Yoga for a Snow Day

Shoveling snow – especially the heavy, wet stuff we just got – can tweak our backs, make our arms sore and get the heart rate up. To relieve some of that tightness, try this gentle restorative sequence.

Snow-shoveling sequence

Make your movements slow and deliberative, following your breath and taking as long as you need to in each pose.

  • Cat/cow – loosen up the spine with several rounds of cat/cow
    • Exhale as you arch your back in cat/inhale as you drop your belly in cow
  • Child’s pose/tabletop – continue to loosen the spine and focus on the breath as you relieve tension overall
    • Exhale into child’s pose/Inhale into tabletop
  • Downward Facing Dog (Adho mukha svanasana)
    • From tabletop, step back into Downward Facing Dog, pedaling your feet to loosen the leg muscles.
  • Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
    • From Downward Facing Dog, step forward into Forward Fold. Keeping the knees bent, let the upper body drape over your thighs and let gravity do some work as you release tension in the neck
  • Eagle Arms  – Come to standing and move into Eagle Arms
    • Extend your arms out at shoulder heighth, bring the right arm under the left and cross your arms, bringing your palms together if you can. If not, you can keep the backs of your hands touching and hook a finger or two. Another option is to place your hands on your opposite shoulders.
    • Once you have your hands placed, lift the elbows, broadening the upper back. If your hands are on your shoulders, push your elbows forward.
    • Take several breaths, then release the hands and arms.
    • Repeat, this time bringing the left arm under the right.
  • Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) – rest in this pose for at least five minutes, to release tension in low back while stretching tight hamstrings.

5 things you can do in 5 minutes for your yoga practice

With kids, work, school and all the other obligations we have in our lives, most of us don’t have big blocks of time to devote to a long practice.

But in just five minutes you can:

1.   Focus on your breath. First, notice it without making any changes. Is it hard, shallow, sticking in any spot? Then begin a slow inhalation and exhalation, making them of equal count. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, lengthen your exhale. Depressed or need more energy? Lengthen your inhale.

2.    Bring yourself to the present. For the next few minutes, be aware of what you’re doing. For instance, instead of going on autopilot to wash the dishes, consciously feel the soapy water, the dish in your hand, the movement of your arms and hands as you scrub the pot.

3.    Do a few poses. No need to do a complete practice, just get your body moving with some cat/cow, sun salutations or down dog-to-plank vinyasas. It will wake you up mentally and physically.

4.    Read inspirational material. Read two or three yoga sutras (The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali is one text), a paragraph from the Bhagavad Gita or any book that speaks to you.

5.    Write in your journal about your practice. What has changed for you – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually – since you started your yoga journey?

Yoga Nidra, restorative yoga, yin yoga….what are the differences?

We often get asked what are yoga nidra, restorative and yin yoga classes. It’s true that all three are slow moving (or no moving!) classes and props are generously used in all three. But that’s where their similarity ends. Since we’re starting a restorative yoga class August 14, we thought it would be a good time to explain the differences between yoga nidra, yin and restorative yoga.

Yoga nidra is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, where our body is relaxed and our mind is awake. It’s a type of guided meditation designed to help us access our theta and delta brainwaves (which help with creativity and problem-solving) while keeping us in our beta state (everyday consciousness state).

Yoga nidra is done in a savasana-like pose. If you’ve ever taken Gail Herzog’s yoga nidra class, she insists students use as many blankets, pillows and blocks to be as comfortable as possible. The idea, she says, is to be so completely relaxed as to “sink into bliss.”

Yin yoga also involves props. Yin and restorative yoga both hold poses for 3 or more minutes but their goals are different. Yin yoga’s aim is to stretch the connective tissue of the hips, pelvis and lower spine and access deeper layers of fascia. It was created by Paulie Zink and involves variations of seated and supine positions.

Restorative yoga’s goal is to release muscle tension through the use of props. Sequences typically are only five or six poses, are held for 5 minutes or more and include light twists, seated forward folds and gentle backbends. Most restorative practices are based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar.

In restorative yoga, props either support or anchor a pose. Support poses use blankets, bolsters and blocks to lift the body and support it from below, such as in Child’s pose. Anchoring poses use sandbags and straps to gently press or hold the body in place, such as in Supta Baddha Konāsana (Reclined Bound Angle).

Join Gail Herzog in our first restorative yoga class Monday, August 14, 7:15-8:30 pm. Cost is $15 and space is limited to 8. Message us through Facebook to reserve your spot.


Update on my meditation challenge

On Nov. 30, I started a 22 day meditation challenge for myself, pledging to sit in meditation for at least 5 minutes each day. While we can “get into the zone” while running or find ourselves in a peaceful state while gardening or doing some mindless activity such as the dishes, I specified “sitting in meditation” because I wanted it to be a conscious act.

In the past, when I’ve meditated on a regular basis, I’ve found that my life goes better. I’m more calm, more focused. Bumps in life’s journey aren’t so rough and the universe seems to speak to me more often in ways I don’t always figure it would.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m either dreaming more or remembering my dreams more.

Do you meditate on a regular basis?

Take the meditation challenge

Interested in developing a regular meditation practice? I’d like to! So I’m challenging myself to meditate daily from 2 Dec through 24 Dec. for at least 5 minutes.

Feel free to join me (Danette). We’ll use this space to share our experiences, what works for us, what doesn’t, etc.

Not sure how to meditate? Here’s how to do it:
1. Sit comfortably with your hips higher than your knees. Use a cushion if you need to; you could also sit in a chair. But don’t lie down.
2. Your hands can be in your lap, palms up, right hand on top of left. Or you can place your wrists on your knees, palms up, thumbs touching your forefingers.
3. Close your eyes. Slowly breath in and out through your nose without trying to control the breath. Just keep your mind focused on the breath.
4. Your mind will start to wander – this is natural! It’s that “monkey mind” that we’re trying to control, those thoughts that constantly ping around inside our heads as if they’re steel balls in a pinball machine.
5. When you notice you’re thinking of something, gently bring your focus back to your breath. No need to beat yourself up about it, just acknowledge it and refocus.

Just like practicing yoga, keeping to a restrictive diet, or following an exercise program, you’ll have days when it’s easy and days when it’s tough. Just remember it’s “progress, not perfection.”