What I've recently learned before, but maybe didn't necessarily think much about until now, is that a yoga class includes book ends. Book ends? Kind of like in a workout, there is a warm-up to start and a cool-down to finish. Although those are included in a yoga class, there are also two additional pieces.
1. Centering. Bringing class participants to the present and readying them for practice.
2. Savasana. Final pose. Time for the practice to integrate.
My assignment this week was to write one of each. It was somewhat tricky to write out. At first, I asked my dear Siri to help me. I spoke to her and asked her to scribe the words out for me. That worked okay. But the real work was sitting in front of my words and tweaking them to sound like the best version of what I want to say.
Here is a look at what I wrote:
Come to a seated position. Relax your shoulders take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Let the body relax and forget the rest of your day. Leave it at the door. There's no need to think about the past or the future. Think about the present moment. Settle to yourself on your mat.
Slowly lower yourself down on your back and allow the mat to support your bodyweight. Take a deep breath in and let it slowly trickle out of your mouth. Take another deep breath in and slowly let it come out of your nose. Feel the difference in your breath when coming out of your mouth and when coming out of your nose.
Slowly take another deep breath in and exhale what feels the most comfortable to you.
As you relax into the mat, feel the weight of your body and all the contact points on the mat. Feel where your heels meet the mat. Feel for the back of the knees and where they meet the mat. Feel where your hips and low back meet the mat. Feel where the shoulders and back meet the mat. And as you reach the top of your body, feel where your head meets the mat.
Slowly take another deep breath in and exhale your body deep into the mat.
As you become increasingly still lying on your mat, start to think about a mantra or a purpose to your practice today. It might be simply “relax” or “calm” or “present”. You may make it more specific to you as “I am relaxed”, “I am calm”, or “I am present”. Create a mantra for yourself to remind yourself throughout your entire practice why you came to the mat today. This mantra will guide your practice and take you through a practice that is needed not only for the physical body but for the heart and the soul.
Slowly take another deep breath in and exhale as you say your mantra to yourself.
***few moments of silence***
Begin to connect back to the physical space and your place in the room. Begin with slow movements and when you are ready slowly lift your feet to plant them on your mat. Knees bent, facing towards the ceiling. As you feel you can bring more movement to your body, slowly lift your knees to your chest and place your hands gently on the legs for a gentle hug.
It’s 6 a.m.
It has been dark for over 12 hours and it feels like I haven’t seen the sun in a while.
Did I really sleep? Or is this a dream?
It’s my early morning yoga practice….to.fit.it.in!
With this week’s early morning mat time, it got me to thinking about what is the best time to do yoga. Two things came to mind…
When I took an academic yoga class in my undergraduate degree, I recall that we were not suppose to eat prior to practice. Or at least this is was the professor asked of my 21 year old self. Did I follow that “rule”? Not exactly. But it begs the question, should I be doing yoga first thing in the morning before eating anything?
Which leads me to my world of exercise physiology and working with registered dietitians where not eating before exercise (particularly when first rising) is pretty close to a complete no-no. Breakfast is about “breaking the fast” so having something, small as it may be, is recommended.
So the timing with food idea may have some flaws. And maybe something to explore at a later date.
As for the second thing, it too stems from my exercise physiologist self. When is the best time to exercise? Old thought is first thing in the morning to rev up the metabolism but today’s research doesn’t support a specific time of day. What I do recommend is to pick a time that works best for you…or the individual.
I guess that is what I had to do for practice this week. It was at 6 a.m. that worked best.
But I have to say, waking up during practice - because that was what was happening - was absolutely lovely first thing in the morning. I made it to my mat in the dark with not much difficultly and I found a gentle morning video from Adriene that slowly led me into practice.
At that hour, my best intention to set was all about self-love. Being kind to myself throughout the practice as my body came to life.
The practice ended with no savasana which allowed the energy from the practice to continue to flow into my day. I loved how energized I felt and was keen to get going to the day. Missing savasana was a small price to pay for the peaceful and tension-free way to start my day.
To be sure I had a bit more insight into the timing of practice, I went to my go to Google search which took me to a great article by Yoga Journal. It said,
Since an important part of yoga practice is getting to know yourself and how you change from moment to moment, it makes sense to let your energy inform you about how to practice according to the season or time of day.
What a great idea!
Sometime practice just has to fit in. Other times, I can dictate when it fits best for me. Although, I am thinking the early morning might be something I’d like to try. It provided a calm and quiet time that I so need in my life.
Morning yoga, maybe see you again soon,
This week I am in Barcelona, Spain competing in Life Fitness' Global Personal Trainers to Watch competition.
Since I am in the learning phase of my yoga training, yoga is always on my brain. Being in Spain made no difference. Thus, in the wee hours of the morning, jet-legged and all, I was up writing a yoga sequence that I could do on the Life Fitness Synrgy BlueSky.
Here is what I came up with!
Monkey Bar (Long)
Dip/Leg Raise Station
Traverse Bar (Long)
Cargo Net (Long)
Having a chance to "play" on a new piece of equipment is always fun for me. This event was an experience of a lifetime and my yoga teacher in training came along for the ride too!
I'm really glad that I was introduced to a yoga eye pillow. Recall, I got on a "I'm make yoga eye pillows for everyone" a couple years back. But what I didn't know was how great they can be off of your eyes too!
This week's practice was lead by a substitute teacher. I actually enjoy the variety that having a substitute teacher brings. Different cues, different intro settling the mind, different asana sequencing, and more. And fortunate for me, she taught me how to use the yoga eye pillow a different way.
I settled into corpse pose (savasana) - with babe totally happy to sit and play - and let my body drop into the floor. The music was peaceful and slightly more upbeat than usual but I took the savasana and ran with it.
Fully stretched our, arms and legs, no babe to wrestle nor worry about little hands in my hair, I was actually in the right pose. No distractions!
Tip toeing around me is the teacher. I sense she is there but thought she might be entertaining little one. Instead I feel a pressure, a weight into the palms of my hands. It took me aback as I felt my hands, forearms and arms sink further into the floor. How can this be?
She had place a yoga eye pillow into the open palm of both of my hands. Brilliant! What a wonderful way to "up the ante" (should we do this in yoga?!?) of savanasa.
Who knew that a yoga eye pillow is not just for your eyes!
After class, I thanked her for adding the eye pillows to my hands and expressed how much that extra little bit of weight made a huge impact on the pose.
Now, I have to get back to making yoga eye pillows. I need a second one for my new found use of these fantastic props!
To a new way to practice,
As another year rolls around, my birthday wish was fairly simple. It's not a significant birthday this year nor do I need much.
But what was a must-do on my birthday was a yoga class.
I swung my yoga bag on my back and jumped on my bike, pedaling down to my local studio. I knew I had to get out of the house for this birthday wish to come true. I quietly paid and walked into the hot room. My option was a hot class, which is not always my number one choice but nonetheless, it was yoga.
When prompted to place an intention for the class, I silently chose to focus on me and only me. This is my one day of the year (and even moreso since becoming a parent!)
I lucked out for this "me" practice as the studio space included mirrors. I intently watched each pose (as the pose allowed) and focused on a well-positioned body. Listening not only to the teacher's cues, I also zeroed in on my body cues. Honestly, I must have looked like I was figuring out a hard sudoku puzzle. My face reflected back at me with a very concentrated look.
The best part of this birthday wish was a supported savasana. It's like a regular savasana but super sized. Two foam blocks under the hips and head allowed for a glorious torso stretch. I literally and figuratively melted into my body.
How do you focus on yourself? Do you use a mirror in your practice?
What are ways you honour yourself on your birthday?
Are you taking care of yourself?
One year older,
I would be remise if I didn't recant my experience of my late prenatal days and how aspects of yoga got me through. Heck - I've been referencing my pregnancy and how it affects my practice for weeks now!
This time around, I have many more signals that baby is coming!
Pre-labour was clearly happening and I have to deal with it!
Excitement - check.
Anticipation - check.
Fatigue - check.
My husband and I opted for a doula again this time around. In our consultation, the doula reinforced the importance to relax the body during a contraction. What better way to think about relaxation other than in corpse pose or savasana.
With each cramp and prepatory contraction this week, I worked on letting my body go limp and feel like a dead weight. Trying to recall the cues given during savasana helped emphasize my "practice".
I even threw in some balanced breathing in for good measure!
All in all, my previous yoga experience helps me cope with my pending and forth coming adventure!
Do you hear it?
Do you feel it?
Your body is constantly telling you something and are you tapping in to it?
One of my favorite times during yoga practice is just that - when I'm listening to what my body is saying. It formally happens at the end during corpse pose/savasana but it can also appear during other parts of practice.
I wish I used my yoga skills this week. Need I say more, practice just didn't happen. And can I blame it on not listening? Well, maybe.
Cold and flu season is upon us and you guessed it, I caught one of those pesky colds. I won't bore you with the grotesque details. But here's how it unfolded...
My coworker said to me, "leave, go home. I'll finish up" as my throat felt like a welder's blow torch was burning down my throat.
My husband said to me, "go, lay down, go back to sleep. I'll deal with the cries of the nightmare-shaken toddler down the hall" as I drag myself back to bed and out of my momma bear shoes.
Did I listen to them or to my body?
Yes and no. But the result was I was hold up in bed (corpse pose, anyone?) for a day because I didn't fully listen.
Yoga has wonderful lessons, which I'm still working on...and rest when rest is needed is one of them. I guess that's why I'm still a work in progress.
Ready for health, vitality and more yoga next week,
I got it!
My comments last week led well into this week because I got to participate in corpse pose (Savasana) at a hot session at Yoga Central. And what I wrote last week completely holds true - it's both physical and mental relaxation.
Now, I'm lying there, in corpse pose, thinking WAY too much because I've started to intellectualize the pose.
However, the great thing about (some) thinking is that when in corpse pose, is it better to be in complete silence or be guided through a relaxation sequence?
I jump back to my initial practice with my home DVD (Ali MacGraw Yoga Mind and Body), where Erich Shiffmann, talks through corpse pose using wonderful words ("Keep it simple. All you do is relax everywhere and be aware how you feel...Let the relaxation spread."). So, I had the early experience with gentle talking during corpse pose. But during my last practice and many other times, teachers have left you in silence with no guidance.
Silence for me can cause my mind to be distracted and the "heavy thinking" or introspective talking starts to roll. It's not really ideal for the relaxation. I wonder, what are opinions as to what is "suppose" to happen during corpse pose.
And off I go exploring to find out....
What I find is actually not totally what I expected. I was wrong in thinking it is one or the other. But in fact, based on what I found on the Yoga Journal website, corpse pose is to be practiced in silence. But it is the preparation or the lead up to the corpse pose where some talking can occur. I also found a great article for teachers about how to incorporate corpse pose which gave me further insight.
With some self-reflection, I think I do need a form of transition into corpse pose (i.e., guided relaxation) so that the voice in my head is calmed and quieted as I relax into the pose.
With my exploring, I found a great piece on corpse pose etiquette here. I got a good chuckle from this one! And a quick tips list here.
Oh so very interesting this journey. And it continues...
Aaa-haaaa. *Sigh* And relax! Or do you?
This weekend I was on a late night airplane flight and was trying to get my son to relax and fall asleep. He was perfectly positioned on my lap in corpse pose (Savasana) - thank goodness for the last row on the plane and three seats!- so my logic was he is sure to fall asleep. Oh my, did he fight it with tooth and nail!
This got me thinking a bit more about corpse pose, yoga in general and embracing rest. How often can we physically place ourselves into the correct yoga position, however, mentally we are not able to do the pose?
Yoga is much more than the physical. I can perform many of the poses but if my mind is off in any way, forget about reaping the benefits.
Looking back at my son's situation, really he was more interested in the latches on the folding tray, the person sitting a row in front of us and the lucky chance to prance down the aisle as if he was a model on the runway!!! He was not ready to relax into his sleep.
So next time I'm blessed with a moment to practice corpse pose, I'm going to take the time to mentally relax (even if it is for only one minute!) and the physical relaxation and much needed rest will follow.
Ready to practice corpse pose anytime! :)
I was very fortunate to travel to Mexico this past week and enjoy the sun, beach, and ocean. The resort we stayed at offered outdoor yoga classes. I knew I had to participate in at least one class. By the end of the week, I had attended three!
Practicing outdoors is a new experience for me. I would highly recommend it, not now in the dead of a Canadian winter, but when the weather and/or location permits. It is a feast for the senses and it is a whole other type of practice.
My five senses were on high alert through the downward facing dogs, tree poses and corpse pose. The first sense that was heightened was the sense of touch. The coolness of the wet grass we practiced on to the pressure of sand pressing back on my fingers on the beach, the sense of touch kept me engaged with my practice. The sense of sound resonated with the rustling of the palm trees and the crashing of the waves. And the smell and taste of the salty Sea of Cortez was moving in and out with every breath.
It was in practicing outdoors that I was encouraged to keep my eyes open. In my regular practice I typically have my eyes closed. Well, this certainly was not the case. Sunsets of pink, orange and red allow for such an inspired practice. Watching the waves crash into rocks on the beach bring power and strength to a warrior II (virabhadrasana II) pose. The teacher even said, "draw energy from the moving water". How amazing is that!!!
It is in these moments of yoga that really invigorate my soul and gratitude to the world around me. As I become a teacher, it is my hope to bring this sort of energy and experience to the mat even when not on the coast of Mexico.
To many more outdoor yoga classes,
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.