Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two Breath Practices for you... Settle & Refresh

©2013 Anna Van Fleet  Please cite me if you reproduce or share www.noticenowtherapy.com

I created this sheet for a friend who is feeling alternately tired and overstimulated.  The practices are meant to be used separately, not one after the next.

The Settle practice is Langhana, which means it is reducing.  It is an ideal practice for creating a little buffer zone between activities if you are rushing around and feeling pulled in a million different directions.  It's ideal for over-stimulation and racing mind.

The Refresh practice is Brhamana, which means that it is additive, nourishing, and will help revive your focus if you are tired or depleted.

Please enjoy.  Let me know about your experiences with the practices!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Yogic Skills" and Bikram

Though Bikram is called a beginner's series, practitioners clearly get more and more out of the practice as they gain "yogic skills".  I believe that Bikram, as an advanced yoga practice, can serve practitioners in a deeper way.

What are these yogic skills?  Is it being more flexible?  Stronger?

The skills I'm referring to are awareness and proprioception.  These are different skills, to be sure.  Awareness is the ability to see, feel, or to notice if there are misalignments, spots of pain or discomfort, or general ability to feel and notice what's going on in the practice TODAY.

Proprioception, per Wikipedia
Proprioception (/ˌprpri.ɵˈsɛpʃən/ pro-pree-o-sep-shən), from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own", "individual" and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.[1] 
So once one notices, through awareness, that things are "off" or "not working" in a certain pose, does one have the ability to identify parts of the body, and move in a way that is inclusive of that part of the body?

I recently read a terrific blog post on hypermobility.  Check it out here.  As a hypermobile person, someone with relatively loose ligaments, I found the post to describe a lot of what has gone on in my yoga journey.

Bikram is a tremendous practice for the body IF the entire body is under the mind's control and actively participating in the practice.  I practiced Bikram for many years with dead spots - parts of the body I could not direct my awareness into, nor could I sense or move with proprioception.  So not only was I using my instrument (the body) in a lopsided way, I had no idea that there was anything missing!

I feel that the way Bikram is frequently taught (not by me!) can be very harmful to a Type A hypermobile student (oh THAT is me).  The urging to push "past" flexibility, or push past limits, only exacerbated my "dead spots."  My theory is that when you tell the hypermobile type A person to push past a flexibility limitation, something's gotta give.  Usually that thing is the alignment, especially if there are chronic use injuries that have already limited the student's ability to sense the outer edges of the body.

This happened to me.

Now, as I've been teaching Bikram for four years, and have expanded my practice to other forms of yoga like Viniyoga, I've started to unwind and uncover those dead spots.  There is nothing more exciting than realizing there is a part of your body you HAVE NOT BEEN USING in your practice, then being able to activate it.  First, comes the awareness of the dead zone area, then comes the proprioception to effort with it.  This can take tremendous focus and determination, because if the dead zone has been cut off from body sense for a while, the body's natural sensing state will be to exclude that area from the neuromuscular feedback loops.  That feedback loop needs to be strengthened through regular use.

As I unwind the Bells Palsy that accompanied my dear son on his journey into the world, I've been unraveling sensation in my right neck and shoulder, and today, my right hip.  What a true joy it was to do triangle with new muscles!

Throughout practice today I kept bringing my sensory awareness back to the outside front of my right hip connecting to the 3B chakra point right side - think of the solar plexus in the front of the body, below the ribcage, and then think of its parallel in the back of the body.  Just to the right of that is a major dead zone for me.

I can get in there by focusing, on inhale, on the sensation of the lung tissue pushing against the ribcage in the front and back side of my right side ribcage.

An old injury caused the dead zones in the first place, a longtime RSI injury that I didn't really treat properly in college, when it happened.  When I first picked up Bikram, I was doing the majority of the work with the left side of my body.  How could I, as a beginner, could have known that my practice was exacerbating my situation due to my lack of awareness and proprioception?  The misalignment was too subtle for a teacher to point out to me.

Now, coming back to Bikram with better yogic skills in place, through Viniyoga training, I'm finally using the Bikram practice for good.  I'm able now to carefully keep both the right and left sides of the body active and engaged.  It makes all the difference.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A practice to prepare for Nadi Shodhana... posted

Red Poppy by Georgia O'Keefe

If you can read chicken scratch...  Here is a viniyoga sequence designed to prepare for alternate nostril breathing.

The intention is a practice for someone who has some yoga experience, especially some experience with the Nadi Shodhana pranayama technique.  The sequence activates a lot of right vs. left movement which prepares the hemispheres of the mind and body to work together and to shift mental focus from side to side of the body.  It's quite a nice effect.

Please, if you use it or like it, let me know and attribute it properly.  Viniyoga is a breath-based practice, where postures are held and released repeatedly, with the rhythm of the breath.  This facilitates neuromuscular repatterning, among many other benefits.

    Asana                                           Reason                                                Repetitions


I don't have time to post about the technique... but here is a beginner's primer.  The only thing missing from this link is a discussion of how to valve the breath through the active nostril.  I will have to post about that NEXT time.

The second to last posture is a supine twist, jtara parivritti.

Happy weekend....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Selfish on the mat.

peonies in the rain by lilacgate
I love to practice.
The richness of the breath
the selfish generous time
that I crave
that I crave

A little blue slice of heaven
an oasis
just a piece of rubber, really.
A place
where I can put myself

Friday, June 7, 2013

Learning to slow down

image compliments of kansasgardenmusings

In the work of opening up my B3 chakra (see image here), I am experiencing a deep connection with who I truly am, with my natural state of kapha dosha.

Doshas are biological humors from the science of Ayurveda.  Most of us have a natural bent one way or another.  Want to learn your dosha type?  Take this quiz.  There are three main ones, and of course, we all have mixes of all three.  Learn more here, at Monica B's great site.  I am such a beginner at this that I'm definitely still learning, myself!

What I'm starting to get is that I've been overriding my body's natural messages - I have a slightly slower body rhythm than I think I do.  My head may be in hyperdrive, but my body works at its own speed.  My digestion is slower, I need a little less than I think, but most of all, I need to slow down.  When this chakra is open, through stretching, or breathing, or bringing my spine into conscious alignment, I naturally breathe more slowly, I drive more slowly, I type more slowly, and I move more slowly.

I would like to honor my body's natural speed.  It will take a great deal of practice to pull myself out of hyperdrive-in-the-head mode.  The way I can "drop" down into my body quickly is to feel my around my solar plexus, front and back of the body (this is just below the ribcage), and then drop a little lower, to right around the belly button.

If I've pulled myself out of rushing mode, I notice that the area has been tightened.  As though I had been shutting off this part of myself, my physiology, my structure, etc, while I was rushing around, trying to be a human efficiency machine!

Today I am going to chant to myself... I will get less done!  I will enjoy it!

Have a great day.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Be inspired by this great lady.

Check out Christa's blog here: Christa in New York

About Christa, my interviewee:

Photo Credit: Dan Fortunehttp://www.danfortune.net
I am a product developer who is equally inspired by new technology and ancient wisdom, a yoga and meditation teacher who learns from my students every day, and a writer who believes that creativity and determination is the most powerful duo on Earth.
My 14-year creative career has stretched across Capitol Hill, Broadway theatre, education, nonprofit fundraising, health and wellness, and Fortune 500 companies in retail, media, and financial services. In every experience, I have used my sense of and respect for elegant design to develop meaningful products, services, program, and events that make people happy. I now work for myself through my consulting practice, Chasing Down the Muse, in which I support people and organizations who are and want to be at the very top of their chosen fields with a variety of services.
In 2010, I founded Compass Yoga, a NYC-based nonprofit that focuses on improving the health of all people by teaching the therapeutic benefits of yoga and meditation through free and low-cost classes and workshops.
A recovering multi-tasker,  I am a proud alum of UPenn (BA) and the Darden School at UVA (MBA). When not in front of my Mac, I’m on my yoga mat, walking my dog, traveling with a purpose, or practicing the high-art of people watching.
Q&A with Christa
Q: You are a prolific and talented writer, on many topics.  You have self-published books, and are collaborating with others.  You also have a great blog and a lot going on!  Can you tell me about your practice of writing?

Christa: I do have a daily writing practice. I sit down every day at some point and write. I've been doing that for 6 years. I wanted to become a solid writer and I felt the only way that I could do that is to practice every single day. Sometimes it's for my blog (which has a daily post) and other times it's for freelance pieces or personal writing projects I'm working on. It's become such a ritual now that I actually don't feel right if I don't write every day. For me, writing is like brushing my teeth. I see and experience the world as a writer and it makes sense of me to get those observations down in some way. 

Q: You are interested in yoga and meditation used as tools for creativity.  Have you developed a philosophy on what works in the practice of yoga and meditation specifically with regards to creativity?

Christa: I've taught yoga for creativity classes at places such as SXSW (ed. note: The South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conferences & Festivals (March 8-17, 2013)) and NYU. A number of my students are professionals in creative fields. Yoga is a tremendous support to me as a writer and product developer. My yoga teacher, Douglass Stewart, says that our practice both saves and serves. That's definitely true for me. 

Creativity needs boundaries. A painter's canvas is only so big. A book can only be so long. A songwriter's tune can only last so many minutes. It's these boundaries, these guideposts that hone and focus our creativity. We eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary can speak. Discipline and determination are wonderful, useful tools for artists of all varieties. Without them, our creative muscle just becomes one big blob. Organizing our creativity is what gives it impact and that's what I try to impart in all of my work and my teaching.     

Q: I'm really inspired by your ability to bring all of your skills together, creating a unified voice on your website.

Christa: I have a lot of different irons in the fire at any one time. There's a great quote about living our life spherically, in many different directions. That's exactly what I do. I teach, write, consult, and create my own products and services that I sell in a variety of industries for different types of customers. I'm always trying to acquire new skills and enhance the skill sets I have. I've always been a good student and I love school. There is always something new to learn, and each new learning experience gives us an invaluable gift - knowledge. It's something we get to keep forever and that we get to share with others. 

This summer, I'm taking a break from most of my work and re-tooling my career and life a bit to bring even more cohesion into my work because that's something I want to do. To me, a change of scenery and routine can help us to look at our lives in a new and refreshed way so I'm giving myself that opportunity to explore and reinvent. 

I'm very passionate about the practical applications of technology in everyday life: technology's ability to generate and sustain a sense of community regardless of geography and to disseminate information and knowledge. I'm working on the idea of making technology the bedrock of all of my work - what I write about, how and what I teach, and the products I develop. I'm doing this not because I have to, but because I want to have that consistency in my work.   

Q: You started a yoga non-profit designed to partner with organizations to bring yoga to underserved populations.  Can you talk about that decision to go non-profit?

Christa: This was a lengthy decision. I tried a lot of different ideas - from a totally for-profit business to a blended model. I ultimately decided that a nonprofit was the way to go for several reasons:

1.) I am most interested in working with people who are sick, injured, and from communities that don't have access to traditional yoga services for financial reasons. This work is best accomplished through community-based partnerships, and most of those partners are nonprofits. By having the same business model, we are on the same financial wavelength and have similar financial goals. 

2.) Being a nonprofit gives us access to philanthropic capital, which we wouldn't be able to have otherwise. This doesn't mean we can't make money; it just means that we can have a greater diversity of potential income streams.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Interview with Christa in New York coming soon!

image compliments of christainnewyork

When you find someone who inspires you, why not share??
Christa shares some of her insights, coming soon.
Curious?  Check out what caught my eye, here.

Do you have a regular morning practice?

image compliments of Flower Garden by Ashley Pless

I would love to hear the stories of practitioners who practice in the morning before the day begins.  I'm betting there are a few categories - the people who are up at 4am naturally, and love to practice (this is NOT me), those who practice occasionally, when time allows, and then there are those who have struggled to establish a routine, but manage to practice most days.

Having the first glimmers of a morning practice in place for myself is really exciting.  Yoga is not about gymnastics for me anymore.  It is about creating regular, healing stops along the way during my day, to keep me from getting too imbalanced.  So my 25 minute morning practice that includes a few minutes of meditation is such a gift!  It's such a departure from my perfectionist need to do 1 hour of gymnastics.  It's simple, it's not goal oriented, except that I do ask of myself a few minutes of seated meditation at the end.

Having a strong utkatasana vinyasa (sequence of moves that are breath dependent, in and out of the asana position) really gets me pumping, and after each repetition, I rest for a few breaths.  This morning I tried to open chakra 3b, the equivalent of the solar plexus but in the back of the body.

image and text box compliments of visionary music

Solar Plexus (back)
Reflects one's relationship between their life and their feelings toward their physical body, the level of caring towards the physical - Health, Diet, Exercise, Inner Love

Yes, these are all things I've been working on... developing a positive relationship with my body, where I listen and try to give my body what it's asking for now, rather than what my habits suggest.

I would love to hear from others about what you are working on in your practice - morning or otherwise!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thanks to my students

image compliments of Info Nepal

I had the great honor and chance to lead a silent Bikram class last night.  I remember the first "silent" I led.  I felt the void left when the words of the dialogue ceased to ring out, and the class ended fifteen minutes early.

Many regular students came to class last night.  My weekend marathoner from the local cadet academy, my dear friend with no cartilage in her ankle, and two broken toes on the other foot, and many others who I've helped through the gruesome beginner period into feeling a bit more comfortable.  I bring in the chair for the student with ankles that don't support her very well, and she does most of the standing series using a chair.  There is a great deal of excellent work you can do with this series from a chair.

In the silence, I delighted in being able to practice, as I don't get to practice the Bikram series in a hot room very much, not nearly as much as I'd like.  I delighted as well in the reactions of the students, who thought they would get lost in a silent class.  In a way, it was a new form of teaching.  These students have heard it through my language filter - which has a great deal of insight based on personal practice and breath instruction.  However, how better to get them into the spirit of the way I practice - with tender, focused, attention on the breath and stillness between the postures.

I myself had a great practice and didn't get too sucked into worrying about the time.  Of course, we ended right on time, at 90 minutes, and got to enjoy every last savasana.  The practice has really changed within me, as I couldn't have dreamed that we'd go faster than we did last night.  What a joy, and I thank my students very much for that opportunity.  Don't worry, energetic Anna in the Bikram room will be back, but recharged, and invigorated!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sutra Meditation practice

image compliments of fineartamerica.com
At the end of my last session of training, I created a sequence designed as preparation for meditation.  I used one of the Yoga Sutras (Ch. 3 Sutra 51) as a mantra throughout the practice, when I could feel my mind wandering.  The mantra is:
                               Dyanaheya Tadvrttayah
Which, I take to mean:
                              Deep meditation burns the seeds of suffering.

Swami J quotes: 
                             51: Non-attachment to forms and omniscience destroys seeds

This practice helps my squirmy self sit for meditation, which may only be a five minute stretch.  It seems to drop me into a nice "pocket" of presence, without too much mental fidgiting. 

The sequence begins on the knees, for vajrasana.  Then I do a nice and strong version of utkatasana, or chair pose.  Though I designed the pose to do this as an asymetric variation, one hand begind the back, as I was using this posture for another sequence I was designing at the time, it morphed into a symetrical variation.  When I rediscovered my notes, after much searching, I went back to the sequence from training.  

The asymetrical variation of chair pose works the lattisimus dorsi one at a time.  It prepares wonderfully for the standing twist that follows.  From there, it's back to the floor for downward dog, urdhva prasarita padottanasana, and then the wonderful lateral stretch on the floor.

Nadi Sodhana, an alternate nostril breath, settles the right/left activity or imbalance in the nervous system, and then it's time for meditation.  As I said, it might be anywhere from 5-15 minutes.  I consider it a total win if I sit for meditation at all.  I try to let go of expectations around time, as the mom of a two year old.

This practice is a wonderful way to start my day, especially what it does for the upper back, neck, and torso.  It is a joy for me to get to the meditation cushion without a fight, and this sequence allows it.  I feel very soft and grounded at the end.