Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First experience as a yoga therapist (w/Testimonial)

image compliments of
A four-session series with a student is complete!  We co-created a sequence for home practice.  I couldn't be happier about the experience.  I was so engaged with the process and felt fulfilled at the end of each session.  For privacy, I've shared little information about the student.

It was just the last few moments of our intake part (a good 20 minutes) that I realized, hey - we're going to get started after this!  My favorite part was the wonderful flipping through the catalogue of the mind to find appropriate postures while listening and taking notes at the end of the intake session.

What will we be doing?

The one-hour time slot is certainly challenging, especially during the second session, where there is still a good deal to talk about and a good deal of posture learning involved.

The series built on itself, starting with a few (six) postures and a savasana (the client chose legs up the wall at first).  These were primarily forward bends and backward bends with a focus on not putting weight on the hands, while creating movement and circulation in the shoulders.

We built into it a lateral bend, and modified some of the postures the second week.  We did some krama (segmented) postures, and switched out cobra for salabhasana (low to the ground locust, not bikram locust!)  We took the last two postures and combined them in a simple vinyasa.

Third session we switched the location of the krama inhale and introduced krama exhale in vipariti karani (legs up the wall).

Fourth session we added a one line chant at the beginning, kept the series the same, and came out of legs up the wall to do a seated krama exhale practice, followed by a chant repeated from the beginning.  I suggested that savasana or legs up the wall would be good, and that it was up to her to decide what she needed.

By the end, the practice is more complicated than a short ten minute practice.  But the student has copies of the practices all along the way, and knows that there are multiple shorter-form practices she can do.

And finally, my light of my heart - my first testimonial.

[T]hanks for your highly detailed road map of my new yoga practice!  I love it.  It is both rejuvenating & calming. And it's becoming less of an "I should practice" & more of an "I want to practice."   
I learned a great deal in those 4 sessions we did.  Some of it was almost a paradigm shift, like the permission & encouragement to do what feels right for me rather than follow a proscribed practice. Some of it was emotional & personal, hard to articulate, but facilitated by your gentle, respectful attention & bits of personal sharing.  With your help I created something I'd never been able to do before --  a home practice that fits my particular needs & that I would actually do. 
Some of it was physical in the sense that I came in w/ an injured shoulder (which had remained painful despite other yoga work, physical therapy, rest, pain meds, etc. for almost 6 mos) & after 5 weeks of Yoga Therapy, it feels 90% healed. I also learned how to continue working on it without risking re-injury.  Thank you so much for offering me this opportunity.  You have lovely energy.  I'm very grateful & look forward to seeing your growth & success in this new field of healing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bikram, without the heat

Image compliments of
When the heat is off, the teacher forgets her keys, and practice starts a good fifteen minutes late on a Sunday morning, it's a wonder that everyone is happy, grateful for the opportunity to practice.  Seriously, the room was full of people who got the benefit of the extra rounds of pranayama at the end of the second set.

Just a few extra rounds at a quick pace filled the body with heat.  There was pointedly little break between the postures and sets.  But the instruction was clear, calm, and challenging.  The teacher and I discussed her experience - she said that when she saw sweat beads - she knew she had done well by us.

I so rarely get to practice at a studio, with a teacher.  Usually the ultimate luxury of that practice is the heat in the room.  It's such a rich and juicy experience to get to bend and twist in the heat.  However, the luxury of practice yesterday was to be in a room, focused on the practice, given over to the practice.

My mother attended class (her first yoga class ever, of course she nailed it!)  It was comical to be driving back and forth with her, expectations for the morning rapidly changing.  I live pretty close by, so my mom and I drove back to my house to get my keys to the studio.  There was a crew waiting for us when we returned.  I jingled the keys through the window and opened the door.  A parade of happy yogis marched through to comments like, "We would have practiced in the park if we had to." and "I'm so happy to see you.  I was about to unroll my mat in the street!"

There was a true hunger for the practice.  I am one of those who enjoy my Sunday morning Bikram fix - it's a very positively addicting thing for some of us.  I'm just so grateful to have had the chance to practice.

But, Practicing without the heat has made for a different kind of soreness leftover sensation today.  When I woke today, I felt my ribs and intercostals as alive with sensation.  It's different with the heat, they open more easily and leave less trace in terms of soreness.

Bikram practice, practiced with the attention and skills I've learned in Viniyoga, is a tremendous tool for healing my bells palsy.  It addresses a number of cascading issues I'm passing out of to a much stronger place.  I now focus on keeping the right hip and jaw over to the right, so that the weight in my body is evenly balanced from right to left.  My postures may not be as deep as they could possibly be, but I'm much stronger in them and am getting fuller internal benefit of the practice (because spine is in better alignment).

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A confession about balance...

image compliments of
I am rushing.

I'm hurtling through life, throwing myself at one thing after the next.

I may need to reevaluate some of my goals to give myself a little more time... in my days, and in my weeks.

I believe that meditation, resting in the present, being not doing, is the key to a greater sense of peace for me. Meditation has been a gift to me recently.  However, in the hectic busy-ness of every day life, I rarely have true space for meditation.

 It's easy to get frustrated with the slow rate of true change. My resistance to meditation is slipping away.  I'm hungry for it now. I find that I miss it when I don't have a chance to sit for just a bit.

This has been a confession.  I remain accountable to my greatest good; I will add in the thing that may bring more joy!  I will celebrate each time I make it to the cushion!

image compliments of artween DEKORA ART GALLERY
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes, 
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes, 
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering, 
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.
- Compliments of View on Buddhism

Monday, August 5, 2013

Family time

image compliments of hubby
My son and I soaked, swam, and explored at the beach in Boston this weekend.  

Our entire weekend was an abundance of friends, lovely settings, and warmth.

My son's first trip to Fenway couldn't have been better!  The Sox won 4-0, we were in the shade, and the kids (our friends have a 1 year-old) seemed to have a genuinely good time.

I'm grateful for the ability to spend this time with my family and friends.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Morning Miracle of Self-Care

Image compliments of Graham Owen Gallery

I had time for a full regiment of self-care involving yoga, pranayama, meditation, chanting, abhyanga, and nasya this morning.  Why is this a miracle?  Because I have a two-year old and getting all of that in before he wakes is normally not in the cards.  Last night we took him to a baseball game and wore him out.  This morning I got to indulge in a full pass at self-care, yoga/ayurveda style.

I have written about my morning yoga practice here.  It is a practice designed to allow me to sit in meditation.  It is stimulating, balancing, and I've changed the pranayama I am doing to pratiloma ujjayi (read more about that here).  It involves some breaths in and out of alternate nostrils, some breaths through normal both-nostril ujjayi breathing... it's tremendously balancing and focusing, and it clears the mind of distractions.  It takes a lot to switch nostrils, moving the arm up and down for the normal ujjayi breaths.  I'm just beginning to practice this pranayama more.

I sat in meditation for about ten minutes, then chanted a few rounds of the Gayatri Mantra (learn more at Wikipedia).  This is a version I like, but when I chant at home in my bedroom in the morning, it's often barely audible, as I'm chanting to and with myself, not projecting very much at all.

I realized my son was STILL not stirring, and so decided to do nasya, which is good for vata imbalances.  I dropped a few drops of oil UP my nostrils and hung my head off the bed, face up.  The oil penetrates the sinuses!  It's the first time I've ever done it, and it's a strange sensation.  I want to give it a few more tries to see the effects.  I definitely feel like I've had some kind of sinus massage, and do have a little tiny bit of oil dripping in the back of my throat (just a teeny tiny bit, but enough to notice.)

I ended by doing a light abhyasa.  Traditionally, this practice is basically dousing yourself with oil head-to-toe then going into a shower to wash it off.  I toned it down a bit and just gave myself a light oiling all around, but not on the soles of my feet so I'm not slipping all day.

In general, these practices are designed to reduce or calm vata, to help me curb the resulting kapha tendencies that arise.  These tendencies (over-eating, not enjoying vigorous exercise regularly enough) have an effect on my general long-term health.  I really like seeing things through an Ayurvedic lense.  I'm just starting my learning, and am following some fascinating groups.  I even had a personal consultation with the great Debby Andersen to help me establish what practices might be helpful for me in my never-ending quest for balance and a sense of inner freedom.

I do feel quite pampered as I start the day!
What a treat.
A miracle, for a Mom!