Tag Archives: relaxation

Songs for savasana

These songs are particularly lovely for that beautiful relaxation period at the end of a yoga practice. Click on the iTunes button to purchase a specific song.

  • Aad Guray by Deva Premal Aad Guray - Dakshina
  • Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons Awake My Soul - Sigh No More
  • Into the West by Howard Shore & Annie Lennox Into the West - The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
  • Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson Keep Breathing - Be OK
  • Long Time Sun by Snatam Kaur Long Time Sun - Celebrate Peace
  • Never Ending Road (Amhrán Duit) by Loreena McKennitt Never Ending Road (Amhrán Duit) - An Ancient Muse

Visit the Listen and Meditate pages full lists of songs that are great for a yoga practice or for meditation

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The final quarter

Laura from the back in sat kriyaToday was my 31st consecutive day doing the sat kriya meditation… into the final stretch of the first 40 Day Meditation Challenge of 2012 at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre! Yay!

Sat kriya is a pretty intense meditation and it feels good to have gotten this far in the challenge. At first, the prospect of holding my arms above my head for 11 minutes was very daunting; now the 11 minutes passes amazingly quickly. Figuring out how to use props to keep my knees happy and prevent my feet from falling asleep has certainly helped, but I think I’ve also developed a stronger sense of willpower and settled into the meditation.

Perhaps I’ve tapped into the power of the first (or root) chakra and I’m feeling the abundance and unlimited energy that’s associated with that energy centre.

One of the unexpected benefits I’ve noticed is how quickly I’m able to sink into deep relaxation during the savasana (or rest period) after sat kriya. It’s also much easier to quiet my mind and fully relax my body in savasana following a yoga practice. It used to take me several minutes to let go, by which time the teacher was often bringing us out of savasana and finishing the class, but now it’s just a few breaths before that sense of calm and peace comes over me.

Kundalini Yoga Boot Camp has great information All about the practice of sat kriya if you’re looking for more info.

I’ll be attempting solo meditation this weekend as we’re going out of town. I’m hoping to ride the meditation-momentum of more than 30 days at Bound Lotus to carry me through the 11 minutes alone… and then keep that momentum going until day 4o on February 11!

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Beyond a good night’s sleep

Laura in corpse pose for yoga nidra

One of my few positive memories of summer camp is of a counsellor quieting us down at night by doing a guided relaxation. I remember feeling peaceful and weightless; letting go of all my tensions and forgetting any stresses of the day. Given that I didn’t like summer camp much, the comfort and security of the guided relaxation was very welcome!

I had no idea that the counsellor instructing a cabin-full of girls to relax from their toes to their earlobes was actually doing a form of the ancient practice of yoga nidra – or yogic sleep. Yoga nidra isn’t really sleep as the intent is to stay conscious, but it is deeply relaxing. Making a choice to release tension from all of your muscles and surrender to gravity is powerful and profound.

It’s a different feeling from sleeping as every moment of yoga nidra is a conscious decision to relax rather than giving in to the unconsciousness of sleep. It can be even more restorative than a nap of the same duration and some studies show that half an hour of yoga nidra is equal to two hours of sleep.

Sometimes students do fall asleep in yoga nidra and that’s okay, too. I see being comfortable enough to drift off in a yoga class as a huge compliment for the teacher 🙂

I love the way I feel after doing yoga nidra – relaxed, refreshed, and calm. I also love leading yoga nidra and I end all of my yin classes with at least five minutes of guided relaxation to help settle students into savasana (the relaxation period at the end of class).

Join me at Bound Lotus tonight at 8:15pm for Yin Yoga and check my schedule to see when I’m teaching and join me for a class – including a yoga nidra-infused savasana!

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The strength of stillness

Laura relaxing at Prana

At the end of this morning’s meditation, one of my favourite teachers at Bound Lotus encouraged us to find the power in the relaxation that comes after 11 minutes of Sat Kryia.

That struck a cord with me. So much of my life (and I suspect yours, too!) is filled with rushing and running around that it’s easy to miss the profound satisfaction of being still. Not being vegetative or twitchy, but being consciously relaxed and tuning into the body.

Sitting or lying still for any longer than a couple of minutes (and not falling asleep!) is a challenge for me. My mind wanders… thoughts stray to what needs to be done and where I need to go. My body suddenly discovers itches and small discomforts that weren’t there moments ago… I invent reasons for moving.

But when I get past that first bit of twitching and let my brain clear, I start to feel the strength of stillness. Not doing or worrying or wanting… just being. The stillness brings calmness, relaxation, and a sense of rejuvenation.

Come join me at Bound Lotus for yin yoga and a bit of stillness on Mondays from 1-2:15pm and Fridays from 6:30-745pm.

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If you do only one yoga pose…

Legs up the doorIf you only ever do one yoga pose, make it legs up the wall. It’s one of the easiest postures and is the foundation for many restorative yoga practices. It’s fabulous after a hike, run, long-walk, cycle, or anything that works your legs.

All it takes is nestling your bum next to a wall and swinging your legs up; once your legs are up the wall, relax and let your back body sink into the floor. That’s it!

It was immeasurably helpful for me after an accidental 8-hour hike in China this fall – luckily the hostel bed was tucked right against the wall so my back was well-cushioned!

I’ve included step-by-step instructions below.

Legs up the wall pose

Why it’s good

  • Encourages healing throughout the body by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Slows the stress-induced sympathetic nervous system – our fight or flight reflex
  • Activates the body’s relaxation response; lowering the resting heart rate, slowing breathing, and decreasing the production of stress hormones
  • Brings fresh blood and lymph fluid into the abdomen and internal organs
  • Relieves tension in the lower back and sacrum
  • Reduces swelling, tension, and stress in feet and legs
  • Raises the feet above the heart; reversing effects of gravity, improving heart function, and allowing the heart to rest

How to do it

  • Sit on the floor with the side of your hip against a wall or a closed door
  • Swing your legs up the wall, pressing your bum into the corner where the floor and the wall meet
  • Lower your back to the floor and lean your heels against the wall
    • If keeping your legs straight is too much for your hamstrings, slide your bum away from the wall and bend your knees slightly
    • Your spine should be perpendicular to the wall with your back on the floor
  • Rest your arms alongside your body, lengthen them out in a “T” shape, or extend them over your head for more of a chest and back stretch
  • Let go of the tension in your legs and pelvis
    • Make it even easier by  strapping your ankles together (try a bathrobe belt or an elastic exercise band if you don’t have a yoga strap) so you don’t have to work to keep your legs close together
    • Add a folded blanket under your hips or head if you need more padding to be comfortable
  • Breathe into your belly and relax everything
  • Hang out in this posture for 5-20 minutes – try to relax for at least five minutes

To come out of legs up the wall:

  • Bend your knees and slide the soles of your feet along the wall towards your bum
  • Remove anything you’re using to hold your legs together and press your lower back into the floor for a couple breaths
  • Squeeze your knees into your chest and roll from side to side on your back to release any tension in your lower back
  • Roll to one side and slowly come up to a seated position
  • Breathe deeply for at least three breaths to allow the blood to settle back into your body and prevent getting a head rush when you stand up
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Yin on Fridays & new mellow music

Wrap up your work week (or kick-off your weekend!) with yin yoga. Join me at Bound Lotus (161 East 1st St., North Vancouver) on Fridays, starting January 6, for a yummy yin yoga class from 6:30-7:35pm.

Yin yoga is a great way to de-stress and refuel. It lets you settle into postures, relax your muscles, and target often neglected connective tissue. Yin brings to life the yogic idea of a quiet body leading to a quiet mind.

And all my yin classes end with a guided rest in savasana – the ultimate in delicious relaxation!

Speaking of relaxation, I’ve updated the Listen page with a few new tracks. A couple are winter-themed, including my new favourite holiday song: Winter Song by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson. I’ve been loving waking up to Winter Song and having it in my head through the morning… hopefully it keeps me going through what looks like it will be a rainy January in Vancouver!

Laura & Sofie in dolphin pose

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Holiday wishes

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season and all the best in the new year!

Wishing you a flexible and peaceful holiday season

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Yoga as recovery

Laura laughing while sitting on her mat at the 2011 SOYA retreatIntense physical activity, such as running or training for endurance sports like triathlons, can be very hard on your body. Yoga can help you recover. Read other posts about recovering.

Taking a meditative approach to yoga and flowing through postures, rather than quickly jumping from pose to pose, helps shift your nervous system from fight or flight reactions (sympathetic state) to a restorative, healing modality (parasympathetic state). You’re capable of making better decisions when your nervous system is more relaxed and you’ll generally feel happier!

The controlled movements of a yoga practice encourage circulation in your endocrine and lymphatic systems. Gently stretching your muscles re-distributes lactic acid and reduces oxidative stress generated by free radicals.

Perhaps most importantly, the relaxation portion of a yoga class helps your body recover from activity. Taking time out of your busy schedule to focus on your body helps you connect with your physical being and pay attention to what it’s telling you.

Yoga can also help undo the damage of a late night and flush out toxins. Backward and forward bends squeeze and release your internal organs, which brings fresh blood into your liver and kidneys and encourages toxins to clear more quickly. Specific yoga poses can also help relieve headaches and soothe sore muscles. Additionally, a long version of guided relaxation called yoga nidra slows your brainwaves, which can help heal your body more quickly and may feel more restful than napping for four times as long.

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