Tag Archives: relaxation

Better living through technology (aka better yoga through props)

Yoga props and Laura in easy poseI’m co-hosting a Restorative Yoga workshop next weekend (21 May) with my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Constanza. As part of my preparation, I’ve been re-reading Your Body, Your Yoga (yin yoga teacher Bernie Clark’s latest book) in which he talks a lot about physical differences in yoga students and how important it is to practice for your own body.

I love Bernie’s philosophy because he’s clear about the why behind doing yoga: “to use the pose to get into the body.”1

And he’s a huge advocate of using props to support the pose – as am I. Props can make all the difference in a pose and I encourage their use extensively in my yin yoga classes. They’re even more necessary in restorative yoga!

Restorative yoga is a practice of being, rather than doing. Opening and softening, rather than stretching. Deliberating resting, rather than sleeping. It’s all about comfort and it’s much easier to be comfortable when we’re supported and the body is at ease.

I know that there are many yogis who feel like props are cheating. For me, it’s just plain stupid not to use all of the tools available to make your yoga practice (or your life) the best it can be. It’s like eschewing technological advances in  because they make life too easy and too comfortable.

Just like technology creates the opportunity for better living, props create the opportunity for better yoga!

 

 

ps – I had no idea that ‘Better Living through Chemistry’ started as a DuPont advertising slogan. Always new things to learn!

1 The full quote from the January 2014 YinYoga.com newsletter is:

Yangsters hate props – are you a yangster? The use of a prop is unconsciously equated to cheating. The inner dialogues goes something like this, “I can do this pose! I don’t need no stinking prop!” But yinsters know something that yangsters haven’t quite grasped yet – the intention of their yoga practice is not to look any particular way; it is not to get into a pose: the intention is to feel a particular way; to use the pose to get into the body. Yinsters don’t care if a little extra help is needed to get sensation into the targeted area: if props can help – let’s use props!

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Rest deeply

To relax is to REST deeplyIf you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, burdened, fatigued, dog-tired (hundtræt), over-extended, beat, confused, spent, exhausted, weary, over-committed or just tired and you’re in the Copenhagen-area, come join me for deep rest on 25 February from from 15.00-17.30 for a Restorative Wonderland.

This two and a half hour workshop at Hot Yoga Østerbro is a deep restorative yoga practice with gentle mantra music and a long yoga nidra (guided relaxation) that will help you rest deeply and refuel for your regular life. The passive therapeutic practice of restorative yoga provides deep rest for tired bodies, relaxation for busy minds and rejuvenation for the entire nervous system.

The workshop features gentle mantra music and deep yoga nidra (guided relaxation). It costs 250 kr. and is limited to 8 students.

See the Restorative Wonderland page for more information and registration.

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Sneaky savasana

Laura lying in savasanaIt’s the last Friday of the month, which usually means I lead an extra-long savasana in my 6:30pm class at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre… but we’re in the midst of a 40 Day Transformation Yoga Challenge and have tailored all the class sequences to the Challenge.

It’s day 11 of the Challenge, which marks the start of the start of the clearing out phase – targeting the liver, kidneys, and digestive system. The Bound Lotus yin teachers have worked together to create a lovely yin sequence to relax the abdominal muscles and stimulate the internal organs (urinary bladder, liver, kidneys, and gallbladder)… but it’s a full 75 minute series.

I want to get the best of both worlds by slightly truncating the proscribed yin sequence for the second 10 days of the Challenge and doing a long savasana, rather than the extra-long one I usually do for the last Friday class of the month.

I’m hoping to sneak in a little more savasana than in a standard class, along with a delicious guided relaxation (yoga nidra), while remaining true to the Challenge series of yin postures and getting all the benefits of the clearing out sequence.

A long and slightly sneaky deep relaxation seems like just the thing to wrap up April and might be a bit of a treat for students who are now 1/4 through the Challenge!

If you’re intrigued by the Transformation Yoga Challenge, you can still join in and make it a personal 30 day challenge! It’s never too late to take on a challenge 🙂

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Savasana-spiration

Animals know how to relax… something that many people have forgotten how to do.

My dog Sofie does savasana (corpse pose)Here’s my dog Sofie totally relaxed.

If her stillness inspires you to find some relaxation of your own, join me at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre tonight!

The evening yin yoga class on the last Friday of every month features an extra long savasana (corpse pose), including a long guided relaxation. The guided relaxation (also known as yoga nidra) encourages you to mindfully and deliberately relax your whole body and then sink into that relaxation and stillness for a few minutes.

Class runs from 6:30-7:45pm… and I’ll see if I can convince Sofie to come along and provide savasana-spiration in person!

 

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Learn to relax and rest deeply

Restorative yoga is a practice of being, rather than doing. Opening, rather than stretching. Resting, rather than sleeping.

Restorative yoga poses help us learn to relax and rest deeply and completely.
Judith Hanson Lasater

I did Relax and Renew® training with Judith in September and it deepened my appreciation for the benefits of restorative yoga. I liked teaching restorative yoga before doing the training with Judith, now I love it.

Thankfully, I get to teach restorative yoga every Monday night for the next four weeks! I’m teaching hatha/restorative at 8:15pm on Mondays at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre up to (and including) December 3.

Restorative yoga poses help us learn to relax and rest deeply and completely

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Rain is grace

Rainy window with John Updike quote

There’s nothing like grey skies, rainy weather, and dropping temperatures to bring out the craving to hibernate.

Indulge your desire to curl up somewhere warm and do nothing at tonight’s yin yoga class at Bound Lotus. Class runs from 6:30-7:45pm and will feature an extra long yoga nidra (guided relaxation or yogic sleep) that lets you really get cozy and settle in to savasana.

The conscious, deliberate relaxation of yoga nidra leaves you feeling thoroughly rested and revived.

Embrace the rain… and bring out your inner grace!

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Savasana is where the magic happens

Rich Roll, ultra-marathoner and triathlete, recently wrote an article on Why Every Athlete Should Do Yoga for wellness site Mind Body Green. I’m not convinced that yoga is a cure-all or would provide everyone with an athletic edge, but I wholeheartedly agree with Rich’s position on the importance of savasana – the relaxation part at the close of class.

Rich writes that savasana allows us

to clean mental house, center focus and promote serenity by silencing the endless and seemingly unmanageable mental chatter that invades our daily experience and undermines the expression of our “best self” within.

Savasana gives students the power to settle in to their bodies, quiet their minds, and commit to a few moments of deliberate relaxation. It’s rare that we give our brains permission to fully relax. My usual “relaxation” is watching TV, reading, or surfing online, often while having a glass of wine. While these activities may feel calming and my body can rest, my brain is still engaged and often flitting between thoughts.

Savasana is quite different from relaxing in front of the TV. The mindful relaxation at the end of a yoga practice is focused on allowing the mind to go blank – thinking of nothing and disengaging with any thoughts. It truly enables the brain and body to relax and students often slip into a deep meditative state.

Join me at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre tonight at 6:30pm for yin yoga and an extra-long savasana with a guided relaxation – known as yoga nidra. Guiding students through yoga nidra helps me tap into my own meditative state – and I’m lucky enough to lead an extra-long savasana during the last Friday night yin class of every month!

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Why do yin yoga?

Following up on my recent posts about yin yoga (what is is, what to expect in a yin class, and some typical yin poses) and in honour of teaching yin yoga at Body Harmony for the first time today, here’s why I do yin yoga.

The physical benefits of yin yoga are elongated myofascial tissue (a fancy name for muscles and the fascia or connective tissue that surrounds them) and increased mobility through joints, which can prevent degeneration.

My hips feel more mobile after a yin yoga practice… sort of like I could salsa dance out of class! Being in dragon pose for a few minutes, like I’m doing in the photo to the right, is particularly good at getting my hips to salsa – although actually holding dragon often makes me feel more like swearing than dancing 🙂

Yin yoga mostly accesses the body between the knees and shoulders (lots of stretching through the thighs, hips, and spine and wonderful compression and release through the back), but I’ve also found that a yin practice often releases tension in my neck and shoulders. Forward bending postures, like dangling, work wonders for making my neck and shoulders feel looser and more relaxed.

I find the psychological benefits of yin yoga are even more impactful than the physical ones. In addition to the sense relaxation that comes from hanging out in poses for a few minutes, I’ve also found that settling into that Goldilocks place in a posture, which can be a bit uncomfortable, has helped me settle into discomfort in the rest of my life when I really can’t change the situation.

The philosophy of finding a balance of relaxation and intensity in a posture has aided me in looking for balance in the rest of my life. I find myself asking;

  • “Can I make this more comfortable?” – the yoga equivalent of adding props
  • “Is this focusing on something I want or need?” – the yoga equivalent of identifying the target area
  • “Can I let go of some tension or holding?” – the yoga equivalent of relaxing the target area
  • “Is there anything gained by fretting or being frantic – can I just be?” – the yoga equivalent of settling into a pose, breathing, and letting thoughts go

Perhaps that last question is most important. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let go of worrying or letting my mind spin, but at least I can be conscious about it.

If you want to experience the benefits of yin yoga for yourself, join me for classes at Body Harmony on Saturdays at 4:30pm and at Bound Lotus on Mondays at 1pm, Tuesdays at 8:15pm, and Fridays at 6:30pm.

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What is yin yoga?

Child's pose is a great yin yoga posture

My basic definition of yin yoga is: A series of yoga postures held for longer than in a usual practice. But that’s a really short explanation that leaves a lot of room for expansion.

In yin yoga, the postures tend to be relatively easy ones (not balancing or strength poses) and the hold times are generally between two and five minutes. I like to find the middle ground in a yin yoga pose, which I often describe in Goldilocks terms; it’s not painful (like burning your mouth on really hot porridge), but it’s more than nothing (like sinking too far into a ridiculously cushy bed) – it’s that perfect balance. Enough of a stretch to feel it, but not so much that your muscles tense up and fight against relaxation.

My intent in a yin practice is to relax and gently stretch, as well as mentally settle into stillness. Holding a posture for two to five minutes (or even more) tends to be a mental test, far more than a physical one. The commitment to being in the moment -letting go of thinking, planning, and doing- is a challenge for most people.

Spending last week with Paul & Suzee Grilley really got me thinking about how I define yin yoga. It’s not a trademark or a specific limited number of postures; it’s not proscribed sequence or a meticulous list of dos and don’ts. I think it’s an attitude.

My new working description of yin yoga is: The desire to be still in a yoga practice and the intent to affect parts of the body beyond muscles through long-held postures.

Of course, if that definition fails, I can always fall back on my favourite tongue-in-cheek way to describe a yin yoga class: Lazy yoga 😉

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Cozy, lazy yoga

The weather in Vancouver has again turned to the rainy coldness of February, which makes me want to do nothing but get cozy and be lazy. Thankfully, this kind of weather is perfect for the yin yoga class I’m teaching tonight.

The last Friday of each month, I do an extended savasana with a long yoga nidra (or guided relaxation) in my 6:30pm class at Bound Lotus. The class is a short set of yin yoga postures followed by 25 minute yoga nidra, where  I guide students through relaxing every part of their bodies and coming into deep relaxation. It’s a beautiful practice that really allows students to go inward and completely relax.

The weather tonight seems perfect for laying out on a couple of meditation cushions, cozying up under a blanket or two, and settling into a deep, conscious relaxation. Join me at 6:30pm at Bound Lotus, where we’ll indulge in some cozy, lazy yoga and create haven of warmth and relaxation!

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