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Foundation Friday: Balasana

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This post is yet another instalment in a series that delves into the basics of yoga—looking at its postures (asana), breath (pranayama), philosophy, and all the other essentials—giving you the foundations upon which to build a solid practice. Today's posture is another great addition to our Grounding Series.


Foundation Friday: Balasana


Pose, or Asana Child's Pose bah-lah-sah-nah

Mmm. Child's Pose.

Don't you just love it when your teacher says those words, offering you the chance to retreat inside, to turn inwards, to shut off all external noise and simply breathe? Child's pose, or Balasana, is frequently offered as a break within sequences, a time to re-establish steady breath, calm the heart rate, or return to intention if we've gravitated away from what we've set out to do.

Why is child's pose so grounding and calming?

  1. First of all, the shape of the spine in a child's pose mimics the shape of the spine in a fetal position—and our time in utero was, for most of us, the most stress-free, comforting, and grounded environment we've ever known. It's a gentle reminder to our bodies, and then our minds, to return to that calm, quiet state.
  2. Secondly, all forward folds are—in their physical nature—calming and quieting as our bodies are literally turning in towards themselves. The anatomical action of folding our bellies, chests, and faces into our legs—or in this case, the floor—seals us away from whatever is going on externally so we can only look at ourselves.
  3. Further, the action of resting the forehead down on something (the earth, stacked fists, a block) gently stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve helps to regulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the part that allows us to rest and relax), and in doing so it naturally lowers our heart rate, blood pressure, lessens tension and the stress hormone cortisol. That's why child's pose is also an excellent bed-time posture!

Balasana may help…

  • Opens through your hips, thighs, and ankles
  • Open the shoulders (especially in the traditional variation)
  • Calm anxiety, soothe stress, and relieve fatigue
  • Help move your nervous system into a more relaxed state

So, how do I get there? 

  1. From Downward Facing Dog, lower your knees down, about mat-distance apart.
  2. Touch your toes together, and rest your seat back on your heels.
  3. Fold your torso forward. Let your belly rest in between your thighs.
  4. Extend your arms forward, palms facing down.
  5. Find someplace for your forehead to rest—if the ground is not available, you can use a block, a folded blanket, or even stack your palms or your fists.
  6. Breathe.
*For a more traditional Balasana, work with your legs parallel to each other (hip-distance apart), and extend your arms back, alongside your body with your palms facing up.

We hope this helps you better understand balasana, or child's pose. Please feel free to comment on our Facebook with any further questions. And let us know if you have something you would like to see featured in Foundation Friday!

Foundation Friday: Savasana

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  This post is the first in a new series that delves into the basics of yoga—looking at its postures (asana), breath (pranayama), philosophy, and all the other essentials—giving you the foundations upon which to build a solid practice. First off, we’ll be taking a look at the quintessential yoga asana, or pose—savasana.

 


Foundation Friday: Savasana


 

Asana

Corpse Pose, or “Savasana”

(sava=corpse, asana=pose)

sha-vass-a-na

 

 

Savasana is the most important—and perhaps, the most difficult—pose in yoga. While it may appear that someone in savasana is simply setting up for a nap, the goal is not actually to fall asleep—rather, savasana intends to mimic the restful effects of sleep by rejuvenating the body, mind, and spirit while the practitioner remains conscious. Since we are not distracted by sensory sensation in this restful position, we are perfectly prepared to lie in quiet awareness of our breath, of our mind, and our humble presence. Without attaching any judgment on to our pattern of breath or to any thoughts that may arise, we may simply be conscious of them.

 

Why do we practice savasana?

 

Savasana is a perfect place to pause and find some peace before yoga, to settle our minds and bodies, to get ourselves into a quiet space, setting the tone for our practice. After asana practice, it is so important to take savasana—savanasa is where our bodies make sense of everything that happened throughout practice. This is the time that we can integrate any new sensory information throughout our bodies—where we can soak up all the goodness of practice and let it sink in. It is also an exercise in calming the nervous system, and just like any muscle in our body, the more we can train our brains to find quiet—to slow down and simply notice things the way they are—the stronger our brains and nervous systems will be at mimicking the same quiet, stillness, and calm throughout the rest of our lives.

 

Savasana may help…

 

• Decrease your heart rate • Lower your blood pressure • Alleviate muscle tension • Lessen anxiety • Heighten your ability to concentrate or focus • Increase your energy levels

 

 

How do I get there? 

 

  1. First, lie on your back. Lay your feet outstretched from your body about hip-width distance apart, with your arms outstretched a few inches away from your side body, palms face up.
  2. Let your toes relax to the sides (your feet may rotate outwards slightly).
  3. Slightly tuck your tailbone under to lengthen your spine.
  4. Tuck your shoulder blades underneath your body to open across your chest.
  5. Slightly tuck your chin in to keep the back of your neck long.
  6. Close your eyes.
  7. Relax and soften everywhere that you can in your body.
  8. Release any breathing technique you may have been using in class—breathe naturally.

***Note: comfort is essential in savasana—find whichever variation of savasana is the most relaxing to you, so that it will be easier for you to avoid distractions.

If this position is uncomfortable, you can:

 

  • Keep your upper body the same, but bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall wide
  • Place the soles of your feet mat-width distance apart and rest your knees together (helps if you are experiencing lower back discomfort)
  • Place a bolster under your knees (also helps with lower back discomfort)

 

We hope this helps you better understand the concept of savasana. Please feel free to comment with any further questions. And let us know if you have something you would like to see featured in Foundation Friday!

 

 

Rest & Digest

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Digestion, the actual breaking down of a whole into its parts so that the pure can be extracted and incorporated into the body and the impure can be expelled.


We tend to think of digestion as a physical act of our food being broken down and made into usable energy (ATP) for the body, which it is; however, we tend to forget that we are digesting everything all the time.  We digest emotions, reactions, life events, basically anything that is brought in to the body from the external and is internalized needs to be digested.


When we don't slow down enough to allow the body to shift into our parasympathetic nervous system, rest and digest, we not only literally put our active food digestive system to halt, we don't digest life's events either, both of which get stored in the body in different ways, shapes, and forms, eventually bunging the body up and cause a reaction.


Typically IBS, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, indigestion, epigastric discomfort, etc are our digestive tract issues; emotionally we see a restless or dull mind, anxiety, and even depression from lack of glucose able to go to the brain.

How to cure digestive woes? It is a life style.  It is NOT a momentary diet, though these can be helpful to get the digestive system back on track.  If we want to truly nourish our health, it is through our food and it is over our entire life span from the moment we choose to be healthy to the moment we pass on.


It is healthy living, it is choosing to love yourself so much that you only want to put good things into your temple/vessel/body.


People change their diets when they are pregnant so that the baby has a chance to come out healthy, but why do we ourselves not want to be healthy?  Marketing?  Corporations tell us otherwise?  If you are truly wanting to uplift your digestion, you must uplift your Self first, so  eating healthy comes from a place of truth and yearning for well being, not from a place that wants to be skinny so that other people will think you are perfect.


It is meditating so your mind is clear and free of desire, it is avoiding rag mags, tv, and general advertising that makes you think you need to be anything more than your truest self.


At the core of your being, you want to live a fruitful, healthy, happy life and I can guarantee you, that truth does not say " I want McDonald's."

 

Amen, Namaste, Om Sarah Z

 


Sarah is leading the upcoming 'Digestive Restore' workshop at Yogalife Studios North this weekend. This session is full but please stay in touch at info@yogalifestudios.ca to learn about her next one!

3 Reasons Why You Need a Restorative Yoga Practice

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Adapted from Mind Body Green

 

Restorative yoga has a wonderful way of allowing our entire physical body to relax.  This practice is an “active relaxation” class where we purposely support the body in yoga postures with props so we can stimulate and relax the body towards balance. Muscle and joint tension melts away, the endocrine (governor of hormones) system will be restored and any residual stress in the nervous system washes away.  We are left with better digestion, energy levels and a good overall sense of well being.

 


Maybe you strive to go to super power core and sweaty, hot Vinyasa three times per week, and run every day after work, but how often do you stop to truly relax and connect to your self?
Here are three reasons why I think keeping a gentle yoga class as part of your weekly practice is so super important.

 

1. You'll relax. 

 

There is a certain relaxation that comes at the end of a sweaty, power yoga class. But what if you could feel that blissful state of relaxation and release for an entire hour-long class?! That’s what gentle yoga feels like to me. Rarely will you be asked to hold a downward dog at all, and definitely not for more than a breath or two at a time.
Gentle classes are typically slow-moving, connecting each deep, lengthened breath with the next as you move deeper into each stretch or twist, making space and then slowly melting in to it.

 

2. You'll connect to the divine. 

 

Whether you have a solid spiritual practice or are looking to delve deeper into your spirituality, gentle yoga is the perfect place for a moving meditation. Practice bringing your attention to the Divine and allowing yourself to be cracked open with every gentle back bend. Listen to what comes up with every hip opener. Be present for what speaks to you.

 

3. It will help with intention-setting. 

 

I was honored to lead a gentle yoga class on the evening of MLK Day here in Austin. I spoke about ahimsa, or non-violence, from David’s Frawley’s Yoga and Ayurveda. I read a favorite quote of mine from the mouth of the Doctor himself:
 


 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

I asked the class to set an intention to focus on ahimsa during their practice that evening. I asked them to imagine, with every inhale, filling up with a bright light, or an energy, that represented non-violence and loving kindess. With every exhale I encouraged the class to release everything else that wasn’t serving them right then in that moment, to allow for focus and attention on ahimsa.

The classroom reverberated with energy and love and at the end of the practice, I felt so uplifted! Many students reacted the same, and went floating out of class for the evening, truly on a yoga high. Imagine the possibility of even the smallest intention, set to your moving meditation and dedicating every breath of your practice to bringing that intention in to being. It is so powerful!

 

 


Yogalifer Emily McNicoll shares her personal insight on this nurturing practice:


"My passion around restorative yoga lies not only in helping people heal their body and mind but to provide a sacred experience in which they can shine a light on the shadowy sides of the self and ultimately feel more comfortable in their own skin."


 

Our upcoming "Rest & Restore" workshop, hosted by Emily, is full to the brim!  If you would like to stay in the loop for the next workshop please email us at info@yogalifestudios.ca