Thursday, March 25, 2010

Deep Relaxation Workshop coming up 4/7/2010

Join us at Yoga North for a Deep Relaxation Workshop on Wednesday evening, April 7th.

Rest your body, rest your mind & renew your spirit with Deep Relaxation. Relieve stress, build awareness & bolster your health with Deep Relaxation. In this workshop we will practice Breathwork, Relaxation Techniques, Guided Meditation & Imagery. Settle into the Quietude of Deep Relaxation.

Benefits of Deep Relaxation include: boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, and relieving fatigue, anxiety and insomnia without medication. Deep Relaxation contributes to an overall feeling of well-being. Shake off the last of winter and refresh yourself for spring with this mini-retreat.

Teacher: Sara Duke
Date: Wednesday 4/7/2010
Time: 6:30-8:30 pm
Cost: $25 in advance ($30 at the door)

Advance Registration Encouraged. To register or for more details visit Yoga North or call the office at 218-722-YOGA.

Looking forward to seeing you there. Namaste.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Balancing Act

Awareness of the ida and pingala nadis can help you develop a balanced practice—and clear the way for your spiritual growth.

By James Bailey

A student of the great Indian poet Kabir once asked him, "Kabir, where is God?" His answer was simple: "He is the breath within the breath." To understand the profound implications of Kabir's reply, we need to look beyond the physical components of breath—the oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other molecules that stream in and out with our every inhalation and exhalation. Beyond this breath—yet within it—is prana, the universal vital energy that is quite literally the stuff of life. For those of us who practice yoga, the challenge is to harness this energy so it can fuel our physical, mental, and spiritual development. To do this, we need to look deeply into the mysteries of the mind and the subtle body. Fortunately, the early practitioners of Tantra voyaged into this inner landscape, mapping the many ways energy circulates within us. Among their most important discoveries were the nadis, the vast network of energy channels that makes each individual an integrated, conscious, and vital whole.

The Sanskrit word nadi derives from the root nad , which means "flow," "motion," or "vibration." The word itself suggests the fundamental nature of a nadi: to flow like water, finding the path of least resistance and nourishing everything in its path. The nadis are our energetic irrigation system; in essence, they keep us alive.

According to many Tantric texts, the human body contains 72,000 nadis that channel prana to every cell. Some are wide and rushing; others are a mere trickle. When this system flows freely, we are vital and healthy; when it becomes weak or congested, we struggle with poor mental and physical health. The practices of hatha yoga are so effective because they strengthen the flow of prana in our bodies, invigorating the current so that it carries away obstructions that block the free flow of energy.

Because nadis—like the chakras (psychoenergetic power centers), prana, and other aspects of the subtle body—don't show up under microscopes, medical science has relegated them to the realm of the merely metaphorical. But traditional yogis believe that the subtle body is real, and that understanding it and working with it complement and counterbalance the emphasis on gross physical anatomy that predominates our current yoga culture.

Night and Day
Three nadis are of particular interest to yogis. The sushumna (most gracious) nadi is the body's great river, running from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, passing through each of the seven chakras in its course. It is the channel through which kundalini shakti (the latent serpent power) —and the higher spiritual consciousness it can fuel—rises up from its origin at the muladhara (root) chakra to its true home at the sahasrara (thousandfold) chakra at the crown of the head. In subtle body terms, the sushumna nadi is the path to enlightenment.

The ida (comfort) and pingala (tawny) nadis spiral around the sushumna nadi like the double helix of our DNA, crossing each other at every chakra. If you visualize the caduceus, the symbol of modern medicine, you'll get a rough idea of the relationships among the ida, pingala, and sushumna nadis. Eventually, all three meet at the ajna (command) chakra, midway between the eyebrows.

The ida nadi begins and ends on the left side of sushumna. Ida is regarded as the lunar nadi, cool and nurturing by nature, and is said to control all mental processes and the more feminine aspects of our personality. The color white is used to represent the subtle vibrational quality of ida. Pingala, the solar nadi, begins and ends to the right of sushumna. It is warm and stimulating by nature, controls all vital somatic processes, and oversees the more masculine aspects of our personality. The vibrational quality of pingala is represented by the color red.

The interaction between ida and pingala corresponds to the internal dance between intuition and rationality, consciousness and vital power, and the right and left brain hemispheres. In everyday life, one of these nadis is always dominant. Although this dominance alternates throughout the day, one nadi tends to be ascendant more often and for longer periods than the other. This results in personality, behavior, and health issues that can be called ida-like or pingala-like.

Ida-like individuals have lunar, or nurturing, qualities but may lack the verve to sustain a strong yoga practice. They are full of potential, but unless they develop their pingala side may never manifest that potential in either worldly affairs or spiritual development. Pingala-like individuals have solar qualities: type A personalities, lots of creativity, abundant vitality. But unless they develop their ida side, they may lack the quietude, introspection, and receptivity necessary to yield to the grace of spiritual awakening.

Creating Equilibrium
Bringing ida and pingala into equilibrium is a major focus of hatha yoga—so important, in fact, that the term hatha symbolizes this balance. Although the word hatha literally means "forceful" in Sanskrit, it is composed of ha and tha, two esoteric bija (seed) mantras that have arcane meaning and power. Ha represents the solar qualities, the vital force, of pingala; tha represents the mind and the lunar qualities of ida. Balancing sun and moon, or pingala and ida, facilitates the awakening and arising of kundalini, and thus the awakening of higher consciousness. In fact, some yoga teachings hold that as long as either ida or pingala predominates, sushumna stays closed and the power of kundalini lies dormant.

The most powerful method of balancing ida and pingala is Nadi Shodhana, alternate-nostril breathing. (Literally, the Sanskrit means "nadi cleansing.") This practice is effective because the ida nadi is directly connected to the left nostril, and the pingala nadi to the right. A few rounds of this basic pranayama technique at the end of an asana practice are an excellent way to help restore equilibrium between the two nadis and to compensate for any imbalance you may have inadvertently caused during your practice.

Coming into Balance
To practice Nadi Shodhana, sit in a comfortable meditative position. Make a fist with your right hand, then partially reextend your ring and little fingers. Lightly place the pad of the thumb on your nose just to the right and below the bridge; lightly place the pads of your ring and little fingers on the corresponding flesh on the left side of your nose. Gently pressing with the ring and little fingers to close the left nostril, exhale fully through the right. Then inhale fully through the right, close it with the thumb, release the left nostril, and exhale through it. Inhale through the left nostril, close it with the fingers, release the right nostril, and exhale through it. This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana.

In addition to using Nadi Shodhana, you can experiment with using the asanas themselves as a method of balancing ida and pingala. At the beginning of a practice, sit and observe your breath to see which nostril—and, hence, which nadi—is dominant. (If you can't tell, try a few rounds of alternate-nostril breathing-it should be immediately clear which side is freer and which feels more inhibited). If the left nostril dominates, ida is in charge, and you might consider focusing your attention on invigorating asanas—such as backbends, standing poses, inversions, and twists—to engage the pingala nadi. If the right nostril dominates, the cooling, calming energy of seated poses and forward bends might be most beneficial.

You can also bring awareness of ida and pingala into any asana practice by pausing between poses to notice which nadi dominates your breathing. Notice your mind-states as well; you will find they closely correlate with which nadi is ascendant. Are you agitated and active (pingala-like) or calm and receptive (ida-like)? Through this checking-in process, you can begin to identify which poses activate one nadi or the other, and which are particularly effective—for you, at least—in creating physical and emotional equilibrium. You'll also be developing your awareness, deepening your practice, and clearing the way for your spiritual growth.

Sara's note: This article it taken from Yoga Journal online from the Wisdom section. Visit the site by clicking here. For an example of how to practice Nadi Shodhana go to this post: Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Do Restorative Yoga: Not Love at First Sight

The following article is by guest blogger, Satyam from Renaissance Yoga. Satyam is a Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 500) with Yoga Alliance of North America and is also the founding director and lead instructor of Renaissance Yoga. During the 1990's, Satyam pursued and completed his yoga teacher training in India. His initial interest in meditation grew over the days, months, and years into a holistic lifestyle based on the principles and tenets of yoga. In total Satyam has been practicing yoga and meditation on a daily basis for 19 years and has been teaching yoga for 14 years, including the last 5 years in Anne Arundel & Calvert Counties (Maryland). In addition to his background in yoga, Satyam holds an undergraduate degree (B.A.) in philosophy as well as a professional degree (M.S. Ed.) in Educational Leadership & Community Education.

He writes:

It definitely was not love at first sight, and I am not even sure it was like at first sight. Mostly it was what is this at first sight.

Such is what I thought when I first encountered the phrase & profile DoRestorativeYoga on the YJ Community Blogsite.

Then last summer (2009) something clicked and I began to make more direct inquiries. How to lead a restorative yoga class? What is needed to begin? The encouraging answers came back in a warm and friendly tone, complete with pictures, descriptions and suggestions.

I "promised" to run a workshop by summer's end. It never happened.

In late fall (2009) I wrote Sara (Dorestorativeyoga): By now you probably think I am a Donothingyogi, as I never got the program off the ground. She assured me that she was not at all thinking of me like that and told me when I was ready she'd gladly help.

Time passed...

I still wasn't ready, not at all, but I had just completed purchasing dollars and dollars worth of top-of-the-line bolsters at a discounted wholesale rate, along with dozens of eye pillows.

On Dec 19, 2009, I "announced to the world" (i.e. my little corner of the universe) that Renaissance Yoga would be conducting our first-ever Restorative Yoga Workshop on January 31, 2010. The date gave me both enough time to prepare yet also held me to a "must deliver" deadline.

I then told Sara the good news and mentioned I would be in touch after I studied up a bit. I reviewed her blog, began doing restorative poses with some of my private students, and practiced with small groups as well. Lots and lots of practice working with all kinds of people, experimenting as much as possible.

About two weeks before the program I told Sara that the next step was to speak via phone, if she was so willing. I explained that I had gained what I thought was sufficient theoretical and practical knowledge to be able to benefit from a conference call. Sara said that despite her busy schedule, she could always make time to talk about restorative yoga. The call was scheduled.

I continued to put the time in and was feeling confident. I had projected that I could handle as many as 24 students, given the array of props I had. The registration numbers began to rise from 6 to 12 and then to 16.

The day of our call came and Sara gave me lots of great ideas and pointers, including adding a standing wide angle bend (leaning on a chair) before doing the same from a sitting position. She was a real wealth of knowledge on the phone - lots of great tips, techniques & thoughts that she was willing to share.

By this point, with Sara's guidance, I had "settled" on my poses, of which there would be 5: (1) Supported Bridge Pose with block and strap, (2) Supported Reclining Twist with bolster, (3) Reclining Bound Angle with bolsters, block and strap, (4) Wide Angle Bend on Chair, standing and seated, (5) Legs up on a chair.

In addition there would be a seated breathing, short warm-up, demos, followed by the poses themselves, and a long shavasana and a story. All in 1.5 hrs.

In the nine day runway into the workshop, I was feeling great and emailing Sara regularly about increased enrollment: 19, 21, 23, 24. Wow! Had to shut down registration 48hrs before the start of the workshop. Full.

Here I should say that I had planned to have everyone rotate through stations in groups of 5, doing one pose and then moving to the next station. That was Sara's normal way.

As I contemplated my situation, about 30hrs beforehand I decided it would not work for me to do that. I had told students to bring everything but the kitchen sink (blankets, towels, bags of beans and rice, pillows and more), so how would they be able to move everything from place to place. Instead I decided that I would set my 25 people up in a grid, i.e. 5 rows of 5. The students would remain in their place. Each row would do the same pose and then there would be a "wave effect". Row 4 would do the pose Row 5 was doing. Row 3 would do the pose Row 4 was doing and so on. I decided that would be the best way to manage the size of my group. No one would move, only certain props would get passed forward to accommodate the new pose. Easy right?

The day of the program I stuffed all my bolsters - 12 oversized bolsters - into my tiny car along with so many other yoga items I normally travel with. It had snowed and my car was nose forward into my driveway. The only way out was reverse. When I checked my rear view mirror I realized I could not see a thing. I went anyway. Almost all the way out - then too far to one side on the curve of the driveway and... stuck. Already I was not as early as I wanted to be and now I was immobile and no one was at home to help. What a way to begin!

With a few bursts of gas, plenty of nerves on the fray, and a bit of luck I got out. Phew!

I got to my hall, unpacked my loads of gear. And within no time, my students began arriving - all people I knew well. Within a short time everyone was set-up in the our 5 x 5 formation. Between the 25 people and all their belongings, the hall was full. The program began with breathing, warm-ups, and I demoed all the poses for everyone. Then I said, now we will begin a 5-phase sequence where they would experience each pose for 8 minutes or so.

Suddenly I was starting to think I had too many students on hand for my first ever restorative workshop. In standard yoga classes I regularly have 25+ and I have comfortably led classes for 60, 80 and even 115 participants without any helpers - and the classes always went fine. This however seemed different.

In a little longer time than I was expecting, everyone got into their first pose and I was scurrying around helping out wherever I could. Now the pose was almost over; I had about 1 minute to catch my breath before the first big switchover of the wave effect. I was a little nervous. If I had known better I would have been A LOT nervous.

I quietly told everyone it was time to pass the props forward to the next row and enter the next pose. Nothing in my 20yrs of meditation experience could have prepared me for what was about to happen.The place turned into a total fish market with everyone passing all kinds of props - chairs, bolsters, blocks & more - in every which direction and the whole room asking one another which pose they were supposed to do and how to get into it. My dear students were being so eager and so proactive - trying to do this program properly. Yet without ever having done it before and without a teacher close by to guide them through it one-by-one, it was not an easy task. Loose ends were everywhere!!

Normally when I lead classes they are tightly-knit, flowing experiences yet this restorative workshop was turning into a free-for-all, or so I thought. Somehow we got into the next pose, but the timing was now out the window, or nearly so. Once in that second pose I tried to remind everyone about maonbrta (vow of silence) and I wondered what would happen at the next transition. Little by little each one became a little smoother - or perhaps that is the way I wish to recall it. No matter what I say, suffice to say here that I was in over my head...

At one point however, about three-quarters of the way through the program, I looked out over the sea of people and belongings that filled the hall, and everyone was perfectly in place and the room was stone silent. It was the first time I felt at ease all afternoon. It was then I realized, the great magnitude and potential of this type of program. Then and there I began making thousands of mental notes of how to make it better next time.

That restorative workshop came to a close, and my faithful students filled out evals and rated the event high to the sky (lots of top scores, but I knew better). I went home, reflected on the day and blogged about it the next morning. Immediately my students graciously chimed in and commented about how great it was. Meanwhile, I was strategizing like an army colonel on how to make it better. I could not wait to get a second crack at it.

Well I got my wish - my next Restorative Workshop is scheduled for Apr 11, 2010. I hope to get another full house, but this time I'll be ready for it. I will again employ the wave technique (i.e keeping people in their spots and passing props forward) but am bringing on 5 facilitators, one per row. Each facilitator will work with the same five students all afternoon to ensure smooth and easy transitions and proper alignment in the poses. I will then be free to direct and orchestrate on the macro level, and give individual support when and where necessary. That is the main change for the next time. And yes I have dozens & dozens of other little points noted.

Some days after that first program, I called Sara to "debrief" what had transpired. I think I did all the talking as I had a lot on my mind and Sara was a great listener and gave me wonderful guidance, support and empathy. I was still "recovering" from my experience.

So that is the story of my first restorative yoga workshop - overall a great learning and teaching experience. With this first one under my belt, I feel very inspired for the next one. Certainly I will report back about it!!

Not only do I do-restorative-yoga, but I adore it...            Satyam

Sara's note: Thank you Satyam for this funny and helpful account of teaching Restorative Yoga to a large group for the first time. I love that you worked out your own system (The Wave) for making each pose possible for each person. I look forward to hearing about your future workshops. Namaskar.

Attune To Yourself

3 Ways To Deeply Attune To Yourself

by Susi Hately Aldous

 People who are in pain and want to get out of pain display a common thought pattern – the desire to “just get fixed.” They just want to know what muscle is the problem and how the problem can be solved.

If you have attended any of my trainings or have had a private session, you’ll know that getting out of pain isn’t about a fix. Rather, to quickly and efficiently move from a place of pain and into something more comfortable requires a combination of improved body mechanics, improved breath awareness, and a letting go of inappropriate movement patterns. AND, if you want to stay out of pain long term, there is a subsequent mental and spiritual shift that needs to occur. I call it attuning more deeply with yourself.

Attuning more deeply to yourself is a process of connecting to your symptom, connecting with the information it is offering and taking action on that information.

Consider the following:

Step 1: Connecting with your symptom. Over the past 14 years I have seen too many transformations in my studio to ignore a simple truth . . . the experiences in our bodies – whether pain, tension, strain, openness, ease, or strength – are guideposts toward a truer connection with our deepest selves. They offer you an opportunity to tap into a rich source of internal advice that can guide you forward. Try the following: Have a conversation with the sensations in your body, and see what they have to tell you. Ask them, "why are you here?", or "what's up?" And then wait. See what emerges. Note....Make sure you don’t get into a yelling match or a “resigned" conversation. Be open to what you hear. It is often truly remarkable.

Step 2: Act.  As the responses and insights emerge, ask them what you need to do, or what action you need to take. Then take it. If you doubt, do. As you do, more messages will emerge and your connection will grow. 

Step 3: Check in with your body.  What new has shown up, what sensations now exist, is there anything that no longer exists? How are you feeling, moving or acting?

Step 4: Bask in the joy of connection. Delight in the internal experience and the congruity with your outer experience. Sip it in and enjoy the exploration.

If this resonates for you and you would like to tune in more: visit me at

Sara's note: Susi is my teacher and my teacher's teacher for Therapeutic Yoga. This article is taken from her March newsletter 2010.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril Breathing or Channel Cleansing Breath ~ Nadi Shodhana

I like to do this practice at either the beginning or end of class (or both) to bring calmness to the body and mind and to balance the energy in the body.

Benefits: This breath is balancing, relaxing, and calming.

Practice: Begin in a comfortable seated position. Establish a smooth steady breath. Using your right hand, fold your index and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky sticking up. Bring your thumb to the right side of your nose and your ring finger to the left side.

Close off your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger. Open and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril. Close off your right nostril with your thumb. Open and exhale through your left nostril. Inhale through your left nostril. Take 5 to 10 rounds, alternating nostrils.

Doing 5 rounds of this practice would look like this:

Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale left.

Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale left.

Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale left.

Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale left.

Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale left.

Return to regular, smooth, steady breathing.

However, there are multiple styles to Nadi Shodhana. Some advocate doing 5-10 rounds on one side (inhale right, exhale right, repeat) and then switching and doing 5-10 rounds on the other side.

Doing 5 rounds of this practice would look like this:

Inhale right, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale right;
Inhale right, exhale right.

Then switch:

Inhale left, exhale left;
Inhale left, exhale left;
Inhale left, exhale left;
Inhale left, exhale left;
Inhale left, exhale left.

Return to regular, smooth, steady breathing.

Another method is to do this practice as a circular breath: inhale right, exhale left and repeat for 5-10 rounds, then switch and inhale left, exhale right for 5-10 rounds.

Doing 5 rounds of this practice would look like this:

Inhale right, exhale left;
Inhale right, exhale left;
Inhale right, exhale left;
Inhale right, exhale left;
Inhale right, exhale left.

Then switch:

Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale left, exhale right;
Inhale left, exhale right.

Return to regular, smooth, steady breathing.

Regardless of how you do this practice, the point is to bring balance to the body and to the subtle body or energy body. This breath can be practiced anytime throughout the day.