Friday, July 31, 2009

Yamas and Niyamas: Brahmacharya

Here is my teacher, Deborah Adele, talking about the 4th Yama, Brahmacharya, or Nonexcess. For more information visit

Monday, July 27, 2009

Supported Hand to Big Toe Pose ~ Salamba Supta Padangusthasana

Enjoy Supported Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose at the Wall

Usually we practice this pose at our mats using a belt or if we are especially flexible, our first 2 fingers wrapped around the big toe. This Yoga Journal image shows the standard pose using a belt:

For my Restorative class I like to include this pose but I like to offer it at the wall, using the wall for support instead of the belt.

Setting up for the pose:
Lay down on the floor at about a 45 degree angle from the wall (as seen here):

The leg closest to the wall is bent at the knee and the leg farther from the wall is extended with the foot resting on the wall. Check your alignment here. Your extended leg should be in the same line as your body, it should not be at any sort of angle. Get comfortable here: perhaps a lumbar support or a small pillow under the neck or head.

Coming into the pose:
Raise the bent leg and extend it up the wall. Then let it fall open towards the floor until you are getting a good stretch in the inner thigh and maybe a little bit in the hamstrings (as seen here).

You may have to adjust your distance and angle from the wall to get the optimal stretch for your body. Try making your angle to the wall smaller (move your body closer to the wall) if you are more flexible or make the angle greater if you are less flexible. Keep your legs active but not rigid. Try to keep your pelvis from shifting or rocking to accommodate the stretch. Only go as far as you can go in your true range of motion (no compensation). Stay here as long as you are comfortable.

Switching sides:
Bring your leg which is up the wall back in towards the body, bend the leg which is on the floor and put both feet on the wall. From here you can walk your feet along the wall, turning your body around to the other side. Set yourself up here being mindful of support and alignment. Stay on this side for an equal amount of time as you spent on the other side.

Getting out of the pose:
Bring both legs in towards the body, bending the knees and hugging the legs into the chest. Roll to one side, rest for a few breaths, then gently push yourself back up to an easy seated position.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yamas and Niyamas: Asteya

Here is my teacher, Deborah Adele, talking about the 3rd Yama, Asteya or Nonstealing. For more information visit the Yamas & Niyamas website.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Supported Bridge ~ Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Enjoy Supported Bridge Pose

Getting into the pose:
Sit on the floor with knees bent. If you have a belt put it on around your upper thighs. Tighten it to where your legs can still open to hip width apart. Lower yourself down to the floor and lay on your back with your knees bent. Lift your hips in the air and place a block under your sacrum. For Restorative I like to have the block on the lowest side but if you want to try it on the medium height or on the highest height that's ok too. Just make sure you comfortable and nothing is feeling pinched in your low back or neck. Rest your hands by your side.

Settling into the pose:
First, make sure that the block is under the sacrum (the big triangle shaped bone at the base of the spine), not the low back (lumbar spine). If you have a pinched feeling in the SI joints (low back or sacrum area) try lengthening your tailbone towards your knees so your body is in one long line from shoulders (on the ground) to knees (in the air). You also might need to lower your block height. Let the hands rest by your side, close the eyes, and give your mind the job of watching the breath. Stay for a few minutes or as long as you are comfortable.

For a more dynamic pose:
If you want to add some movement to this posture there are a couple of options:
1. You can walk your shoulders under you and clasp your hands together behind your back to open the chest. Stay for a few breaths and then slowly release.
2. You can add a quad stretch by clasping the top of one foot in the same hand and drawing that leg back towards your mid-line. Rest the top of the foot on the floor by the outside edge of the block, or if you get foot cramps keep the toes flexed and rest the sole of the toes on the floor instead of the top of the foot. To see a video explaining this option in more detail click here.

Getting out of the pose:
To come out, lift the hips up, slide the block out from underneath you, drop the hips back down to the floor, rest here for a few breaths then take what ever movement would serve your body: hug the knees to the chest, take a twist, full-body stretch, etc. When you feel ready, roll to one side then gently push yourself up on one side back to an easy seated pose.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Open Class

Comments on July 15th, 2009 Open Restorative Class

Restorative class last night was well attended: 16 peeps. The poses included: Reclining Bound Angle, Hand to Big Toe at the Wall, Supported Down Dog, Supported Child's Pose, Supported Bridge with quad stretch option (see video), and Side Reclining Twist.

(Supported Down Dog photo from
Supported Down Dog was a new one for everyone and it was a little tricky. I had to use the radiators to hook the belts on since we do not have actual hooks in the walls. While everyone was game to try, it wasn't as restful as I would've liked. The belts kept slipping down the radiators (not so good for holding someone up) and since no one had ever tried this pose before there was a lot of confusion and fumbling around trying to get the props right. We had fun though. I offered Supported Child's as an alternate to Supported Down Dog and most folks took Child's after a few minutes in Dog.

Everyone's favorite posture continues to be Supported Reclining Bound Angle. It is considered the most relaxing, most restorative and I've noticed, the most coveted ending posture.

One more Wednesday night Restorative class is scheduled for the summer: August 19th, 2009 from 5:15-6:30 PM. After that we will go back to our winter schedule of Friday night Restorative. Thanks for coming to class everyone. Stay tuned for schedule updates.

Yamas and Niyamas: Satya

Here's my teacher, Deborah Adele, talking about Truthfulness:

For more information visit the Yamas & Niyamas website.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Finding Contentment

Restore Your Attitude

When I first started studying the Yamas and Niyamas I was really struck by the concept of Santosha, or Contentment. I always thought I would be content when things in my life were just the way I wanted them: good job, enough money, enough free time, etc. But this idea of "when things are good I will be content" never comes to pass. Instead, you have to cultivate gratitude in your heart in order for contentment to settle in. The more you practice gratitude, the more contentment slips in.

I remember reading in Yoga of the Heart by Alice Christensen that Contentment is elusive because we are always thinking about the past or the future instead of resting in the present moment. That simple statement made a huge difference to me. I had heard before to rest in the present moment but without knowing what I was doing if I wasn't resting in the present moment, I couldn't figure out how to do this. Her labelling my thoughts as lolling about in memory (past events, should have, would have, what if) or fantasizing about the future (what if, when, I need to, as soon as) showed me that I was doing everything but sitting in the present moment.

For my practice I sit comfortably, close my eyes, calm my breath and start to name the things I am thankful for. I usually start off small and build up to more important things: Thank you for the green grass, thank you for the lilac blooms, thank you for my yoga practice, thank you for my partner, my dog, my mom, my dad, my sisters, brother, etc. Then I start labeling thankfulness for many things in my life that I wouldn't normally feel thankful for: Thank you for the learning experience of having a student with questions I don't know the answer to, thank you for the challenge of living in a fixer-upper house, thank you for the conflict in my life so I can look deeper inside myself, and so on.

When I have named all these things I am thankful for I realize how lucky I am and I realize how contentment has slipped into my life and filled me up.

Happy Exploring. Namaste.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Yamas and Niyamas: Ahimisa

Here is a video showing Deborah Adele, author of The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice, giving an overview of Ahimsa, or Nonviolence, the first Yama.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Corpse Pose ~ Savasana

What is Savasana?

This article is excerpted from Iyengar Yoga Resources. See below for link. The image is from Kona Yoga. Click on image to see their site.

At the end of our asana practice we lie down, feet fallen outward, breath long, hands facing the sky, for savasana, corpse pose. By all accounts, corpse pose is considered the most difficult posture, as we posture the mind and body to imitate a corpse. “Most difficult for students,” says Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, “not waking, not sleeping.”

While a busy mind is a consequence of overpushing in yoga postures, then it’s opposite is deep sleep during corpse pose. However, corpse pose exists in the middle space between sleep and effort.

When we are new to practice, the experience of savasana is simply a rest after the arduous practice of bending, stretching, and twisting the body into various shapes. At first, savasana becomes just another form, but a form seemingly void of technique, concept and application.

In savasana, we let go of any particular breathing technique and simply allow the breath to move through its inherent inhaling and exhaling pattern. As the breath finds its way through the open channels of the body, the mind does so as well, by weaving itself into the strands of thought and sensation that flow through the body. When the breath is free, the mind is free. When the breath is allowed to move naturally, the mind settles into itself. When the mind relaxes, the tongue and palette become spacious, the roof of the mouth lifts and hollows and the central core of the body opens.

To read the whole article click here.

Sara's note: I think this is so interesting. While some folks leave class before Savasana, I know most folks like the relaxation at the end of class. But to delve deeply into the pose isn’t something we practice much. I only have a few students who fall asleep in Savasana but who knows how many have whirling minds?

Interestingly, at the end of Restorative class I don’t think I have ever had anyone fall asleep in Savasana. Maybe it is because the entire practice is so introspective that their minds are already in Savasana mode vs. a regular class where Savasana is just rest at the end.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yamas and Niyamas Overview Video

Here is a video showing Deborah Adele, author of The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice, giving an overview of what the Yamas and Niyamas are and how they apply to your life.