I have recently been teaching my clients how to incorporate mindfulness into everything they do; instead of an isolated activity that we practice on our mats. Mindfulness is a way of being that can impact every aspect of our lives, especially relationships with ourselves and others and how we relate to the world around us. Being in a state of present moment experience allows us to engage fully in our lives and process experiences without as much judgement and filters that often lead to misunderstandings and suffering. Being mindful shifts our awareness as we begin to hear the stories we tell us as just that…stories. By spending time in present moment experience, we strengthen our ability to be fully integrated and attuned to ourselves, loved ones and our environment.
One of the most effective ways to “be mindful” is to connect with our physical body. This is due to the fact that being present lights up the insula; a region of the brain that perceives body sensation. By simply focusing on our breath or feeling into our fingertips we shut off our mental chatter and allow ourselves to be fully engaged in the present moment.
Activity – next time you do the dishes allow yourself to focus on physical sesations. Feel your hands under that water…notice your breath as you stand there…feel your feet on the floor. Mental chatter will arise and when it does just notice. Welcome yourself back into the here and now.
To understand some of the terminology used in this post, please refer to my old post called understanding the science of yoga nidra.
I am pleased to announce the release of my new Yoga Nidra CD. This album was inspired by my trip to Peru…specifically my visit to Machu Picchu this past May. While spending time in this magical place, I was reminded of how external environments can have a powerful impact on feelings and sensations in the mind, body and spirit. A few months ago I was hit by a car as a pedestrian and have been in excruciating pain for the past few months. I was worried to go on my trip to Peru due to my physical condition but decided to go and instead of hiking the Inka Trail, opted for the comfortable train ride up to this auspicious place. I was amazed at how this place impacted me. Looking over Machu Picchu, I could actually feel my muscles releasing and letting go from months of holding and constriction. My body appeared to be stuck in a state of fear and would not let go of the fight or flight response that was released when I was hit by the car. Being around such an auspicious place appeared to release trauma that had been stuck in my body.
From experiencing how powerful our environment can impact physical sensations, I decided to include a visualization of a powerful, magical or awe inspiring place in my most recent yoga nidra recording. Visualization is used in yoga nidra to tap into our suble energy bodies of intuition as well as activating the manomaya kosha (mind sheath of energy). I think this visualization is a wonderful exercise to allow us to tap into our vijyana maya kosha (intuition sheath of energy) as well as allowing us to connect to our ananda maya kosha (or bliss body). When we are connected to our ananda maya kosha expansion encompasses us. It is important that we continue to find ways for us to connect with our divine being (true nature) and continue to find new tools and techniques for releasing stress and creating expansion (sukkha) in our minds and bodies. I am happy to share this experience with all of you and hope you enjoy my new CD.
It may be nice for you to find some time this week to either imagine yourself in a place that “takes your breath away” or go to a place that amazes you. Nature is always a place where I feel inspired and speechless. For those of us in Calgary, try to go to the mountains and marvel at their vast size and strength. If you are pressed for time, close your eyes and imagine yourself there…visualizing is a very powerful technique….enjoy.
If you are experiencing chronic pain or struggeling to heal from an injury, take some time to think about your enviroment and how it may be impeding or stimulating transformation.
Sun Salutations are a great way to warm up the body before moving into deeper holds (asana). This is a very energizing practice which grounds us and expands our awareness of sensations in the body. In this practice we are sharing gratitude for the sun and all that it brings us. Enjoy gentle variations or practice with intensity. Always remember to practice with compassion and awareness. The purpose of yoga is not a tight butt, but quite the opposite. The purpose of yoga is to expand your mind, body and soul.
Here is a link to my youtube channel. Enjoy this short 15 minute deep relaxation exercise. To learn more about Yoga Nidra, refer to my previous post.
One of my favorite therapeutic yoga classes I offer is prenatal yoga. There is something extremely magical about teaching to a class of babies and mothers. I often joke about who I am really teaching to, but the fact is both the mother and her baby are gaining benefits from the practice. Some benefits of prenatal yoga include improved flexibility, stress reduction and most importantly strengthen the bond between mother and baby.
Specifically, prenatal yoga supports the body in it’s transitions through each trimester. For Example, offering flexibility to the hamstrings and gluteus maximus which tighten in response to rapid growth of the uterus. Offering relief to the hips which often tighten during pregnancy due to balance changes and overcompensation in the ligaments supporting the vertabrae. There is also a very large emphasize on creating strength and stability in the body to counteract the increased elasticity produced in the ligaments of the body due to increased levels of relaxin. The pelvic floor is also a large area of focus for prenatal yoga. The pelvic floor helps support the extra weight created through pregnancy. It is also important to focus on the floor of the pelvis as it helps to hold the body in place and support the skeletal structure. There are many specific physical benefits that accompany regular prenatal yoga practice and each individual experiences specific areas of improved mobility and stability in the body.
Stress is a large component of our lives in the western world. The physical demands put on us, especially during pregnancy can make this magical time seem unmanageable and down right unenjoyable. A consistent yoga practice during pregnancy can allow us time and space to feel supported, comfortable and free of aches and pains. Pranayama (breathing exersizes) and Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) are two very important pieces of helping women to slow down and de-stress during pregnancy. (please refer to my previous post about Yoga Nidra for more information).
Additional to working as a Yoga Therapist, I am also a counsellor working with children and families. In my work I see how important it is for parents to build a strong attachment with their children. The experience a child has in attaching to their primary caregiver, literally shapes their capacity and ability to build healthy attachments in the future. I like to emphasize attachment when teaching prenatal yoga. Strengthening the attachment with your child in stages of pregnancy is a profound gift to both the mother and her child.
I hope I have been able to highlight just some of the benefits to prenatal yoga. If you are interested in working one-on-one with me or attending my prenatal class, please contact me at email@example.com
I hope you all have a wonderful day, and thank-you so much for supporting my blog!
This blog post is a continuation from last week. In this post, I briefly outline the last three koshas that are explored in yoga nidra. I have also listed some of the benefits of this practice.
The third sheath is referred to as the manomaya kosha and is reflective of our cognition and emotional functioning. Yoga nidra stimulates the manomaya kosha in a variety of different ways. Some suggestions are to instruct the listener to count backwards with the breath or sense into feelings and emotions using polar opposites ie. reflecting on feelings of sadness and then joy. The manomaya kosha can be one of the more challenging sheaths to engage in yoga nidra. The benefits of working with this kosha are changing powerful cognitive and emotional patterns (samskaras) which can keep people stuck in negative behavioral patterns.
The fourth sheath is referred to as the Vijnanamaya kosha and is represented by our thoughts and beliefs. Yoga Nidra works with this sheath by using imagery, self-inquiry, and affirms new positive beliefs through the use of our sankalpa. Yoga nidra practices may assist in activating this energy field by challenging old beliefs and supporting evolution through creating new beliefs and thought patterns that support evolution and growth.
The fifth sheath is referred to as the anandamaya kosha. This is our most subtle energy layer. The goal of yoga nidra is to unite with this kosha and to experience pure bliss. The anandamaya kosha is what connects us to our heart center and is experienced through feelings of love, joy, bliss and unification with everyone around us.
Why practice Yoga Nidra?
• lowers levels of cortisol (stress hormone)
• lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels
• activates parasympathetic nervous system
• inducing relaxation response
• Calms the mind and deepens states of mediation
• Opens the heart and cultivates compassion to self and others
• activates healing energy and increases immune system
• improves sleep
• improves mental clarity
• strengthen and balance the endocrine system
As a Canadian yoga teacher, it is often difficult to convince my students that a large part of their practice should be laying in Shavasana. In a society which has such a strong emphasis on physical fitness, students often don’t see the value in working with the more subtle bodies of energy such as our breathe, our mind and our heart. Although I am faced with initial resistance, I have witnessed profound effects from offering this age old practice to the people that I work with. I have seen individuals thrive by teaching themselves to slow down and tune in.
Yoga nidra is a practice derived from the tantras which teaches individuals to consciously move into deep relaxation. One goal of this practice is to remain mentally alert while the body is asleep. Often people view relaxing as watching television, playing video games, or other activities where the mind is stimulated and the body is activated. Even sleep is not always “relaxing” as many of us grind our teeth and wake up with soreness from tensing out muscles throughout the night. Yoga nidra uses the conscious mind to help our bodies achieve an ultimate state of relaxation. In this state the body can move into the parasympathetic nervous system; restoring, healing and rejuvenating itself. Yoga nidra has many benefits which vary from person to person. This technique brings people into balance by offering them more or less of a specific quality. For example, someone with chronic fatigue may feel energized by a daily practice of yoga nidra where another person may use yoga nidra to calm feelings of anxiety or hyperactivity.
Each yoga nidra practice begins with stating your personal Sankalpa. This can be translated from Sanskrit as your intention or resolve. Your Sankalpa is a statement constructed of positive words in present tense which identifies your deepest heart’s desire. An example of a Sankalpa is “I am in optimal health” or “I am full of joy”. We also repeat our Sankalpa at the end of a yoga nidra because in this state of consciousness are minds are increasingly open to change and growth.
The five Koshas are often spoken about in yoga and refer to the five energy sheaths that can be identified and which make up an individual. In Yoga Nidra, we bring awareness to these layers to help us move deeper and deeper and eventually into the more subtle layers of our existence. One of the goals of yoga nidra is to connect with your anandamaya kosha which is the most subtle sheath, referred to affectionately as our divine being our inner truth. By connecting to this level of existence we are joined with our natural state of bliss.
The first sheath in the kosha model is the annamaya kosha. This layer is often the easiest to identify with and refers to the earth elements, or physical body. In yoga nidra we use progressive relaxation (focusing on specific parts of the physical body) to bring our awareness into the physical body. We always start with the right hand thumb for a few reasons. First of all, we believe that by creating patterns, students will begin to learn how to move deeper and quicker into a state of deep relaxation. Additionally, our hands have many nerve endings which make it easier to feel sensations.
The second sheath is the Pranamaya Kosha. This is the sheath of breath and energy. In Yoga Nidra, we guide students to focus on their breath and become aware of the individual rhythms of breathe. Deep breathing and the Yogic three-part-breath can be used to further move students into a state of deep relaxation by increasing the amount of blood flow and oxygen into the body. Working with the breath additionally promotes deep states of relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
The last three sheaths of yoga nidra are very subtle and are referred to as the manomaya kosha, the Vijnanamaya kosha and the anandamaya kosha. I will write another post on these sheaths in the next couple of weeks. I hope this helps all of you to gain a bit more of an understanding around Yoga Nidra and the benefits of the practise.
I will be offering a workshop at The Yoga Passion on December 9, 2011 which will teach people how to create their own yoga nidras as well as how to continue to explore the science behind this practise. Thank-you all for reading my blog. I am honoured to share my wisdom with all of you!
I am happy to announce that I will be co-teaching an 8 week Yoga Therapy session, beginning October 12, 2011 at Yoga Passion in Calgary. I will be facilitating this course with Anitra Apps, who is a very talented Yoga Therapist. This is going to be an amazing experience and one that I have been waiting to offer for a long time. There are many individuals that I work with who would benefit from a group setting for therapeutic yoga. If you are interested in registering, please contact Yoga Passion ASAP!
#23, 8 Weston Dr. S.W.
Calgary, AB T3H 5P2
Phone: (403) 441-0900