At the end of a recent class, one of my students asked if I could recommend an exercise or posture that might help him feel a little less stressed and as he put it, scatterbrained, at the start of his day. I first let him know that what he was describing was quite normal. Most of us feel some stress for the first 30-45 minutes after waking as we anticipate the events of the upcoming day. The clinical term for this review of our daily calendar is the cortisol awakening response.
Now, this routine process can become more of a concern when we already experience significant stress due to a major life event, illness or work-life imbalance. In these cases we don’t always bounce back from this morning stress bump and often experience difficulty staying focused and interacting effectively with others (my partner can verify this). To be honest, when I am operating in this stress fog at the start of the day, I am much more likely to make a big mess preparing my morning tea, nick myself shaving, or not see that pedestrian in the crosswalk…stress can rob us of precious awareness of what’s happening around us and within us.
Research suggests that slow focused breathing can gently activate the attention centers of the brain and dampen our body’s natural stress response upon waking (1,2,3). I have made the exercise below part of my morning routine…in fact it’s the first thing I do upon opening my eyes…even before reaching for my phone. Feel free to try it now, or set a reminder for yourself in the morning.
From a comfortable position on your back, with your legs extended or bent at the knees, place one hand on the belly and one on the chest.
Inhale slowly through the nose for three seconds.
Exhale softly through the nose for three seconds.
Extend the breath to four, five or even six seconds if that feels good.
Try to relax and focus on the rise and fall of the belly and chest with each breath.
Stay for as long as you like, or your morning routine permits…
I hope this simple exercise can help you feel a little more grounded and observant as you start your day. If you would like to learn more about mindful breathing and stress, explore the three wonderful resources below and in the Wellness Resources section.
Brown, R. & Gerbarg, P. (2012). The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance your Emotions. Boulder, CO: Shambala.
Dana, D. (2020). Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection. New York, NY: Norton.
Nestor, J. (2020). Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. New York, NY: Riverhead.
DAVID, 52, finds the heart of his yoga practice while walking along the bluffs of the Mississippi River and tuning into the rhythm of his breath. On the mat, he brings a quiet focus to each posture, using only those muscles to hold his body in alignment, while letting go of any expectations and judgments. He exemplifies how we can all find in yoga a gateway for attending to our daily activities with greater appreciation and awareness.
“Be gentle with your pace.” – David P.
Name: David Age: 52
Length of Practice: Twenty years ago, I spent six months in intense self-practice in order to address a debilitating back injury. This inspired me to integrate the principles of mindful breath and movement into my daily walks. Eight months ago, I resumed a more regular yoga practice with Brian.
Most Gratifying Pose: Mountain pose, because it allows for centering and balance. I also appreciate Child’s pose, because it allows my body to reach a more restful state.
Most Challenging Pose: Tree pose, because it demands maintaining balance through a calmed strength.
Pets: 1 Dog, Bobo, Standard Poodle, 3 years old
Favorite Excursion on Bike: The trails under the bluffs along the Mississippi River.
Favorite Musician & Recording: Gil Scott-Heron, Spirits.
Favorite Novel: Julio Cortázar, Blow-Up and Other Stories.
David’s yoga practice exemplifies the balance of ease and exertion. He focuses on where to direct his energy while relaxing those areas not directly involved with a pose. Rarely do I notice David’s shoulders hunched up around his ears or his jaw clenched like a weightlifter at the gym. David’s advice to new students is simple, but also profound, “Be gentle with your pace; you can spend a lifetime developing any single pose.” David aspires to carry this quality of attention into all of his everyday routines and interactions.
For many students, the more inward-directed, restorative poses, like Child’s pose are the most challenging. David embraces the stillness, observing his breath and the messages his body is sharing with him. He has remarked that these moments serve as a great opportunity to check in with himself and recharge the batteries.
“We went around without looking for each other, but knowing we went around to find each other.”
― Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch
David balances this steady focus with a quiet, playful sense of levity. In our sessions, we try not to take ourselves too seriously, as it is just practice after all. More importantly, if we’re having fun, we are more likely to keep returning to the mat. Yoga offers us a safe space in which to challenge ourselves and explore our natural thresholds. I am reminded of the guidance shared by one of my own first yoga teachers, who encouraged us to smile when we fell out of a pose. She emphasized that what matters is not achieving that “perfect” pose, but rather staying within ourselves and always following the breath.
Present Moment Awareness
David has always loved walking and feels it is a natural expression of his yoga practice. He reminds me that yoga is not an end into itself, but rather a gateway through which we can bring greater appreciation to whatever it is we are doing throughout the day. It can help us recognize the beauty of our surroundings, and importantly for David in Minnesota, stay upright on those walks through the winter wonderland!
To be honest, getting motivated to do anything is a little hard right now, let alone make great transformations. Sometimes I just want the end result – to be able to hold a perfect handstand, to lose a little weight around the middle, to have sustainable energy and less ups and downs in life. But when I try to create change in my body and mind, those goals may not be enough to keep me motivated towards progressing. That’s why I invite you to ask yourself: Why?
What is your WHY? Why do you (want to) practice yoga?
Some of us are seeking to transform, improve or maintain our overall health and wellbeing. We’re looking for better balance, better posture, less pain in our joints, stronger bones, less stress, more energy, more focus, better sleep, to stay independent – to be able to take a walk without fear of falling. But behind those worthy goals lies another reason, the reason that will motivate you and keep you progressing, keep you in touch with who you are in this moment. Continue to ask WHY until you have that core reason, until you find your deeper WHY.
Finding your Core Why Exercise (example):
Why do you (want to) practice yoga? Because I want to improve my balance.
WHY do you want better balance? So I can take a walk by myself without fear of falling.
WHY do you want to take a walk by yourself? Because I want to enjoy the life I have.
Turn Your Why into an Intention
From there, turn your “Why” into a positive, present tense phrase that you can easily repeat to yourself internally.
For example, “I can enjoy the life I have.”
This is your intention. When we repeat intentions internally, we can actually repattern ourselves from within, cognitively. And it works as a motivator, when we’re practicing yoga, to remember why we’re there. More on Finding Your Intention.
Once you find your real why, it can literally help you get up in the morning and onto the mat! What’s your WHY?
Not sure? That’s okay! Practice Ujjayi Breath to hear the sound of a thousand fans cheering for you! Here’s another exercise that can help you channel your focus, and keep you motivated as you move.
Favorite Sweet Treat: Almost any kind of chocolate!
Years Practicing: 2
Most Challenging Pose: Boat Pose
Deb started her yoga practice two years ago somewhat reluctantly, by following up on a friend’s invitation to a group yoga session. While Deb wasn’t convinced that yoga was for her after that first class, I remember meeting her then and seeing her strength and stamina right out of the gate. Plus she gave me a bear hug, back when hugs were a thing. She returned to more group yoga classes, with the hope that yoga could help her get stronger, as well as improving her flexibility and balance. Her consistency over a period of time started to have noticeable results, starting with improved flexibility which has helped her while working in the garden.
“I have noticed greater stability through my core and hip muscles which has improved my balance, particularly on uneven surfaces.
Overall I have felt more energized and I have learned ways to bring ‘calm’ to my day through some breathing techniques and guided meditation.”
Yoga is Essential
“Up until just a few months ago, I was content to take the weekly group classes (in person and then through Zoom) and perhaps practice on my own during the week but most times not. Then a medical incident occurred that impacted my balance. It caused me to reflect on the fragility of independence and how life could potentially change drastically for me as well as my partner if allowed to persist or worsen.”
As part of her journey back to a state of health and independence, Deb expanded her “wellness team” to include me, and committed to private one-on-one sessions together. We created a practice plan to address Deb’s challenges and goals. I introduced some new tools for her yoga toolbox: restorative and yin postures, breathing exercises, and yoga nidra. I tailored her asana practice to take into account her medical challenges, with her doctor’s approval.
“Two years ago when I attended my first ‘try it on for size’ session, I certainly did not think that it would be on my list of essential elements for living a healthy, balanced life; but it is. And while I admit I still am not a person who rolls out her mat every day to practice, I believe aspects of my practice are present as I go about my daily routines. And that is a satisfying feeling.”
Air hugs, Deb. It’s an honor to be a member of your Wellness Team!
If you’ve ever been asked to form an intention during a yoga class or meditation exercise, and found yourself floundering for one, you’re not alone. Frankly until recently, “intention setting” sounded like some kind of trendy nonsense to me, rather than part of the ancient yogic tradition which I am studying and practicing.
Then I tried yoga nidra, a technique in which practitioners receive instructions to relax the body while remaining aware.
Most of us are floundering in the darkness, like ships without rudders. We don’t know which way we are headed because we are being led, forced and pushed by the tempest of life. Using the technique of yoga nidra, however, we have a choice in life, and that choice is created by the sankalpa or resolve.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati, from his book Yoga Nidra
At the heart of yoga nidra is a personal resolution, or sankalpa, that addresses a topic important to the person. Practitioners will repeat their intentions at the beginning and end of each session, hearing instructions like the ones below for guidance. The purpose is to train the unconscious to achieve the desired state through regular mental repetition.
Creating Your Sankalpa
Scan the phase of life you’re in now, and find one area you’d like to improve, forming your intention around that.
Make your sankalpa short, simple and positive.
Use the present tense, as if it has already manifested.
Repeat 3 times inwardly, with confidence. This is your sacred promise to yourself.
Allow the intention to come to you when you’re in a relaxed state, and open to receiving intuitions from your subconscious.
If you experience stress and anxiety – “I am calm and relaxed”
If you are scattered and distracted: “I am present” or “I live in the present moment”
If you have trouble trusting: “I have faith”
If you blame others for your suffering: “I can create the life I deserve”
If you feel resistant to change: “I am motivated”
If you’re feeling vulnerable and shaky: “I am balanced and strong”
If you are angry a lot: “I am grateful”
If you experience turbulent emotions: “I am content”
If you have trouble sleeping and are often tired: “I sleep soundly and wake refreshed”
While it’s better to try and find your sankalpa in the relaxed state, some of us can get very distracted trying to find the right one, and this can tank your whole experience of yoga nidra. This is the case for me personally. I can never come up with something good in the moment, I change my mind a lot, and then I miss precious minutes of the practice. To assist my yoga nidra practice, I sat down and did some journaling to try and create a list of possible sankalpas. I was really surprised by what I came up with!
Close your eyes and think of your current daily life.
Create a list of “wants” and “needs” — stay away from the trivial, go for the deep.
Take a look at your list. What stands out as the most challenging, or maybe even a little scary?
Form your intention around that. Simple, positive, present tense.
Although you can use the intention for therapeutic purposes, Swami recommends that it should instead be used for a greater purpose, such as for achieving self-realization. The purpose of sankalpa is not to fulfill desires, but to create strength in the structure of the mind. Studies that used such intentions during meditation have shown that cognitive restructuring processes are stimulated. You can use the same sankalpa for a while, and then because we are ever-changing, over time your sankalpa may change too.
Through the practice of yoga nidra, we are not only relaxing, but restructuring and reforming our whole personality from within. Like the mythological phoenix, with every session we are burning the old samskaras, habits and tendencies in order to be born anew.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
If you’re stuck in a rut, or stuck at home, maybe yoga nidra could help. I’m not promising personal transformation, but it’s just possible that like me, you have never really explored your subconscious and practiced opening up your mind-space, allowing it to wander. Plant your sankalpa into this open, liberated mind-space, and trust that the suggestion will take root and grow.
What’s your sankalpa today?
Sundays at 4pm / 30 minutes / Drop in for $5
Give yourself permission to relax and rest
Set intentions for personal growth
Reduce your stress levels and sleep better
Share your unique experience with other practitioners
Eagles have been showing up a lot this week. First, a private yoga student shared a story about having seen two bald eagles circling her parents’ grave while she and her siblings went to do some cleanup there. “Overhead was a pair of bald eagles just circling around each other!!!” she shared in an email. “I was mesmerized and definitely took it as a sign that my parents were right there with us. The two of them with their white tails against the blue sky was amazing. We watched as they circled again and again,” she wrote. She took the time to look up the symbolism of the eagle for her journal.
This speaks to the inspiring history of the bald eagle’s comeback from near extinction in America. When America adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol in 1782, the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles. By 1963, with only 487 nesting pairs of bald eagles remaining, the species was in danger of extinction. Loss of habitat, shooting, and DDT poisoning contributed to the near demise of our national symbol. Following enactment of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Service listed the species in 1978 as endangered throughout the lower 48 states (except in MI, MN, OR, WA, and WI where it was designated as threatened.) In 2006, the Service estimated that there are at least 9,789 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous United States. Bald eagles have staged a remarkable population rebound and have recovered to the point that they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. (Bald Eagle Fact Sheet – US Fish and Wildlife Service.)
I had already been flirting with the idea of ending our six-week series with the peak pose of Eagle, or Garudasana, and then the email from Deb sealed the deal. (Even though Garudasana refers to the mythical creature Garuda, and not the eagle in nature, it’s still inspiring!) Eagle Pose is a challenging balance pose where the legs and arms are wrapped around each other, and we use a lot of core strength and stamina to stay upright, to fly right. I’ve always loved Eagle Pose, but wanted to adapt this difficult balance pose for my Gentle Yoga class so that all my students could enjoy its complexity. So, rather than twisting the leg around the back of the calf, I offered students the option of crossing the knee over and stepping on a block outside the standing leg’s foot. And of course, instead of the full eagle arm, since many of us don’t have the range of motion in our shoulders, there was the option of a bear hug with the elbows stacked instead.
After our class featuring Eagle Pose, I went for a hike in our local “woods” at FDR Park in South Philly. Off the beaten track there is a marvelous space that was a golf course, that has been recently opened for public use; and this has become my daily sanctuary. On this particular day, it had just snowed, so everything was blanketed in a fresh clean white. With the snow comes stillness and quiet, and after the wonderful feeling of connectedness from our yoga class, I was feeling happy and joyful as I walked, and able to take in the surroundings with full gratitude. I felt a larger sense of connection to the universe, too, and I believe I may have even sent a little prayer up for some kind of sign that the universe could feel me back. I decided to follow some snowshoe, fox and bunny tracks into a tangle of woods near a creak where I don’t normally venture. As I stopped by the creek to take a few breaths, I looked up to see…yes, a bald eagle overhead! This was the sign I was looking for: You are on the right path. Keep trekking. Keep the faith. The divine spirit is in you, and around you. My heart felt so full, and I even cried some tears of gladness for the eagle’s visit. Kree!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems of all time, by poet Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She believes that “Everything is a living being, even time, even words.”
One of the greatest pleasures of being human is enjoying a good smell. Can you close your eyes right now and bring to mind a favorite smell, filling up your imagination with that scent?
I’ll bet that along with your smell of choice, a specific memory or association was conjured. This happens because the thalamus sends smell information to the hippocampus and amygdala, key brain regions involved in learning and memory. To this day, whenever I catch a whiff of the perfume Fracas, I am fooled into thinking my old boss Martha Stewart is nearby! (Mixed feelings ensue…)
Aromatherapy has many potential benefits. Certain scents can reduce stress, hasten a good night’s sleep, or give you more energy. Aromatherapy is already helping office workers stay alert, and hospitals are experimenting with using aromatherapy to help patients relax. Massaging aromatic oils into your skin is another way to benefit from aromatherapy (but please take care to dilute essential oils with carrier oils.)
Woodsy (sweet, rich)
Medicinal, Woodsy, herbaceous
Fresh, Medicinal, Woodsy
Floral, Rich, Citrus
Herbaceous, Fruity, Floral
Just like wine, you don’t have to be an expert to know what you like when it comes to essential oils. Experiment with a few starter scents: one that might have some calming qualities, one that might have some cleansing or clarifying effects, and one that is uplifting or energizing. Then you’ll have a bouquet to help balance your moods at the ready. There are many ways to use essential oils – for the sake of this post, I am referring to inhalation and topical use only.
I’ve been using essential oils for decades as a way to bring balance into my present moment, and regularly enjoy the concentrated smells and therapeutic properties of plants. Although I’m no expert, along the way I’ve picked up some useful knowledge on the properties of essential oils, which are to be used thoughtfully and carefully, as they are highly concentrated plant essences.
I’ve always loved earthy scents like sandalwood and patchouli, cleansing notes of citrus, stimulating hits of rosemary…and don’t even get me started on the transportive qualities of lavender. One of my lifelong dreams is to take a nap in a field of lavender in full bloom! These fragrances literally infuse my daily routine, enveloping me with a sense of empowered protection from the hectic stimulus all around.
Some of my favorite daily ways to use essential oils include:
Morning Nasal Steam for Respiratory Health
Grounding or Refreshing Roller Ball Blend (for quick massage, perfume, or to accompany yoga practice)
Dreamy Foot Massage (oil + lavender rubbed into feet before bedtime)
Making your own blends
This is where things get really fun and witchy. I’ve done a lot of experimenting, bearing in mind the effect I’m hoping to achieve, as well as finding scents that mix well together. Sometimes I’ve made some really terrible blends that I had to throw out (less is more!) and I learned the hard way not to make all my holiday gift scent blends on the same day, or you will probably get light-headed and possibly hallucinate due to olfactory overload.
Use the chart below to get started on combining scent types, and be advised that they are just guidelines to be explored. Here’s a really helpful formula: your blend should contain 20% bottom note, 50% middle note, and 30% top note (a total of 10 drops for a small rollerball, maybe 10-20 drops for a room spray.) The bottom note is usually the heaviest, deepest scent. The middle note is even and balanced and will stay with you the longest. The top note is often bright and light and will fizzle away after the first sniff. After combining your plant essences, fill up the rest of your bottle with distilled water and some witch hazel for room sprays, or your favorite carrier oil for massage and protective perfume. Shake and enjoy.
COMBINING SCENT TYPES
Same categories combine well with each other
Floral blends with floral, woodsy, spicy, and citrus
Woodsy blends with woodsy, floral, earthy, herby, minty, medicinal, spicy, and citrus
Earthy blends with earthy, woodsy, and minty
Herbaceous blends with herby, woodsy, and minty
Minty blends with minty, woodsy, earthy, herby, and citrus
Medicinal blends with medicinal and woodsy
Spicy blends with spicy, floral, woodsy, and citrus
Citrus blends with citrus, floral, woodsy, minty, and spicy
Because essential oils are concentrated, they should be diluted with either water or oil depending on their use. For massage and perfume, I use oil; for inhalation or room spray, I use water. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used undiluted on small areas of the skin. Organic and cold-pressed carrier oils are preferred, and examples include sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, or avocado oil. These oils do not have a strong smell of their own. I will even sometimes use refined sesame oil: although it’s heavy, my skin is quite dry and it gets absorbed right away.
Calming, Uplifting Rollerball Blend
Cedarwood: Woodsy, Bottom Note
Clary Sage: Herby, Floral, Middle Note
Indian Rose Blend: Floral, Middle Note
Lemon: Citrus, Top Note
Carefully pour or use a pipette to add the essential oils into a clean dry rollerball vessel (can be purchased on Amazon.) Swirl around and take a little whiff, making any adjustments your nose tells you to. Add your carrier oil (I used jojoba for this one), shake, and plunge the rollerball down to seal it, capping it off and shaking it well. Do a little test, rolling the scent on your hand, your inner wrist, or even behind your ears. Enjoy for yourself, or give as a gift!
Another note of caution: some essential oils can be toxic to pets (this linked list is NOT comprehensive.) You can search ASPCA’s site of toxic plants, and use that as a guide since the oil is a concentrated form of the plant. Plants are powerful, use them wisely. Please reach out if you’d like me to create custom aromatherapy blends just for you!
Over the summer, I took an Ayurveda course as part of my Yoga Therapy certification with Prema Yoga Institute, and was introduced to the concept of ghee, or clarified butter. We needed it to make one of our recipes, so I bought a jar for some astronomical amount, like $13. That first jar was a good investment!
Ghee is a staple of the Ayurvedic diet. Some dishes call for one tablespoon of ghee per person! So what is it, and why is it good for you? Is it good for you? Ghee is just butter (use organic, unsalted, grass-fed butter) that is slowly cooked down and strained to remove milk solids and other impurities. After it cools, the result is a beautiful, rich golden color.
Some facts about ghee:
It has been used in Indian and Pakistani cultures for thousands of years.
Ghṛta (घृत) is a Sanskrit technical term translating to “ghee” (clarified butter), and is used throughout Ayurvedic literature. The term comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “sprinkled or illumined.”
Ghee was created to prevent butter from spoiling during warm weather. Given that its milk solids have been removed, it does not require refrigeration and can be kept at room temperature for several weeks.
Ghee and butter are comprised of nearly 100% fat, but ghee may be the better choice for people with lactose or casein sensitivities, since it is free of both.
Eating fat-rich foods like ghee can increase the “bioavailability” and absorption of some healthy vitamins and minerals.
Ghee is rich in butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid that promotes a positive immune response within the body, to support healing of inflammation and optimal digestion.
Its smoke point is 485°F (250°C), which is substantially higher than butter’s smoke point of 350°F (175°C). Therefore, when cooking at very high temperatures, ghee has a distinct advantage over butter.
If you’re healthy and looking to add more fat to your diet, ghee may be a fine option; no evidence suggests that it’s healthier than butter overall.
What Ayurveda says about Ghee:
Ghee is a digestive. It helps to improve absorption and assimilation.
It nourishes ojas, tejas and prana.
It is good for improving memory and lubricates the connective tissue.
Ghee makes the body flexible and, in small doses, is tridoshic.
Ghee is a yogavahi—a catalytic agent that carries the medicinal properties of herbs into the seven dhatus or tissues of the body.
Ghee pacifies pitta and vata and is acceptable, in moderation, for kapha.
Persons who already have high cholesterol or suffer from obesity should be cautious in using ghee.
Ghee is not to be used when there are high ama (toxic) conditions.
If you’re not sure what your dosha is, you can take a Dosha Quiz.
Personally, I have noticed that I enjoy the preparation and the eating of my food more with ghee in the mix, used in place of vegetable oils to make eggs, stir fry, or spread on bread or crackers – I have even put ghee in hot beverages. I used to ‘say no’ to butter altogether, but why? A little fat is good for you, if you’re healthy! The taste is wonderful, and I feel more oleanated from the inside. I even use ghee on my skin sometimes.
I made my first homemade batch in July, and now it’s a regular part of my routine and diet. If you want to make your own ghee it’s really easy! Check out Dr. Vasant Lad’s Ghee Recipe. In case you’re wondering, I have not put on any unwanted pounds – in fact, the opposite has occurred, but probably because I have mostly eliminated processed food from my diet, and am consuming more vegetables and fruit.
If you want yummy recipes and easy-to-understand information on an Ayurvedic diet and perspective, I highly recommend Ali Cramer’s book, Modern Ayurveda: Rituals, Recipes, & Remedies for Balance. I have enjoyed her recipe for hearty, nourishing kichadi/kitchari that uses ghee a few times already!
Final fact: I have to HIDE THE GHEE JAR from my husband.
Increasing oxygen saturation levels in the blood may be as simple as doing this pose!
In last night’s Breath Coaching Course to support COVID-19 prevention and recovery, we learned about Resting Prone and Self-Proning in Swimmer’s Pose; directly from RN and yoga teacher Elizabeth Gottshalk, who worked in an ICU unit in NYU.
This simple technique – resting on your belly to bring the breath deeper into the back lungs, was shown to increase oxygen saturation in the blood by 10%.
During a pilot study done in March in a hospital in Brooklyn, 50 patients were treated. First, O2 levels were measured at an average of 80% – not high enough to sustain life. Our normal O2 level is 98%. They were given supplemental oxygen through cannula, and the level went up to 84% – still not high enough to sustain life.
When flipped onto their bellies, and given the support of pillows, patients oxygen saturation levels went up to 94%.
Self-proning can be used as home care for the flu and viral infections in order to increase oxygenation. Be sure that your head is higher than your feet – and switch sides every 2 hours. Get up and walk around after 8 hours to move ex cess fluid from the lungs.
Why does this work?
Proning, as it’s called, opens up the areas of the lungs that are normally compressed by the weight of the heart when lying on one’s back. And there is some thought that the back area of the lungs is more alveoli-rich, stimulating a faster gas exchange.
Proning is currently being studied as an alternative to intubation.
Most of us don’t know how to relax naturally, and it’s something we have to actually practice. In other words, down-regulating the stress response is an acquired capacity. It’s like a muscle: you have to build it over time in order for it to be strong.
During Ann’s Gentle Flow and Slow Flow yoga classes, we practice safe and flowing breath-connected movement, repeating patterns so you can shut your mind off and calm your nervous system down.
Once we’ve moved the spine in all directions, worked all the major muscle groups, and hopefully lubricated all or most of the joints in the body, we practice “actively relaxing” to stimulate the PNS or parasympathetic nervous system; also known as the “Rest, Digest and Heal” response.
Why do it? Because great things happen when we are para-sympathetically dominant. Our breath is full, slow, and deep. The digestive system works well. The body can focus on repair, including reduction of inflammation, tissue repair, and hormone production. Subjectively, people feel fully present and alive. Many report feeling a pleasant softness and warmth, perhaps even throughout their bodies.
Go with the Flow! with Ann this week:
Gentle Flow Yoga – Wednesday at 9:30am YouTube Live
Outdoor Slow Flow Yoga – Thursday at 6pm – Swarthmore
Outdoor Slow Flow Yoga – Saturday at 9:30am – Swarthmore
If you’re practicing at home, please bring pillows, blankets, whatever you have for the best experience during our final relaxation pose. If you’re practicing outdoors, don’t worry, we’ll still make it work!
“The posture of yoga is steady and easy. It is realized by relaxing one’s effort and resting like the cosmic serpent on the waters of infinity.” -Patanjali, Yoga Sutras
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