Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

If you're looking toward the New Year with an eye toward self-improvement, you're probably working on your resolutions.  But this year, consider making resolutions for the whole person.    There are 7 commonly-accepted Dimensions of Wellness.  The idea here is that if you develop in each direction, you'll be a well-rounded person.  As you make your plans for 2011, think about ways to get better in all these ways:

-Physical (this one's obvious, usually exercise, better eating, weight-loss, etc)
-Intellectual (take a class, read a book, just learn something!)
-Spiritual (read scripture, go to church, meditate)
-Social (make plans to get out there & make friends, or grow closer to current ones)
-Vocational (this one involves work, or volunteering-putting your stamp on the world)
-Emotional (remember how your words affect your relationships, work on controlling your temper, or even start taking fish oil, to help with your depression)
-Environmental (set a house-keeping schedule & stick to it, finish one of those projects that's been bothering you, or just re-decorate a room to be more soothing)

You've got a fresh start.  Why not grow in every way you can?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A center of calm in the chaos.

Happy Holidays!

In the next couple days, the traffic will be crazy, parking will be near-impossible, and the lines in the stores will be long.  Family members will be coming & going, children will be screaming, people who love each other will respond sharply, and the greatest frenzy of the year will only increase.  But in the middle of this, the yogi.
Take a minute each day to step back & find the silence within yourself.  Turn off the television, the phones, and even the beautiful Christmas music.  Listen to your breath.  Remember that you are not this chaos.  That the eternal portion of you (your soul) can be quiet, like the eye of the storm.  And when you're in line, or stuck in traffic, remember that the person across from you is also a Soul.  Take a deep breath, and offer up a blessing, because they are stuck in that chaos, too.  I like this one,
May you be filled with loving-kindness,
May you be well,
May you be peaceful & at ease,
May you happy.
See if it changes your attitude, and then, just maybe, your world.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Shopper's Recovery

Shopper's Recovery
Viparita Karani

If you went shopping this morning, you probably need a little recovery time.  I've got the perfect pose for you:  Legs-Up-the-Wall!  This is a wonderful, restorative pose for any time you need a little recovery.  This pose is called Viparita Karani in Sanscrit, roughly, "reversed action".  Sounds good, doesn't it?
Legs-Up-the-Wall relieves your legs, povides a gentle stretch to your legs, low back and neck, and even calms the mind.  This is a great pose to practice during menstruation, as it seems to ease cramping.  Please avoid this pose if you have serious eye problems, such as glaucoma.

To begin, find a section of wall at your house that you can scoot up close to.  Sit very close to the wall, with your left hip touching the baseboard.  Gently swing both legs up, while lying your toso down on the floor.  If you're like me, you slid away from the wall already.  So just use your arms to help you scoot a little closer, until your backside is on the baseboard, or until your legs are as stretched as you like.  If your feet start to tingle, just hug your knees into your chest for a few breaths, and try again.  When you're ready to come out of this pose, just roll slowly to your right side, and rest there for a minute before using your arms to press your way back up to sitting.

Use the time in this pose to breathe deeply into your belly and to meditate.  Allow your stress to melt away...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here's our favorite healthy soup!  For a vegetarian option, substitute in the vegetable stock for chicken stock.

2 Butternut squash, medium sized, cut in half
2 Tbls. Butter
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Yellow onion, chopped
2 Granny smith apples, peeled, cored & chopped
1/8 tsp of Thai chili, finely chopped, seeds removed
2 Quarts chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tbls. Salt
1/2 Tsp. Fresh ground pepper
Dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put squash, cut side down onto a cookie sheet, covered in tin foil.  Roast 40-50 minutes, or until flesh is soft.  Remove from oven & let cool.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  Scoop out flesh and reserve.  This can be done ahead.
In a large stockpot, melt butter, then add garlic, onion & apples.  Saute until the onions begin to sweat.  Add chile, salt, pepper & nutmeg.  Stir well & cook for 1-2 minutes, then add squash & stock.  Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer 20-30 minutes, until the apple is very soft.  Use an immersion blender to cream the soup, or run in batches through a blender.  If preferred, add chicken stock until soup is the preferred consistency.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Psoas Release

The psoas muscle is often a buzz-word in yoga circles, but where is it and how do I release it?
The psoas and its counterpart, the iliacus (often referred to as one unit, the "iliopsoas") is located deep in your mid-section.  It attaches to the lower spine, runs through the pelvis & attaches to the femur, the large bone in your thigh.  These muscles act to flex the hip joint, advancing the thigh in walking-type movements.  Typically, I find that students with a tight psoas have low back pain, coupled with an excessive arch to their lower spine (lordosis).  They also may complain of tight hips, inflexible hip flexors, and sore quadricep muscles.
Engaging your low belly, and finding neutral pelvis while standing and engaging in yoga asana is a great way to strengthen the psoas muscle.  We will deal with neutral pelvis in another posting.
It's relatively easy, however, to allow the psoas muscle to release and relax.  Begin by lying on your back, with both knees bent, feet flat on the floor.  Now just breathe.  Meditate, or listen to music, but stay here and breathe.  As you begin to relax, notice how your low back seems to 'melt' into the mat.  Feel free to adjust your pose to accomodate this elongation of your psoas muscle.  Don't expect your psoas to release in 30 seconds, or even a few minutes.  For many people, especially those who don't have a regular yoga practice, this process can take as long as 20 minutes.  Give yourself time and enjoy the journey.
We'll address the psoas again, but for now, enjoy lengthening this very important hip-mover!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

full-body relaxation technique

Welcome to our new blog!

Today, we'll cover a full-body relaxation technique that we experienced in class this morning.

-Begin by lying on your back. If the room is cool, cover with a blanket. If you have low-back stuff going on today, place a bolster or large pillow under your knees. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths and relax your mind.

-Bring all of your attention into your toes. Curl them and squeeze. With a giant exhale, relax your toes, feeling the stress melt from them.

-Next is your feet. Tighten all the muscles in your feet. Notice how uncomfortable this is. Your feet are true workhorses, often referred to as "dogs". Needless to say, we abuse our feet. We stuff them into shoes and walk on them all day. With a giant exhale, relax your feet and wiggle them around.

-Bring your focus to your calves. Point your toes and tighten your calf muscles. These are the most underappreciated muscles in the body. They carry us around all day, and receive very little care. Exhale & release tension from them.

-Next, your shins. Pull your toes up, toward your knees and notice the muscles on the front of your lower legs. Exhale and relax them so much that they seem to "melt" off your bones.

-Now your quadriceps, the large muscle group on the front of your upper thighs. Engage these muscles and pull your kneecaps slightly up. Your quadriceps get very tight when sitting too long. Exhale again, and allow any tension to release from the muscles.

-Move your thoughts to your hamstrings (the large muscle group on the backs of your thighs) and your buttocks. Tighten all these muscles. An imbalance of the back of the leg and hips, compared to the front of the leg and abdominals often causes severe back pain. Notice the strength of these muscles. With a giant exhale, release and melt into your mat.

-Now the low and mid-back. See if you can isolate these muscles as you tense them. Exhale, release, and feel your low back melt.

-Bring your attention into your belly. Tighten your abdominal muscles, and notice how tightness here affects your entire body. This area is closely associated with your emotions. As you carry tension through this area, it can change the way you digest food, the way you feel, and even the way you breathe. Relax through your belly and allow the breath to flow in and out in a comfortable fashion.

-Close your hands into fists. Tighten all the muscles through your arms and shoulders. See if you can feel each individual muscle. Notice, and determine if this is a familiar feeling. Do you carry stress in your hands & shoulders while driving? Exhale and allow all that tension to slide out the tips of your fingers.

-Finally, engage the muscles in your neck, your jaw, and your face. Make a face like you do when you're angry. Notice how this angry expression affects your entire body, and even has an impact on your emotions. Exhale and allow your expression to return to normal.

-Tighten all the muscles in your body at once. Really squeeze here and notice how uncomfortable you are. Exhale fully and release down into your mat.

-Lie still for another 10 minutes here, paying close attention to your breath. When it's time to get up, move slowly and intentionally. Notice the feeling of calm you have and try to carry some of that throughout your day.