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Cultivating a Home Yoga Practice

Posted on April 13th, 2016 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Home Yoga

By Sabrina Samedi

For many of us, the time we spend on the mat whether it’s for a sweat-cleansing power flow, a nourishing vinyasa series, a healing yin yoga practice or for meditation, it is considered “me time.” Time to step away from all the hustle and bustle, noise and distractions of everyday life and step into our true self- it’s our dedication to our self: to listen and honor our mind, body, spirit and soul. Hence, self-care is the manifestation of self-love and such compassion should not be jeopardized simply due to the fact that you couldn’t make it to the studio for your meditation or yoga class.

Let’s face it,  we have all been there- starring at the jumbled yoga mat in the corner of our room as it dauntingly seems to whisper- breathe now or forever lose your peace. It takes willpower and commitment to practice yoga whether it’s asana-based, pranayama work or meditation with consistency. Classes at studios can add up and after a steady series of visits it can feel as if our center of zen is in a heated debate with our wallet and our wallet is in the lead as a victor as our zen turns into financial worries. Between work and running errands, time can restrict us to practicing before sunrise or well after sunset; thus, time restrictions are an honest determinant for when we can carve out studio space. It is quite harmonious and healing to share your practice with the gracious breath of community members, but often times it an uplifting challenge to remove and all distractions and simple focus on your breath, your body’s needs, and your strength without any inclination towards judgement nor competition.

Therefore, cultivating a home yoga and/or meditation practice is a great compliment to your community studio-based classes as well as a wonderful tool to utilize when traveling or when time and budget act as bumps along the road to tranquility.

Tips on how to create and maintain a home practice:

1. Hold the Space and Honor Yourself

  • Be kind to yourself as you would in any class. When a teacher suggests a modification and you tune in realizing that since your lower back has been aching lately, you decide it’s best to lower down onto your knees during a Chaturanga Dandasana or bend your knees as you lift into Ardha Uttanasana. Thus, you are listen to your body and are taking the instructor’s suggestion. You are your own guru- listen to the teacher within your soul and treat your body with compassion.

 

2. Strengthen Your Willpower

  • Your manipura or solar plexus is engaged here as you dedicate the same adherence to studio etiquette to your self– show up on time, no texting or taking calls while invested in your practice. The e-mails and pile of laundry can wait- there is no where else you need to be than right here, right now. Be present and flow with your breath.

 

3. Find the Right Flow and Style 

  • Getting a little help from our yogi friends is key here; while listening to your inner teacher you may still need guidance from a yoga instructor and rest assured we’ve got you covered. Invest in yoga DVDs and/or online courses that you’d be able to access from any platform (ie tablet, iPad, iPhone, etc) and find as well as explore the diversity of class styles and duration that pike your interest. For a vast and unique selection of classes and lectures taught by our own master teachers click here. Our collection includes: Yin Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Viniyoga, Vinyasa and Meditation.

 

4. Don’t Forget Savasana

  • Savasana or corpse pose is oftentimes considered the most important asana as this is where our bodies truly integrate all of the emotional, physical and mental benefits of the practice to our subtle and conscious bodies. You’ve exerted quite a bit of effort, energy and time. Thus, give yourself the chance to soak in the benefit and recharge your soul. Give yourself permission to let go and simple be- rejoice in the highest form of self-love: self-care.

 

Namaste! Thank you for sharing your practice with me and inviting me into your home. I hope you find this information insightful.

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Conscious Gift Giving Guide

Posted on February 4th, 2016 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

love

by Sabrina Samedi

There is something magical about this time of year, maybe it’s the million volts of electricity that light up Main Streets around the globe and ignite our hearts. Perhaps it’s the euphoric sensation about gathering around those we love the most, but the essence of gratitude and generosity is deeply rooted in our intentions, our actions and our emotions. With the holiday season upon us, the ritual of gift-exchange is a major component of rejoicing in the holidays offering incredible emotional benefits as well! There is a positive lift in our emotional relationship to ourselves and the recipient of our gifts as we search for the perfect token of appreciation for those we care so deeply for. When we give without expecting anything in exchange- we are paying it forward as they say- setting in motion a positive karmic chain in the universe inspiring others to radiate as well as attract positivity into their own lives.

As such, let’s start a shopping and giving revolution! The next time we decide to hit the malls and boutiques or indulge in a cyber-crazed shopping spree, let’s re-shift our focus from the clearance racks to the mission behind each product and give from our intention and our hearts; thus, living through our intention of gratitude not just during the holidays, but all year long. Let’s ask ourselves, what is the intention behind the gift I am giving? Beyond bringing temporary bliss, will my gift offer lasting sentiments geared towards growth, happiness and hopefully, usefulness. We express ourselves, our tastes, our interests, and sometimes advocate our principles via the products we utilize, give, wear and embody. Below is a list of gift ideas inspired by products, hard-working, soul-driven people whom we believe in supporting their cause, their mission and spreading the beauty of the gifts they have to offer. Happy Holidays!

Of course you can use the PROMO CODE SACREDCOW for 10% off of any item at www.pranamya.com Including EGIFT CARDS but here are some of our favorite finds.

Gifts that Give Back

krochet kids

 

Krochet Kids: A non-profit brand that empowers people in Uganda to rise above poverty by creating, selling apparel knit & crochet hats for babies men and women. Stay warm this chilly season with an intrinsic and heart-felt beanie because every product is hand-signed by the person who made it, giving it a wonderfully unique touch. View more of their creative designs at www.krochetkids.org.

roma boots

 

Roma Boots: Everyone needs a favorite pair of boots this winter season! For every pair of Roma Boots sold, a new pair of boots, along with school supplies, is donated to a child in need. Slip some on at www.romaboots.com.

 

esperos bag 2

                                                                                                                                                                             Esperos Bag: The perfect bag to carry all your  daily    essentials. Esperos Bag believes that literacy plays a vital  role in one’s future success. Thus, with each  bag purchased,  Esperos helps send a child in need to school for a year. To  support Esperos’ mission check out www.esperosbags.com.

stone and cloth

 

 

Stone and Cloth: Every purchase of a Stone and Cloth product helps to provide scholarships for students in need. To learn more and check out their rad products, visit www.stoneandcloth.com.                      

 

Intention, Divination and Tarot

Empowered Life 14 Empowered Life: The Empowered Life Activation Kit includes  The Empowered Life CD download of 7 Guided Meditations and  a set of 72  Soul  Cards to assist the reader on a journey towards  self-knowledge,  healing and  empowerment. The cards and  meditations can be used  together as a 40 day  Empowerment  practice, as daily inspiration for  contemplation or as a  compliment to one’s meditation and yoga nidra  practices. The kit is perfect to jump start and guide one through a 40 day empowerment practice to create change and understanding within one’s self. For more information about Empowered Life visit www.empoweredlife.yoga.

 

yantra wisdom

Yantra Wisdom: The Yantra Wisdom deck of 39 cards, as inspired by Chanti Tacoronte-Perez, offers you a quick way to shift your perspective as well as to engage with your intuition and creative self which can provide clarity. The Yantra Wisdom deck gives readers an insight to the symbol of the yantra as well as an affirmation to repeat. For more information about the wisdom shared amongst this deck visit www.yantrawisdom.com.

 

wild unkown

Wild Unknown: Committed to the inner quest and the journey of  transformation, Kim Krans illustrated the The Wild Unknown  Tarot  Deck. The deck includes 78 cards filled with magical and  mysterious  imagery. Perfect for seasoned as well as new readers,  the cards come in a  beautiful box with a lifting ribbon and fold-out  guide to get you familiar  with the cards. Kim Krans invites  potential readers to open their minds,  draw a card and enjoy the  journey. To learn more about the tarot deck  visit  www.thewildunknown.com.

 

 

Feel Good and Look Good

purusha peoplePurusha People: Founded by Hayley Elliot and motivated by the belief that what we wear next to skin along side the creative process to make such clothing is sacred, Purusha People aims to help YOU tell your story via their expressive and stunning designs. Humbling respecting all aspects of the creative production process, Purusha People sources the most organic and softest fibers while using non-toxic water based ink and low impact dyes, and paying workers a livable wage locally in Los Angeles. To view and shop their apparel visit www.purushapeople.com.

 

zen nomad                                                                                                   Zen Nomad: Committed to the belief that luxury and  sustainability can  successfully coexist, Zen Nomad  manufactures each and every piece of    their clothing in  Toronto sustainably sourcing the highest quality fabrics.  Zen Nomad aims to help you move through your day  with ease and comfort  investing in the philosophy that  peace in your body is peace in our minds  and peace in  our spirits. To shop their look book visit  www.zennomad.ca.

 

aya papaya

                                                                                                  Aya Papaya: Designed for women who are in movement, Aya Papaya clothing as manifested by founder Aya Iwaski is meant to make the goddess wearing such pieces feel comfortable yet stylish. Aya wants you to be able to dance, play and work in her creations. To view the essence of grace and strength behind all her designs, visit www.ayapapaya.com.

 

Sacred Jewelry
The Sattva Collection: Rooted in the intention of awakening to our innate wisdom and connection to our inner trthe sattva collectionuth The Sattva Collection is a global lifestyle brand committed to supporting treasured communites around the world and creating jobs for local artisans. The Sattva Collection uses precious and semi-precious stones sourced globally and akin to all their hand-crafted objects, each gem from their collection holds within itself an intrinsic meaning that can have a profoundly positive impact on the wearer. For more information on the communities The Sattva Collection supports and to view their product gallery, visit www.thesattvacollection.com.

 

Seeds of Remembrance: Shop owner Alexa Webster offers you her heart through her love-infused works of heart in her Seeds of Remembraseeds of remembrancence etsy shop. Her collection of high vibration, one-of-a-kind genuine gemstone, hand-tied, prayer malas are designed to support awakening through intention adornment Japa mediation. Alexa identifies the prayer malas as a magnificent tool for connecting and an opportunity to tune in and recognize the internal mystery unfolding in each moment. To shop her malas, visit www.etsy.com/shop/SeedsofRemembrance.

 

earth bands Earth Bands: Earth Bands want everyone to take, embrace and share  the message that by simply wearing an Earth Band you can empower  yourself  and elevate self-awareness. Earth Band’s mission is to raise  humanity’s vibration by connecting us to the things we love- Mother  Nature, our favorite sports and important causes we can’t wait to rally  behind. Earth Bands gather earth and sand from special places and  create unique, handmade, 100% American-sourced Earth Bands. To  shop through these Eco-Ethical products visit www.earthbands.co.

 

Artists Treasures for Your Home

vine and thistle                                                                                                           

Vine and Thistles (Etsy): Send a trinket of love to your dearest friends and family this holiday season. Alicia Schultz, owner of etsy shop Vine and Thistle offers custom hand lettering art and designs included personalized wooden stamps, gift tags, adult coloring book calendars, hand-lettered quote cards and personal stationary items. To shop through Vine and Thistle’s inspiring products visit www.etsy.com/shop/vineandthistle.

 

j drew carpetry

J Drew Carpentry (Etsy): A second generation carpenter with  a love  for hardwoods, oil finishes and structural planks, Drew  Silvers finds  beauty in re-purposing and bringing new life back  to the old charm of  barn wood and materials which some  would consider useless. To shop  Drew’s creative and reclaimed  works of art, visit  www.etsy.com/shop/JDrewCarpentry.

 

 

Self-Care and Nurturing

aromabliss Aromabliss Ayurveda: Aromabliss is a botanically infused, artisan quality skin and body treatment line of elixirs based on the profound nature-based wisdom of Ayurveda, Aromatherapy and Herbology. Aromabliss products are individually hand mixed in small batches and scented with the highest quality organic, wild-crafted and environmentally sustainable herbs, plants and oils. To see if these physically, mentally and emotionally enhancing products are right for you, visit www.aromabliss.com.

 

vital yogi Vital Yogi Herbals: Owner of Vital Yogi Herbals and educator of the  Science and Philosophy of Tantric Hatha Yoga, Herbalism and  Flower  Essence Therapy, Brook Sullivan is on a mission to empower  people to  take control of their health naturally. When it comes  balancing the  mind, understanding the psyche and transforming  emotional baggage  into wisdom, Brooke feels that flower essences  the optimal remedies.  Flower essences are vibrational remedies akin  to homeopathy and  work on the subtle layers (psycho-spiritual and  emotional realms) which in turn bring wholeness to the physical body and life. To learn more flower essences and botanical therapies, visit www.botanicaltherapies.com.

 

Erbaviva: Erbaviva offers premium organic personal care products erbavivathat fuse European artisan quality with healthy California organic culture to benefit the human body and the planet. Each unique and exquisite Erbaviva product is handcrafted with distinctively pure living herbs, essential oils and botanicals sourced with the highest standards of organic certification, safety, efficacy and sustainability. Visit www.erbaviva.com to view all of Erbaviva’s delightful products.

 

Love in a Bowl
gina cucina Gina Cucina Soup of the Month:The holidays are a  perfect time to gather around the dinner table  with the  ones we hold near and dear in our hearts and  what  better way to celebrate the season of gratitude  than  with delicious meals. Feeling good about our food  is  made easier with Gina Cucina as all ingredients come  from local farmers and ranchers. Continue to spread  the cheer of scrumptious and heart-warming meals  after the  holidays by joining Gina Cucina’s soup of the  month club where two seasonal organic and gluten free soups are delivered directly to your door. For more information visit www.ginacucina.com.

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Yoga Therapy Mini-Workshop Cakravakasna

Posted on November 2nd, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Viniyoga founder Gary Kraftsow demonstrates how and why we practice cakravakasna and how to do it to maximum effect. To see more of Gary’s videos vista www.pranamaya.com and Use the code SACREDCOW to get 10% OFF at checkout.

 

 

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Moon Rises- Hip Opener Tutorial with Jill Miller

Posted on September 8th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Jill Miller shares this dynamic sequence from her Yoga Link: Hip Helpers DVD. This is hip opener a great addition to your practice especially if you have tight hips and psoas muscles. Jill says” the psoas muscle is a cable like muscle that shares attachments with the diaphragm and large intestine. Because it is linked to our physiology and our nervous system in way s that other muscles are not, it is truly a vortex that effects the entire well being of the body. Doing exercises that bring balance to the body help us align our posture  and we can once again became vital.

You can find out more about Jill Miller on Pranamaya and if your hips need a little help, check out the DVD Yoga Link: Hip Helpers

Use the Promo code SACREDCOW for 10% off at checkout.

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So Hum Meditation with Sri Dharma Mittra

Posted on September 7th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Sri Dharma Mittra explains the So Hum meditation. So Hum is said to be the mantra that we are born with. It is the mantra of the breath. In many traditions this will be the first mantra that a student is given, because as it were, he or she already has access to it. It is said that the mantra can be heard if you listen closely to the sound of the breath. Using this simple technique can bring a sense of clarity, balance, ease and even bliss. If you are interested in beginning a practice of Japa meditation this is a great practice to begin with. The word Japa means repetition and usually refers to the repetition of a mantra.  Once you are comfortable with this simple practice it may be time to move on to other practices that use this mantra following the breath like Ajapa Japa meditation part one. At some point you may even begin to notice the sound of the mantra repeating itself. This is a great sign that you are beginning to embody the resonance of the mantra.

This clip is from Dharma Mittra’s Maha Sadhana level 2 DVD from Pranamaya. Use the Promo code SACREDCOW for 10% at checkout.

 

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Yoga Therapy Mini-Workshop -Warrior One

Posted on September 5th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Visit our website at www.pranamaya.com to find out more about Gary Kraftsow, Viniyoga and Yoga Therapy. Use the Promo code SACREDCOW for an additional 10% at checkout. From www.viniyoga.com yoga therapy is offers the below as a description of Yoga Therapy and its benefits.

Yoga Therapy, derived from the Yoga tradition of Patanjali and the Ayurvedic system of health, refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition.

The general long-term goals of Yoga Therapy include:

reducing the symptoms of suffering that can be reduced
managing the symptoms that cannot be reduced
rooting out causes wherever possible
improving life function, and
shifting attitude and perspective in relationship to life’s challenges.

Viniyoga ™ is a comprehensive and authentic transmission of the teachings of yoga including asana, pranayama, bandha, sound, chanting, meditation, personal ritual and study of texts. Viniyoga ™ (prefixes vi and ni plus yoga) is an ancient Sanskrit term that implies differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application.

tasya bhūmiṣu viniyogaḥ
Sutra 3.6, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The American Viniyoga™ Institute uses the term Viniyoga™ to refer to an approach to Yoga that adapts the various means and methods of practice to the unique condition, needs and interests of each individual – giving each practitioner the tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.

The practices of Yoga provide the means to bring out the best in each practitioner. This requires an understanding of a person’s present condition, personal potential, appropriate goals and the means available. Just as every person is different, these aspects will vary with each individual.

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What is Yin Yoga?

Posted on July 11th, 2014 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Conventional yoga wisdom holds that nothing prepares your body for hours of seated meditation as well as regular asana practice. But when I began to explore more intensive meditation sessions, I discovered to my chagrin that years of sweaty vinyasa and mastery of fairly advanced poses hadn’t made me immune to the creaky knees, sore back, and aching hips that can accompany long hours of sitting practice.

Fortunately, by the time I got serious about meditation, I’d already been introduced to the concepts of Taoist Yoga, which helped me understand my difficulties in sitting. I found that with some simple additions to my yoga practice, I could sit in meditation with ease, free from physical distractions. Taoist Yoga also helped me see that we can combine Western scientific thought with ancient Indian and Chinese energy maps of the body to gain deeper understanding of how and why yoga works.

The Tao of Yoga

Through deep meditation, the ancient spiritual adepts won insight into the energy system of the body. In India, yogis called this energy prana and its pathways nadis; in China, the Taoists called it qi (pronounced chee) and founded the science of acupuncture, which describes the flow of qi through pathways called meridians. The exercises of tai chi chuan and qi gong were developed to harmonize this qi flow; the Indian yogis developed their system of bodily postures to do the same.

Western medicine has been skeptical about the traditional energy maps of acupuncture, tai chi, and yoga, since no one had ever found physical evidence of nadis and meridians. But in recent years researchers, led by Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama in Japan and Dr. James Oschman in the United States, have explored the possibility that the connective tissue running throughout the body provides pathways for the energy flows described by the ancients.

Drawing on Motoyama’s research, Taoist Yoga weds the insights gained by thousands of years of acupuncture practice to the wisdom of yoga. To understand this marriage—and to use it to help us sit with more ease in meditation—we must familiarize ourselves with the concepts of yin and yang. Opposing forces in taoist thought, the terms yin and yang can describe any phenomenon. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. Other yin-yang polarities include cold-hot, down-up, calm-excited.

Yin and yang are relative terms, not absolutes; any phenomenon can only be yin or yang by comparison with something else. We can’t point to the moon and say, “The moon is yin.” Compared to the sun, the moon is yin: It’s cooler and less bright. But compared to the Earth (at least from our perspective), the moon is yang: brighter, higher, and more mobile. In addition to being relative, a yin-yang comparison of any two objects depends on the trait being compared. For example, when considering location, the heart is yin compared to the breastbone because the heart is more hidden. But when considering substance, the heart is yang compared to the breastbone because the heart is softer, more mobile, more elastic.

Analyzing various yoga techniques from the perspective of yin and yang, the most relevant aspect is the elasticity of the tissues involved. Yang tissues like muscles are more fluid-filled, soft, and elastic; yin tissues like connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, and fascia) and bones are dryer, harder, and stiffer. By extension, exercise that focuses on muscle tissue is yang; exercise that focuses on connective tissue is yin.

It’s certainly true that whenever we move and bend our joints in yoga postures, both muscle and connective tissues are challenged. But from a Taoist perspective, much of the yoga now practiced in the West is yang practice—active practice that primarily focuses on movement and muscular contraction. Many yoga students like to warm up with asanas that infuse the muscles with blood, like standing poses, Sun Salutations, or inversions. This strategy makes sense for stretching and strengthening muscles; much like a sponge, the elasticity of a muscle varies dramatically with its fluid content. If a sponge is dry, it may not stretch at all without tearing, but if a sponge is wet, it can twist and stretch a great deal. Similarly, once the muscles fill with blood, they become much easier to stretch.

Yang yoga provides enormous benefits for physical and emotional health, especially for those living a sedentary modern lifestyle. Taoists would say yang practice removes qi stagnation as it cleanses and strengthens our bodies and our minds. But the practice of yang yoga, by itself, may not adequately prepare the body for a yin activity such as seated meditation. Seated meditation is a yin activity, not just because it is still but because it depends on the flexibility of the connective tissue.

The Joint Stretch

The idea of stretching connective tissue around the joints seems at odds with virtually all the rules of modern exercise. Whether we’re lifting weights, skiing, or doing aerobics or yoga, we’re taught that safety in movement primarily means to move so you don’t strain your joints. And this is sage counsel. If you stretch connective tissue back and forth at the edge of its range of motion or if you suddenly apply a lot of force, sooner or later you will hurt yourself.

So why would Yin Yoga advocate stretching connective tissue? Because the principle of all exercise is to stress tissue so the body will respond by strengthening it. Moderately stressing the joints does not injure them any more than lifting a barbell injures muscles. Both forms of training can be done recklessly, but neither one is innately wrong. We must remember that connective tissue is different from muscle and needs to be exercised differently. Instead of the rhythmiccontraction and release that best stretches muscle, connective tissue responds best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger—which is exactly what you want.

Although connective tissue is found in every bone, muscle, and organ, it’s most concentrated at the joints. In fact, if you don’t use your full range of joint flexibility, the connective tissue will slowly shorten to the minimum length needed to accommodate your activities. If you try to flex your knees or arch your back after years of underuse, you’ll discover that your joints have been “shrink-wrapped” by shortened connective tissue.

When most people are introduced to the ideas of Yin Yoga, they shudder at the thought of stretching connective tissue. That’s no surprise: Most of us have been aware of our connective tissues only when we’ve sprained an ankle, strained our lower backs, or blown out a knee. But yin practice isn’t a call to stretch all connective tissue or strain vulnerable joints. Yin Yoga, for example, would never stretch the knee side to side; it simply isn’t designed to bend that way. Although yin work with the knee would seek full flexion and extension (bending and straightening), it would never aggressively stretch this extremely vulnerable joint. In general, a yin approach works to promote flexibility in areas often perceived as nonmalleable, especially the hips, pelvis, and lower spine.

Of course, you can overdo yin practice, just as you can overdo any exercise. Since yin practice is new to many yogis, the indications of overwork may also be unfamiliar. Because yin practice isn’t muscularly strenuous, it seldom leads to sore muscles. If you’ve really pushed too far, a joint may feel sensitive or even mildly sprained. More subtle signals include muscular gripping or spasm or a sense of soreness or misalignment—in chiropractic terms, being out of adjustment—especially in your neck or sacroiliac joints. If a pose causes symptoms like these, stop practicing it for a while. Or, at the very least, back way out of your maximum stretch and focus on developing sensitivity to much more subtle cues. Proceed cautiously, only gradually extending the depth of poses and the length of time you spend in them.

The Yin Difference

There are two principles that differentiate yin practice from more yang approaches to yoga: holding poses for at least several minutes and stretching the connective tissue around a joint. To do the latter, the overlying muscles must be relaxed. If the muscles are tense, the connective tissue won’t receive the proper stress. You can demonstrate this by gently pulling on your right middle finger, first with your right hand tensed and then with the hand relaxed. When the hand is relaxed, you will feel a stretch in the joint where the finger joins the palm; the connective tissue that knits the bones together is stretching. When the hand is tensed, there will be little or no movement across this joint, but you will feel the muscles straining against the pull.

It’s not necessary—or even possible—for all the muscles to be relaxed when you’re doing some Yin Yoga postures. In a seated forward bend, for example, you can gently pull with your arms to increase the stretch on the connective tissues of your spine. But in order for these connective tissues to be affected, you must relax the muscles around the spine itself. Because Yin Yoga requires that the muscles be relaxed around the connective tissue you want to stretch, not all yoga poses can be done effectively—or safely—as yin poses.

Standing poses, arm balances, and inversions—poses that require muscular action to protect the structural integrity of the body—can’t be done as yin poses. Also, although many yin poses are based on classic yoga asanas, the emphasis on releasing muscles rather than on contracting them means that the shape of poses and the techniques employed in them may be slightly different than you’re accustomed to. To help my students keep these distinctions in mind, I usually refer to yin poses by different names than their more familiar yang cousins.

The One Seat

All seated meditation postures aim at one thing: holding the back upright without strain or slouching so that energy can run freely up and down the spine. The fundamental factor that affects this upright posture is the tilt of the sacrum and pelvis. When you sink back in a chair so that the lower spine rounds, the pelvis tilts back. When you “sit up straight,” you are bringing the pelvis to a vertical alignment or a slight forward tilt. This alignment is what you want for seated meditation. The placement of the upper body takes care of itself if the pelvis is properly adjusted.

A basic yin practice to facilitate seated meditation should incorporate forward bends, hip openers, backbends, and twists. Forward bends include not just the basic two-legged seated forward bend but also poses that combine forward bending and hip opening, like Butterfly (a yin version of Baddha Konasana), Half Butterfly (a yin version of Janu Sirsasana), Half Frog Pose (a yin adaptation of Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana), Dragonfly (a yin version of Upavistha Konasana), and Snail (a yin version of Halasana). All of the forward bends stretch the ligaments along the back side of the spine and help decompress the lower spinal discs. The straight-legged forward bends stretch the fascia and muscles along the backs of the legs.

This is the pathway of the bladder meridians in Chinese medicine, which Motoyama has identified with the ida and pingala nadis so important in yogic anatomy. Snail Pose also stretches the whole back body but places more emphasis on the upper spine and neck. Poses like Butterfly, Half Butterfly, Half Frog, and Dragonfly stretch not only the back of the spine but also the groins and the fascia that crosses the ilio-sacral region. Shoelace Pose (a yin forward bend in the Gomukhasana leg position) and Square Pose (a yin forward bend in the Sukhasana leg position) stretch the tensor fascie latae, the thick bands of connective tissue that run up the outer thighs, and Sleeping Swan (a yin forward-bending version of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) stretches all the tissues that can interfere with the external thigh rotation you need for cross-legged sitting postures.

To balance these forward bends, use poses like Seal (a yin Bhujangasana), Dragon (a yin Runner’s Lunge), and Saddle (a yin variation of Supta Vajrasana or Supta Virasana). Saddle Pose is the most effective way I know to realign the sacrum and lower spine, re-establishing the natural lumbar curve that gets lost through years of sitting in chairs. Seal also helps re-establish this curve. Dragon, a somewhat more yang pose, stretches the ilio-psoas muscles of the front hip and thigh and helps prepare you to sit by establishing an easy forward tilt to the pelvis. Before Savasana (Corpse Pose), it’s good to round out your practice with a Cross-Legged Reclining Spinal Twist, a yin version of Jathara Parivartanasana which stretches the ligaments and muscles of the hips and lower spine and provides an effective counterpose for both backbends and forward bends.

The Flow of Qi

Even if you only spend a few minutes a couple times a week practicing several of these poses, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how different you feel when you sit to meditate. But that improved ease may not be the only or even the most important benefit of Yin Yoga. If Hiroshi Motoyama and other researchers are right—if the network of connective tissue does correspond with the meridians of acupuncture and the nadis of yoga—strengthening and stretching connective tissue may be critical for your long-term health.

Chinese medical practitioners and yogis have insisted that blocks to the flow of vital energy throughout our body eventually manifest in physical problems that would seem, on the surface, to have nothing to do with weak knees or a stiff back. Much research is still needed to explore the possibility that science can confirm the insights of yoga and Traditional Chinese Medicine. But if yoga postures really do help us reach down into the body and gently stimulate the flow of qi and prana through the connective tissue, Yin Yoga serves as a unique tool for helping you get the greatest possible benefit from yoga practice.

Read more about Paul Grilley and his Yin Yoga and Anatomy of Yoga DVD’s and online courses: http://www.pranamaya.com/teachers/paul-grilley
This post was originally posted on yogajournal.com

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Yin Yoga Revolution

Posted on April 8th, 2014 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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Mindful yin yoga is a quietly radical practice that welcomes all bodies types and sizes regardless of injuries or idiosyncrasies. In yin practice we relinquish any idealized notions of how a pose ‘should’ look in favor of exploring yogi’s bodies with their particular limitations and needs. So how a given pose should look becomes a function of how the practitioner’s body gets the best opening in the pose, as opposed to the yogi trying to approximate a picture in a yoga magazine!

Mindful yin yoga celebrates diversity; it’s the punk rock of yoga. Rather, than seeking homogeneity, yin says ‘bring your quirks, your tight hips, your busted left knee, your tweaky neck, your sloping left shoulder. Come to class with an open mind, an interested attitude and a willingness to unwind. No matter if you need the support of two bolsters, blanket and a block, if you are getting a juicy opening, if you start to feel some space open up in your body and mind, you are excelling in the practice.”

Yin for is for everyone: young, old, fat, thin, sporty, sedentary (especially sedentary!), wound up, chilled out and everything in between. If you have a body and you can breathe, you can practice, and benefit from, mindful yin yoga.

Paul Grilley the godfather of Yin yoga describes that Yin practice targets joints, specifically ligaments, the dense connective tissues that wrap around and stabilize joints are exercised by slow deep stretches. Most of us think of exercise as running, or strong asana practice that engages our muscles, like Bikram, vinyasa flow, Asthanga, Iyengar. These types of yang yoga target muscles and work by rhythmic repetition, stretching and contracting to strengthen.  In Grilley’s DVD Yin Yoga- The Foundations of a Quiet Practice, he makes a strong case for the therapeutic effects of mindful yin yoga practice.

Bones and connective tissue don’t need rhythm and repetition, they benefit from traction and stillness. By placing a joint in traction, we can target the ligaments and slowly pull them causing them to elongate. Unlike muscles, which are elastic (they can lengthen and subsequently retract), ligaments are plastic; they stretch and stay stretched, just like taffy.

It seems obvious that we want strong muscles to stay fit and go about our daily lives, most of us are less aware of why we need to exercise our joints. In both cases the ‘use it or lose it’ principles applies. Under-used muscles atrophy and weaken; under-used joints lose mobility. Over-stressed joints deteriorate but joints that are not used enough degenerate.  So mindful yin yoga is about creating balance; the middle path.

Joints are places where bones connect, for example elbows, knees, hips, spine, shoulders. Their job is to facilitate movement. Lack of movement means that joints are not subjected to sufficient stress and we experience discomfort or even pain; this is why folks who have a sedentary lifestyle are more susceptible of joint pain.

Eighty per cent of people in the Western world complain of lower back pain at some point in their lives. Many of those people are office workers, confined to sitting in chairs for up to eight hours a day. Sitting in chairs (or driving) compresses the lumbar spine by putting pressure on the discs, compressing them and causing the vertebra to move closer together. As the bones move closer together the ligaments shrink, restricting movement, causing pain and increasing compression.  It’s worth noting that in cultures where people spend less time in chairs and more time squatting and sitting cross-legged on the floor, the incidence of chronic back pain is much lower.

‘Contracture’ is the name given to the process whereby ligaments shrink due to not being stressed enough.  Though beneficial, moving a joint through its’ range of motion doesn’t adequately stretch ligaments, only prolonged, slow traction does that.  Just as sustained meditation practice over time can reduce our reactivity in favor of responsiveness and thereby reduce suffering borne of unmediated actions, sustained traction of joints over time can lengthen ligaments, increase mobility, and decrease pain. Mindful yin yoga has two cardinal rules – (1) stay in a pose long enough for the stretch to be effective (3-10 minutes), (2) put the targeted joint in traction and relax the surrounding muscles. Mindful yin yoga encourages yogis to honor their particular physiological make up with all its foibles and get creative about how to find more comfort and ease while holding a pose, to play with the angle of joints and use as many props as are helpful for creating space.

Many students new to mindful yin yoga find this completely alien. Being used to yang classes where little individual instruction is given and practitioners are asked to make their bodies conform to generic instructions (“line your feet up heel to heel and, hips level, fold over your straightened front leg”), they are frequently astonished that yoga can be practiced in a way that celebrates what can otherwise be thought of as limitations and impediments to practice. This is a radically inclusive practice.

Experientially a mindful yin yoga class is incredibly relaxing. The long holds using props and the art of relaxing muscles allow for a deeper relaxation, an unwinding not just of physical tension, but also of the knots and tight places in the mind and the emotional body.  This deeper releasing allows the prana or chi to flow more easily through the body creating a feeling of expansion and radiance animating the entire field of being.

Longtime yin practitioner and senior teacher, Denise Kaufman, (who leads the yin program at Exhale in Venice, CA and teaches yin at conferences and festivals nationally) was one of the original gangsters of the yin movement in early 1990’s Los Angeles. Denise was one of a small group of students and friends of Paul and Suzee Grilley who would meet at their house to explore mindful yin yoga poses. These yogis were advanced practitioners used to doing intense yang practice. They came together to workshop yin style long holds and experiment on themselves to see the results of yin practice. What they discovered was astounding.

Denise had been practicing yoga since 1968 and had completed in-depth studies with Yogi Bhajan before becoming a Bikram teacher and later and advanced Ashtanga practitioner and teacher. She says that from 1968 to 1992 people knew her as a dedicated practitioner and one who suffered intermittently from severe back pain. Even with her dedicated yang practices, only yin yoga increased her flexibility and eliminated her chronic pain: it has never come back. This is pretty astonishing and ought to make those of us who are yang practitioners interested in our long-term health sit up and take notice.

Or maybe it’s more apt to say it should make us abandon sitting in chairs in favor of getting to the floor, stretching slow and deep embracing taking care of our joints as part of a well-rounded yoga practice. Yin is profoundly relaxing and inherently balancing, an exquisite tool to add to your repertoire of yoga poses.

Photo of Audray Kingsley in Balasana – Laurence Garceau

 

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Born and raised in Ireland, Dearbhla Kelly M.A. is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, writer and neurophilosopher. She began her academic training in Amsterdam and received degrees in philosophy in Dublin and Chicago. She is particularly skillful at marrying the more esoteric teachings of yoga with modern scientific insights and the practicalities of everyday life. Her writing has been published in the Huffington Post, Yoga Journal, Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine. A dedicated ashtanga practitioner, she teaches yoga and neuroscience workshops worldwide. Her lilting Irish accent and Dublin wit make her classes uniquely enjoyable.

Learn more about Dearbhla Kelly at www.durgayoga.com

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Should Men Have Their Own Yoga Classes?

Posted on November 18th, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

yoga manEven after the yoga revolution of recent years, women still dominate the yoga scene. We’re the majority in the classrooms, we’re on the covers of the yoga magazines, and we make up the bulk of the teacher trainings. Yoga has become known as a woman’s activity. And some people have been trying to change that. Read More »»

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Do You Have (or have something against) Yoga Fashion?

Posted on September 14th, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

I spent this past weekend again at the incredible Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree: Four days of chanting, yoga-ing, and dancing in the desert. It was an amazing, loving, exuberant, and healthy atmosphere. But it was also, like many large yoga events these days, a bit of a fashion show. Read More »»

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