It was 2005 and I was in the middle of training to become a Registered Massage Therapist. One of our courses was “Therapeutic Exercise.” Not only did we learn about specific rehab exercises, but we learned a little bit about other exercises that could also benefit our patients.
When we got to the Yoga section I remember thinking, “It’s basically just over-rated stretching.”
And of course, stretching is good but really, what is all this fuss about?
We also had an in-depth class on breathing. While it was interesting, I wondered how this was going to help anyone?
The problem was that I couldn’t see the benefits from only 15 minutes of Yoga. I was still in good shape from the Kickboxing I had done for the past 2 years. I thought had learned all about it. I thought I understood Yoga, but couldn’t see it actually working.
Once I was close to finishing school, all hell broke loose!
I didn’t make time for exercise and even if I did, I couldn’t actually do anything. Moving too fast or holding too still would make my arms go numb. I had horrible headaches and neck pain. All the time I’d been spending hunched over studying, was finally taking its toll.
I also suddenly became a business owner. Sure, I’d held a part-time job since 16, but now owned a business and was supposedly an “Adult.” My body was exhausted from final exams, and I had accumulated some major student debt. I felt so overwhelmed and started to experience anxiety attacks.
My doctor prescribed medication. Meds? Really? (Yeah, because it was obvious that I had a severe SSRI and Ibuprofen deficiency.)
But I knew better. For me, medication would be the last resort. I had just learned all this wonderful stuff in school, and my first patient was going to be myself!
I found a local Yoga class for beginners. I signed up to attend one class a week, for 8 weeks. If I didn’t notice any difference after that, I would try the medication.
The class was slow moving and gentle. VERY different than the competitive Kickboxing classes I once took. And after 6 weeks I was shocked! No more anxiety attacks. My headaches and neck pain were at least 75% better. From then on, I was sold! And I’ve been doing Yoga ever since.
Now, I tell people that if they can’t commit to doing a few preventative exercises every day, then they should commit to just 1 hour of yoga a week. Often it’s easier to do it all at once than trying to do a bit every day on your own, without support.
I must admit, I still slack a bit every now and then ( I am human). But when I start to feel my breathing quicken, my fingers tingle, or my neck crick, I re-commit 8 hours to my therapy, to my health, to my life.
Liana Bakker is an entrepreneur and author with a background in health care. She wants to show people that they can live a life that’s true to who they really are. She shares stories to inspire and information to help people take care better care themselves. Looking to feel happier and less stressed? Check out www.lianabakker.com for a free E-book on ’67 Ways To Help You Get Happy’
I have some crazy tight shoulders. Before I was a Yogini I was a body builder and a hairstylist and both of those activities led to some really tight shoulders. Those tight shoulder muscles in my case also led to wrist issues.
So to say that I have focused a large amount of my Yoga practice time to stretching my shoulders would be an understatement! Thanks to this stretch, my shoulders have become much more flexible and my wrist issues are completely gone.
So if you suffer from tight shoulders or wrist issues, this is for you. In the video below I’ll walk you through step by step my favorite shoulder stretch.
Once you are familiar with this pose you can even practice in “Yin Style” by increasing the length of time you hold this working your way up to five min holds. This will really help you get into the fascia as well.
If someone you care about is suffering with shoulder or wrist issues please share this post with them.
If you’re like me and suffer from neck stiffness then you’re going to want to add this stretch to your daily routine. You can even do it at work at your desk.
Because of the nature of our western lifestyle and all the sitting at desks we do, it’s pretty common to have some neck drama. Taking just a couple min once or twice a day to do this pose will make a big difference to your quality of life and amount of pain you have.
In the video below, I’ll walk you through one of my go-to neck poses. If you can do this at least once during your workday and once before bed, you’ll notice big changes in your tension and could even improve your sleep.
Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation/meditation practice where the practitioner is led through a creative exploration of the 5 Koshas (layers of being): physical, energetic, mental/emotional, intuitive and bliss.
We lay down get comfortable, we become still. The brain gears down, the body drops into healing mode, and the mind starts to quieten. The aim is to stay awake throughout, though falling asleep is common, or to get a sense that you were aware, but not remember the practice entirely. Time and space disappear, leaving you to experience pure consciousness.
What makes this practice transformational is when the practitioner takes advantage of the slower, more receptive, relaxed brain state to plant (when guided) a single, positive, personal “I AM” statement (Sankalpa). Here, we can access the wiring of our subconscious mind to release and reprogram beliefs and perceptions that are no longer serving our growth. With dedication to a powerful sankalpa, we can create new, positive pathways within, accessing the inner resources readily needed at this stage of your evolution.
Life Before Nidra
I took my first Yoga Nidra class in 2007 when I flung myself into Yoga to help me recover from a breakup (with the man I am now gratefully and happily married to). I was angry, sad, hurt, resentful, and had become dispassionate and lacking the spark for life that I had previously possessed. I sought out Yoga as a healthy “hobby” for healing. I had taken asana classes in the past and they made me feel amazing, so I bought an unlimited pass and committed to going to class daily. My weekly Nidra class, however, felt like the missing piece – quiet, deep and introspective, it was quality time focused on my soul and healing my heart.
Falling In Love With Nidra
It only took one Nidra class to fall completely in love. The way I felt afterwards was indescribable. Each Tuesday I would float home, grounded and clear. The first Sankalpa I ever worked with was “I am the embodiment of joy & light.” I lived and breathed that affirmation of who I knew myself to be underneath the heaviness. Day by day, I began to see the light I was beginning to stoke within me being reflected back. I saw beauty even in the darkest moments – a perspective I continue to hold, that life’s hard knocks are actually an opportunity in disguise.
Sharing From The Seat Of The Student
I never intended to teach. I walk into class as a student sharing their imperfect exploration of a limitless, life-long practice. I took a training in Bali in 2011 to deepen my personal practice, and that’s where everything changed. I taught for 7 minutes (it was terrifying!), but what I taught surprised me: Stillness and Peace. I remember thinking, If I were ever to teach anything, it would be Yoga Nidra. I still feel that way.
My Life, My Nidra
This is the practice I love and prefer to give wherever and whenever I can. I get oddly protective of it because it has given – and has returned to me – some of the most valuable pieces of my heart and soul. It holds some of the most potent medicine I could ask for; its wisdom keeps me coming back, even when I shy away from turning inward and diving into the depths of what I am processing. It has helped to piece together a heart continuously opened by love, loss and change, to find healing and patience in times of illness, injury or uncertainty, to weather storms, and to gather strength when I’m running on empty…
It is a strong tool to access authenticity and truth. It’s impossible not to call my own bullshit now. It has shown me that we are not the naggings of our physical bodies or the steady stream of thoughts running through our heads. We are not as limited as we believe. We have a lot of choice in not only how our life shows up, but how we face what we feel we didn’t choose.
Nidra is perfect for our chronically over-tired, over-stressed culture, but just as the physical practice becomes more than just about the body, Nidra beckons us to become still – that elusive golden key that unlocks big change.
Diving deeper into this practice over the last 4 years, in particular, has been the biggest game changer. I feel both like a different version of myself and a woman who is more of the person that she has always been. I have greater ownership over the parts of myself that help me be truthful to myself, what I need and don’t, and a stronger mirror to my imperfections which serve to help me grow.
Fascinated by the power of breath, stillness and intention as a gateway to wholeness and healing, Allison Goundry shares the quiet-yet-transformative practice of Yoga Nidra to willing souls looking to become more deeply acquainted with the inner landscape of who they are. You can learn more about Allison her classes and private sessions on her website www.allisongoundry.com
Images of Allison: www.brentcalisphotography.com
Whether you’re naturally a night owl like me or just going through a period of insomnia or high stress, having a wind-down routine will help you get a good nights’ sleep.
If you’re suffering from insomnia due to serious anxiety or stress and none of the tips I share here help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor or therapist. Yoga is an amazing healing practice but sometimes we just really need support and someone to talk to!
In the video below I’ll give you some tips and tricks to help you wind down and get a good nights’ sleep.
I don’t spend a lot of time in the poses in this video so once you know the poses feel free to spend from three to ten minutes in each one.
Ok, grab your Yoga props and let’s practice.
To your good health and a great nights’ sleep ox
Shoelace pose is a great way to get into the muscles and fascia in hips, butt and IT band, which can feel cursed in our culture because of all of the sitting in chairs we do.
Because the muscles and fascia in the hips are so dense they really benefit from the long hold in Yin Yoga. The hips and the butt being chronically tight can be one of the causes of mis-alignments of the spine and can lead to back pain.
If you sit at a desk all day then doing this pose daily would not be to often! Practicing this pose regularly can keep you from becoming a tight ass 😉
In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete ‘how-to’ of shoelace pose including options for those of you with knee issues.
How To Practice Walking Meditation
A Walking Meditation combines present moment awareness with movement, and is a great way to help you become more mindful while rocking the Yoga mat!
The awesome thing about a Walking Meditation is in its simplicity – All you have to do is walk and become aware, which creates a magical, mindful experience to what is normally a mundane task.
It differs from a ‘normal’ Meditation practice because – yes, you guessed it! – Because you’re walking, not sitting. 🙂
In most seated Meditations, our awareness is often focused on our inner world, while a Walking Meditation the full experience of walking is the main focus, which includes our outer environment.
Here is how:
• Dress in something comfortable
• Keep your eyes open while walking
• Become aware of the body as a whole and notice your posture
• Notice how your feet feel connecting to the ground with each step
• Slow down your pace and notice how that feels
• Speed up your pace and notice again
• Then take your awareness out to experience the elements such as the wind, sun or rain
• Become aware of all the gifts that nature has to offer you – what can you see, feel and hear
Many people feel it’s easier to keep focused on the present moment while doing a Walking Meditation – this means the mind is less busy trying to distract from the Meditation.
It can also help with the mind/body connection. As you spend time dropping out of the mind and into the body you will begin to notice more of the signals that are so easily missed during the day.
A Walking Meditation is sooooo sweet because it can adapted to suit any situation……
Just think, no one will ever know that you are Meditating in the supermarket!
Lyndsey Burton is a Mother, Wife, Meditation Coach and Founder of the Soul Sisters. After years of being at the mercy of a busy mind, Lyndsey decided enough was enough and devoted her life to escaping the busy trap. She has trained with the Buddhist community and with No1 Best Seller Sandy C. Newbigging, in mindfulness and Meditation. Lyndsey connects with busy women and helps them to find 10 minutes a day to Meditate.
You can find her at: www.lyndseyburton.co.uk
Caterpillar Pose is a great pose to open up the tight muscles and fascia of the whole back of your body including the legs and back. So depending on your intended area, you can use props to change up this pose to be more legs, more back or even a bit of both if that’s what is needed.
In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how-to for Caterpillar pose including modifications and how to use props to customize your pose to suit your needs. If you have bulging disks you’ll want to keep your spine long and back flat in this pose instead of rounding your spine.
We have a tendency to avoid our own tender spots and to walk around the potholes of our vulnerability. We’re afraid of getting upset, apprehensive of being hurt, terrified by the prospect of feeling things too deeply. We know there exist certain conditions of mind and heart for which there is no numbing pill. We tend to think our threshold for discomfort is way lower than it actually is in part because our true limit hasn’t ever been tested.
We dodge things that entail loss of control. We date people that we don’t love because that one time we fell in love for real it felt like a runaway car that smashed into a brick wall at full speed. We swore we’d never do that again.
“I’m feeling steady right now” I tell myself. “I’ll just bypass anything that ruffles my feathers or gets me off course.” This is the equivalent of erecting a bubble and living inside it. In our protective avoidance we miss not only the grit but also the rapture. We keep out the danger forgetting that a little danger is actually good for us. A little turbulence reminds us that we’re alive.
We’re told from a young age to not get dirty, to keep our mouths, our hands, and our clothes clean. We look the other way when we walk by a homeless person, change the channel when we see appalling events on the news, and avoid our friend who just got diagnosed with cancer because we simply don’t know what to say. We’re afraid that one crack in our veneer will lead to the shattering of the whole vessel. We forget that we can’t be closed to some things and open to others. We can’t actually be closed and open at the same time.
We can only see ‘out there’ a reflection of what’s ‘in here’. If there are certain places ‘in here’ that we’re not willing to go, if there’s a certain depth ‘in here’ that we’re not willing to be with, then we’ll also not be able to be with that depth ‘out there’ or to even perceive that depth ‘out there’.
Some of my most cherish memories are of staying up way past my bedtime, feeling the moonlight on my face, and instead of averting my eyes, having a long hard look. Instead of avoiding the person that made me feel too much, I dove in. I trust the hurricane will not swallow me whole, or at least if it does, it will spit me, or at least some semblance of me, out on the other side.
Let yourself go. Walk through the door. Learn to sit in the fire with the pain, the loneliness, and the confusion. It is only by sitting in the blue heat at the fires’ core that you’ll access your true capacity to be there. In meeting my own shadow, I discovered that I could also meet your shame, guilt, and disillusionment and still hold steady.
Be defeated. Be disturbed. Be delirious. Let your hair get messy, go out on the coldest day and feel the frozen air sting your cheeks. Allow yourself to fall in love and feel the bare nakedness of that dizzying exposure. Stay up past your bedtime and revel not only in the night hours but actually feel the tiredness the next day—it is not your enemy. The next time you have a headache ride the waves of pain and notice the slight pause between throbs. Map your own discomfort. Befriend your bliss. Greet it with open arms.
Let life affect you. The heart can bear it all.
Marie-Ève’s calling is to remind others of the truth of who they are and to help them reconnect to ‘center’ — the powerful seat of wisdom and essence that lies within. She guides others in transforming their life challenges and experiences of loss and trauma into the powerful rerouting and growth opportunities that these initiations really are. A gentle and playful soul, Marie-Ève’s presence is often described, much to her delight, as ‘magical’. You can connect with her at Circling into Center
Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau
One of the questions I get asked a lot by my Yoga students is where do I get my Yoga Music from. It would be impossible to do a blog post about ALL my Yoga music (cause I have a shit ton of it). But I can highlight some of my favorites.
I love New Earth Records and I would say 80% of my Yoga music is from New Earth Records. They have a big variety from up-tempo and a bit dance-y to super atmospheric and spa-like, so whether you are doing a Yang (flow) practice or a Yin practice they likely have something for you to help you get your ‘Yoga groove on’.
If you’re new to buying Yoga music, starting with some of New Earth’s compilations is a great way to sample a few artists all at once.
I have these compilations:
- Prana Yoga
- Spa Lounge
- Spirit Lounge
The first Yoga CD I ever bought was by Chinmaya Dunster and I have bought several more since then. Chinmaya Dunster’s work is on the more lively side and great for Yang (flow) Yoga.
Chinmaya Dunster Cd’s I have:
- Yoga: On Sacred Ground
- Yoga Lounge
- Sacred Temples of India
- Feng Shui
- Fragrance of the East
That’s what I have so far but really I want all his CD’s.
The second favorite artist is Deuter. I find some of this music too Flute-based (not my favorite instrument) so I always listen before I buy. I would say his music is better for Yin Yoga as it tends to be more atmospheric.
The Deuter CD’s I have are:
- East Of The Full Moon
- Flowers of Silence
- Tibet: Nada Himalaya 2
I have a few Terry Oldfield and again I try before I buy with him as well because he also tends to be flute-based. Again I would say Terry Oldfield’s work is more Yin than Yang but there are some exceptions.
Terry Oldfield CD’s I have are:
- Yoga Harmony
- Journey Into Space
- Sacred Touch
- Reiki Flow
I have 2 CD’s by Osho and I would say it is a bit softer but could be used for either Yin or Yang Yoga depending on your preference.
The Osho CD’s I have are:
- Garden Of The Beloved
- Ten Thousand Buddha’s
Rasa makes beautiful music. Kim Waters has a beautiful voice. I tend to use if for Yang since I prefer more sound-scape-y type music for my Yin.
Rasa CD’s I have are:
- Saffron Blue
So there you have a small peek into my Yoga Music collection.
Visit New Earth Records website to listen to samples and click though to either by Cd’s or MP3’s either through iTunes or Google.