Monday, November 22, 2010

30 Day Relaxation Challenge - Week 4

Congratulations! You are in the home-stretch of this 30 Day Deep Relaxation Challenge.

For the past 3 weeks we have practiced taking time out of our day to treat ourselves, to nourish relaxation and to find ease in our bodies. I have had a number of students comment on how they are really starting to like relaxing, how they are noticing that it feels really good to take a rest for a few moments, how much more sane they feel after stepping back and breathing. This is wonderful! This is exactly what I was hoping you would find.

This is also the time in our practice where things can fall apart. Our new habit of ease can be quickly forgotten if we do not discipline ourselves to take a few minutes each day to treat ourselves right. Continue to use your sankalpa (setting your intention), repeating it to yourself every day. This week I also want you to voice your sankalpa out loud and possibly to another person. Really put your deepest desire out there to the world. And continue to do your other homework: claiming 10-15 minutes (or more) each day for 30 days to consciously relax.

For our first week we practiced building breath awareness with Equal Breathing or Sama Vritta Pranayama.  The 2nd week we learned the 3-Part Breath or Dirga Pranayama. The 3rd week we learned one of my favorite breath practices: 2 to 1 Breathing, and this week we will expand our breath practice with the Sweeping Breath. This practice starts by imagining the breath sweeping through the body from soles to crown and back down to soles. There is a short version, long version and an even longer version. I'm going to talk you through the short version but I encourage you to try either version from Deborah Adele or Dr. Louise Montello too. Links are below.

Short Version:
If you just need a quick pick-me-up imagine breathing from the soles of the feet, up through the whole body to the crown of the head, and then exhaling from the crown of the head down to the soles of the feet. Do this about 5 times or until you feel refreshed.

Long Version:
Start the same way. Imagine breathing from the soles of the feet, up through the whole body to the crown of the head, and then exhaling from the crown of the head down to the soles of the feet. The next time you sweep the breath down from the crown stop at the knees. Then breath to the hips, then  hips to crown to belly, belly to crown to heart, heart to crown to throat, throat to crown to brow-point, brow-point to crown to brow-point, and back down the body in the same order. Deborah Adele details this version in her CD, The Art of Relaxation.

Longest Version:
Do the same as the long version but take 5 breaths at each stopping point. For example, 5 sweeping breaths from soles to crown and crown to soles, then 5 sweeping breaths from knees to crown and crown to knees, then 5 sweeping breaths from hips to crown and crown to hips, etc. until you have gone both up and back down the body. Dr. Louise Montello details this practice in her CD, Relax Into Wellness II.

I'm taking you through the short version in the practice below.

Sweeping Breath: 1min46sec.

The postures we learned this week are Laying on the Therapeutic Spinal Strip and Supported Reclining Twist.

Laying on the Therapeutic Spinal Strip

Step 1: Use a short strip or fold your long strip in half and place it on the floor behind you. Lay down on it and check for placement by finding the soft spot just below the breast bone. (If you don't have a spinal strip you can use a rolled up mat.) The spinal strip should be just opposite that soft spot where your finger tips are resting. Keep one hand at the soft spot and run the other hand behind your back to check for placement.
Step 2: Once you are laying down notice if you have any discomfort in the low back or if your lower ribs are flaring up. If either of these things are happening you need to lift your hips up and place a folded blanket under your hips/sacrum area. Keep your knees bent.
Step 3: If you still have discomfort or flared ribs, unfold your strip and lay on it in a single layer. If you feel like your chin is higher than your forehead place a pillow or folded blanket under your head.
Step 4: Lay for 5-15 minutes, allowing the shoulders to settle in around the black strip. Focus on your breathing. To come out of the pose or if at any point laying on the strip becomes uncomfortable, push the blanket out from under you, roll gently to one side, push the strip out of the way and then lay back down on your back in Savasana.

Supported Reclining Twist

Coming into the pose:
Lay on your back with your knees bent. Have a support ready on each side of your body. Shift your hips to one side and let your knees fall to the other side. Snuggle a bolster under your back hip and bum to support staying in the twist and let the stacked knees rest on a second bolster as they fall towards the floor. Try to keep the shoulders on the floor, keep the heart center open by extending the arms away from the body, palms facing up, and let the head turn away from the knees. Stay as long as you are comfortable.

Changing sides:
Let the head come back to center. Remove the support from under the back hip. Engage the core slightly to support the spine and then bring the legs back to upright, helping the legs with the hands if needed. Settle into the second side the same way as the first and try to stay here an equal amount of time.

Exiting the pose:
Let the head come back to center and then keep turning towards the knees. Remove the props from under the knees, lay on your side for a few breaths, and then gently push yourself back to an easy seated position.

Next week is our last class room meeting. We will learn our final postures and one new breath practice. I encourage you to continue to journal your experiences, noticing how you feel, and taking note of any changes in your attitude, mind, body or spirit.

Best of luck relaxing. Enjoy!

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