Monday, June 27, 2011

Supported Reclining Bound Angle

Blanket-foot Bound Angle

I've detailed other versions of Bound Angle and Reclining Bound Angle before (here and here). But this version is one of my favorites. It's easy to do at home or at yoga class. All you need are two medium-thick or thick blankets (three if you want one more to cover up with).

Setting up for the pose:
Roll one of your blankets into a small bolster and place it behind you lengthwise. It should be long enough to support your whole torso and your head. The blanket roll should be right up against your sacrum and when you lay on it your head should not be hanging off the end.

Fold your second blanket into a hotdog fold (fold in half lengthwise) and lay it down at the end of your mat by your feet (perpendicular to your mat).

Coming into the pose:
Sit in front of your bolster-rolled blanket with bent knees and your feet on your hotdog folded blanket. Fold the "hotdog folded" blanket over your feet making a "foot sandwich." (Now your blanket is folded twice, lengthwise, with your feet inside).

Pull the ends of your foot blanket toward you, tucking the feet in snugly.

Lay down on your bolster-rolled blanket and get comfortable. Your behind should be on the floor but the rest of your back and your head should be on the blanket roll. Let your knees fall open to the sides, tucking the ends of your "foot sandwich" blanket under your knees and/or hips to support the bound angle opening.

While in the pose:
You can experiment with what feels the best to you. If your head is tipped way back or you feel unsupported in the neck, place a folded blanket under the head and neck - not so thick that your head tips forward. Your head should be level with the body or slightly tipped back.

If your inner thighs feel too stretched, wad up your support blanket a little more and give your knees more height.

Send your arms out to the sides, palms up to encourage the heart center to open. If you feel too much pulling across the chest or through the arms, put a folded towel or blanket under each lower arm, supporting all the way to the fingertips.

If any other place in your body feels uncomfortable or unsupported, experiment with more props until you feel at ease.

Keep breathing, keep observing the pose in your body, and allow the body to open at its own rate. Commit to the stillness but do allow yourself to adjust your props and your body as you settle deeper in.

Coming out of the pose:
To come out, you can either help the knees come back together or you can send your legs straight out to stretch. Either way, roll to one side to rest before coming back to seated. A nice follow-up pose is a Supported Side Reclining Twist.


Monday, June 20, 2011

DVD Review ~ Yoga for Morning, Noon & Night

Yoga for Morning, Noon & Night features Jason Crandell, a contributing editor for Yoga Journal who also teaches at YJ conferences and leads workshops and retreats around the world.

This DVD includes three yoga sequences of about 20 minutes each - perfect for sneaking a bit of yoga into your day, even on a busy day.

The first practice is a gentle wake up session featuring Half Sun Salutations (Sun Breath) plus a nice shoulder opener, side bends, and core strengtheners. I loved the pace Crandell led. I felt very taken care of.

The second practice picks up the pace a bit, using Sun Salutation A, standing poses and back bends. Even though the practice was more vigorous  than the first one, I never felt rushed. I was able to keep my breath deep, smooth and steady. In a faster paced class I think it is easy to forget your breath but Crandell did not let us do that. Maintaining relaxation and breath awareness during a flowing practice is something I really appreciate.

The third practice took us down to the floor for seated and supine poses. Mostly we worked on hip and hamstring openers plus twists and back bends - with a few down dogs thrown in there as decompression after back bends. I felt very relaxed after this practice.

Over all I enjoyed this DVD quite a bit. Crandell's voice was soothing, his pace (even in the faster paced session) was spacious, and I appreciate his emphasis on paying attention to your body and not pushing yourself beyond your edge.

I watched his interview after the three sequences were over and found out that he had had a serious back injury in the past. Perhaps this is why I felt so comfortable with his teaching: he knows what it is like to be in pain and does not want his students to ever go to that place.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Feeling the Bliss

The article below was written for Do Restorative Yoga by Diane Kistler, a yoga teacher from Philadelphia, who teaches at Moyo Yoga. Diane writes:

I am just coming off the glow of an amazing Restorative series that we offered at Moyo Yoga in Skippack, PA. I can only hope that the students are sharing this same glow. While exhausting to put together each classes lesson plan, practice and take photos of each pose, and then post the class on the Feeling the Bliss blog, it was well worth the effort.

I digress a bit. My interest in Restorative Yoga began quite innocently. I took a summer retreat at Kripalu with Jillian Pransky. It was titled "Yoga and Nature" or something like that. I was immediately drawn to this practice during the retreat.  I continued to study with Jillian in the fall at Yogaworks with her Restorative Teacher Training Level I & II. Her influences are Erich Schiffman, Judith Lasater, Donna Farhi, Integrated Yoga Therapy, Dr. Ruella Frank, Dr. Herbert Benson and the Relaxation Response and so on. She has a very nurturing, down to earth approach to this practice but is steeped in much knowledge and experience.

Following the training, I was super psyched to try this practice out on others.  Luckily, a few wonderful students at the studio volunteered. We spent several weeks one on one trying out poses, getting feedback, and adjusting where we needed to.  I am grateful to those first few students who trusted me as a newbie.  Now I needed to take more classes myself and feel the practice first hand.  I came up with close to nothing in the Philadelphia area in late 2010.  A few classes but too far away.  I really didn't want this learning and practice to get too far out of my range.  In early spring of this year (2011), I noticed that area yoga studios were now offering weekly classes and monthly workshops.  I've now been able to supplement my training with the experience of the practice itself.  I feel fortunate that there are so many offerings.

I knew the time was ripe to begin a class at Moyo.  Moyo has been offering more and more series so the students can build upon their practices in things like alignment, prenatal and beginners yoga. A series in restorative yoga is the perfect platform because this practice requires building upon "Remembered Wellness" tapping into the Relaxation Response. We organized it to run for 4 weeks with a one hour class each week. We had 10 participants all with a varied health history.* 

I drew up lesson plans for each class and my assistant, Carmen, and I practiced the poses prior to class.  Carmen and I set up 10 stations along the wall (students did not move to other stations).  We had the necessary props for the poses that day.  In addition, we usually had extra blankets, cushions, even Webkinz stuffed animals to place in hands.  Currently, we are somewhat limited in props!  A typical class was comprised of a reflection on the practice, a breath, 3 poses and savasana (ideally).  I followed up with an email to students pointing them to the blog, so they could practice at home.  The blog had the classes poses, the breath, recap of a concept like sankalpa (which they set at the beginning of the series),  seva, or gratitude journaling and links to useful information.

Not everything was perfect.  A few poses were challenging for some students body types, or spinal issues.  After the first pose, the room began to resemble a slumber party as props were moved here and there.  The limited prop situation challenged us.  By far, the biggest complaint from students is that the series was not long enough!  As teachers, Carmen and I learned a lot about observation and letting go.  After getting students settled in a pose, the more active adjustment, we would hang back and observe the students.  When we saw, tension in various areas of the body or someone clearly not comfortable, we may softly say to that person, "Can I do something to make you more comfortable?".  Or sometimes, we did not, because we felt that they wanted to be left alone.  We noted the discomfort, and moving forward would adjust or set-up a pose differently.  All the while storing this information in. We learned so much about our students and about ourselves along the way.

We just completed a Memorial Day workshop and will begin a June series on the 7th.  Just like yoga, this practice and our teaching is always evolving.  Never a dull moment.  Our studio is very interested in continuing a Restorative and Therapeutic  program, which I will develop and lead supported by an awesome team.

A major "shout out" to Sara Duke whom without her heart filled love and joy of Restorative Yoga, I wouldn't have found an awesome model to go by.  I really appreciate that you have provided so much to your students and to fellow teachers.

*Note: for future series, we will request a health history prior to start to customize classes and adjustments to any conditions.

Diane's bio: I've been teaching yoga for over 5 years and a student of yoga for over 13 years. My "niche" is teaching gentle Hatha yoga to many populations. I also teach restorative yoga, senior chair yoga, and prenatal yoga. I've been fortunate to have been able to share my love of yoga with women who've been abused physically, mentally and emotionally. And sometimes my two girls join me in some fantastic yoga adventures at Kripalu. I'm in a really good place now and what a journey it has been. I love what I do and I do what I love. Isn't that cool?

Visit Diane's blog at: Restorative Yoga - Feeling the Bliss.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

The meaning of Om Shanti Shanti Shanti as found at

The mantras chanted in Amma's ashrams at the end of arati and archana are called shanti mantras1. Therefore to conclude each one, "shanti," which means "peace," is chanted three times. As a spiritual aspirant, one chants shanti in desire for the occurrence of circumstances conducive to a spiritual education. But these mantras can be chanted for peace in a general sense as well. Shanti is chanted thrice not for emphasis but because disturbances are of three distinct categories. In Sanskrit, these are referred to as adhi-daivikam, adhi-bhautikam and adhyatmikam.

Adhi-daivikam literally means "mental disturbances that come from God"—i.e. things that are utterly beyond our control: hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, etc. We have no control over these types of disturbances. So when we say the first shanti, we are praying, "O God, may we be protected from these obstacles that are beyond our control."

Adhi-bhautikam literally means "disturbances that come from the world." That means anything stemming from the world around us—mosquitoes, noisy neighbors, barking dogs, the phone ringing, family arguments. As opposed to the first category, we have some control over this second category of disturbances. We can use mosquito repellent, we can call the police on our neighbors, we can turn off the phone, we can leave the place altogether, etc. So this shanti means, "O God, may we be protected from the people and surroundings."

The third type of disturbance is the most powerful and, at the same time, the only one over which we have total control. Adhyatmikam means "disturbances stemming from the self." For one who is still identified with the ego, the people, places and things of this world stimulate one of two reactions in the mind—attachment or aversion. Whether we physically see someone we consider our enemy as we walk down the street or remember him during meditation, the mental turbulence that results is the same. Lust, jealousy, anger, sorrow, and hatred destroy our peace. During meditation, pleasant memories also distract us. Hearing the sound of a jet plane flying overhead may mentally carry us off to a fabulous holiday we once took. Only after 10 minutes of daydreaming do we realize we have lost focus on our object of meditation.

In fact, Amma says that the ego is the only true obstacle to mental peace. This third shanti is therefore the most important one, because even if we are free from outside disturbances, if the inner realm is not calm we will never know peace. Conversely, once we have found inner peace, no external force can ever disturb us. So chanting this third shanti is akin to praying, "O God, please remove all the inner obstacles."

There is one more element to the three-fold chanting of "shanti," and that is the silence that follows each repetition. If chanted properly, this silence is the emphasis: shanti... shanti.... shanti....

This silence is representative of true peace, the peace of an Enlightened One like Amma. For the spiritual seeker, peace is the goal. For an Enlightened One peace has been realized as his very nature. To have be have equipoise in every situation in life verily is realization.