Hey there Yogis and Yoginas, Snow Shoveler's and Hybernatees,
Today's focus is a deep release for the back and hamstrings with a just a few basic stretches that you can incorporate into your day in only 15 minutes. This was inspired by an acquaintance of mine who suffers from sciatica and lower back flare ups. It happens to be great for all of us who spent the past few days digging out of our houses and driveways. Yes, here you are presented with "Yoga for a Healthy Back: Mini Series". There are definitely many more asanas (steady comfortable poses) that could supplement this mini series, but lets cover the basics!
Let's get started...
The Cat/Cow Warmup: Warms up the entire spine, increasing flexibility, and stimulates nerves along the spine. Start in that neutral table top position, wrists stacked under elbows, stacked under shoulders, knees under hips. Inhale drop belly to floor, exaggerating the natural curve in the spine, look up with the head, neck and chest (Cow). Exhale, Round the spine, tuck the pelvis under the body, tuck the chin. (Cat) Let your breathing carry back and forth between the two postures, close the eyes and feel this movement along each vertebrae, in each muscle being engaged. Variations. Look over right shoulder, and left. Hip Circles. Anything else that feels right.
Hamstring Stretch: Relieves tension built up in the backs of the legs (hamstrings), increases flexibility, and helps to prevent back injuries. From a kneeling position, step the right leg out in front, (low lunge with right leg out in front, keep the leg at a 90 degree angle/ keep the ankle in front of the knee). Inhale deeply, Now Exhale, lower the hands or fingertips to the floor or blocks and sink the weight back in the hips, hinging at the hips as you straighten the front leg, toes can be pointed or pulled back. Let your breath carry you back and forth, inhaling rising up halfway with a "flat back", exhaling folding forward. After several rounds, exhale, fold and hold the hamstring stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Cobra Pose: Strengthens the muscles of the upper back, increases flexibility of spine, good for posture, the gentle pressure of the abdomen into the floor massages the intestines and stomach, good for digestion. Backbends are fiery in nature, stimulating the adrenals (located above the kidneys) in a healthy way, and providing us with extra energy. Rest lying face down, with your forehead on the floor. Bring the palms underneath the shoulders, (fingertips may inch forward or back slightly depending on preference) with the elbows close to the body. Inhale and roll the shoulders up, back, and down, keep the integrity of the shoulder at all times. We want to concentrate on that area in between the shoulder blades. Lengthening through the crown of the head, begin to raise the head, neck and chest, with little to no weight in the palms. Keep the lower back relaxed and the buttocks “unclenched”. Continue to lift the hands off the floor using only the strength of the upper back to raise the upper body.
Variation, Keeping the integrity of the shoulders, begin to use the arms this time to help press your self up a bit higher, this one works more with flexibility while the former works to build strength. Both are important.
Forward Fold: Great for digestion when the abdomen is resting against the thighs. Increases flexibility along the entire spine and hamstrings. Great release for the lower back. Forward Folds are introspective, calming and cooling in nature, increasing compassion, awareness and the engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system. This pose is also great for women on their moon cycle. Seated comfortably with the legs outstretched, be sure that you have a natural curve in the lower back, and are sitting on the “sit” bones (two bony knobs underneath the buttocks). Use a folded blanket to prop yourself up if needed, try it to see how it feels. Inhale raise the arms overhead, and exhale fold forward, hinging at the hips, until you feel the lower back begin to round. It feels really nice to relax the back of the neck, tucking the chin into the chest, bringing softness into the shoulders, elbows and arms, you can even bring a pillow or blanket underneath the knees to bring yourself into a more restorative forward fold. Bring your awareness within and focus on the breath.
Restorative Corpse Pose: Stress Relieving, Great for Structural Alignment, Restful and Restorative for the lower back. Set up a blanket roll for the neck, another blanket to pad the back and a bolster or couch cushion/pillow to place underneath the knees (as shown above). Lie down on your back with the arms a comfortable distance away from the body, palms facing up in a gesture of receiving, receiving Peace, receiving Love, feet can be a little wider than hips distance apart and gently roll open, to the sides. Make any physical adjustments so the body can remain completely still. Relax and focus on your breathing, feeling the floor/ground support you completely.
This pose deeply relaxes tension in the lower back, and can be used as a constructive resting pose used in place of a nap at any point in the day.
May you be happy, healthy and full of Peace and Love,
Bryan J. Nupp, RYT 200
How To Start Preparing Now:
1. "Take a Deep Breath! It's All Good." When life throws you a test or a moment of greatness just remind yourself, All is Temporary and All is Well, these outside fluctuations are a way of testing how steady we are. This yoga practice will help.
2. "Ask yourself, 'What is it that I want?'" Yoga is designed to best accommodate and support You on Your personal wellness journey. Setting your intention and checking in with your body is a wonderful practice, just by simply taking a moment to pause and ask the question, the answer becomes available.
3. Start waking up a little earlier if you don't already. As soon as you rise, or before breakfast or your hot morning beverage invite some gentle movement into your body. This can be as simple as "shaking" and "tapping" all the parts of the body. These practices, shaking and tapping, stimulate the various muscles, organs and acupressure centers in the body, encourage healthy circulation and will leave you buzzing with fresh new energy for the morning. It's like your own private dance party, Give it a shot!
4. Yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach, or around two hours after a meal. Following this simple advice greatly increases the benefits of the practice. During sleep you begin detoxing and healing the body, and the brain goes through a deep rinse cycle, following that up with a morning yoga practice will work wonders in your life. If you choose to, or are able to, go without food first thing in the morning the body doesn't need to expend energy on digestion and can further focus on strengthening and healing during the yoga practice. **If you do need to eat something before you practice yoga, start with a hot cup of tea, peppermint, tulsi, or lemon ginger are all very easy on the body and digestive system. If you'd like something else to take the edge off, try a piece of fruit, some yogurt, or a hot cereal like cream of wheat or millet.
5. Always drink water. Staying hydrated will help you always in all ways! You can drink water before, during and after practice.
6. Just Do It! If you're brand new and don't know where to begin, go with the Sun Salutations. You can find a dozen different varieties online, with pictures, videos and an endless supply of information! (Stay posted for a Sun Salutation blog in the future!) This well rounded practice acts as a general tonic for the whole body, it's great for supporting a healthy back, and positively affects the digestive and immune system functions. It can be practiced slowly for a more grounded feeling or quickly for stimulating effects.
Questions? Just Ask!
Blessings of Peace and Love,
OM OM OM
Bryan J. Nupp, RYT 200
So many people are aware of the benefits of a yoga practice, at least at some level. So what is keeping them from getting started?
One of my goals is to discover and break down the many obstacles that prevent people from experiencing the joys of yoga. Remember as I list these 5 most common misconceptions, excuses, and simple misunderstandings, that each has a very simple solution and just a dash of awareness will really do wonders here. Beneath each of the misconceptions and my insight into them is an affirmation you can use. Buckle your seat belts, here we go...
1."I am not flexible. At All. There's no way I can touch my toes or stand on my head."
This one I hear the most. You don't need to be flexible to come to a yoga class, the teacher doesn't stand at the door and let only flexible people pass through. One of the reasons we keep coming back to yoga is because it makes us feel good, our body's love it, our muscles need it, and over time the body becomes strong and supple on its own. Part of being a yoga teacher is making modifications for the students and meeting them wherever they are at in the practice.
"I AM FLEXIBLE IN BODY AND MIND."
2. "Yoga goes against my religion or politics"
I don't even know where or why this one started... If someone's view is a little narrow, but they are wholly commmited to it, okay, Acceptance and Love are more important than the issue at hand here. I am not trying to convert anyone, just share peace and awareness, good health and happiness.
Yoga is a non-denominational, non-judgmental approach to life. It is way of living a balanced healthy life, and reducing the suffering we cause to ourselves and others. The goal of Yoga happens to be the goal of most religions that I am aware of, to connect with the Divine Nature, to serve, to help others, be kind, to be an example of Happiness and Love personified. Many times people become afraid of that which they don't know. A little awareness goes a long way here. Before your judgments and fears get the best of you, go to the root of it and nip it in the bud. Get to know what you're afraid of, study how it affects the mind, if it's a valid fear and it disturbs your peace to be involved with it, so be it. Move on knowing you tried, but keep your peace at all costs.
"I AM LOVE. I AM PEACE. ALL IS WELL."
3. "I just don't have time."
Believe me, your health is worth the time.
People are stressed about the amount of time they have, almost all the time. I understand, I've worked the 6-6's before and have at times had two jobs and was taking classes at the community college. Believe me, that's when I needed yoga the most.
I came across an exercise that helps with time management. Write down, in half hour- hour increments all that do from 7:00 am (or whenever you wake up) until 10 pm (or whenever you go to sleep). You will quickly unveil a spare ten minutes here, a half hour here and so on. If you do feel overwhelmed or that there is a lot on your plate, welcome to the club and it's why many of us got into yoga in the first place! If you can find just ten minutes in your day to practice some breathing techniques, or to take a constructive rest pose and do this daily, you will definitely notice the difference. "I AM CALM AND COLLECTED."
4. "Yoga isn't for men."
Says Who? Professional Athletes, men and women have been cross training with yoga for years with the knowledge that it increases performance and helps prevents injuries. Yoga is not gender specific, it is an incredibly well rounded system that promotes great health, longevity, increased vitality and is deeply enriching to one's sense of well being. A lot of time men are intimidated to go to a yoga class and be the only male in the room, or don't feel comfortable with a female instructor. My advice is if you're interested in yoga, contact one of your buddies and go with a friend, set an intention and just do it, be courageous! The only thing keeping you from experiencing the benefits of Yoga is the misconceptions of the mind. "I AM POWERFUL, SAFE, AND SECURE, ALL IS WELL."
5."I don't know the poses, how do i know if I'm doing it right?"
You wouldn't ask a baby to run before it can crawl. We learn, we grow, that's what yoga is all about, supporting your growth. Just listen and breathe, that's all you have to do when you come to your first class. You can let your teacher know that you've never been to a class before or that you are brand new. I always feel so deeply honored to have a first time student join in one of our classes, it's a very special role to play for both of us.
Most importantly, listen to your body. Honor your body. If something feels great, remember it! If something feels forced, strained or is painful, stop and back off. A good teacher will always make you feel comfortable, encourage you to listen to your body, and should offer a couple of resting poses like child's pose or corpse pose.
"ALL IS WELL."
Yes, indeed, All is Well.
Find the right teacher, find a style that best compliments you and your temperament, and just do a little. Doing a little every day is definitely better than doing a whole lot here and there. Ready to get started, or do you still have questions? Feel free to reach out.
As Always I Am Here To Support YOU!
OM OM OM
Blessings of Love and Peace,
Bryan Josiah, RYT 200
Wow! What a beautiful day today. So much gratitude and Love Everywhere! I remember Swami Satchidananda saying in one of his books, choose one day as a karma yoga day, selflessly serving others in all that you do. Eat your meals so that it will you give you energy to help others, drink water to keep you focused and healthy to be of use when the opportunity arises.
Keep this attitude all day, give yourself completely to the service of others without any selfish motivation. Surely you can do this for at least one day, just do it and see how you feel.
In giving, we receive. Giving and Receiving are synonymous. The person we give to is giving us the opportunity to give! Wow!
Read this one.
Today's Reading from The Golden Present by Swami Satchidananda
"The essence of Yoga and all faiths and traditions is to be easeful in the body, peaceful in mind and useful in life. The aim of Yoga is to make the body healthy and the mind tranquil and pure. With a pure mind and healthy body, you become a useful instrument for God."
Remember, All is Love. All is Love. All is Love.
Blessings of Peace and Love,
Om Om Om
Yours in Yoga,
One of my goals this year was to wake up earlier, again...
Over the course of the past couple of years I have experienced the benefits of starting the day early, rising with or before the Sun. There are all kinds of research studies and schools of thought about sleep cycles, circadian rhythm, dreaming and waking states, Ayurveda and the optimal time for the different doshas to rise, and the like.
There's all kinds of folk sayings about the merit in starting the day early, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." and “Early bird gets the worm!” are a couple.
In my experience at Satchidanada Ashram-Yogaville, we were often waking up between 4-6 am daily, making meditation a priority first thing in the morning, followed by Hatha yoga and then breakfast around 8:30. Although there were some days that were harder than others, once I began feeling the benefits of this practice it's a wonder why I ever stopped!! It is the best way to start a new day, physically waking up the nervous system and digestive fires while simultaneously calming the mind.
But every day is a little different and some days I felt as if I were trapped under the comfort of my comforters. It seems since I have been home the past few weeks that it was harder to honor my full morning routine in the way I had once known it.
I realized a couple of things about this today,
"Let go of Judgments."
Yes, there's a lot of benefit of waking up early and everything described above. Now, the reminder to accept each day as it comes. To let go of the story the mind creates, to let go of the expectations, to be compassionate and kind this is also yoga in practice. In the last words of the Buddha, "Just do your best."
"Make a Firm Resolve."
Recognizing the benefits of well attended morning practice,
Being aware that the result yields consistency and increased productivity,
I will make the most of each day and choose not to "go back to sleep" upon rising.
Making a firm resolve or commitment like this can be really powerful in achieving goals and strengthening willpower. Find your goal and do it. As Yoda said, "Do or Do Not. There is no try."
"Proper Preparation and Awareness."
I also realize the impact of certain things that affect my sleep quality, electronics late in the night, if I eat or snack on anything too late, and what am I “bringing to bed” with me, emotionally or psychologically. As in all things, proper preparation and practice produces perfection. I encourage you to find those little rituals that make going to bed at night, peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable. You'll notice the difference upon rising.
I am happy to say that the past few days it's been easier to wake up earlier, and meditation becomes easier too in the morning. With little on the mind, while the world is still quiet, this resting in stillness can bring us great energy and focus for the day. We Always Have A Choice, That's Free Will. My hope is that in this life I can live a productive and useful life, helping others, serving others and having a lot of fun along the way.
Today's Translation from The Golden Present by Swami Satchidanada
Don't love only your fellow humans. Love Everyone and Everything equally. All things are your fellow beings, not only humans. By loving everything, you are really loving yourself! Real Love is only possible when you Love your Self. When we rise above the worldly limitations, beyond the names and forms, we will find that the essence is the same.
Om Om Om
Blessings of Peace and Love!
Yours in Yoga,
My first week in Yogaville I was posed a question, "On a scale of 1-10, 1 being You totally create your life, it's all free will, and 10 being total surrender to destiny, the will of God, where do you stand?" (There's no right or wrong answer here.) I thought it over and couldn't decide where I wanted to go with it so I answered, "5, the middle way. Life is co creation." I wanted to take some of the credit without seeming too cocky.
Life has a funny way about it, most often times, in my experience things work out most perfectly when I get out of my own way. In all of my travels and adventures, the Universe always provides in abundance.
Spending time at the ashram definitely affirmed that, and I went to Tom about two weeks later, "Hey Tom, I think i have to change my answer to a 7. You won't believe what's happened these past couple weeks..."
He laughed and we shared briefly. As my involvement in Yoga Teacher Training deepened and I continued to experience life's divine connections and gifts, I begun to make "surrender" my mantra. Surrender does not imply "give up" here, not at all. It implies a recognition of something much Greater than me, and that that something might just have a better idea about Life and it's infinite possibilities than I do.
I ran into Tom one more time during my last week there. We hadn't seen each other in some time, and it had been more than 3 months since I first stood on the scale. I was ready to weigh in at a strong 9.
"That means that even 90% of all of your thoughts, words and actions are an act of total surrender." he replied.
So maybe I was more of an 8.5, but still..
Life had provided all of that which I needed, on a day to day basis. By trusting and living moment by moment, enjoying the Here and Now, and leaving the future worries alone, Everything worked out perfectly, 10 times out of 10.
I realize that life requires action, commitment and what sometimes feels like hard work. By accrediting all that happens as the will of God, or that it has happened for a reason even if that's beyond my capacity to understand, and by surrendering the results of the action up to something Greater than myself, I remain peaceful and non-attached.
Today's Translation from The Golden Present, by Swami Satchidananda
"Whatever comes, comes from God. Whatever goes is taken away by God. It's not that easy in the beginning because your ego will not allow you to surrender in this way. Until you've developed a healthy ego, have begun to master your mind and give yourself completely into the hands of God, the ego will create doubts in you.
You might ask, "Then what is Free Will?" Free will means that you're free to take responsibility into your own hands or to offer it up to God. If you take responsibility yourself, after going through all of life's problems, difficulties and turmoil, you will finally say, "I'm tired, God. I'm not going to try to battle with this anymore. I know I cannot. So the best thing for me and my peace is to put the reins in Your hands. Let me take the back seat. You drive."
There comes a time like that. That is when your ego has been completely cleaned"
Congratulations to Planet Earth on another journey around the Sun, and Happy New Year!!
At this time we are given the gift of reflection and the power of affirmation seems to be at a collective all time high, "How did I do this past year in 2015? What life lessons did I learn? What great memories and fun times did I share? Did I achieve any of my goals? What were my areas of greatest resistance? Where and how did I grow? What do I need to let go of? What would I like to see more of in my life?"
Create a bucket list of things you would like to attract in your life in 2016. It's okay to be a little ambitious here! Writing these down helps a lot, if you don't have a journal, consider putting that on your list. It's a lot of fun, and can reveal a lot about yourself, life's patterns, and your personal story as you go back and read.
I once heard, to learn read, to know write, to embody practice, to master teach.
Whether you choose to dream big or remain present in the here and now, create goals or choose to be aimless and available, or some combination of both, it's all good! Just remind yourself, All is Well.
All is unfolding precisely as it's meant to.
Today's Message from The Golden Present, by Sri Swami Satchidananda.
"If you want peace, forget yourself. Think of the benefit of the other person first. "How can I serve you? How can I be a little bit kinder? How can I make you more comfortable?" That's the way it should be. That's the way it CAN be, all the time. Giving brings harmony. Love and Give, Love and Give. Think of the other person first. Then release the results up to the Universe. With this kind of attitude the world would be a fantastic place."
Blessings of Peace and Love.
OM OM OM
Yours in Yoga,
Bryan Josiah Nupp, RYT 200