time for a higher resolution?

higher resolution picgreetings friends,

it’s new years, and we all know what that means…. resolutions!

resolutions show up in many forms…. as a list of action steps, a final decision after a time of indecision, a vote in congress or by the PTA, a perfectly wrapped up conclusion to a great story, a melodic chord after a series of dissonant musical tones and, of course, as a list written with amazing fervor (and mixed levels of stick-ability), every january 1st.

 but there’s another kind of resolution, the kind you consider when buying a camera or transferring an image file – the sharpness and quality of a picture. and, of course, the better the lens, the higher the resolution – and the higher the resolution, the clearer the picture.

as you are, perhaps, once again creating a list to propel you into a new you/year, i invite you to consider which lens you are currently using to view your life. when was your last upgrade? are you still using the one you inherited from your family… your culture… your experiences as a young person?  is it shaped by lack or by abundance? entitlement or gratitude? criticism or acceptance?  isolation or connection?  whatever it’s designed to capture, it will surely find.  and what condition is the lens in? has it been clouded with stories stemming from disappointment, unfulfilled dreams, betrayals or harsh judgments of self and others? is it painted over with rules and expectations that no longer serve you? perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the current picture of yourself has become blurry.

 but luckily, my dear, that blur is not who you really are.

what if we could wipe our lenses fully clean, or better yet, upgrade to a whole new lens – one that focuses and finds the gifts of our family, culture, and early life? perhaps we could finally see ourselves as we once did, before we inherited all the rules, shoulds/should-nots, disappointments and defenses?

today, in this moment, you can make this upgrade simply by making a firm (dare i say resolute?) choice to shift your focus, bringing compassion to whatever you perceive is *wrong* or needs to be fixed (with yourself… others.. the world) and commitment to amplifying the feelings that are expansive and freeing (for yourself… others… the world).

with this higher resolution, others can see you more clearly too. the beauty of your essence will be what shines through, rather than worn down armor or defenses hiding your true self.

i have offered an exercise below that you might use to support you in this upgrade.  i truly do see the light, even when it’s just shining thru the cracks, of every single one of you. you are radiant and here to give and receive unique gifts on this planet. thank you for being one of the gifts i receive and supporting me with your presence and engagement.

loving you, resolutely,

vanessa

*****creating a higher resolution picture for 2016!

wondering where to start your upgrade process? as you go through the following prompts, notice which ones pop out at you or evoke something deeper. write out your answers, or do the exercise with a friend, in the form of a discussion. afterward, if you feel inspired to make a more traditional resolution list, use your answers to these questions to help inspire a higher resolution reflection. as much as possible, avoid creating yet another list of rules/shoulds to follow.  the list will be more useful if it feels inspiring and energizing – anchoring you to what you most desire to feel.  once completed, share it with another friend (and/or me!) — we all know selfies are lower resolution!  decorate the list in a way that pleases your eye and put it somewhere that you will bring daily engagement with it.

  • what thoughts feel more spacious and freeing to have?
  • what activities do i feel better during and after doing?
  • what are at least three feelings that i crave more of in my life?
  • what are ways in which i can bring those feelings into my life right now?
  • what are a few things i loved to do when i was younger?
  • how did i feel when doing these things?
  • what, if anything, is stopping me from doing those things now?  what else might evoke similar feelings as these things?
  • what do i think needs to change in myself (and/or others?) in order for me to be happy?
  • what do i imagine i would feel if that change happened? how can i actually bring that feeling into my life right now, even if this never changed?
  • what are some new year’s resolutions that i’ve made in years past, but didn’t stick to?
  • what’s the feeling state behind these resolutions? how might these resolutions be upgraded?
  • are there parts of myself that i think need “fixing”? is there a deeper emotion that these parts are in need of?
  • how can i light up the lives of people around me?  how does this feel for me?
  • how can i offer more of my gifts to the world in a way that feels energizing and sustainable?

the list might be as simple as two or three emotions that you’d like to experience on a regular basis or as complex as a whole new blueprint for living a more resonant, energized life! i just went through and did the exercise myself, and after coming up with lots of answers (some of which surprised me!) i came up with this list for myself, which i will include below for you to get an idea.

2016

regard or re-guard?

regard or reguard imagegreetings dear friends,

i pray this finds you well. i write you, as i listen to the early morning cleansing rain hitting our parched earth, at the end of another week spanning the emotional range.

jeremy and i spent this last weekend dancing within a big bubble of beautiful love, creativity and celebration, as two dear friends of ours married.  the event, one of the most creative and fun i’ve ever been a part of, was filled with performances, costumes and across the board acceptance of however each person showed up. there was a clear suspension of judgements and defenses and a deep dive into the pool of love.  we were all community, regardless of beliefs, cultures, politics or any other story of the mind. we gathered to honor and celebrate these two souls.  we were seeing with eyes that found each person’s gifts and celebrated them without abandon. i heard more than one person at the wedding express how awe inspired they were that humans could live in such an open-hearted, love centered way…. that perhaps the world was finally changing for the better.

later in the week, i learned, with the rest of the world, about the tragedies in paris and then again, a day later, about the sadly under reported similar tragedies in beirut. both are examples of outrageous violence and a disregard of the sanctity of life.  and, although we cannot know exactly what lies in the hearts and minds of the people who led these attacks, it was clearly steeped in a defensive dogma that promotes disunity – the all too familiar “us and them” mentality. this past week,  i’ve heard more than one person expressing a concern about “what was happening to the world that such things could take place?”

but this is the world, not what is happening to it. this is humanity, not what is becoming of it.

there is life, there is death.

there is unity, there is disunity.  

there is reaction, there is response.

there is rage, there is joy.  

there is love, there is fear.

there is our true nature, and our defenses that built up in attempt to protect it.  

there is regarding and there is re-guarding.  
i’d offer that the reason we feel so energized and alive when we are in a field of love is because our true, undefended natures are being seen and given space to shine. we were born with hearts and nervous systems that are created to connect.  there are physiological rewards that fire in our body when we open our hearts, serve one another, see each other as the souls that we are, and receive love back.  and, in the same way, when we are disconnected from this reality – when we don’t feel loved or safe enough to love – we are wired to defend and protect.  our hearts are so precious, and when they are threatened – especially when we are young, our life feels threatened.  the wisest choice in the that moment may be to be on guard – to perceive the world in a more narrow, defended way for the time being.  ultimately, however, when this is taken on as roadmap for life, it leads to division, polarization, disconnection and a worldview rooted in defense and reaction.

the wedding we attended showed me what happens when people feel safe.  when they are allowed to express their true natures.  the tragedies in beirut, paris and elsewhere show me what happens when people feel threatened, fearful, and live with a story that some people are good and some are evil.   

yes, pray for paris… pray for beirut… pray for the world and perhaps, most importantly, pray for yourself, that you may be transformed into someone who consistently and courageously keeps your heart wide open, in all circumstances – through pain and through joy. that the defense of love becomes more important than the defense of your beliefs. a prayer for us all, that we might see every moment as a chance to be “at the wedding” – grateful for a chance to live in full and committed regard of love and life, living the full range of emotions and experiences, without any need to ‘re-guard’ our hearts.  

regard or re-guard – what’s your choice today?

i love you.

vanessa

Creating a New Year’s Intention

Happy 2013!  As you can see, It’s been about two years since my last post here.  I’ve been busy creating a book of my omwork assignments and hope to have it fully completed and published in this coming year. Also, I plan to start posting here more often again this year – so feel free to keep me accountable if you aren’t seeing new things in your inbox every once in a while.

First things first — 2012 was an amazingly powerful year and we are now officially in a brand new era for all of humanity.  The choice between love and fear is growing a more and more obvious reality in our personal and public lives.  Having a clear intention that celebrates the true nature of our souls and acts a beacon back to that truth is so important.    I encourage you to Take some time to play with the exercise below to help create your vision.

2013 intention 1

New Year’s Vision

Although we can make changes and set intentions at any moment, the first of the year brings with it a natural freshness that invites us to recreate an evolved version of ourselves.  I like to start each year with a vision statement, claiming the aspects of my life that i’ve already embodied and want to continue, as well as areas that have been a struggle and I’m ready to shift.  I invite you to create a vision statement for yourself this year, and th

en place it somewhere where you will see it often and can repeat it to yourself throughout the year. (As the screensaver on your computer or phone, on your refrigerator, at your desk, hung visibly in your closet, etc.)  Keep your language in the present tense and positive (yes’s instead of no’s… for example you could put “making nourishing food choices” rather than “no longer eating j

unk”).  Include the things you’ve struggled with in this past season of your life, claiming their success in your statement.  This will act as a totem, drawing you in the version of yourself that you desire.  Use imagery words that you connect strongly too, if that helps.  For example – if you love the ocean, use oceanic words in your description.  Feel free to mix languages or even make up words — anything that resonates deeply will work! Remember, there’s no getting this wrong, so have fun!

**What are some aspects of yourself that you already embody (positive things that you and everyone around you know to be true about yourself?

**What are some specific things that you’ve struggled with that you desire a transformation in?  

**What’s on the other end of these things?  (For example if you want to feel less lethargic, you could write “I am perfectly nourished and wisely rested, with an overflowing sea of energy within me”)

**If there were no boundaries or earthly limits, what does your heart most desire?

Take some time to put all these things together to create your vision for this new year.  It could be one sentence long or an entire paragraph.  You may even just chose one word to embody and focus your energy.  Whatever style works best for you to sculpt the way you are ready to show up in the world!  Below are some examples of other people’s vision statements (including my own) to help prime your imagination:

“I am the high priestess of maternal love, perfectly in tune with the rhythms of my body and soul.  With profound presence and playful prose, I am procreating a  community of abundant laughter, gracious acceptance, gorgeous courage and divine vision.”

“I am a sea of abundant energy, surfing through the waves of life with ease and mastery.  Strong, rested and deliciously nourished, I generously support myself, my family, my community and my world.”

“Lacking nothing, fully supported, I make choices out of an attitude of abundance and generosity.  I give and receive love without judgement, resistance or condition.”

“I dance in a forest of grace and beauty.  My life is organized, as the flowers and trees are, supporting the cycles and needs of life with beautiful timing.  My relationships are gifts, based on trust and respect. I fully own each and every one of my feelings as guides pointing me to my true self.”

Okay — it’s your turn!  Start brainstorming below! If you get inspired, share your vision with those around who you know will help to support you in it — including me!

Love and light to you in this new year – pregnant with limitless possibilities!

Vanessa

future tripping right past yourself

happy (belated) new year sweet yogis!

after a nearly two month hiatus, which included all the fullness of the holiday season, and two weeks without internet service in our home, i am finally back and ready for a new year of sharing omwork with you all.

this is the time of the year when many of us are in full swing with all the changes and shifts we dedicated ourselves to at the new year.   my yoga classes are fuller than ever  and i’m seeing more and more people out in golden gate park when i go out of my morning runs.  january offers a new beginning, a chance to refocus and reconnect.

with that in mind, let me challenge you to go beyond the standard resolutions of eating better, exercising, etc., and resolve to begin reconnecting with the gifts that you already have – right now.

our culture encourages us to always have at least one foot in the future and the other in the past.  we seem to often be striving and reaching for what could be or replaying what was. but what would life be like if we stood with both feet in the present?  what if we stopped looking forward or backward and  just observed what actually IS happening, right now,  breath by breath.

when we replay stories or future trip or we are tripping over our present reality.  we miss what we have to offer, to ourselves and the people around us, because of the story we have about where we’ve been or where we need to get to.  ironically, i find that when i consciously stay with what’s arising, that my life unfolds in ways bigger and better than i could have ever calculated them too.  instead of trying to become someone who is more balanced, healthy and loving, if i make conscious choices in each moment that resonate with my spirit, then i slowly morph into that more balanced, healthier person – without all the effort. the future will always be abstract and out of reach and the past will always just be foggy stories we tell ourselves and others about what happened.  we will never arrive anywhere but where we are.

so, what are the practical ways to stay present, letting go of what’s over and releasing our drive to become something ‘better’ and different from who we are.

challenge yourself to say goodbye to your goals that connect to measurable results such as:

*attaining certain weight or clothing size

*running a certain distance or speed by a certain time

*having specific job or salary by a certain date

*feeling free from any pain or discomfort, emotionally or physically

connect to goals that are behavior based, like:

*carving out some part of your day for movement or mediation practice

*practicing slow and mindful eating, without distractions and with lots of chewing

*shifting view of food to fuel, rather than reward

*using cues to trigger mindfulness, for example: “every time i see a clock (or whatever other cue works for you) i’ll take a deep breath and notice how my body feels”

make an intention to practice self-compassion.

all too often, especially around this time of year when we might be less connected to our resolutions than we had hoped to be, we become punitive with ourselves.  if we didn’t reach our ‘goals’ or stick with our resolutions, we beat ourselves up and say it’s because we aren’t good enough or strong enough and will never have enough will power.  or maybe we feel like we are just living out the same cycle,or thought pattern, like a bad habit.

what would happen if we stayed in the present and realized that every single moment was a chance to make a choice?

what if we realized that our bodies and spirits are wise beyond our understanding, and every single choice, even unconscious ones, are made for a reason? maybe that cookie was because the body needed quick energy or wanted to stop feeling something painful and feel something pleasant and familiar…. or maybe you slept in because of a belief that you aren’t strong enough to wake up and exercise or that you’ll be tired all day if you do. perhaps your spirit had a deeper layer of understanding to come to before you could let go of a certain thought process or behavior.

you are doing further harm  to yourself by being mad at yourself.  if you made a choice that had consequences you’d rather not repeat, check in with the motivation, give yourself some loving self talk, and see if you can make a different choice, with that motivation in mind, next time.

you are a beautiful, strong person with unique gifts that you will continue to uncover throughout your entire life.  remember that every day, loving and forgiving yourself first,  and your new years resolutions will turn into a new year of evolution!

hari om!

vanessa

digesting your day

happy thanksgiving dear yogis!

in many ways today is my favorite holiday… a time set aside to celebrate and honor all the abundance and connectedness that our life is full of.  but sometimes we have loaded our plates too full, literally and otherwise, and we need some assistance to help digest it all.

the following are a few little tips to help your body and spirit deal with the food and emotions of the day today.  enjoy!

there is an acupressure point, STOMACH 36, about four finger widths below the knee, on the outside of each leg,  often referred to as the “three mile point” … they say after stimulating this point you’ll be able to run three miles.  i don’t know about that — but i do know that rubbing this points brings energy into the digestive organs, helping you to process the meal you  just ate.  it is energizing in general — so it can help combat the groggy, heavy feeling that often comes with eating big meals.  do this while you’re still at the table… or anytime you need a little burst of energy throughout your day.

another trick while you’re still at the table is stimulating the CENTRAL VESSEL MERIDIAN… this is the energy line that runs down the middle front of the body.  especially helpful is the area around the 3rd chakra, right over the solar plexus.  when we hold this area, which also happens to be directly over your stomach, we bring digestive juices to the stomach and help relax all the abdominal muscles and organs.  the most discreet way is to make one hand into a fist and cover it with the other hand and gently lean into the edge of the table.

the other method,  which requires stretching out a bit more, is shown below.  lie on your belly (with some support under your head and feet if you like) and bring one or both hands under the belly at this same point.  for both methods, take slow, deep breaths into the belly.

the ultimate pose for digestion and rest is side lying shavasana on your left side.  you can do this on the floor, with rolled blankets or pillows in between your legs, arms and under your head or on the couch, on your left side. lying your left side closes on the flap that allows acid reflux to rise up… it also allows gravity to work in harmony with the path of your large intestine. this pose is good for indigestion, nausea, or just general rest.. it’s also good to prepare the digestive organs – so try it if you are taking a pre-meal snooze.

finally – remember to eat slow and mindfully (lots of chewing!) and keep your awareness on your breath.  most of all, take time to savor the day, however it presents itself to you.

today, and everyday, i am so grateful for YOU!

with warmth and love,

vanessa

sleeping yogi

good morning yogis!

 

soon, you’ll be deep into sleep, dreaming about your headstand in the clouds!

 

good morning yogis!

how did  you sleep last night?  if you are like many people in this over stressed, over stimulated culture of ours – not very well.  when life throw’s us stressors, we often invite them into bed with us… or out of bed, as the case may be.

when you are exhausted the idea of getting on your mat, or your meditation cushion, or even just to work, can seem daunting.  so – here are a few things to incorporate into your days to help your nights be more restful:

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1. WHAT YOU PROBABLY ALREADY KNOW:

*avoid stimulants and depressants during the day (this includes coffee, tea, alcohol, etc.) – if we are constantly calling our adrenals to immediate attention and then drowning them out trying to quiet them down, they are bound to get worn out.  caffeine, even early in the day, trains our body to need something external to wake up – alcohol triggers relaxation, but affects our sleep cycles, so that, even if we fall asleep, we are less likely to have a full or restful night of sleep.

*exercise during the day.  using our body is one of the best ways to ensure we tire it out enough to trigger a deep night of rest.  avoid exercising late at night, since there is typically an immediate energizing effect.

*avoid screens for the last couple of hours before sleep – this includes television and computer.  try a bath (especially with bath salts), reading or listening to relaxing music/podcast instead

*go to bed when you’re tired.  listen to your body’s cues and when possible, if your body is ready for bed – follow it.

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2. WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW

*that doing viparita karani (legs up the wall) pose with your eyes covered just before bed for 15 minutes or so can help induce sleep.  (see the earlier post “nothing sympathetic about this” for instructions on this pose)

*also, doing 1 to 3  slow, meditative sun salutes shortly before bed will also unwind the tension of the day and trigger sleep

*if you are having trouble quieting your mind while lying in bed, try listening to a guided meditation meant to calm the body or induce sleep.  here’s one of my favorites to fall asleep to at “themeditationpodcast.com”

*if you keep waking up at a certain time in the night, it may be connected to some disturbance in the meridians.  in chinese medicine there is a body clock, where two-hour time periods are connected to specific meridians.  the ones that are most likely connected to sleep disturbances are:

GALLBLADDER: 11 pm-1 am //  LIVER: 1-3 am // LUNG 3-5am // LARGE INTESTINE 5-7 am

if you wake up during one of these times, try doing some of the specific exercises for these meridians (given in earlier blogs listed under their names).  also, for this and all sleep issues, acupuncture can be incredibly helpful.

*self-massage, especially of the hands, feet, head, face and ears are all great ways to help trigger restful sleep.  for some specific acupressure points to help sleep, check this out:

Acupressure points for sleep insomnisa healing

(taken from http://www.healthy-ojas.com)

*finally – a trick i learned from my ayurvedic guru eleni gekas is to drink a glass of warm  milk with nutmeg, and other warming spices (like cinnamon and turmeric).  not only does it taste delicious – it sends you right into dreamland!

rest well sweet ones!

untying knots

“The goal is not to tie ourselves in knots … we’re already tied in knots. The aim is to untie the knots in our hearts. The aim is to unite with the ultimate, loving, and peaceful power in the universe.” – max strom

 

this is (k)not (necessarily) yoga

this is the first blog i’ve written for a few weeks. over labor day i went to the desert, and came home (after several days of inhaling the playa dust) with a respiratory illness.  not having been sick like that in years, it brought me back to a much simpler practice.  i know all the things to do to take care of myself, but what do i do when i don’t have the energy to even do those?  several days  my morning practice simply involved sitting in mediation for five or ten minutes, trying not to fall asleep.  the thought of asana, or much physical exertion at all was exhausting to me.  shavasana was the most complicated asana i even attempted.  my practice is always, but especially this past week, just staying present with the whispering wisdom of my body.

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i teach a lot of beginning and gentle yoga classes. one of the most common things i hear from my new students is “i’m not flexible.”   i typically respond with something like, “good, then you’ll have no choice but to feel what’s happening.”

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somewhere along yoga’s journey into the west, an idea developed that “yoga” means “asana” …. and that “asana” means “impressive body tricks”.   and while i’ll admit that some of the postures, in some of their expressions, do require a bit of contortionist skills, that is certainly not what i understand yoga to be about.  in pantanjali’s yoga sutras, the only mention of asana is “stirham sukham asanam” – which basically means finding ease (or relaxation) and stillness in the posture.  the postures are just tools we use to help focus the awareness and learn how to be in ease.  how many of us approach anything in life, including our yoga practice, with the search for ease?

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when we look for ease we are not necessarily looking for total comfort – rather, we move toward a place where we can notice what’s happening without judgement … without the thought that there needs to be more or less.  sometimes we feel uncomfortable things, physical and emotional, on the mat and off.  our practice is to  acknowledging what is and without harming ourselves, being present with it…  breathe into it…  recognize that it is, as all things are, temporary.

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this week, my assignment to you is to do make everything you can be your practice —  your every day tasks like cooking, eating, dishes, cleaning, showering, conversations, driving, biking, etc.  you don’t have to be on a mat to do things in a very intentional, mindful way.  while you are doing these things, let your intention be to refrain from doing anything else.  specifically notice the sensations of your body and emotions that come up while you are practicing these things mindfully.  don’t judge, just notice.  if you notice physical tension or pain or challenging emotions, just notice.  if you notice openness, expansion, ease and more desirable emotions – just notice.  if you notice judgement arising, just notice it.  give it permission to move on, but don’t create more judgment about having it.

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may you find the peace and ease to allow the knots to be there, while allowing space for them to let go.

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blessings on our journey of healing,

vanessa

sitting in your own house

"if you lived in your body, you'd be home by now"

greetings sweet yogis,

this past week we’ve been house sitting for our dear friends who live on the other side of town… while at the same time entertaining out-of-town guests staying in our home.  all this home switching has involved more planning than usual – mostly around making sure we had the right food, clothes and whatnot at the right house on the right day. my regular morning practices, commute time and general familiarity are all up for grabs this week.  it reminded me how glad i am that my real home is in my body…like my favorite bumper sticker says:

“if you lived in your body, you’d be home by now”

what does it mean to live in your body?  of course,  as long as we are alive, we have no choice but to be walking around in the skin that we are in.  but many of us have checked out of our body and are spend much of our lives residing in our heads.    when are body talks, we tend to either ignore it or take pills or food to shut it up, hoping that our vital functions will continue operating automatically.  our bodies sometimes feel like the enemy – causing us pain, carrying extra weight, aging, etc.

so – this week, my assignment for you is to start building a better relationship with your body.  here a few practical tools to begin this process:

1. LISTEN TO THE WHISPERS:  your body is consistently speaking to you.  at first it whispers, and then, if you ignore it, it will continue to speak louder and louder – resorting to screaming if necessary.  when your body speaks to you this week, either thru tension, headaches, tiredness, poor digestion, etc… rather than just “fixing” it  – look as what you did that day… this week… this year… that might have led to the discomfort and find small ways to begin to change.

2. CHECK IN AND BREATHE: throughout your day, take moments to stop, (with your eyes closed and your hands on your belly if possible) and breathe.  take at least a few slow, deep breaths and just notice the sensations in your body.  don’t judge. don’t fix.  just listen and acknowledge (perhaps even out loud) what you feel.

3.  FUEL YOUR BODY WITH PREMIUM GRADE: for some strange reason many of us have a better understanding of how to fuel our cars than how to fuel our bodies.  our bodies are smart and gracious and do the best with what we give them.  but if you continually fill your tank with caffeine, processed food-like substances and white sugar, don’t be surprised if a less than efficient response comes out.  junk in – junk out.  try a week of eating only REAL food (nothing from a box or a can or with more than three ingredients) and drinking mostly water and notice how different you feel.  (of course, if this is a new way of eating for you, expect a short period of detox for all the years of crap to make its way out… but once it’s gone you will feel better than ever!)

4. DON’T OVERFILL YOUR TANK: staying on this fuel analogy, do your best not to give your belly too much to deal with. eat when you are hungry (not just when it’s meal time) and mindfully (not while watching tv or doing anything else) and slowly. if you burp – stop – that’s one good way our body tells us it’s full.  also – often when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty, tired or stressed.  if you’ve already nourished yourself well that day, try a big glass of water, restorative yoga (nap), and/or a deep breathing first.

5. REST: believe your yawns.  i can’t say it enough.  one of the very best things you can do for your body is to get a full night of rest and then, at least once during each day take 10-20 minutes of restorative yoga (either laying flat on the ground or with your legs up the wall are the best).  this alone, will make the ‘home’ of your body a much happier place to reside in.

6. TRUST THE RESIDUE:  rather than believing me, the latest diet craze, your yoga teacher, your doctor, or your mother – trust yourself.  you are your best teacher.  experiment with what others suggest, and see how it feels in your body, in the long run.  of course eating chocolate cake often feels better, in the moment, than say riding your bike up a hill…. but an hour later how do you feel?  trust that.

7. PRACTICE GRATITUDE:  each night, before going to sleep, tell your body thank you for something it did for you that day.  we ask SO much of these vessels of ours – take a moment to specifically acknowledge that.

happy living!

give us this day our daily leg stretch

if there is one stretch that will help a majority of students i know… especially those that suffer with low back pain, sciatica and/or general tightness in the legs and hips – it’s this one.  it can be done either using a strap, as shown – or with a a door frame.  i’ll instruct below – but this leg posture does a similar “trick” as last week’s arm stretch – notice after each side how the leg you just stretched actually feels like it’s grown an inch or two!

try this every day for one week and notice if your low back, legs and hips feel any different!

supta padangusthasana “supine leg stretch”

STRAP METHOD (great to do at the gym or in class)

1. lie flat on the floor with your head supported by a folded blanket or pillow.

2. bring the right knee toward the chest and take a strap (a belt works just fine) and place it around the sole of the right foot, with one end of strap held in each hand.  allow either the arms to fully extend (no bend in the elbows) or the upper arms to rest completely on the floor (to keep the shoulders as relaxed as possible)

3.  extend the right leg fully straight, even if that means it’s at an angle less than 90 degrees in relationship to the floor.

4. allow the left leg to stay straight and active on the floor, actively drawing the left thigh bone toward the floor (unless there is pain in the low back when you do this, in which case modify by bending the left knee and bringing the left foot to the floor).

5. flex both feet and stay active in the legs, feet and toes.

6. relax the jaw, shoulders and over all upper body as much as possible.  yawning, sighing and moving your jaw around helps.

7. hold for 12-36 deep, slow breaths – closing your eyes and focusing on your right femur bone dropping heavily into your pelvic joint.

8.  at this point, if you want, you can bring both straps into your left hand now and draw the straight right leg over toward the left for a hip stretch and twist.

9.  release the strap and lie flat on the floor, noticing how the right leg, back and hip and feel.

10.  repeat all these steps on with your left leg extended up.

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DOOR FRAME METHOD (perfect to do at home)

1. come to a door frame – open the door

2. with your head supported, lie on your back and bring the left leg thru the open door space and the right leg up the door frame – resting the heel against the frame.

3. scoot toward the door, keeping your hips even, until you feel a little bit of stretch in the back of the leg (not too much at first, since we will be holding it for awhile).

4. stay active with both legs and feet – flexing the feet and bringing the left thigh bone down toward the floor.

5. let arms open out to your side completely relaxing your upper body

6. close your eyes and breath for 12-36 long, deep breaths

7. go to the other side of the door and do the same with the left leg up the door frame.

one of the coolest tricks i know

sure yoga is all about connecting to yourself and your body – and not about competing or showing off or any other such nonsense.  but we’ve all been at parties sharing with your friends how transformative yoga has been for us (um, right?)… now here’s a little parlor trick for you to show off the “magic” of yoga – and perhaps even convince them to join you for your next practice!

of course, after all of ooo’s and ahh’s, you will also be happy for this exercise’s effect of your body.  one of the roots of shoulder tension lies within the subscapularis muscle.  it can be challenging to access – but this next action will  help to stretch it – hence creating ‘longer’ arms.  i taught this pose to a class of mine last you week and you’d think i had just revealed a secret of the universe.  who knows – perhaps the universe will begin to become revealed more clearly once you shoulders drop a little.

*start either standing in tadasana (mountain pose), or sitting in comfortable, supported seated pose.

*place your left hand over the right side of your chest, so that your left fingers wrap around your right armpit. this will help to remind you to keep your shoulder right over your hip (in other words – don’t lean to the side), and also offer some resistence.

*starting with your arm externally rotated (palm facing forward, thumb facing up), stretch your arm and fingers very actively, as if you are trying to touch the side wall

*resist the temptation to look toward your arm. keep your eyes closed, or gaze forward, and head/neck neutral and relaxed.

*you can stop here, or to deepen it, then internally rotate the whole arm/hand (so that the outside of the arm is facing forward, palm back, and thumb down). continue to actively reach the whole time.

*finally, you can stay here, or if you are able, you can keep the arm internally rotated and just move the hand back into external rotation (so that you would end up with the back of the arm facing forward, the palm forward and the thumb facing up)

*hold for about a minute (12 breaths) or longer is you want.  keep the shoulders relaxed and the hand in line with shoulder (not higher).

*as you hold it, continue to visualize the fingers reaching the side wall

*when complete, release arms – and place arms next to each other, fingers facing toward the ground.  notice that one arm is longer than the other?  wah-lah! parlor trick complete.

*of course, repeating the ‘trick’ on the other arm is crucial to avoid walking around lopsided. so make sure you do the same with your left arm now.

…wanna learn more tricks?  subscribe to my blog and/or come to my september retreat in calistoga!

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