This week I am taking a slight diversion from the chakras to share an experience that puts yoga therapy into action. Early in the week I had an experience that taught me again how closely connected the body, mind and emotions really are. After completing a very difficult conversation one afternoon, I got into the car to drive about 20 minutes to teach a class. While driving I worried over the conversation, what I had said, what the other person had said and when I got to my destination, my back had seized up so that I could barely stand up straight. All of that emotion had settled into the part of my body that seems to hold all of my emotional baggage.
Since then I have been working with this sequence to calm the inflammation and regain range of motion. The next time your body reacts to an emotional situation, give yourself the time and space to feel the feelings in your body, where do they live, what might that tell you about yourself? Always with a gentle and non-judgmental attitude, be willing to uncover and discover how tightly knit the mind, body and emotions are and how they ultimately affect one another. If a difficult situation creates pain, then cultivate calm and peace so that the body can regain ease and comfort.
Lie on the side with a bolster or rolled blanket under side ribs and a second bolster to support the head Extend bottom arm between the two bolsters. Begin with both knees bent then try extending top leg in line with the rest of the spine. Raise the top arm overhead and support with the head bolster. Breathe into the rib cage that faces the ceiling. Rest 3-5 minutes per side.
Therapeutics: Opens both sides of thoracic region increasing breath capacity
Salamba Bhujangasana (Supported Sphinx)
Lay on belly with legs together and toes pointed back. Bring forearms to floor with elbows aligned under shoulders and forearms parallel to each other, palms facing down. Lift sternum forward and up through crown of head. If lower back feels vulnerable, engage belly away from floor. Hold 5-10 breaths and release chest to floor with hands under forehead.
Therapeutics: Stretches front of body, creates space between vertebrae
While in Sphinx pose, hold the hands open with the palms facing upwards. Touch the tips of the ring and pinkie fingers together.
Benefits: Reduces stress and blood pressure
Benefits: Helpful for anxiety and insomnia
Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)
Lay on the belly with the legs together and the toes pointed. Stack the hands palms down with the elbows out the sides and rest the forehead on the back of the hands.
Therapeutics: Gently stretches the front of the spine
Cow: Begin on the hands and knees, toes pointed. Inhale lift the sternum forward and drop the pubic bone back between the legs to arch the spine.
Cat: Exhale round the back and drop the head and tail bone towards the floor.
Repeat with your breath 10 times.
Therapeutics: Massages the internal organs and warms-up the muscles along the spine.
Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)
Begin on the hands and knees, feet flexed. Reach the hands forward and press the hips back so that they are directly over the heels. Extend through the sides of the body being careful not to arch to back.
Therapeutics: Provides traction for the spine and warms up the shoulders.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Begin on all fours with hands slightly forward of shoulders. Turn toes under and lift knees off floor. Keep shoulders wide and palms flat, press thighs and sit bones back, scooping belly in.
Hold 1-3 minutes, release into Child's Pose.
Therapeutics: Strengthens arms and shoulders, stretches back of torso and legs
Krishna's Side Bend
Stand in Tadasana. Cross the right ankle over the left by turning the right knee out and pressing ball of the right foot into the floor. Krishna is often shown with his feet in this position, hence the name. Press the front of the left shin and outside of the right ankle together. Reach the right arm up over the head, turn the right palm downward with a gently curved arm. Hold the left hand in front of the pelvis, palm upward with a gently curved arm. Side bend to the left and hold for 5 breaths.
Therapeutics: Stretches the side body, encourages breath in the lateral torso, increases balance and focus.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
Stand with feet wide apart. Bend forward from hips placing hands between feet. Release spine forward with crown of head facing floor.
Hold up to 1 minute, then return to standing by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Therapeutics: Intense hamstring stretch, opens back of body
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose or Queen's Pose)
Sit in front of two long-fold blankets or a bolster parallel to mat. Place soles of feet together and let knees move apart resting on blocks or bolster. Place looped strap around back of pelvis between thighs and over outside edge of feet to help lengthen low back. Lie back over bolster and place blanket under head. Rest 5-15 minutes, then release
Therapeutics: Relaxes floor of pelvis, opens belly and chest, creates a sense of safety and calm
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.