10 Reasons to Immediately Book Your First (or Next) Yoga Retreat

By on February 11th, 2015 — Comments Off

 

 

 

 

Water Purification Tracee-16-2

by Tracee Stanley

I have been leading international yoga retreats for over 10 years and each time I notice the same thing. People come together with a group of strangers- stressed, tired and needing a vacation. On day one as the deep breathing and yoga begins, the layers begin to peel away as everyone begins to leave behind thoughts of their daily lives, mundane tasks and stresses. Day by day I can sense their bodies and minds becoming more and more relaxed.  And by the end of the retreat a transformation has occurred for us all.

Here’s my list of why you should not hesitate to book your first (or next) yoga retreat:

1.You meet new people who share similar interests and love of yoga as much as you do. Communing with like-minded souls is said to sustain our spiritual life. In some traditions of yoga it is said that if we can do nothing else towards our practice we should cultivate sangha.

2.We let go of “doing”. We can drop the masks and responsibility of everyday life and reconnect with what is true for us in the moment.

3.You will have new experiences like hiking up volcano’s, eating local cuisine and exploring  new cultures. You will be outside of your “normal” and yo will feel alive!

bali34

4.You begin to tap into the flow and pulse of life in an organic way and soon you are listening to our own inner teacher with the answers to life’s questions coming so much more easily.

5.You spontaneously wake up  to greet the day without 3 cups of coffee, feeling refreshed and energized. You may even find yourself getting up and meditating before sunrise.

6.By day three there usually is vibrance, a radiance that begins to emerge. I call it “the glow”. The glow comes from being in nature, eating fresh local food, being away from TV, media and our daily mudra of texting, emailing and posting our every move.  It also comes from the friction that comes from deep practice. We begin to let go, see more clearly and we begin to shine from the inside out.

IMG_1436

7.You shift towards becoming more in tune with yourself and with the people around you. You can sense who needs a hug and who wants to be left alone. And you take none of it personally.

8.Before long you are sharing with once strangers as you would with a sister or closest friend. You realize that we are more alike than different

9.Once you return home your friends notice your “glow” they see it in your smile, your skin and the light reflected in your eyes. You have gained a sense of ease. You inspire friends to practice self care or even take a yoga class.

10.You have connected deeply with yourself and others in a way that can only be felt in the heart. And you know that no matter what you want to return to that place. It doesn’t require you getting on plane though, just you getting on your mat. But sometimes we need to take a journey to remind us that all we need is already here.

 

For more information about retreats with Tracee click here

 

pictures courtesy of BaliWellness and Tracee Stanley

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Yin Yoga and Stretching the Spine

By on February 9th, 2015 — Comments Off

iStock_000016688352Small

By Paul Grilley

When working a joint the first thing a yogi or yogini must decide is whether she intends to work muscle or bone. She must decide if she wishes to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the joint or stretch the ligaments to increase range of motion. In this article we explore the second option: stretching the joints of the spine.

Two layers of the joints

A fundamental insight of Taoist analysis is to see the body as at least two layers. For different needs the body could be analyzed into many more layers than two but for a discussion of joint movement two is enough.

The two layers of a joint are Muscle and Bone. Muscle is the yang layer and includes muscle and tendon. Bone is the yin layer and includes the ligaments. Yogis should train themselves to feel the differences between the muscle and ligament sensations.

The Neck

The following neck stretches are an effective way to start this process. Once a yogi has learned to discriminate the sensations of muscle and ligament in the neck then it will be easier to feel these differences in the rest of the spine.

Drop your chin to your chest and relax. This is a passive or yin stretch for the muscles and ligaments of the back of the neck. The muscles of the neck are on the left and ride sides of the center line. The ligaments we are concerned with are on the centerline. A yogi can learn to feel the difference by comparing the sensations on each side of the spine with the sensations in the center.

Move the head to the right while it is still dropped forward. This movement stretches the muscles on the left side of the neck making it easier to discriminate them. Moving the head to the left stretches the muscles on the right side of the neck. Bringing the head back to the center the yogi should be able distinguish sensations that are neither left nor right but in the midline. These are the ligaments.

Muscular stretches feel sharper and are easily locatable. Ligament sensations are deeper, duller and more attached to the bones. This is why Taoists use the expression “Stretch you Bones” to describe ligament stretches.

This simple exercise should be repeated many times. The distinctions may not be noticeable the first few times but with time and experience they become clear. Remember that is possible to feel ligament stretches when the head is moved to the left and right. But by exaggerating the stretch on the muscles it is easier to feel the difference between the two tissues.

Yin Stresses

Once a yogi has learned to feel the difference between muscle and bone the next step is to determine how much leverage to use when stretching them. Passively dropping the chin to the chest is a gentle yin approach. The next most aggressive effort would be to contract the muscles of the neck to depress the chin deeper toward the chest. But the most aggressive stretch would be to use the hands to gently pull on the back of the head. This is the deepest possible stretch for the neck while seated.

Yang Stresses

All three of the above stretches are yin. The muscles of the front of the neck were used in second variation and the muscles of the arms were used in the third variation. But in each variation the muscles of the back of the neck were relaxed. This allowed the neck to round forward and stretch the joints. If while doing any of these exercises a yogi contracts the muscles of the back of the neck he is resisting the forward bend and preventing the stretch. This principle can be demonstrated as follows.

Gently drop the chin and place the hands on the back of the head as before. Now engage the muscles of the back of the neck and try to lift the head up. At the same time gently pull down on the head with the arms. The yogi is now in a tug-of-war with himself. His arms are trying to pull the head down but the neck muscles are trying to lift the head up.

 

To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at paulgrilley.com  and check out his DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

Paul Grilley:  A well-known master of yin yoga, Paul brings a thorough grounding in Hatha and Ashtanga yoga as well as anatomy and kinesiology to his teaching, which integrates the Taoist yoga of martial arts master Paulie Zink and the Chinese meridian and acupuncture theories of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama. Paul’s book, Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice, explains how yin yoga can teach us to relax, be patient, be quiet, and focus on the skeleton and its joints—a necessary counterpoint to today’s more ubiquitous muscular yoga.

paul-grilley

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Yin Yoga and the Breath

By on February 1st, 2015 — Comments Off

By Sarah Powers

 

Using our natural intelligence to focus on our breath and mobilize the distribution of prana throughout our body is called pranayama, which is an enhancement discipline that involves three aspects: inhalation (puraka); exhalation (rechaka); and the gap between, or suspension of breath (kumbhaka). By varying our respiration and holding our breath, we enhance the quality and mortality of the prana within. When practiced skillfully, intentional breathing has physical, energetic, and mental benefits. Physically, it helps oxygenate the blood and strengthens our digestive, eliminative, circulatory, and respiratory systems. Energetically, a pranayama practice helps balance, concentrate, and harmonize the flow of prana within us. When our energy is imbalanced, our prana is dissipated and weak, often resulting in unpredictable and dissonant emotions that leak out in uncontrolled, chaotic ways. A yogi, on the other hand, is described as someone whose prana is contained within the center of her body. Her emotional life is rich and her mind is clear.

 

In pranayama, we attempt to reduce the amount of prana that leaks out and enliven the quality of energy existing within us. This is not possible without concentration. Our mind is closely linked to the quality of our prana, and our breath influences our pranic body. When we concentrate on using our breath to balance the subtle (or energy) body, there is a unifying effect on our overall state of being.

 

Through aligning our minds with our breath, we can experience relaxed alertness in the energy body and mind, a state that has extremely therapeutic effects on the body. The key ingredient is attention. As we watch our breath, we begin to tune in to our capacity for focus and concentration, qualities that arouse meditative awareness. Pranayama is therefore a wonderful practice to sequence before meditation, because it tethers the mind and prana within our body, amplifying our awareness in the present moment.

 

The breath can be thought of as the catalyst for inner circulation. When we engage in full use of our diaphragm in an unhurried and conscious way, we assist in enhancing the distribution of prana throughout our bodies. This style of breathing is called Ujjayi (“victorious”) breath and has a number of benefits. As we slow down the rhythm of each breath, it has a soothing effect on our nervous system. This in turn releases the tensions in our body, helping us to feel more relaxed. As we let go, we tune in to the sound of our breathing, helping to diminish the distractions of the mind and leading to more inner quietude. Focusing on the breath in this way helps increase our ability to concentrate in an effortless manner, preparing the body and mind for deeper integration.

 

Excerpt from: Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers.

 

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.

powers

 SARAH POWERS

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.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Why Does Yin Yoga Feel So Good? Exploring the Three Tissues of the Body by Paul Grilley

By on January 22nd, 2015 — Comments Off

audray2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Why does my body not move the way I want it to?”

To answer this question we will look at our joints. There are many tissues that form a joint: bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, synovial fluid, cartilage, fat, and sacks of fluid called bursae. Sufficient to our purpose we need only consider three of them: Muscle, Connective Tissue and Bone. Each of these tissues has different elastic qualities and each responds differently to the stresses placed upon them by Yoga postures. By learning to feel the differences between these three tissues Yogis can save themselves a great deal of frustration and possible injury.

We begin our analysis by classifying the three tissues according to quality. Muscle is soft; it is the most elastic, and mobile. So Muscle is the most Yang of the three. Bone is hard; it is the least elastic, the least pliable and is immobile. So Bone is the most Yin. Connective Tissue lies between the two extremes.

It is interesting to note that this classification of the Three Tissues remains the same when we examine them not by quality but by location. The muscles are the most external and exposed. They are Yang. The bones are the most internal, the least accessible. They are Yin. The connective tissue lies literally between the two.

Why bother with this analysis? Because Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in Yin way. The characteristics of Yang exercise are rhythm and repetition. The characteristic of Yin exercise is prolonged stasis or stillness. We are all familiar with Yang exercises like running, swimming, and weight training. All of these activities are rhythmic. We alternate the contraction and relaxation of our muscles to run or swim or lift. It would be unproductive to just contract a muscle and hold it until it spasms. It would be equally unproductive to just let a muscle stay relaxed. Healthy muscle requires the rhythmic contraction and relaxation that Yang exercise provides. The rhythm is very important. Indeed, it could be said that it is rhythm that distinguishes exercise from simple manual labor.

Manual labor is rarely of the proper rhythm or of adequate repetition to make a person “feel good”. It is usually a haphazard mix of too much of some movements, not enough of others. This leaves us feeling sore and “kinked” at the end of our labors, not pleasantly perspired and relaxed. In cultures where long days of manual labor are unavoidable Human Beings have responded by making up “Work Songs” and soldiers have invented an endless variety of “Marching Songs”. The purpose of these songs is to create a rhythm to work to. Labor is still labor but it is made more palatable and less destructive by moving, singing and breathing with a rhythm.

Yang exercise is easy to define and identify. It is what we are all familiar with. By contrast Yin exercise seems a contradiction in terms. How can something that is gentle and static even be called “exercise”. One purpose of these articles is to expand our conception of exercise to be more inclusive. Yang exercise is not the only form of exercise.

The characteristic of Yin exercise is stasis or stillness for long periods of time. Yin exercise has a rhythm but it is a much, much longer rhythm than Yang activities like running. A common misinterpretation of Yin stillness is “passive” or “inactive”. But this misconception is due to our cultural bias to muscular, Yang activities. If nothing were happening in Yin exercise then it would indeed be a contradiction in terms. But tissues are being stressed in proper Yin exercise, particularly connective tissue.

The most common example of Yin exercise is traction. If someone’s leg were broken it would not be beneficial to rhythmically pull on the injured area. But gentle, steady, continuous traction might be absolutely necessary for healthy recovery.

An even more common and less dramatic example of the Yin principle of prolonged stasis is orthodontia; braces on our teeth. Teeth are bone anchored in more bone and yet even they respond to the practice of Yin Yoga which we call “braces”. Bone is the ultimate Yin tissue of the body. If we were to exercise our teeth in a Yang way it would be disastrous.

Imagine an enthusiastic body builder taking what she learned from the gym and applying it to her mouth. If she had decided she was going to straighten her crooked teeth by rhythmically wiggling them back and forth in multiple sets it would not be long before her teeth fell out. Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in a Yin way.

We will finish this article with a reminder of the Taoist conceptions of Yin and Yang. When we analyze things we are comparing them to something else. There is no absolute Yin. There is no absolute Yang. If we recall the Tai Ji symbol of spiraling half circles of Black and White we must remember that there is a black dot within the white spiral and a white dot within the black. This is to remind us that when we use language such as “Yang is rhythmic but Yin is not.” that this is not absolutely true. Yin has a rhythm but it is much longer than Yang. Likewise it is not absolutely correct to say “Yang is active but Yin is not.” There is activity in Yin but it is of a different type. It can be tedious to be meticulously accurate in our speech. One of the great benefits of Yin/Yang terminology is that we can express ourselves in terse, memorable ways but always with the understanding that this is not the final word. Like poetry; a deeper analysis might be necessary for different purposes.

 

To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at www.paulgrilley.com and check out his DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

Paul Grilley:  A well-known master of yin yoga, Paul brings a thorough grounding in Hatha and Ashtanga yoga as well as anatomy and kinesiology to his teaching, which integrates the Taoist yoga of martial arts master Paulie Zink and the Chinese meridian and acupuncture theories of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama. Paul’s book, Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice, explains how yin yoga can teach us to relax, be patient, be quiet, and focus on the skeleton and its joints—a necessary counterpoint to today’s more ubiquitous muscular yoga.

paul-grilley

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

10 Steps to Staying Inspired and Manifesting Your Intentions by Tracee Stanley

By on January 19th, 2015 — Comments Off

moody_girl

Staying inspired isn’t always easy. Sometimes just completing our daily mundane tasks- taking care of our kids, going to work or school- can seem like a grind. So how do we stay inspired to attain the goals and dreams that we have set for ourselves?

1. Imagine:
It is said that “Imagination leads to experience” and it is one of the first steps to begin to shift our positive thoughts and aspirations into form. Creating a vision board is an excellent way to begin to shape what sprouts from our imagination into being. A vision board is a picture collage of all the things you would like to manifest. Be as specific as you can about what those things are. If you want a new car, find the actual make model and color of the car you want. If you are dreaming of an exotic vacation find pictures of the hotel you’d like to stay in and the things you’d like to do while you are there. If you desire a loving relationship find photo’s or words that invoke this for you. Place the board in a place where you can see it everyday. Take a moment each day to look at what you’ve created, knowing that you have the ability to make it happen. Pay attention to synchronicities in your life, it may be the universe conspiring to help you!

2. Be Grateful:
Gratitude is central to being a happy and inspired person. We all have something to be grateful for, even if at this very moment the only thing that you can think of is the breath you are breathing right now. Create a gratitude journal. Every night before you go to bed make a list of 5 things that you are grateful for.

3. The Company You Keep:
Sometimes you need to let go of relationships that don’t serve you. You are not being served if you consistently feel drained after being around certain people. In your friendships and relationships are you always giving more energy than you receive? Do you feel valued? Are you in a circle of friends that thrives on drama and gossip? Who are the people you look up to? Spend more time with them. It is said that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. Sit with that for a moment and think about whether you need to make any changes. Surrounding yourself with people who are positive, proactive and uplifting will help you to stay connected to your own goals. Who are those people in your life? If you don’t have any, find some!

4. Make an Action List:
List five things at the beginning of the week that you can complete to move closer to your goals. Don’t be afraid to do things that seem big- like making a cold call or sending an email to someone you don’t know. List 3 things you can stop doing this week that waste time and resources i.e. internet, channel surfing, spending too much or gossiping.

5. Meditate:
Set the tone and foundation for your day by spending at least 5 minutes meditating upon waking. The practice of consistent mediation has cumulative effects and allows you to develop the ability to remain centered in the midst of turmoil.

6. Daily Exercise:
No matter what your preferred movement form is. Get out there and do it 30 minutes a day! I prefer yoga and meditation because it brings awareness to your thoughts and can reveal mental constructs that may be blocking you from moving forward. If you are new to yoga you can try a free Yin Yoga class for beginners with Sarah Powers: http://www.pranamaya.com/online-courses/introduction-to-insight-yoga.html

7. Mindful Eating:
Be mindful of not only what you eat (hopefully 60% organic), but how you eat. Do you offer a blessing for your food? Are you talking on the phone or watching TV while you eat? Are you rushing through your meal? Do you eat too late at night ? You are not only what you eat, but HOW you eat. Incoproating the science of Ayurveda can be an eye opening way to use food as medicine and practice daily self care rituals.

8. Thirty Minutes of Silence Before Bed:
How often during the day are we ever really silent? We are constantly barraged with images, information, distractions, sound bites, feedback etc. Take time to decompress from it all and just be silent, write in your journal, meditate, make a cup of tea and just BE. In order to be truly happy we must cultivate the ability to be alone with ourselves and our thoughts- with no distractions.

9. Deep Relaxation:
It is important for us to be able to deeply relax. We mostly think of that as sleeping, but there are a few exercises that we can do that bring us into a state of deep relaxation. The practice of yoga nidra is done lying on your back, on your bed or on the floor. Your eyes remain closed as you remain perfectly still and are guided though an exercise. This is a wonderful exercise for anyone who has trouble sleeping. It can be done any time of day and is deeply restoring. And because it is so deeply relaxing it is a great place to plant an intention. All of your internal resistances soften and you now have fertile ground to manifest your dreams from. I have used this method many times to achieve goals and it is very effective.

10. Commitment
Make a commitment to yourself. If you can’t commit to yourself, it’ll be hard for anyone to commit to you in any capacity. Challenge yourself to incorporate the nine steps into your life for 41 days. If you slip, start from day one. I guarantee you’ll see changes by day 42.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post