Meanwhile, the crown, or very top of your head, is extending forward toward the wall in front of you. Next, lift your hands off the floor and reach your fingers toward the back wall. You are now in Locust Pose. Hold the posture for 5-10 breaths. By holding the posture, your low back muscles are engaged in a supportive fashion. Also, your low back muscles are growing stronger. After your round of breaths, relax your entire body and turn your head to one side. Feel free to perform this pose once again with a final relaxation of turning your head in the other direction.

So, whenever you are in need of support, but your regular circle of friends is not available, remember that you can rely on yourself. You can become your own Community. "You've got your own back!"


Friday, May 20, 2011

More Release

In my last blog entry, I talked about how the body becomes accustomed to holding onto stress. I featured two poses that can help relieve that tension in the body.

I thought I’d continue on that theme of “release” and post a second article about how to let go of tension.

Sometimes we hold stress, not only in our heads, but also in our hearts: emotional stress. The type of stress that makes our hearts ache, or feel sad, or burdened. Not only do our hearts feel heavy, but this weight can also settle into our hips. This next pose is a yoga posture that can help with releasing tension and emotional stress from the hip area.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
This is a great posture that not only opens the hips, but provides a gentle stretch and opening in the inner thighs.

Baddha Konasana is a seated posture that opens the hips, but requires you to sit tall with an extended spine. This variation, the Reclining Bound Angle Posture, allows you to lie on your back, keep your spine straight naturally, and focus on the hip opening.

Start by lying on your back with you knees bend and your feet flat on the floor. While keeping the bottom of your feet together, slowly lower your knees out to either side. Your knees may or may not touch the floor depending on your current range of motion and flexibility. You will immediately feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Move to your deepest stretch, hold the posture, then focus on the breath. On each inhale, feel a continual extension of the spine as you recline on your yoga mat. With each exhale, press your knees a little closer to the floor. You may also use your hands to gently press your knees downward. Again, if you have reached your deepest position in the pose, simply hold the posture and continue breathing. Gravity will continue to assist the hip opening experience.

If you need some extra support in this posture, please feel free to use pillows, blocks, bolsters, or other objects of support under each knee or thigh as shown in the picture.

While holding Supta Baddha Konasana, call to mind emotional stressors that you would like to release. If you’d like, breathe out through your mouth as a gesture of moving these energies out of your body. Hold this posture for as long as you like, but for at least 20 breaths.


Sunday, May 15, 2011


It seems that our bodies have become accustomed to holding stress. There are so many things happening around us. With so many ways to reinforce and share news of stress, worry, and concern, our bodies cannot help but absorb these energies. These energies easily settle into our joints, muscles, bones, and organs.

Because our bodies become used to these sensations, we sometimes think that this is a normal feeling for the body to have. We have forgotten how it really feels to be relaxed. If we have the opportunity to go to a massage therapist or a restore yoga class, we are reminded of those feelings of relaxation, but we sometimes step out of the therapist office or off the yoga mat and immediately back into our stressful world.

Here is a home practice that will help remind us that being stressed is not the normal state of the body. The two poses described will exaggerate the feeling of stress as well as remind us of how to release that stress.

Eagle Pose
We will use this posture as a binding and balancing pose that emphasizes the state of stress. Start by standing in Mountain Pose. Be sure you feel rooted into the earth and connect to your breath. Inhale and extend your arms over head. On the exhale, slowly lower your arms and pay attention to them as you bring them down. Cross your right arm underneath your left. They will intersect at the elbows. Keep your arms crossed then bend your elbows so your hands are reaching upward. Continue to wrap your arms around each other and interlace your fingers. Your arms will be directly in front of your face.

Next, bend your knees as if you were going into Chair Pose. Keep your right foot on your yoga mat and then cross your left leg over your right. The hamstring of the left leg will be directly on top of the thigh of your right leg. Squeeze tightly so that there is no space between your legs. You may even be able to wrap your foot of the left leg around the calf of the standing leg.

You are now in Eagle Pose. Hold the posture and continue to breath deeply. As you hold the pose, continue to squeeze the arms and legs together even more tightly. Experience the tension in the body while holding the pose. To add more tension, lift your elbows slightly so your triceps are parallel with the floor. Further, push your arms slightly forward. These actions will add more tension in your back. Keep your focus forward. You will notice that you will be looking directly at your arms unable to see the wall in front of you clearly.

This entire pose and sensation can remind us that we hold a lot of tension in our bodies and this tension may even block our vision; we are unable to see clearly the path in front of us. We are stuck behind an obstacle - and that obstacle is often ourselves.

Warrior II
Now it is time to release the tension. Slowly begin to unbind your arms and legs. Lift your left leg and take it to the back of your mat. Extend your arms out so they are parallel to the floor. You will end up in the Warrior II pose. Your right knee is bent (about 90 degrees), your right arm is extended out over the right leg. Your focus is over your right hand. Your left leg is straight and your leg arm is extended out over your left leg. Experience the freedom in your body as you have opened yourself up. Your arms are now extended, your heart and chest are open, your hips and legs are also free. Hold this pose and settle into the release of tension and tightness. Repeat these postures on the other side.

As an intention, be aware of the worries and stress that you currently hold while in Eagle Pose. As you release into Warrior II, also release those worries and stress. Create an open mind and body. As you gaze over your extended hand, see your clear path in front of you.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Be The Change

I had the opportunity and privilege to assist my Yoga Guru, D'ana Baptiste, at her bi-annual yoga retreat at Hidden Springs Ranch in Altamont, Utah. A secluded lodge in the midst of natural surroundings.

The theme for this retreat was "Be The Change You Want To See." There are so many things happening in the world today: countries recovering from natural disasters, teen suicide, workers trapped in mines, land invasions, and more. These events can be so overwhelming sometimes when we see them in the news. It's hard to believe that there are solutions to these problems or we can do anything about them to reverse the adverse affects. Maybe the answer is more simple than we think. The change can happen with you today. If we seek change in our family, community, state, nation, planet, or universe, we have to start with ourselves.

I woke up on the first morning at the lodge to a beautiful sunrise. This was a rare witnessing due to my regular busy work schedule. I took the opportunity to sit and watch the sun rise over the hillside accompanied by a few clouds. Basking in the rays and warmth, I thought of how I can be Present and Aware as I assist in this yoga retreat. Here is the simple yoga practice I did that you can do, also, to start your day AND be the change in the universe you want to see.

Sit in a comfortable seated posture on your yoga mat (or on the floor or on the grass outside). Sit in your stillness and become more aware of your breath. Set your intention. HOW do you want to BE in your doings today: Thoughtful? Caring? Loving? Giving?

Inhale to raise your arms overhead. Exhale to bring your arms down by your side. Do this as many times as you'd like. Let this simple movement express how you want to project your personal intention into the world: smoothly, gently, lovingly.

Finish by sitting in your stillness for a few more breaths and then proceed with the rest of your day.