The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE

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{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

Hands

So how many times in the course of the day do you think you wash your hands? While doing so do you ever notice your hands. Maybe you are aware of how chaffed or dried they may be, but do you ever just notice yours hands?

These useful instruments come with four digits and an opposable thumb. We eat with them, talk with them, pick up things, cook and write with them. They’re handy for making a point, waving, clapping, snapping, picking, and scratching. They are quite strong but resilient, yet also sensitive and fragile. These hands are usually busy, sometimes to the point of distraction. If they are not busy, they are somewhat tense, moving, wriggling, and yes oh no! — touching your face.

ASSIGNMENT: During the day let your hands relax and rest completely. For a few moments (a breath or two) let them be completely still. Place them in your lap or rest them on the table in front of you. Feel the subtle sensations in the quiet hands. To help remind yourself wear you watch backwards. If you don’t wear a watch, tie a string or put on a bracelet on the wrist.

When we relax our hands, the rest of the body along with the mind tends to calm down too. Noticing the hands can be way of stopping (shamatha), quieting the mind. You may also find that you are listening more attentively. As with any mindfulness practice, we will do this, then forget, then remember again. But it is an opportunity to rest in this present moment.


Friday Noble Silence Meditation

Again if any of you would like to join others from the Honey Locust Sangha for the Friday Noble Silence meditation, please do so. The schedule is as follows.

We begin the first sit at precisely 6:00 p.m. for 20 minutes.
The time for mindful walking will begin at 6:25,
Followed by the second sit at 6:40 for another 20 minutes.

If you have a bell, I encourage you to use it. To begin there is the half sound of the bell, then three full sounds. To end the sit there is a half sound the two full sounds. Begin and end walking with one sound of the bell. The Bell, when invited by you, makes the experience so much richer.

If you wish to sit for just one 20 minute periods or just mindfully walk, that would be fine. You don’t have to practice for the full hour. Just know that we’re here for each other. And you can surrender yourself to the sangha for help and support. And all you need to do is stop, come to your breath to dwell in the present moment, and know that your practice helps to support everyone. If you would like to let me know you are attending you can email me at omyogapath@gmail.com, but this in not required.

Filed under: Education, Home Practice, Virtual Yoga, , , ,

Yoga for Sleep

Most of us don’t think about doing an asana practice before going to sleep. When it comes to the time when we’re ready to crawl into bed, the last thing we want to do it unroll the mat and do yoga poses. We also might believe that the stimulation of doing asana before bed would tend to keep us awake, like a shot of caffeine or adrenaline at bed time. While this could be true, often when going to sleep, we’re bringing the same states of mind that we’ve carried with us throughout the day. Sleep doesn’t cancel this condition out, but often carries it over into our resting state. So when the initial exhaustion wears off, our sleep becomes more restless and shallow.

The following sequence is for helping with your sleep. It’ll aid in calming you down both physically and physiologically by settling the nervous system, thus preparing for a rest-state.


Uttanasana: getting the head or upper body supported on blocks or chair. Hold for 1 minute or more.

Prasarita Padottanasana: Do this with head down on block or supported from the chair with hips on the wall. Try to get the chest lower than the hips, but head and arms are supported. Hold for 1 minute or more.

Adho Mukha Savanasana: do this with head resting on block or cushion. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

Adho Mukha Virasana supported as shown. Try to find a cushion or blankets to get the head the same height at the hips. Hold for about 3 minutes


Paschimottanasana it doesn’t matter how low you get in this pose, just try to get the head and front torso supported. Your back may release as you hold.Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

Janu Sirasana: As with the previous pose, get the front of the body supported. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

Supta Baddhakonasana: use the strap if you have one and get the outside of the legs propped. Hold for 3 minutes or more.

Supta Virasana: try to do this pose, but if the knees won’t allow hold the previous pose longer. Hold for 3 minutes or more.

Sirasana: again don’t skip. Preparation pose is acceptable. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

“The aim of yoga is to calm the chaos of conflicting impulses.”

BKS Iyengar

Salamba Sarvangasana: Obviously this poses is not accessible without a chair, so you can use the wall for support. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.

Halasana: do this right shoulder-stand. The legs don’t have to drop all the way to floor, but it would be good to get them supported. Hold for 1 or 2 minutes.


Setu Bandha Savanganasana: As you can see from the picture the hips and feet are supported. You can raise or lower the blocks to the height that works the best for you. Hold for 3 minutes


Swastikasana: Sit with back very upright. Sit on blankets to get the hips higher than the knee. Shift into both positions with the legs.Hold for 1 or 2 minutes each side.


Viparita Karani: do this on the wall with hips raised if possible. Notice the arm position and emulate. Hold for 3 minutes.


Savasana: Get the chest open on a blanket or bolster. (It doesn’t have to be done on blocks as pictured, unless that is comfortable.) Don’t skip this pose and try to do it in bed, deliberately make a point to do it.

You can see the essence of this sequence is to get the body supported. This is not, however, to be thought of as a restorative practice. Move efficiently from pose to pose, holding each pose and going deeper with your breath while in it. If you stay focused, the sequences takes about 45 minutes.

Filed under: Education, Home Practice, Uncategorized, Virtual Yoga, , , ,

Depression

The sequence presented here is to help with feelings of depression. Without going too deeply into the implications of this term, given the current environment of a global pandemic, it seems safe to say we’re all experiencing some feelings of depression, sadness, or despair in the midst of our social isolation. Listed below will be a chart in the two ways these feelings might be manifesting.

Type of depressionQualitiesSymptomsTypical Breath
Rajasicfeeling
agitated
anxiety, restless
impulsiveness
quick & erratic
hard to exhale
Tamasicfeeling
lethargic
inertia, dullness,
hopelessness
shallow, hard
to inhale

You can probably tell the emphasis here is to get your arm-pits and upper chest open, while by-in-large getting the head supported. This aspect of the body can be very helpful Try to hold the poses long enough to you can reside in the shape of your breath.

In regards to how to practice this sequence, you will see that some props (blankets, bolsters, chair) would be helpful. If these are not available, please try to improvise with furnishings or cushions you may have around the house. Just make sure the props aid in supporting your position in the pose. If it doesn’t feel safe or helpful then get out and try to readjust.

Supta Svastikasana: In this pose the ankles are comfortably crossed. Hold for about 2 minutes then switch ankle position.

Supported Backbend: You can do this over a bolster or rolled up blankets to get the upper chest opened. Head and hips should be on the floor, with arms as shown or in a cactus position.

Adho Mukha Virāsana: with support. Try to find a cushion or blankets to get the head the same height at the hips. Legs are apart, arms are forward.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward-facing dog pose: Get the head supported and bring feet apart wider than the hips. Notice your breath while holding.

Ardha Chandrasana/half-moon pose: Do this pose as pictured against the wall with a support under the lower arm. The upper heal presses into the wall. Remember to get in and out of this pose from trikonāsana/triangle pose

Prasarita Padottanasana from the chair with hips on the wall. Try to get the chest lower than the hips, but head and arms are supported.

Sirāsana: headstand (against the wall if you want or do the “preparation poses” for as long as you can. Try to do some version of this as as safely as you can, but don’t skip it.)

Ustrasana/camel pose: This is a variation on the camel pose. Do this as pictured with arms supporting the shoulders and chest lifting. If the neck will allow, let the head go back looking up.

Viparita Dandāsana: This could be done over any chair or ottoman you may have at home. Make sure head it supported. Again opening the upper chest.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward -facing dog pose: This poses is repeated, but this time no support for the head.

Supported Sarvangāsana/shoulder stand supported: Obviously this poses is not accessible without a chair, so you may have to go the second variation.

Setu Bandha Sarvagāsana / supported bridge: As you can see from the picture the hips and feet are supported. You can raise or lower the blocks to the height that works the best for you.

Savāsana with a supported head and chest. You could do this on a folded blanket instead of the blocks. Should be comfortable but chest opened. Upper torso is similar to the first pose Supta Svastikasana:

BKS Iyengar found that many students with depression hold tension in the outer portion of the their eyes. He would ask students to try to: “move the edge of the eyes toward the temple and ears,” while doing a challenging pose.

Filed under: Education, Home Practice, Virtual Yoga, , , , ,

Parasympathetic Nervous System

Back earlier in the month there was a Deep Relaxation practice offered. This is just one of the practices suggested here to help engage the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

Your body has of course, numerous systems: cardiovascular, digestive, immune, circulatory, endocrine (hormone), and nervous to name some. The stresses we’re undergoing right now aren’t just personal but also collective, given the current environment of the Covid pandemic. So if we want to use yoga to lower our stress, calm the fires, and improve overall health, the optimal entry point is the nervous system.

Specifically this is referred to as the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which is a label for the overall nervous system that regulates every other system in our body. So mental and physical activity have a direct influence over the ANS. So we’re talking about how yoga works. Through this practice you stimulate the parasympathetic wing of the ANS, calming, soothing, healing waves move through the body and mind.

So the practice of yoga is tailor-made for helping us manage stress, anxiousness, and malaise we experience in our lives. But the thing is: we need to do it. This is includes our asana practice, but also intentionally and mindfully applying practices like deep relaxation and mindful breath to our everyday life.

So on this subject of mindful breathing, here is the very helpful practice of DIAPHRAGM BREATHING:

The practice only takes a minute or two, though you may find you want to take more time. You know from class, the diaphragm is the muscle beneath your lungs that acts as a bellows to move air in and out of your lungs. What we at the Path refer to as the mid-band.
Place your hands above you belly a couple of inches beneath the bottom of the sternum. Look down, breathe normally, watch and feeling the movement of your hands. If you don’t observe much movement, try to breathe into your hands with mild effort, but not forced. Feel the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm by noticing the travel of your hands. You can also substitute a yoga strap for your hands, as we’ve learned in class. Just loop the strap around you mid-band with a just bit of snugness, but not too tight. You still look down when using the strap.
After practicing this a few times, you can try doing without your hands or strap, gradually bringing the gaze up to level. Eventually and with a little practice you can do this anywhere.

This simple technique is very effective for activating the PNS thus reducing anxiety while boosting the immune system. Here are five other ways it helps:

1. Effectively reduces fatigue or infections.
2. Helps by increasing cellular metabolism capturing and removing toxins in the body.
3. Greater clarity, less stress, calmness and alertness.
4. Increased oxygen levels in your cells help them to also function with increased vitality effectively slowing down cellular degeneration and the aging process.
5. By breathing correctly, you also can slow down your heart rate and lower or stabilize your blood pressure.

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”

Sharon Salzberg

Filed under: Education, Home Practice, Virtual Yoga, , , ,

Bookmarks

At the Yoga Path there are bookmarks on the ledge by the gnarly Christmas cactus. They were created when first opening the school as a marketing tool. Something to hand out to prospective clients and at health fairs. I hand them out when someone new wants a business card and often include them in business letters sent out. They are often overlooked by the regular students who come and go, while I forget about them too, except when dusting around them at the front end of the studio.

The title at the top of the bookmark is HOW TO PRACTICE YOGA WITHOUT EVEN BENDING. At the time of their inception, I think I was trying to be clever, but actually the teaching on them is quite ancient. The list of four things to practice is:

  1. Friendliness toward the Joyful
  2. Compassion for those who are Suffering
  3. Celebrating the Good in others
  4. Having Equanimity to the Faults and Imperfections of other

These are referred to in Yoga as the Brahmaviharas (Four Immeasurable Minds)*. In Sanskrit they are
1. Maitri (metta in Pali)
2. Karuna (compassion)
3. Mudita (joy)
4. Upeksha (equanimity)

These aren’t just concepts, but responses to everyday life situations.
Maitri is often called loving-kindness, but another translation is friendliness and generosity. Do you ever find yourself in a situation where someone is happy or joyful, but find yourself being resentful or jealous?
Or perhaps someone is suffering, but you don’t feel compassion, but a sense of satisfaction they are getting what they deserve?
How often do we notice someone doing something good or kind, but we feel sense of suspicion or contempt? Or perhaps we don’t even recognize the good in others, or even a beautiful flower or sunrise, because of the mood that dominates our thoughts?
And this loss of equanimity toward others, often arises because we see ourselves as apart from and separate from the person in front of us. Upeksha is translated by Thich Nhat Hanh as inclusiveness or interbeing. This separation from people and things around us, is just a mental formation created by our judgements and stories constantly playing in our minds.

Yet yoga in it’s psychology as laid out in the sutras is always very practical. It’s not concerned that we practice the four Brahmaviharas so we can become good, moral people. The teaching in the Patajanjali’s sutras encourages us to practice them because, if we don’t, the mind will turn inward and obstacles will stand in the way of our progress.

These obstacles are succinctly listed as

illness
fatigue
doubt
carelessness
laziness
attachment
delusion
failure to achieve stillness
failure to maintain stillness

Such obstacles make the body restless, the breathing coarse, and the mind agitated. They result in suffering.

So this is what’s on the bookmark at the Path. Sometimes I wonder if the design or the typeface I selected obscures the message on the bookmark. Or maybe it’s just easier and more accessible to practice bending?

*”The four Brahmaviharas are immeasurable, because if you practice them, they will grow in you every day until they embrace whole world. You will become happier and everyone around you will become happier, also.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, ,

Home Practice Level 1,3

This practice sequence is very short, but intense (rajasic). The feel is very energetic while helping with focus. If you feeling sort of anxious or antsy, these poses can be very helpful. Yet the poses are basic and you are familiar with them all. I encourage you to go through it once, skipping the last two poses and repeat from the beginning including the last two. Especially if you’re still feeling restless.

Urdhva Hastasana coming from Tadasana. Palms facing inward with fingers and thumb together. Repeat 2x.

Utkatasana coming from Tadasana. Palms pressing together, keeping knee in line with ankles and hips . Repeat 3x going lower each time.

Trikonasna/triangle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Utthita Parsakonasana /side-angle pose: Use a block or prop as need be, but repeat 2x each side and see if you can get lower on second attempt. Keep both legs very strong.

Vimanasana bring arms out, turn toward the bent knee, lifting and pivoting the back heel. Lift chest forward and up utilizing arms to help with balance and strength. Repeat 2x on each side.

Vibhradrásana 1 / warrior 1 Plant back heal down and in, turning front of legs out vigorously. Push head of back hip forward and sink hips as low as you can; then lower. Don’t allow forward knee to project ahead of the ankle. Repeat 2 or 3x on each side.

Adho Mukha Svanasana / downward -facing dog pose. Repeat 3x moving into the planks pose between. Notice your breath while doing. It should be strenuous enough to make you breath hard.

Catuspadāsana / bridge holding ankle. Hold the ankles in this pose. If unable to reach, then us a strap or a belt. Hold and breath for about 30+ seconds.
Repeat 2x releasing slowing and mindfully. .

Adho Mukha Virasana with support. Try to find a cushion or blankets to get the head the same height at the hips. Legs are apart, arms are forward. Breath and hold.

Savasāna/corpse pose. Yes finally you get to do savasāna! Remember this is a pose too, so come out of it slowly and intentionally as you’ve learned.

“Yoga is the method by which the mind is calmed. And the energy directed to constructive channels.”

BKS Iyengar

Filed under: Education, Home Practice, Virtual Yoga, , , ,

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