In the Vinyasa Foundations series this past Monday we focused on lowering into Chaturanga Dandasana from both plank on the knees and high plank using a block under the chest as a guide to how much to lower down. It is important to be aware of how your shoulders are positioned during the transition in to Chaturanga as letting the shoulders roll forward can lead to injury. This article outlines some strengthening and activating exercises to ensure proper function and alignment for your shoulders. Enjoy!
On the second Friday of each month I (Sarah-Jane) lead a Kirtan at Omtown Yoga studio in Nanaimo. Kirtan, for those who are unfamiliar, is a devotional singing gathering where we chant call and response style both simple mantras and more complex peoms or verses. One of my favourite chants to lead includes a variation of So Hum - Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung. If you like singing and chanting a melodic tune then check out this very sweet version of the mantra, by Kundalini Kirtan artist Snatam Kaur, here.
Plank pose aka Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasa aka Kumbhakasana is a standard pose in most yoga classes and especially in Vinyasa classes. By the time the class has finished you could have easily done plank pose 10 times or more and be moving through it quite quickly on your way to a back bend. Due to the nature of yoga sequencing, the finer points of this foundational pose can get glossed over and lead to misalignment or habits that don't do us much good. Here is a good article to help with the finding more stability in your shoulders, strength in your core and ultimately more power and grace in your practice.
The physical benefits of yin yoga are extensive but there is so much more going on inside beyond the physical. Here is a great article that explains why the silent aspect of the practice is beneficial -
About 6 months ago, Jacqueline Medalye the owner and creative force behind Salt Spring Malas invited me over to pick out the beads and special accents for a mala that she gifted me. In her workshop, I was surrounded by strands of crystal beads of all colours neatly arranged hanging on the walls. I was immediately drawn to these lovely matte beauties in colours of blues, whites, and greens. Jacqueline, explained the significance and qualities that the stones represented, we chose some accent beads to complete the Mala and then I was on my way. I couldn't wait to wear my beautiful strand of 108 beads but had to be patient as Jacqueline still had to make the Mala by hand threading each bead.
The mala in it's lovely storage pouch was delivered to me 2 weeks later and it was more beautiful than I remembered. While Malas can and often are worn as jewelry they are a tool to be used during Japa Meditation. This style of meditation uses a mantra - a word or short phrase repeated 108 times to focus and clarify the mind. To aid in staying on track, as it is really difficult to be focused on the mantra and keep count at the same time, a 108 bead Mala is used, with one bead representing one recitation of the mantra. The beads have a little bit of space in between them so they can be slid along the string that holds them together making it easier to use only one hand to keep track.
My mala has a lovely weight to it which makes using one hand to move the beads through my fingers even easier. The stones take on the warmth and oils from my fingers as I practice giving the mala a well worn and loved patina. I hang my mala up in a very visible place when I am not using it so it reminds me to take the time - even 5 minutes - each day to sit. Some days, I just hold the mala in my hands and don't use the whole strand for counting and it still works as a tool for focus and concentration. Ultimately, I know I don't need anything material to meditate but just like a comfy cushion makes meditation more enjoyable, a beautiful mala can be an inspiration to practice and a trusty tool during practice.
Jacqueline will be at the Nest this Wednesday October 27th from noon - 8pm selling a one of a kind collection of 108 malas, bracelets and other yoga jewelry at discounted prices. Hope to see you there.
According to Ayurvedic principles, spicy and warming foods help stir up the digestion and stoke our inner fires which is important at this time of year due to the cooling temperatures.
I like to eat this warming and nutritious spiced apple cereal starting at this time of year. This recipe can be found on page 133 of the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, MS, CN.
1 cup brown basmati rice (soaked overnight)
1 Tblsp raw apple cider vinegar
3 to 4 cups of water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of salt
2 tsp coconut
2 to 3 apples - cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup dries currants or raisins
2 Tblsp maple syrup
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 to 6 tblsp water
a handful of chopped raw walnuts
Soak the rice overnight in a bowl with the vinegar. Drain and rinse the rice and place in a blender with the water spices, and sea salt. Blend on high until smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook stirring occasionally, until the cereal has thickened and the rice is cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
To make the topping, heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, currants, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the water and simmer, uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Fill individual bowls with the hot cereal and spoon the apple mixture over each. Top with the chopped walnuts.
.........it's a little cooler in the morning and the sunsets earlier and earlier each day. I (Sarah-Jane) have been spending quite a bit of time this past month traveling between Salt Spring and the mainland where my parents are. The many hours spent on ferries and driving have given me lots of time to reflect on what is working, what is inspiring and what needs to change both in my personal and work life. The foundation of my work as a yoga teacher is my commitment to being a life long yoga student. As I continue to learn and grow in this role as a student it is reflected in how and what I have to offer as a teacher. I am very excited to offer some more in depth series based classes this autumn as a way of helping us all move forward on the yogic path with a solid foundation. I hope that you will embrace the new style of offerings and join us on the journey.
I realize that some schedules and commitments in life may not allow you to fully participate in a whole series so drop ins are welcome if there is space. There are still a few drop in classes on the schedule so check it out here.
If you have any questions please send me an email.
See you on the mat with an open mind and heart,
A common phrase that I hear when I take yoga classes (or am the recipient of unsolicited advice!) is "let it go". Sounds simple enough but if it was that easy would we really need to be reminded of the idea each time we lay down at the end of class? Mary Oliver is one of my all time favourite poets as she draws inspiration from nature on how to approach life and hits the mark each time. Below is her poem "in blackwater woods" where she unpacks the idea of "letting go" a bit. She advises to love deeply, take it all in and then release adding depth and process to the need to "let go". Next time you are in savasana or advised to "let go" add in these few steps and see if you can get closer to surrendering.
in blackwater woods. mary oliver.Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Summer is a fiery abundant time of year full of activities and adventures. All of this excitement can drain the energy stores and leave a sense of depletion. Take some time to cool your jets and recharge with this short practice.
Depending on how much time you have this practice can take between 10 and 30 minutes (or longer). You can let your intuition guide you if you have more time or use a timer if you have less time. Adding in the use of a pillow or bolster under your knees in Savasana and reclined cobblers pose can up the restorative factor. Only have 5 minutes? Go straight for legs up the wall.
A more restorative style practice at this time of year helps to slow down the pace of life and soothe the nervous system promoting overall health and well being. Enjoy!
The strong yogi in the above picture is my friend TJ and this picture was taken by her husband Pete during their honeymoon in Europe. Imagine what the trees in the picture have experienced over the many years they have been standing there with their roots intertwined - storms, sunshine, wind, rain, snow, being shaped and sculpted by human hands and ideas. They just keep on standing through it all - rooted and solid but with just enough flexibility and fluidity to take all the weather that is thrown their way. We can learn a lot from these trees....
I love this pose because it is so simple and familiar yet powerful. The sanskrit name for this standing balancing pose is Vrikshasana - Vriksha meaning tree and Asana meaning pose. In the Moksha level 1 and 2 series' tree pose is practiced close to the beginning as an opportunity to dial in focus and concentration. A still and steady gaze helps to still the fluctuations of the mind and improve the ability to balance on one foot. While a certain amount of stillness is sought there is never absolute stillness as there is the movement of our breath and the constant micro movements of our standing foot to keep us upright. Trees are living representations of being solid yet fluid, individuals part of a supportive community, and a testament to growth that can be achieved by simply standing there. The next time you are in tree pose imagine your roots growing down and intertwining with what is below you, bring awareness to the subtle shifts and movements of your body and find that solid yet fluid place to rest and breathe.
Sarah-Jane loves learning, listening, sharing and doing yoga!