Bellow breathing

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This past week in class we explored bellow breathing. Bellow breathing really opens the chest, lungs and mid back. It’s good at clearing out any physical or mental fogginess or stagnation. Throughout the vinyasa practice, we brought bellow breaths into several poses and specifically into one breathing exercise.

Students centered themselves with their breath. After setting intentions and singing Om, we practiced our first bellow breaths. Students sat in sukhasana. On the inhale, they stretched their arms straight out to their sides and a little behind them to really open the chest; on the exhale they rounded their backs a little and touched their palms together, arms stretched in front of them and their face turning toward the floor. They did 8 rounds, and each student chose a pace that suited them. Next, we took the arms overhead with hands clasped in steeple mudra. It’s hard to hold the arms and hands like that if you have tightness in the shoulders. I encouraged students to notice how their shoulders and upper back opened up over the course of the practice as they took steeple mudra several times.

Our flow was less traditional this week. We went into standing poses before surya namaskar B. We did a temple-triangle flow in which we took bellow breaths in temple pose and then into steeple mudra overhead. Yogis opened their hamstrings in parsvottanasana, opened their backs in cobra variations, got grounded in a Warrior 1 flow with bellow breaths, plus some deep twists such as cresent twist and chair twist with steeple mudra. Challenging transitions kept strength pulsating throughout the practice.

Students listened to the feedback of their bodies in yoga poses to see what was being asked to be noticed, so they could act in a way that supported those needs. We all accumulate tension in our bodies, and sometimes its because we’re not listening to those cues. We deepened into standing pigeon and half moon & later into crow, pigeon, camel and boat.

Towards the end of class, we practiced kapalabhati breath… another form of bellow breathing. Students kneeled, and I explained the whats and whys of this technique. We did a practice run, and then 3 rounds of 30 breaths per round. After each round, we held our breath for about 3 seconds and then let it out with a big exhale. Working with the bandhas in that way of retaining the breath and energy and then letting it out allows you to flood your body more strongly with breath to create some great energy moving through the body. A nice savasana allowed students to quiet down, slow down and receive deep rest. From my heart to your heart, Lynn

Side Body

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Class this past week focused on opening the side body to energize and enliven the body, mind and spirit. The intercostal muscles underneath each rib are part of your respiratory muscles. When they are open, you can breathe more deeply.

In class, we created an environment in the body to breath deeply and to bring in health, freedom and an openness to new possibilities. The ability to breath lets us feel and be sensitive and open to our practice, the new day, the new year. We approached practice following the breath as the teacher.

Students took deep inhales to feel their ribs expand. We did two breathing exercises with our hands on our ribs, and then our hands on our heart to feel where and how the breath moves through the body. Students noticed when the ribs opened that the intercostals got a deep stretch which lead to wide open breathing which energized and enlivened the body!

Poses included lots of side bending! Within a vinyasa practice, yogis felt how cobra backbends were great for opening their ribcage. They found in plank pose if they pressed their heart forward, pressed their heels back, lifted their belly away from the floor … then they could expand the back of their lungs. As students practiced exalted warrior and exalted triangle poses, I asked them to feel space open up between every rib.

Free time mid way through class allowed students to chose a pose that helped them get longer and stretched their side body and ribs. Many chose handstand variations, but a variety of asanas were explored. Second half of practice included side plank, Goddess, gate, thigh stretch, pigeon, backbends and closing with a side stretch in janu sirsasana plus a closing supine twist with abs. To deep, nourishing breaths, Lynn

Balance

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This week we explored balance. Balance looks different in each of us. You may not be able to see balance, but sometimes you can sense a person is connected with their center. Last week we explored the energy of deep listening and tuning into our inner voice. Our inner voice, our inner balance knows when we are vital, healthy and in deep harmony.

We explored balancing poses, but we also explored balance in a broader fashion. Students looked to balance their in breaths and out breaths. They aimed to balance their bodies from right to left, front to back. Balance was sought between strength and rest, movement and stillness. They noticed where they were putting their effort, and if redistributing brought more balance inwardly or outwardly.

I reminded yogis that they will always feel a little bit of natural wobble, a little bit of natural instability. But to remember that the wobble is part of the fun :) Additionally, to tell themselves: “ I can breathe steadily in the midst of wobble and instability. I can relax even where there’s a little discomfort ”. Poses included gate, warrior 3, dancing Orangatang handstand, dwi hasta parsva konasana, half moon, side plank, standing pigeon, as well as playful attempts at bird of paradise. Students finished their practice with flowing bridge and an opportunity to do upavista konasana with a bolster. Some chose no bolster, others took the restorative option, and tucked 1 or 2 blocks under a bolster to prop it to a height where they could hug it and rest deeply. Namaste, Lynn

Energy of deep listening

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This week we drew on inspiration from Ganesha. Ganesha is a mythical creature from the Hindu pantheon. He is a boy with an elephant head. He is considered the remover of obstacles on your path. He is found at beginnings and thresholds. He is associated with the muladhara chakra, or root chakra, that houses the low spine, legs and feet. The muladhara chakra also relates to a sense of security, trust, groundedness, safety, belonging and home. When we have fear, worry, stress, it tends to drain energy out of us. When we are grounded and secure, we are more likely to retain positive, good energy.

There is lots of rich lore and symbolism around Ganesha. If you are interested, I encourage you to read more :) But this week, we simply focused on Ganesha’s big, soft elephant ears. Letting them remind us to pause, listen, be patient & start relying on our inner voice as our guide. That’s the power behind yoga and meditation: to help us start to orient from the inner space of our hearts.

This week’s practice of refreshing twists are like the twisting, turning nature of the elephant’s trunk …. and the sudden, surprising and unexpected twists and turns our own lives can take. So the practice is one of sensitivity, attuning, listening before reacting so you can come closer to what matters most to you.

Students felt their breath. They listened and softened. Sometimes they closed their eyes to help brighten their ears. Twists throughout, humble warriors, deep balancing twists, partner squat, deeply strengthening prone backbends. Weaved throughout an energy of allowing ourselves to become sensitive to the moment so we can live a really great life in this way. Namaste, Lynn

Shake off the Leaves

Shadows of the holidays fade away

Shadows of the holidays fade away

Shake off any debris, holiday excess, any deadweight and lets get spacious and invite in length and opening as we invite in the new year. That’s how we started class this week. Leaving behind anything not needed as we enter 2019.

This week’s class was about low back health. And we looked at 2 key aspects of protecting the low back. The first was lengthening. Working on lengthening the spine and using the legs, core and pelvis to protect the back. Practicing keeping the low back lengthening, we can reduce low back pain, we can reduce pressure on the disks, and we can watch for rounding. There is always going to be some rounding in daily living and even in yoga. Often what is happening is imbalances of muscles around the spine. And when muscles around the spine, hips and legs have some weakness, then the spine rounds to compensate. That leads us to the second key aspect.

This week we also focused on strengthening the hamstrings (and the glutes and their helpers). One thing that really keeps the low back from over-working is strong and pliable hamstrings. So in our sequence, I included some very specific hamstring strengtheners. Yoga often stretches the hamstrings, but they equally need to be strong. Class progressed though sun salutations, deep into standing poses. In half moon pose, I invited students to hover their bottom hand off the floor or block, if they wanted an extra challenge. By doing so, they strengthened their top side body, muscles under the ribcage that support the back. Warrior 3 founds students balancing in a pose that offers back strength and support. In tree pose, we “shook off the leaves” :)

Next came a prone backbend. Students squeezed their inner feet together, kept their palms on the earth outside their upper ribs and elevated their straight legs a little. A big challenge to the hamstrings. We did 3 rounds. Into a variation of dancer …. students stood upright, bent one leg, pressed their thigh back in space while kicking the bent leg heel to their butt. No grabbing the back foot with their hand. To stretch the hamstrings, parsvottanasana was included. After some core work and pigeon, we moved into a variation of bow pose. Yogis did not catch their feet with their hands. They bent their legs and tried to lift their thighs a little bit off the ground. No easy feat, but, yes, you guessed it ….more hamstring & glute power :) A solid savasana was offered and students relaxed into a deep well of being. Thanks for practicing, Lynn