Monday, February 28, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 31

Monday, Feb 28, 2011 - Day 31
We walked the dog a good long way today over lunchtime so it was very easy to lay down and relax afterward. We probably walked about 3 miles which is standard fare in the summer but like I said before, winter walks tend to be short and hurried. I listened to James Jewell's longer Yoga Nidra practice again. I found myself thinking and planning for about the first 5-6 minutes so I started the track over to give myself more time to settle in.

Near to the end of the practice I heard my calm-room door open a bit but I didn't get up. Turns out Dave had looked in to see if I was done but since I was "asleep" he didn't want to bother me. I told him I wasn't asleep and that I heard him, but in truth, I may have been asleep. Or rather, in that place of in-between. That dreamy but aware state where your mind is free to wander but your Self doesn't follow it, where your whole body is relaxed and you might not even be aware that you have a body any more. It's like your body and mind are asleep but a deeper part of you is awake and aware and following along with the Yoga Nidra instruction.

I hope that this deep experience of relaxation that I just had can follow me into the rest of my day. I take my brown belt test tonight in Tang Soo Do. The more relaxed I can be, the easier it is to remember the language (Korean) and how to do the moves and forms.

Ayurveda for Your Best Health and Skin

OK - this isn't a post for my 40 day relaxation practice but it does relate. Within this article you will read about how our daily life practices (of stress or of relaxation) affect our doshas, our health and our skin. Plus, I just finished my 30 Days of Ayurveda and I am interested in how Ayurveda and relaxation go together.

Here's the article:
Ayurvedic Solutions for Stressed Skin
The ancient science of Ayurveda can help minimize the effects of stress and improve the health of your skin. Yoga, which promotes relaxation, can also keep your complexion in balance.
By Eva M. Herriott

You've probably heard the old adage: Until a person hits 40, she (or he) has the face she got from her parents; after 40, she has the face of the life she has lived. This truth is often good news for those who've made stress-reducing measures like yoga part of daily living. Not only will asanas nourish the internal organs, but they benefit skin health and complexion as well. But beyond yoga, what else can we do to keep aging skin looking healthy?

"Our face and complexion are the physical manifestation of all that we think and do—an exacting mirror of the soul," notes Pratima Raichur, in her book Absolute Beauty—Radiant Skin and Inner Harmony through the Ancient Secrets of Ayurveda (HarperCollins, 1999). "If you want to change your appearance, you must first change the thoughts, emotions, and habits where stress and aging originate."

The good news, then, is that we have a considerable amount of influence over how our largest organ will look and function in the long run. If we lead a life filled with pressure, inadequate nutrition, and too little sleep, the stress these habits bring to the body will eventually be transposed onto our skin. Conversely, if we tune into our body's needs and learn how to adopt a healthy lifestyle, our skin will age gracefully.

According to Ayurveda, a major factor influencing the deterioration of the skin comes from ignoring the needs of our unique body types. Each of us is born with a certain mind-body constitution, determined by the degree of dominance of the three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—in our body. All three body types experience different challenges and age differently. Paying attention to the needs of our personal constitutions is the first step in maintaining healthy skin.

Those with a predominance of vata dosha will reflect the qualities of vata in their psychophysiology. They'll tend to be of a light build, their hair will be thin, frizzy, and dry, and their skin will be fine and delicate with a tendency towards dryness, premature wrinkles, and a dull, lackluster appearance. If vata is dominant in your body, your main beauty focus should be rehydration and nourishment—both from inside and out. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Adopt a diet of warm, sweet, and unctuous foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also very beneficial, but never eat them ice-cold.

Pitta types have very sensitive skin. As a result, people of this body type are more prone to wrinkles, aging spots, and freckles caused by sun exposure. Pittas are also extremely sensitive to chemicals in personal care products, which may cause rashes or other types of breakouts. If you are a pitta type, take extra care to use only 100 percent natural care products with no preservatives, petrochemical derivatives, or artificial scents. In addition, take care to avoid direct sunlight and pacify pitta by maintaining regular eating habits, eating lots of sweet juicy fruits, and avoiding hot, spicy foods.

Kapha types tend to age more slowly than the two other body types. Their skin is thicker, which makes it less prone to wrinkles. The main challenge that most kapha individuals face is their low digestive power, which often causes them to accumulate ama, or chemical waste products, in the body. This can impede the circulation of nutrients to the skin and create oily, rough, dull-looking skin with enlarged pores. Kapha types should focus on regular detoxification, using natural scrubs and masks to detoxify the skin. Exercise regularly, as this is both a great way to detoxify and to counteract a kapha tendency towards lethargy. Avoid heavy, cold, and sweet foods, as these are hard to digest and will tend to generate toxic waste products in the body. You will also benefit from following a detoxifying diet for a few days on a regular basis.

Once you've given some thought to your skin's unique needs, it's time to take a closer look at the stress in your life—both the stress from your environment, and the stress of daily living. "Stress is one of the biggest causes of deterioration of the skin and premature aging," says Dr. Rama Kant Mishra, one of India's foremost experts on Ayurvedic self-care and current director of research at Maharishi Ayur-Veda Products International in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "It affects the balance of the doshas and the delicate process through which nutrients are transformed into bodily tissue, including the skin. Anything you do to diminish stress will not only reward you with enhanced beauty, but will increase your health and vitality as well."

Many of the changes in the skin that we consider a normal part of aging, such as wrinkles, pigment changes, or brown spots, are caused by environmental stress factors, and are therefore quite preventable. Pollution, sunlight, alcohol, cigarette smoke (even if you are just exposed to it from others), and chemicals in toiletries and water all compromise the skin.

While taking steps to avoid these negative influences seems relatively straightforward, managing daily stress can be a bit more tricky. When the body is under stress, it releases a number of stress hormones, a response which is useful for short-term stressful situations, but harmful if sustained over longer periods of time. Hormonal changes can cause a number of specific skin problems, such as hair loss, acne, thinning of the skin, itching, excessive sweating, and premature wrinkles, or skin disorders such as psoriasis, hives, or shingles. "Through the language of hormones," notes Raichur, "the skin and immune system 'know' exactly what we think and feel at every moment, and reflect our thoughts through their functioning."

Prolonged stress will result in a number of long-term changes in both skin and hair. The body will redirect nutrients from the skin to the vital organs, such as the heart, brain, and lungs, a process which over time will deprive the skin of the nourishment it needs. Extended periods of stress also affect metabolic functions, slowing down the renewal of skin cells, causing the skin to look dull and gray. Stress furthermore upsets the body's fluid balance, making the skin sag and look dehydrated.The stress response also increases free radical production and the associated damage to vital cellular structures and functions of the skin. Free radical damage not only shows up in our appearance, it puts us at risk for the gradual deterioration of body structures and functions—the source of most chronic diseases, from heart disease to cancer, autoimmune disorders, and arthritis.

One of the biggest commitments you can make to reduce stress is simply keeping up your yoga practice. Yoga postures induce deep relaxation, helping you to prevent fatigue and strain. Deep breathing normalizes blood pressure and helps release tension-related conditions such as headaches, backaches, sleeplessness, and stomachaches. Meditation brings another skin-care bonus, according to Dr. Mishra. The deep relaxation often obtained during meditation helps balance several of the subdoshas of vata involved in blood circulation. Long-term meditators' skin often develops a particular glow and radiance. The key is to find and maintain the type of meditation that suits you. A good teacher can make a real difference in terms of answering questions and helping you overcome initial obstacles to regular practice.

By creating a self-care skin routine that suits your Ayurvedic constitution, and by managing the impact of environmental factors on your skin, you can enjoy the outer radiance that reflects a deep inner state of balance and overall well-being.

Eva Herriott, Ph.D., is a freelance writer and psychologist specializing in mind-body health.

Sara's note: This article has been re-posted from an on-line Yoga Journal posting. Link to the original article here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 30

Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 - Day 30
Hey, if I was doing a 30 day challenge I would be done today. But I'm not. So I have 10 days left to go.  No problem.Well, actually, I am doing a 30 day challenge through Yoga North: my Ayurveda class. I didn't realize I was doing two challenges at once. Huh. Well, I'm a pitta-vata. What can I say?

I had a very relaxing morning: chat with Dave over coffee, read the paper, eat breakfast, walk to the lake, come home and relax in my calm room. Nice! I listened to James Jewell's longer Yoga Nidra practice and I liked that one much better than the shorter version. In the short version I felt quite rushed but in the long version I felt like I had time to breath and settle in. Now I am off to the shower so I can be presentable for my final Ayurveda class.

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 29

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011 - Day 29
Yea the weekend again! This morning I co-taught the Yang-Yin 2-hour special at Yoga North. Kristin taught the 1st half (Vinyasa) and I taught the 2nd half (Yin). This was the second time we have offered this combo class and it definitely ran smoother. We had quite a few repeat students so that helped but also Kristin slowed down her class a bit to help the new-to-Vinyasa students and I planned a practice that did not involve too many props to help the new-to-Yin students. A benefit to each of us of having a smoother class is that we did not have to be assisting so much for the other teacher which meant that we each got to participate in most of each other's class. It was a fun morning.

After my fun morning I came back home, had a bite to eat and then Dave and I watched an episode of Big Love. Anybody watch that? It is soooo crazy. We are on to season 4 (via Netflix) and I think I am starting to have less tolerance for watching stressful shows. I mean why can't Bill just relax? Why does he always want more? Now he wants to be a politician but he is hiding that he is a polygamist. What the...?

Anyway, that left me feeling a bit grumpy (stressed maybe) and then we took the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. Well the sidewalks have become very icy again and the wind was biting. We only went a short way and by the time I got home I was definitely grumpy! My regular "I hate winter" theme song was running in my head. I just don't like feeling like that. Thankfully, I have my relaxation.

After we got home I practiced my relaxation. I listened to the longer Yoga Nidra practice on Robin Carnes's first Yoga Nidra CD (about 45 min) then followed it with another 30-45 minutes of restorative poses while listening to Steven Halpern's CD, In the OM Zone II. I felt so much better by the time I was done. I was warm, relaxed and my adrenalin was not racing like I think it had been after watching Big Love. Yes, I know it is just a TV show but watching people lie and leap from crisis to crisis is stressful. But now we are just a few episodes away from finishing the season so I think I'll just keep on. What a kook.

Friday, February 25, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 28

Friday, Feb 25, 2011 - Day 28
Deep Peace Wellness Studio
Tonight I teach Yin which I do find to be relaxing but which I cannot count as my relaxation since I will be teaching. So, today I treated myself and attended Jodi's noontime Relax and Renew class at Deep Peace Wellness Studio. The studio is in a lovely space in downtown Duluth. It has huge windows which let in plenty of sun and light. Very nice to come in to after the icy winds outside. She was playing Tibetan Bowl gonging music with running water sounds in the background. It was so soothing. It was like being in summer for a brief respite.

Jodi taught a lovely and restorative therapeutic spine class with multiple heart openers and spine releasing poses. We did a lot of work with the therapeutic spinal strip which I think was good for me because I am a bit sore after attending the Back Arch class at Yoga North last night. "Multiple" makes it sound like we were rushed but we weren't. We spent around 10 minutes per pose (I'm guessing) and really settled in.

This class was a little bit early for my relaxation since I am usually choosing to relax between 4-8 pm. I felt pretty alert and even kept my eyes open some of the time. I didn't feel distracted though. The ceiling had pretty beams which I enjoyed looking at. Of course, I didn't have my glasses on so pretty much everything is a blur. Very soothing - like a Monet painting.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 27

Thursday, Feb 24, 2011 - Day 27
I took a break from my computer to relax and listen to Richard Miller's free on-line Yoga Nidra practice after reading Namaste from Duluth's blog post, Challenges and Being Present, about pinging around from one thing to another and back to the first again. This post talks about how fragmented we are: email, phone, blog post, work, school, hobbies. How many can you do at once?

Relaxation is about getting away from of all of that. Centering the mind, developing one-pointed focus, calming the thoughts and remembering to breathe. Even though I had some trouble with my practice yesterday I still feel like things are changing for me. My body is liking the idea and the actual feeling of laying down and taking a break. I think my mind likes it too, it just doesn't want to admit it. Maybe by the end of the 40 days my mind will have given in as well. It will start bossing me around, "Hey, get downstairs to your calm room and take a break already!" 

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 26

Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011 - Day 26
Just yesterday I was saying how much I was starting to like this practice of doing nothing. Well naturally that means that my Wednesday practice fell apart. I couldn't lay still, couldn't stop checking the time and the dog didn't want to lay by me so she sat by the door staring at me instead.

You know how you can tell when someone is looking at you? It's the eye vibe or something. Well, it's the same with a dog - maybe worse because they have no Miss Manners to teach then that it is not polite to stare. So in my fidgetyness I would glance up, see her staring, lay back down and then shortly later I was compelled to look again. And sure enough - she was still staring. She was like a staring statue: no blink, no movement. Arrrgh. To her credit there was no whining or scratching at the door either. It was really about me. I just couldn't settle.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 25

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011 - Day 25
For my practice I tried to do nothing again. I laid in my calm room and stared at the ceiling trying not to think or do anything. I am really starting to like this practice. Remember when you were a kid and you would do nothing? People (parents) would come by and say, "What are you doing?" and you would reply, "I dunno, nothing." Usually that "nothing" involved laying upside down, hanging from your bed or the couch, or maybe you were sitting in some small cozy space just hanging out. Why don't we do that as adults? I guess my calm room is my adult fort.

Yoga is a funny thing. We talk about cultivating the beginner's mind, remaining curious, and working towards "not doing." I'm starting to think that we all already know how to do this. Or rather, we knew how to do this when we were kids. Yoga seems like a process of remembering what we already knew, what already came naturally to us as children.

Go ahead, crawl into your cubby and do nothing.

Image from Banana Head Kids in Brisbane. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 24

Monday, Feb 21, 2011 - Day 24
Last night in my Ayurveda class one of my class mates said that her husband can sit and do nothing. Most of us in the class are more Pitta and Vata so we were all like, "What do you mean 'sit and do nothing'?" She said he can sit on the couch and look out the window, take long slow walks for no purpose, or just sit and do nothing. This was a bit unfathomable to me but then I remembered that in the summer I can do this too. I can sit and do nothing for hours if I am sitting in the sun. I love to sit in the sun and do nothing. Making up for cold Minnesota winters I guess.

So, for my practice today I sat and did nothing. Well actually I laid down and did nothing. I went to my calm room, laid on the floor and did not listen to any deep relaxation exercises, did not do any postures, and did not do any breath work. I just relaxed my body and let my mind follow it's own course - to a point. If I noticed that my mind was edging too much towards work or worry then I nudged myself back to doing and thinking nothing.

It was a little bit hard to stay awake though. I noticed that a couple of times I started having that feeling that you get just before you drop off to sleep. You know that feeling that you are existing in two worlds simultaneously? And you are about to fall out of wakefulness and into sleep? I caught myself a few times at that precipice. So I would open my eyes and stare at the ceiling and do nothing. I recommend trying it. It's interesting. It felt good to relax and do nothing.

I just read a quote recently (can't remember where or by who): Why are you doing something? Just sit there!

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 23

Sunday, Feb 20, 2011 - Day 23
Here's how my mind was working:

1st Mind, "I don't need to do relaxation today. I am already relaxed. Look, I am reading a novel and not doing any work. What's more relaxing than reading a book for fun?"

2nd Mind, "You know you have to do your relaxation exercise. You committed to 40 days. Besides, it's not just that you have to, you want to."

1st Mind, "Yes, yes, I know. But seriously, I am so relaxed right now. I'm not thinking about anything."

2nd Mind, "You know that zoning out with a good book is not the same as relaxation. Relaxation is about focus. Learning one-pointed concentration. Softening the jaw. Remember? I bet your jaw isn't soft while you're reading."

1st Mind, "OK, you're right. I'll do my relaxation. I'll just do it in a little while. I'll read just a bit longer."

2nd Mind, "Fine. I'll check back in."

OK - that all sounds a bit crazy but it was like that in my head all dang day. I think it's funny. When I am busy, I don't want to take time to relax even though I know I should, and when I am having a lazy and relaxing day, I don't think I need to take time to relax. What is up with this tricky mind?

I finally compromised between my two voices. I did a short relaxation after I came home from my Ayurveda class and before I picked up my book again. I listened to to Deborah Adele's CD, The Art of Relaxation, track number 3, Systematic Relaxation. It's a short track - just under 15 minutes. I do kind of feel like I cheated on my practice by relaxing such a short time. But on the other hand, isn't my 1st Mind right? Taking a day off to do not much of anything is relaxing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 22

Saturday, Feb 19, 2011 - Day 22
Yea! The weekend! I love lounging around in my yoga room and taking all the time I want to relax. I call my yoga room "the calm room" because the colors are very soothing (see right - I had just finishing up the painting but the carpet hadn't been installed yet).  Three walls are a light indigo color and one wall is a darker purple. The carpet is light green and the ceiling is white. When I lay down in that room I feel like I am in/on a mini-earth world: the carpet is the grass, the walls are the sky, and the ceiling is puffy white clouds. It's so great. I feel relaxed the minute I go in there. I have a little heater I bring in and I shut the door and heat it up to about 80. This might sound hot but the rest of the house is rarely over 65 so for a short time 80 feels pretty dang good.

Today I listened to Richard Miller's full Yoga Nidra practice. Well, almost the full practice. Now I remember why my Ipod has doubled tracks. I had a hard time getting the Yoga Nidra track to copy to my Itunes so I tried loading it a couple times which means I have two of each track except the Yoga Nidra track. That track is a bit garbled and static-y at the end of the practice. It didn't matter though. I was super relaxed. After the Yoga Nidra practice I stayed in the calm room and listened to Steven Halpern's, In the Om Zone II, for a little while and did a few restorative postures.

Friday, February 18, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 21

Friday, Feb 18, 2011 - Day 21
I tried a Yoga Nidra CD that I don't listen to that often: James Jewell. He has a soothing voice and I think he must be British. I always enjoy listening to an English accent. He has some cool breath visualizations. His body scan is pretty fast though. Maybe that's good? I didn't have time to let my mind wander that's for sure. But I also felt a bit rushed.

I found myself feeling teary all the sudden and I realized that rushing through the body scan felt the same as my life right now. Dave and I are coming up with ideas right and left for new ways to take the company. We're on to so many ideas I think my head might spin.

Thankfully, I teach my Yin class tonight and that is always centering and relaxing for me. I never worry about my lesson plan or how the class will go. Yin is just a natural fit.

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 20

Thursday, Feb 17, 2011 - Day 20
So I had a little case of the grumps on Wednesday and then I didn't write my Thursday post on Thursday but I did do my relaxation practice. I am still on track for completing the 40 day practice. As a matter of fact, I am half way there. Yea!

I had started Richard Miller's yoga nidra practice again -the one that comes with his book, The Meditative Heart of Yoga. For some reason it is doubled up on my ipod so I listened to track 1 and 2 twice and track 3 once on Wednesday. I continued this practice on Thursday, listening to track 3 (once) track 4 (twice) and track 5 (once) - about 30 minutes. The interesting thing about having these tracks doubled up is that when I listen the 2nd time I can absorb more of what he is saying.

My every day life has had a reintroduction of one of my favorite activities this week: walking. It has been very warm in Minnesota this week (well, warm for us - highs in the upper forties) and Dave and I have been able to take the dog for long walks on the lakewalk. I forget how much I miss this until we can do it again. We start taking short, neighborhood walks when it gets too cold for the dog to handle a long walk or when it gets too salty on the sidewalks and roads. Her feet get burned by the salt. I have developed I lift kit for her so we can at least go for some distance but the cold gets to her pretty quick in the winter.

Petra's lift kit: I made a custom, double-breasted, 
wool felt coat for her and then added the bow-shaped handle 
for lifting and carrying over the salty roads.

Anyway, taking long walks really helps both me and Dave clear our minds and solve problems. It also gives us a lot of time to talk. We end up talking about all sorts of things but since we own our own business we do often talk business strategy and ideas. This might not sound relaxing, but it is. Getting that long paced walking rhythm frees your mind, especially compared to the mincing, please-don't-let-me-fall steps we normally take while winter walking. It's cold again today but the sidewalks and roads are melted out, dry, and fairly salt free. I think we can go to the lake again even though the wind gusts are up to 50 mph. It will be an adventure.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 19

Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011 - Day 19
I've hit the doldrums of the 40 day practice. I know I'll get through it because I have done multiple 40 day practice's in the past 3 years and I always get through. I'm very disciplined and determined. Probably why I need to relax in the first place. I mean honestly, who needs to give themselves a time-out to relax? Well I do and I guess I know lots of other people who would benefit too. I guess I am feeling grumpy about it though. I think it's because I don't want to take time out of my day to relax but I can't do it at night because I have so dang many activities every stupid night of the week. Hmmm. Maybe I need to cut back a bit.

Well, grumpiness aside, I did have a very nice relaxation today. I listened to Richard Miller's yoga nidra practice again -the one that comes with his book, The Meditative Heart of Yoga. For some reason it is doubled up on my ipod so I listened to track 1 and 2 twice and track 3 once. That was about 40 minutes. Which was about 20 minutes longer than I meant to lay down so now I have to skip my shower before my class tonight. Oh well. There's always tomorrow for a shower. It sure did feel good to relax though. What am I so grumpy about?

BTW, I did not puff up from my acupuncture treatment and I also did not catch a cold after waking up with a sore throat yesterday. Petra (my dog) skipped relaxation today. She wanted to watch Jeopardy instead. It was an historic match between 2 of the smartest men to ever play Jeopardy and a robot named Watson. Watson won.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 18

Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011 - Day 18
I scheduled a second Acupuncture appointment today for right after I finished teaching. (My first appointment was on Day 4.) I like having my "self-care" appointments on Tuesday afternoons because once I am done teaching my Tuesday classes I don't have to teach any yoga classes until Thursday. So I feel like whatever adjustments I get will have time to settle in before I get all active again.

I woke up with a sore throat this morning. I wonder if it's because I finished the website redesign? You know how you can be doing all these stressful things and be fine, and then as soon as you stop, that is when you get sick? Well, I'm not sick but I don't feel 100%. Jodie, my acupuncturist, said that my skin was really tough today and that that is a sign that the body is fighting something off. She called it the "way" or something like that. She had a hard time getting the needles to go in around my jaw due to tough skin. Weird, huh? Also, I felt very tired and I think I fell asleep during my session, which I never do because I'm afraid I'll move and stab a needle deep in where it doesn't belong. Or I'll move and fall off the high table. But neither of these things happened and I feel better after treatment.

Tonight, I did the longer Yoga Nidra practice with Robin Carnes, Yoga Nidra II, 2nd track - Yoga Nidra with Healing Sounds (about 48 minutes). In addition to body awareness and other sensing practices, she does a Chakra balancing practice. I think I must have fallen asleep part way in though because I was suddenly aware that we were doing this Chakra exercise and we were in the middle of the practice and apparently the practice is towards the end of the track. Oops. Well, now I can listen again and be pleasantly surprised.

One thing that struck me was that at the beginning of the practice Ms. Carnes recommends letting go of any agendas or goals that you may have entered the practice with - even the goal of being relaxed. It makes sense. If we come at something from a place of lack then we are already saying that we don't have that thing. So if I want to relax I need to just settle in to where I am and tell myself that I am relaxed, or that I embody relaxation. This is the idea behind Sankalpa too. I re-posted a great article called Inspired Intention ~ The Nature of Sankalpa that talks about this in depth. If you are interested in "working on yourself" without starting in lack, please have a look at this article.

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 17

Monday, Feb 14, 2011 - Day 17 - Happy Valentine's Day - not that I observe such holidays or even remember them. Dave had to remind me what day it was.

I'm writing this Day 17 post on Day 18 so it's hard remember much about my relaxation. I should've probably told Dave about it yesterday so he could remind me today. Ha ha.

I listened to Robin Carnes, Yoga Nidra II, 3rd track - short Yoga Nidra. I did not catch myself trying to clench my teeth at all during my relaxation. I finished a major project yesterday - redesigning our main business website - and I think finishing that was a huge stress reliever. I didn't clench while sleeping last night either. Well, I didn't catch myself clenching. Anyway, I enjoyed the short Yoga Nidra practice. I felt rested and ready to go to my Tang Soo Do class after relaxing.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 16

Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 - Day 16
I listened to Richard Miller's CD from The Meditative Heart of Yoga again today. He really does have such a soothing voice. I heard things I hadn't heard before. This is one of the things I love about Yoga Nidra. No matter how much you think you are awake and aware and hearing everything, you never hear it all. You can't. It seems like whatever I need to focus on the most is what I hear. Or maybe it's just that my mind wanders. I don't know.

I do know that my dog's mind wandered today. She was thinking about the dog cookies I forgot I had in my pocket and then she was thinking about how it must be her dinner time because it is 5 o'clock and her stomach clock knows it and don't I want to get up and feed her right now dang it.

We lasted a bit longer but she wasn't happy about it. Of course she wouldn't leave the room unless I was leaving too since I'm the one with the fingers which can open the food bin. Good thing she's so dang cute. Guess I need to plan our relaxation session times a bit better. Ha ha.

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 15

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 - Day 15
I think I forgot to mention yesterday that in addition to Yoga North getting a bunch of new props, I bought one each of the Pranayama Cotton Bolster and the Small Round Bolster (see them here). So for Saturday's practice I played around with my  new props, trying restorative poses with this new feeling of different height bolsters. I used the Small Round for a wide kneed child's pose, the Pranayama bolster for a heart center opener like the one I teach here - except with the bolster it was a bit more intense. And I did a few other poses as well. I listened to Steven Halpern's CD, In the OM Zone II, while I laid around. This album was recommended to me by Sharon from Path to Stillness Yoga Studio in Lindsay, Ontario. It's a very relaxing album containing Om songs which run from 3-6 minutes each. Some of the songs have other sounds in the background occasionally (like ocean waves on a beach). Every few songs there is a 30 second Tibetan bowl chiming session. You can download this album from Amazon, Itunes and probably other places as well.

As far as how my teeth are doing with all this relaxation, it's hard to say for sure. I am still very sensitive to cold food/drink. And by cold I mean anything cooler than mouth temperature. I have a hard time eating fruit from the fruit bowl because it is just too cold (the fruit bowl sits on the counter, the fruit is not in the fridge). I still have to warm up my cold cereal in the microwave for almost a minute each morning so I can eat it without pain. And I still notice the cold air on my teeth when I breath. BUT, the good news is that I am not so sensitive to hot things any more and this is more normal for me. I can drink hot tea, eat hot soup and eat my dinner before it cools off so this is all very nice.

What I am really noticing about this practice though is how many people grind and/or clench their teeth. I'm going with 80% of the people I tell about my tooth pain, also have tooth sensitivity and/or clench or grind their teeth. It's weird! How can so many of us be clenchers and grinders? Is it normal?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 14

Friday, Feb 11, 2011 - Day 14
I didn't have time to do my relaxation during the day Friday and I have been wanting to offer a freebie extended class after Yin for a while now so I invited my Yin class to join me in a relaxation exercise after the regular class time. I knew some of my students were planning an outing after class and they had even invited me but since I am on this 40 day practice, and I couldn't get to it during the day, I had to do it after class - either alone at home or in company at Yoga North.

Small Round Cotton Yoga BolsterI was joined by one of my students who is really more of a peer as she has also taken teacher training and multiple in-depth studies. We listened to Dr. Louise Montello's 2nd track of her Relax into Wellness, Vol. 1 CD, Autogenic Training. I think we were both in la-la land. Plus, Yoga North ordered new props - the Pranayama Cotton Bolster, the Small Round Bolster, and a whole pile of fuzzy fleece blankets - so we could really prop up and settle in.
Pranayama Cotton Yoga Bolster
I used the Pranayama Cotton Bolster, which is 25'' long x 3'' high x 6'' wide, under my back for a low reclining bound angle and propped up my knees with cushy fleece blankets. The bolster is a very nice height for laying on. I did notice after about 20 minutes (the relaxation is about 30 minutes) that my back started to feel it. And today (Saturday) my upper back is a bit sore. I definitely got some opening through the extended laying around.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 13

Thursday, Feb 10, 2011 - Day 13
I don't have a lot of time for relaxation today so I chose a shorter practice. I listened to Deborah Adele's CD, The Art of Relaxation, track number 8, 61 Points. I really like her version of this practice. It is just under 15 minutes so for a busy day, it is perfect.

Both yesterday and today I tried my relaxation laying flat on the floor, no props. I found that I had a very hard time keeping still. My knees especially became stiff and uncomfortable. Surprisingly to me, my SI joints were ok. In the past they have bothered me if I have no props. Of course I was on thick carpet so that must have been enough. Looking forward to the weekend and longer relaxation time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 12

Wednesday, Feb 9, 2011 - Day 12
When I wrote this morning about my practice for yesterday I wrote that I had found a free yoga Nidra practice on-line. It's by Richard Miller, the developer of the iRest System: I started to listen to it this morning but then I got distracted and worked my behind off all day trying to get this website finished. Erika from Yoga North just wrote and asked me how my relaxation was going.This made me realize that I had a massive stinger in my left shoulder and my jaw was quite tight. I realized it was time for my relaxation.

I decided to try the free practice from Richard Miller. It's a lot longer than I thought it would be. It's about 30 minutes. Did I mention that it is free? What a good deal. Anyway, I consciously relaxed my jaw, my breath, my face, my thoughts as he took me through sensing different parts of the body, emotions and thoughts. I feel a lot better.

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 11

Tuesday, Feb 8, 2011 - Day 11
I listened to Richard Miller's yoga nidra practice that comes with his book, The Meditative Heart of Yoga. I know he is one of the main yoga nidra practitioners and the developer of the "iRest" program (Integrative Restoration) but his style is very different from Robin Carnes. He doesn't use much imagery or body scans. He asks you to feel in your body and mind what it would be like and where would you feel it if you felt a certain way. For example, where do you feel guilt, shame, remorse? How does that make you feel? What would it be like if you did not feel those feelings? What is it like if you feel whole, healthy and happy? Things like that. It seemed like the whole practice was like that but who really knows? I could've been asleep for all I know. It was very soothing. I'll keep on trying his practice for a few more days to really get a feel for what his style is.

I did the practice included in the book around 6 pm - earlier than the night before when I listened right before bed. But both nights (Mon and Tues) I found myself dreaming, dreaming, dreaming - can't stop dreaming!

Monday night I dreamed that there were a bunch of programs on my computer and they were taking over my bandwidth and I couldn't get my work done (this is after adding Skype I should note).

Tuesday night I found myself dreaming about my hair. It was very long and I thought to myself, "Wow, my hair really does grow fast!" (People always tell me how fast my hair grows but I think it grows at a normal rate of 1/2 inch a month.) I have been thinking of getting a haircut and I guess it is a bit stressful for me. If I cut it, I have to keep getting it cut, or go through the whole process of growing it out again. If I don't cut it, I have plain old long hair - no style really - just pulled back in a bun or ponytail. It's a bit dull.

Also, I caught myself trying to clench my teeth overnight a few different times. I am very aware of this habit now and I have been catching myself both day and night trying to clench. It just feels so good. Dang it! Hopefully this awareness will bring change.

I just found a free practice by Richard Miller on line: This practice seems a bit different than the one included in his book/CD. It's more of a body scan. Have a listen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 10

Monday, Feb 7, 2011 - Day 10
I waited until this morning to write my post for yesterday because I wanted to experiment with listening to a relaxation track right before I went to sleep. Not sure if last night was the best night to experiment though. I had my Tang Soo Do class til 8:30 pm so I didn't get home til about 8:50 pm. And of course I was starved after such a long class with no dinner before hand so I ate around 9 pm - right before bed. I already know this is not the best idea for me (or anyone). My stomach felt very active all night and I had so many dreams I feel like I was in an alternate universe.

Anyway, the relaxation details: I listened to to Dr. Louise Montello's  Relax into Wellness, Vol. 2, Track 2 (which Dr. Louise calls Yoga Nidra). This is the one I have been having trouble paying attention to when I listen during the day. She specifically recommends listening to it in the day though and not for a sleep aid. Oops. I found I could do the practice better when it was dark and I was warm under the covers. I did not fall asleep during the practice but I fell asleep right away after the track ended. Listening to her version of Yoga Nidra (really, the Sweeping Breath) while in bed, made me like the practice a bit more.

I think I am done with Dr. Louise (for now). I'm going to move on to some of my other relaxation CD's.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 9

Sunday, Feb 6, 2011 - Day 9
Remember that song, "It's just another manic Monday. Wish it was Sunday. That's my fun day. My I don't have to run day." That's how my Sunday was too. Even though I worked this morning (still coding the website), I didn't put any pressure on myself to accomplish anything in particular. Plus I did some fun stuff like talked to my sister on the phone and my Dad, his wife, my other sister and her partner on Skype. First time Skyping and it was pretty cool. Very Jetsons.

This afternoon my relaxation practice was all me. No other instructions, no music, no dog. Just me and my props. I did a bit of hanging out on my back-bender, little bit of Seal pose, Child's pose, supported side seated twist, and finally a supported side lying stretch. I don't have any images up for this one but I'll work on getting something up soon. Probably after this 40 day practice.

I was in blissville. I felt very relaxed the whole time. My mind did not ping out in all directions. Oddly, I had weird sensations of watching TV inside my head but I did not recognize the characters but I think I was one (or all) of them. But this did not detract from my relaxation. I think I was in that funny state between awake and asleep. It was kind of weird and kind of fun.

This evening I went to my Ayurveda class and we talked about the properties of food and how we can identify these properties so that we know what we are taking in as we eat a particular food. I am such a beginner at understanding this but it is super interesting. I would recommend taking an Ayurveda class if you get a chance.

Also, I am no longer puffy. I am now thinking I was all puffed up from pms and this was exacerbated by the acupuncture. My sister once told me that a person should never be needled before or during their period. Apparently this is a very sensitive time and can cause extreme reactions. Although I am no longer puffy (thank you!) I am still feeling sort of loose-jawed and at the same time a bit tense. I am afraid to shut my teeth together because I don't want to clench them. I have caught myself clenching my teeth 3 times now during my relaxation time. It feels good. I like the pressure. I think I need pressure therapy - like Temple Grandin's Cow Hugging Machine. I'm serious. Being smooshed feels good. Here's a picture of a hugging machine and a link to build your own: I don't have one of these but I'm thinking they are pretty cool, right?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 8

Saturday, Feb 5, 2011 - Day 8
Thank goodness for the weekend! I can take time to relax without feeling pressured to get to work (self-pressured since I work for myself). I goofed off all morning, chatting with family, catching up on yoga blogs, etc. After walking the dog around noon I settled myself into Supported Savasana with heaps of pillows and listened to Dr. Louise Montello's 2nd track of her Relax into Wellness, Vol. 1 CD called Autogenic Training (yes, again - I like this one) and followed it up with Track 2 of Relax into Wellness, Vol. 2, (which Dr. Louise calls Yoga Nidra). I did this one yesterday and found it difficult to pay attention so I thought I would try it again today after listening to a track that I know I like.

I swear I was listening to a different CD for the Autogenic Training. It wasn't anything like I remembered it. I could've sworn that throughout the whole practice she asked us to imagine waves on the beach timed with our breathing and heartbeat matching the waves. Well that isn't it at all! It starts that way but then moves on to imagining your body is heavy and warm and relaxed - which I remember doing before but only as an afterthought to breathing with the ocean waves. I guess I was on my own little journey those other times I listened to this track.

At any rate, I liked it again. I couldn't get my body to be warm though. I guess my mind isn't powerful enough yet. Ha ha. The Yoga Nidra track  (Sweeping Breath) was still a bit hard to pay attention to. I was not settled at all as we worked our way up the body but I was able to focus and settle in as we worked our way back down the body.

Friday, February 4, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 7

Friday, Feb 4, 2011 - Day 7
Today's relaxation wasn't very relaxing. I couldn't stop wiggling. Many reasons:  I have been working on the company's website again and can't turn my mind off (what if I made the margins 15px instead of 10px, should the logo be bronze, blue or what?, why is that div behaving like that...argh); the house was cold; the dog was licky and wiggly; I slept poorly last night; I didn't allot enough time between my two jobs; I was anxious about getting to Yoga North on time to teach my Yin class. Classic "can't relax" syndrome. Oh well, there's always tomorrow. 

Relaxation details: I listened to Track 2 of Relax into Wellness, Vol. 2, which Dr. Louise calls Yoga Nidra. The practice is a sweeping breath from soles to crown to soles, ankles to crown to ankles, knees to crown to knees, etc. through the whole body and back down again. I have not run into anyone else calling this breath practice Yoga Nidra but Dr. Louise says that is what Swami Rama (founder of the Himalayan tradition) calls it. I took my teacher training in the Himalayan tradition so it's weird to me that I haven't heard this until now. I have listened to this track before and found it deeply relaxing so I'll have to try it again when I don't have time constraints like I had today.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 6

Thursday, Feb 3, 2011 - Day 6
During my noon class today I taught a variation of  Dr. Louise Montello's 2nd track of her Relax into Wellness, Vol. 1 CD called Autogenic Training. My students seemed to enjoy it - some even fell asleep they were so soothed. So I decided to listen to that practice again today. It's so awesome (and you can download it from Amazon for 99 cents).

I wanted to continue to relax after the Autogenic Training was over so I also listened to Track 1 of Relax into Wellness, Vol. 2, which is called 61 Points. I first heard this relaxation practice at Yoga North from my teacher, Deborah Adele, who also offers this same practice on her Relaxation CD. I find that I can follow Deborah's version a little better. I'm not sure why. Anyway, I feel refreshed after relaxing and I seem to be a bit more alert. I'm still a bit puffy in the eyes but at least my hands are no longer stiff and swollen. Also, my dog joined me again today for relaxation.

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 5, part II

Wednesday, Feb 2, 2011 - Day 5 (part 2)
I attended Thomas's Yin class last night at the Y and it was LOVELY! I am so happy to know that there is another teacher in town who is teaching Yin. I love to be the student in a relaxing class.

I realized that I have not been teaching a true Yin class, which I guess I already knew. I combine styles: Yin, Restorative (lots of props), Therapeutic and Deep Relaxation. It works for me and for my students but I enjoyed the purity and the challenge of the Yin practice Thomas lead. Part of my deal with not teaching a "pure" Yin class is my fear of hurting myself or my students. I definitely bumped up against my fears of hurting myself last night. I'm afraid I will go too deep in a pose and then have SI joint pain later. I have a hard time telling the difference in my body between deep pressure and discomfort/pain. But today I feel fine - no back pain.

Oddly though, I am all puffed up again. I feel like I can barely open my eyes because my face is so puffy and my fingers are stiff and swollen. I suppose both Acupuncture and Yin release toxins into the system which could cause all this puffiness. I did not eat a big bowl of salty popcorn last night and I tried to stay hydrated all day yesterday. If anyone has any thoughts on reducing fluid retention I'd love to hear them.

In addition to this 40 day relaxation practice, I am taking a 30 day "challenge" Ayurveda class at Yoga North. Our first class was on Sunday, Jan 30th. We'll meet for 5 weeks. The first night we tried to figure out our doshas. Turns out I am mostly Vata and Pitta, not so much Kapha. Something the teacher said cracked me up. She said, "A pitta person will not just take a walk, they will take a walk to get somewhere." This is me all over. I'm not just going to relax to reduce inflammation so my teeth don't hurt, I'm going to relax for 40 days and blog about it! What a goofball (I say about myself in a loving tone).

Want to know your dosha? Here's a few links I found to some quizzes:
Yoga Journal:
Banyan Botanicals:
Chopra Center: 

I'm sure there are more resources out there but these three are a good start.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 5

Wednesday, Feb 2, 2011 - Day 5
Wow - I am exhausted today after my acupuncture appointment yesterday. I must have had some serious energetic stuckness going on because today my jaw is sore, I feel super tired and a bit weepy and I'm all puffy. Well, the puffy part could be from the salty popcorn I ate last night I guess.

Today's relaxation is going to be a Yin class, led by Thomas from the YMCA. I have heard very good things about his class so I am very excited to be the student and receive the teaching today. Too bad I can't bring my dog. I guess she'll miss out on day 5 of relaxation. Of course she dozes most of the day in the office and most of the evening on our bed and most of the night in her kennel so I guess she is pretty relaxed already.

Here's what Thomas said when I told him I would be attending his class:

I was sorry to read about your tooth pain in your blog although your "cheeky" tone eased the pain. My prayer is that your experience on Wed night will be healing and medicinal for you; consider it your "ibuprof-yin."

Isn't that cute? Ibuprof-Yin!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

40 Days of Relaxation - Day 4

Tuesday, Feb 1, 2011 - Day 4
Today I went really nuts with relaxation. OK that sounded weird but here's what happened. After my sister, who is in school to become an Acupuncturist, read my blog post, Relaxation for Tooth Pain, she emailed me some images from her Acupuncture textbook which show some key points to help relieve pressure and tension in the jaw. Here's what they look like:

Images from: A Manual of Acupuncture 
Authors:  Peter Deadman and Mazin Al-Khafaji
Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications; 2 edition, June 25, 2007

And here's what my sister wrote me to do:

Hi Sara,
I just read your post about your teeth pain and what your dentist told you. Just relax Sara. haha! But seriously, not fun at all. Teeth pain can be horrible.

I clench my teeth in my sleep and I find that if I spend a few minutes massaging certain points before I go to bed, it helps me not clench during the night. Additionally, I massage them for relief from tight jaw muscles. I have attached a document with some jpegs from my main acupuncture book to show you the points that would be good for you.

On the first page, the one that has a ton of points on it, the ones that would be good for you are the 3 that are in a vertical row in front of the opening to your ear. So would the one right under your earlobe named SJ-17.

On the second page, all of those would be good for you.

On page 3, there is a point named AN MIAN/PEACEFUL SLEEP - The name tells you what it does. It is on the mastoid process but more toward the back edge of it on the same horizontal line as SJ-17 which is right under your earlobe.

I hope that this well be helpful for you. Plus, I don't want you taking more ibuprofen than you have to!!!

Well, this all got me thinking that I needed to make an appointment with my local L.Ap., Jodie Cope. I've been meaning to get in to see her for a while now anyway for my weird cold left foot problem. She was able to get me in today right after I got done teaching my second yoga class (which happens to be right across the street from her office - very convenient). Anyway, she treated all the points that my sister had recommended plus my usual ones for the cold left foot and some others that are a mystery to me. I know she got some good ones though because all the points were so tender.

When I got home I was exhausted. I ate, crawled in bed and watched TV for a while, and then listened to track 2 of Relax into Wellness, Vol. 1 (about 26 min). The practice is called Autogenic Training. It was super great! I was so relaxed. The practice basically consists of imagining your breath and your heartbeat to be in time to waves on a beach and then telling yourself that your body parts are heavy and warm. Well since I was under the covers with my electric blanket on high I had no problem imagining the heavy and warm part. And I loved the imagery of my breath and heartbeat going in time to the waves. I felt quite a bit more alert by the end of the practice.

I'm a bit tuckered out still from the treatment and I have some discomfort in my jaw and in my hands (points in the hand lead up to the jaw) but my jaw feels very loose which is nice. I am glad I went to see Jodie and I think I will go see her again within a few weeks.

Oh yeah - my dog is on day 4 in relaxation too. Hee hee.