How to Bring Loving-Kindness into Your Day

By on December 3rd, 2016 — Comments Off on How to Bring Loving-Kindness into Your Day

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By Sarah & Ty Powers

The word in Sanskrit for that quality of love that permeates our natural being is Maitri, translated as loving-kindness.

  • Make the aspiration today to bring Maitri more into the foreground in body, speech and mind.
  • Take loving care of yourself by pausing to breathe consciously right now, wherever you are, in a relaxed way, for 5 minutes.
  • As you move through your day, let go of any rushing in your activities, eat especially healthy, doing some yoga or taking a walk, in general being relaxed and self loving all day.
  • In speech, emphasize words today that are kind and beneficial, and fill your mind over and over with gratitude for this precious, mysterious life!
  • Enjoy a day filled with loving kindness toward yourself.

At the end of the day, laying in bed, reflect on the simple moments today where you felt soft and receptive, remembering how you experienced yourself, committing to be your own best friend and protector tomorrow, and the following days as well.

To learn more about Sarah Powers, visit her website at www.sarahpowers.com, and check out her DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

This article was originally posted on Sarah’s Blog.

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 An internationally acclaimed master teacher, Sarah Powers weaves the insights and practices of yoga and Buddhist meditation in an integrated practice that seeks to enliven the body, heart, and mind. Her yoga style blends a yin sequence of long-held poses to enhance the meridian and organ systems, with a yang or flow practice influenced by Viniyoga, Ashtanga, and alignment-based vinyasa teachings. – Read more HERE.

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Savasana

By on December 1st, 2016 — Comments Off on Why You Shouldn’t Skip Savasana

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Savasana: Corpse Pose

To practice self-care is to activate, embody and embrace self-love and what better way to show our physical bodies, mind and emotional wellbeing self-love than by resting. When we come into a resting pose during the culmination of our practice or anytime throughout the day, we are nurturing our bodies, listening to our intuition telling us we need to slow down, take in the magic of our existence and experiences and simply unwind. Savasana or corpse pose does just that- relaxing the entire body and permitting the integration of emotional, mental and physical benefits from our practice to dissolve into our soul and energize our vital life force- the prana within.

To physical embody savasana, begin by lying on your back with your arms resting comfortable at your sides, shoulders rolled down your spine while slighting lifting the heart and chest up from the bottom of your shoulder blades and your legs lying flat onto the mat atleast hip-distance a part and your feet can be spread open wider than the distance of your legs to really achieve restoration. To increase a sense of relief on the tail bone and lower lumbar spine, position a bolster or pillow underneath your knees and allow your knees to gentle settle in over the supper. Try to find a position within the body so that you can really let go of any sense of control, gripping or tension throughout any physical limbs. The deeper you are able to relax the physical body, the more the body throughout all spectrums spiritually, emotionally and mentally, can absorb the effects of your yoga practice and the preceding asanas. Give yourself permission to go into a state of total relaxation for atleast five minutes. Afterwards, slowly deepen your inhales and exhales and introduce a gentle sense of movement back into the body by wiggling all your fingers and toes and rotating the ankle and wrists in opposite directions. Then, on your next inhale slowly roll over to one side with bent knees using your forearm as a pillow and mindfully, with the help of both hands, push yourself back up into a sukasana or easy position and rest here for a minute before moving on with gratitude and serenity to enjoy the rest of your day or night.

Viniyoga Master Teacher Gary Kraftsow reminds you of the importance of letting go in order to rejuvenate your wellbeing as he eases you into savasana in his Viniyoga Therapy for Anxiety practice.

 

Apanasana- Calming and Grounding Yoga Pose

By on November 11th, 2016 — Comments Off on Apanasana- Calming and Grounding Yoga Pose

 

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Apanasana: Knees-to-Chest Pose

“Let it go.” It is a phrase we often hear as encouragement to free our grasp onto sentiments, experiences, feelings, thoughts and distractions that no longer serve our wellbeing. Easier said than done right? While the journey to free our hearts and souls from the burdens of negative or rather disheartening self-talk is a continuous travel inwards taking steady and much dedication, yoga and in particular viniyoga is here to remind us to focus on intention and the natural calming wave-like rhythm of the breath. In particular, apanasana or knees-to-chest pose is an energy freeing pose that focuses on the downward and outward energy flow also referred to as the apana vayus.

When embraced through numerous cycles of a repetitive and constant breath, apanasana releases tensions of the lower digestive systems by detoxifying the entire body. Apanasana also releases back pain and produces a general sense of openness in the body, especially within the hips and internal thigh region. Emotionally and mentally speaking, this detoxifying pose relieves stress, mild depression and anxiety. In his Viniyoga Therapy for Anxiety, Gary Kraftsow conscientiously guides you through the calming affects of apanasana.

To go into the pose that opens up the anterior hip muscles and stretches the lumbar vertebrate, begin by laying on your back with the left leg straight and right leg bent at the knee holding onto the right knee with both hands. As you exhale, strength the naval-to-spine connection by pulling the navel inwards, bending the elbows and and pulling the right knee towards the belly. As you inhale, release and repeat this cycle of breath-guider movement four times. Then upon your next exhalation, bend the left knee and release the right leg to repeat the transition onto the opposite side if the body four times. Afterwards, on your next inhaling breath bend both knees so that you gently hold on to each knee with both hands. On an exhalation breath, pull both knees into the belly, tucking the chin slightly down and consciously pushing the sacrum into the mat. If your hips are tight, slightly widening the distance between the knees is not only a great modification but again, eliminates unnecessary strain on the physical body. On an inhalation, release to the starting position.

What is Yoga? with Carol Krucoff and Kimberly Carson

By on November 8th, 2016 — Comments Off on What is Yoga? with Carol Krucoff and Kimberly Carson

 

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  1. WHAT IS YOGA?

Yoga is coming into union, being united with what is. Through this union, this relationship, we become more intimate with ourselves, with each other, with the natural world. Ultimately, and with grace, we unify with the Essential Truth of Things.

 

  1. HOW DO YOU WEAVE THAT DEFINITION INTO YOUR TEACHING?

Our teaching centers on finding ease and union in body and mind. One of our Principles of Practice is that we teach people, not poses or conditions—which is central to our work with older adults and people with health challenges.    This population can be extremely receptive to the profound benefits yoga offers on all levels—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Unlike younger practitioners, who can become distracted by the desire for a shapelier body, older adults typically have a ripeness for the experience of ease and union.   Rather than focusing on “getting a posture right,” our teaching centers on cultivating awareness and self-discovery and inviting an experience of connection and joy.

  1. HOW DO YOU BRING IT INTO YOUR OWN PRACTICE?

Kimberly: In my own practice, I am focused on listening deeply to not only the needs and requests of my physical body, but also the movements of energy and guidance from the quieter dimensions.  My practice is fundamentally an exploration of who and what I am internally, externally, and transactionally. With regards to the postures, I am primarily focused on maintaining functional ability in my body so that I can comfortably turn my attention to subtler processes of the inner and outer landscapes. Many years ago, I lost interest in pursuing optimal function of the musculature in service of pursuing optimal functioning of attention and awareness. As a result, my posture practice is relatively simple but balanced and is only one aspect of the activities I engage to maintain physical health.

 

Carol:  My practice is not limited to the time I spend on the mat. Rather than “doing yoga,” I’m much more interested in “living yoga,” which means bringing yogic principles—such as kshama (patience) and daya (compassion) into my life on and off the mat.   I’ve found that interweaving “micro-practices” into my day – which I call “Yoga Sparks” — can be transformative, making ordinary activities into sacred rituals and continually bringing awareness to the precious gifts of body and breath.

And as I approach my 60th birthday, my posture practice has also changed.   Honoring the principle of truth (satya), I humbly acknowledge that I am no longer able to comfortably do some postures that I once found easy –such as Tolasana–and that some other postures—such as headstand—are not appropriate for me anymore.   Back in my 20s, my idea of progress in yoga was measured by the ability to do complicated arm balances. Now I view being an advanced yogi as the ability to move through the world with kindness, generosity and wisdom. Having done my share of pretzely “party poses,” my asana practice is no longer a journey toward mastery of harder, cooler postures. Instead, it’s a welcome opportunity to nurture my body, quiet my mind and connect with the divine.

 

  1. HOW HAS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF YOGA’S TRUE MEANING EVOLVED SINCE YOU BEGAN TEACHING?

Kimberly: During the first yoga class I ever attended, a brief and profound awakening of what I would call “witness consciousness” occurred. The last 20 years of my practice has been in service of exploring, understanding and stabilizing that experience. Over the years of this exploration, my practice and teaching has increasingly been drawn towards simplicity and subtlety.

Carol:  Like many people, I thought yoga was a form of exercise back when I first started taking classes nearly 40 years ago. I was a runner looking to stretch out my tight hamstrings and to relieve neck pain and deadline stress from my job as a reporter for The Washington Post.   Over time, however, I began to realize that yoga offered much more than flexibility and stress relief.   I discovered that yoga was a journey of self-discovery and found the lessons I’d learned in tackling challenging postures on the yoga mat helped me navigate more skillfully through challenging situations at work and at home. In addition to stretching my hamstrings and relieving my neck pain, yoga helped me become happier, healthier and better able to welcome whatever arose in my life.

As my physical body has changed with age—through two pregnancies in my early 30s, earning a second-degree black belt in karate in my 40s, then facing some health crises in my 50s—my practice has changed as well. A serious bout of hyponatremia, brought on by drinking too much water during a marathon in Jamaica in 2003, landed me in a four-day coma and gave me a new appreciation for the deeper practices of yoga—particularly breathing and meditation. This near-death experience taught me something I’d known intellectually yet never truly understood: Yoga’s true power lies in its ability to harness the mind for healing and spiritual development.

Then, in 2008, I had open-heart surgery to replace a congenitally-abnormal heart valve and repair a resulting aneurysm in my aorta. My yoga practice proved extremely powerful in preparing for and recovering from my surgery, and it changed according to my needs—some days it was dynamic and energizing, other days calming and restorative.   I discovered that I could even practice yoga in the Intensive Care Unit—although the only posture I could do was Savasana, the “Corpse Pose,” lying still and surrendering completely. Meditation, prayer, listening to chanting on my iPod and visualizing a positive outcome were all useful yoga practices that helped me through this difficult experience and restore me to full health.

 

  1. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT YOGA THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO CHANGE?

Yoga is not about the form.   Although the various forms of postures, breathing and meditation practices are helpful guides, the deepest teachings and realizations of the yoga tradition are what we discover through and behind the exploration of the forms. Hence, any moment is potentially an asana, a seat of consciousness, rendering life wildly free and inviting.

Another misconception about yoga that we would like to change is that you need to be flexible to practice.   Unfortunately, this misunderstanding keeps many older adults and people with health challenges from trying yoga because they think they are too old, too stiff, too limited—they can’t get on the floor, they can’t get out of a chair. . .etc.

 Physical ability (or inability) does not need to be a barrier to practice!

     The only requirement for practicing yoga is the ability to breathe. 

     It’s a common misconception that yoga requires people to twist themselves into pretzels.  But while advanced postures like headstand may be part of the yoga practice for some people, they are by no means required.  Yoga poses should be selected to fit each individual’s abilities and needs.  For many people, yoga practice involves easy, yet powerful, meditative movements that anyone can do.   “Relax into Yoga” is designed so that anyone can do at least some of the practices.   For example, there is a sequence that can be done in bed, and another that can be done sitting in a chair.

 

Kimberly is a leading contributor to research establishing the therapeutic benefits of yoga and meditation for people with serious health issues. She has developed and taught numerous yoga and meditation programs at Duke University Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) for patients with chronic pain and cancer. Kimberly co-directs both the Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors and the Yoga of Awareness teacher trainings for Cancer and Chronic Pain offered through Duke Integrative Medicine and OHSU. Her work has been published in journals such as Pain, Supportive Care in Cancer, Journal of Pain & Symptom Management, and Behavior Therapy.

Carol is a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, where she creates individualized yoga practices for people with health challenges and co-directs the Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors teacher training. A frequent contributor to Yoga Journal, Carol is an award-winning journalist and fitness expert. She served as founding editor of the Health section of The Washington Post, where her syndicated column, Bodyworks, appeared for 12 years. She is author of the book Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain; co-author with her cardiologist husband Mitchell Krucoff, MD, of Healing Moves: How to Cure, Relieve and Prevent Common Ailments with Exercise; and creator of the home practice CD, Healing Moves Yoga.

Find our more about Relax into Yoga the DVD and the new book release Relax into Yoga at www.relaxintoyoga.com

 

Sukhasana

By on November 7th, 2016 — Comments Off on Sukhasana

 

 

 

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Sukhasana: Seated Easy Pose

Whether it’s been a long day or week filled with joyous times or a few more bumps along the path than preferred, we could all use more moment of serene peace, reflection and gratitude. An ideal asana for meditation, Sukhasana or seated easy pose supports your journey of surrendering and becoming the witness to such an emotional, mental and physical release.

To come into a comfortable and cross-legged seated meditative pose, feel free to sit on a chair or a bolster to alleviate any sense of discomfort in the hips, lower pack or tailbone region. To create a sense of effortless ease, preparing your mind, body and soul to release all worries and outside influences, place blankets under the knees making it easier and more comfortable to sit in Sukasnana for longer periods of time. Bring your attention to your intention for the practice and present moment of stillness. Notice your thoughts, habits of thoughts, and if you feel distracted just notice it, but do not allow such distractions to overwhelm you and bring your attention to alignment: the long extension of your spine, neutrality in the back of your neck as your crown reaches up towards to the sky.

The asana’s relative ease on the knees allows your hips to open without discomfort. You are welcome to sit in this pose for any length of time, but if you practice Sukhasana on a regular basis, be mindful in alternating the crossing of the legs. Physically, the benefits of Sukhasana include strengthening the upper back, knees and ankles. Emotionally and mentally, Sukahasana when practiced with diligent and gentle pranayama work, calms the mind and nervous system achieving a sense of internal peace.

To help you safely strengthen and stabilize your thoracic and cervical spine, Gary Kraftsow guides you through an intentional and progression-based sequence in his Viniyoga Therapy for Upper Back, Neck and Shoulders DVD.