Category Archives: Yoga & Meditation

Inner Balance with Shoulderstand-Salamba Sarvangasana

It is important to practice what is called inversions in yoga. Inversions are said to have many benefits, such as calming the nervous system, easing the mind, reversing blood flow which can help clear congestion on many levels in the body, and keep the skin healthy and young. Yogis of the past said inversions are the fountain of youth, defying gravity and all her pressures…

Cautions to practicing inversions will be high blood pressure at first, as they might increase blood pressure but later on one may find it helps if medicated, pregnancy if you are new to yoga, and common things like back pain or injury, shoulder injury or neck issues. These poses are not to be taken lightly when practicing. Make sure you know your body or ask your yoga teacher for help and advice.

This week’s pose is a moderate inversion, meaning it is somewhat of an all-level inversion as it can be easily modified until one is strong enough to hold themselves up. Practice for a few breaths at a time, and work your way to a nice 15-20 breath hold over time. As always, I gear these simple articles to those with a bit of experience, consult with a qualified teacher if you are unsure of doing this on your own.

The practice

Start at a wall if you are new to the shoulder stand practice, and practice the first few steps using the wall, otherwise skip the wall prep and continue from there.

  1. Lie down on your back with your shoulders on a thinly folded yoga blanket that is on top of your yoga mat, and your head off the blanket. Bring your sit bones to the base board of your wall and rest your legs up the wall, arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees to 90 degrees placing the soles of your feet on the wall.
  3. Press your feet into the wall to lift your hips so they are in line with your chest. Place your hands to your lower back. See if this is too difficult and decide if you want to go on.
  4. Keeping the knees bent, keep pressing your feet into the wall to bring the hips more in line with the spine, if you can do this, take one leg up in the air in a straight line from hip to ankle. A lot of times my students over extend the leg to far over their heads, so think leg towards the wall, not towards the top of your mat.
  5. If you can do this confidently, take the other leg off the wall and hold yourself in the inversion by walking your hands down your back towards your shoulders.  Keep lifting the hips, using your core and gluing the legs together as if they were one leg.
  6. Stare at the big toes, and keep the weight of your body on your shoulders, not neck, remember this is not neck stand, it is shoulder stand.
  7. Keep lifting the legs up, and stay for as many smooth breaths as you can.
  8. Lower the feet to the wall when you are ready, and slowly lower down to your mat with the legs up the wall to rest.
  9. For more advanced practitioners, feel free to practice away from the wall, taking the legs into halasana first, and then lifting them into shoulderstand, and reversing the process to come down.
  10. Take your time lowering, to avoid any back spasms, use your core and legs to help you.  Rest for a few mins after in savasana or legs up the wall if you like.
  11. Sequence this pose at the end of your practice or practice on its own.

Doing the Crow

Bakasana is waiting for you, you just have to unpack it in pieces.

Try these asanas to get you there.

Bakasana  or crow pose is not only an arm balance but a hip opener so you have to prepare the body for both, once you work towards these asanas below you have the tools you need to condition your body to do crow, the mind stuff is on you, the yogi, to achieve to find the inner balance and focus. This is a great warming pose and a way to introduce arm balances into your body!

Asanas

  • Warm up with Surya Namaskara for 3-10 rounds, Classical will help to open the hips
  • Insert Chataranga Dandasana into Surya Namaskara, drop the knees if you are not strong enough yet, but at least you can get the framework of the arms, as you can see above, Bakasana has chaturanga arms in its basic stage.
  • To strengthen the arms you can do deltoid push ups, these are when we turn the hands slightly in and then lower slow. Think inhale up, exhale down for 3 counts each.
  • Try to hold Chaturanga for 3 breaths and gently lower all the way down, try not to plop, you will need to use a lot of core for this, keep your shoulders back, do not crowd your ears, practice this a few times every day to build strength
  • If low Malasana or yogic squat is hard, practice this for 10 breaths several times a day to open up the groin and hips.
  • Practice Lizard pose until you feel you can hold the asana for 8 breaths on the hands or forearms, use blocks until you can do away with them.
  • Practice doing crow on your sit bones:
    • Sit on the floor with your knees bent
    • Lift your heels so your big toes are the only thing to touch the floor
    • Widen your knees and bring your arms to the inside of your legs like doing crow on your sitbones
    • You will want to try to get the outside of your arms to slide down your legs so the knees are higher than the elbows
    • Tip back onto your sit bones like you do in boat pose and squeeze the arms to the legs, do this for 8-10 breaths to get the crow sensation in the body, activate the lower core a lot by drawing up and in.
  • Other helpful asanas you will find will be: Virabhadrasana I, Lolasana with blocks, Tolasana, Plank, Uttanasana, and perfecting your Vinyasas.
  • Remind yourself to breath and practice everyday, and soon your find the confidence to fly!

crow asanas

This article is designed for those with an instilled asana practice who understand the way to modify and practice the asanas listed. If you do not know these asanas yet or have not practiced them, ask a qualified teacher for help! Most teachers offer private sessions and can work with you one on one to help you achieve your asana goals. Pictures never replicate practice and good instruction! 

Jennifer has been teaching yoga practices like asana, meditation and pranayama for over 10 years in Northeast, Oh. She owns her own small studio outside Cleveland called Awaken Yoga. For more information on private sessions or skype private sessions, email her at hello@awakenyoga.com. 

Feel free to post your questions, I am happy to help!

A Yoga Community Divided

A Yoga Community Divided

Yoga…

Well, most say it means “to yoke” or “come together”.

Hmmmmm.

I have to say there is not a lot of coming together with yoga.

First, you’ve got to fall apart. Then, you put yourself back together.

I believe yoga is a path of undoing first, yes, but I also believe it goes even deeper than that. It’s a conscious act of trying not to repeat your mistakes. Then, and only then, can you truly put yourself back together.

When I write, it is through direct experience. I write what is happening around me or what inspires or challenges me. This article is about a long-time challenge that has been prevalent for the many years of doing what I do for a living.

The Yoga Community is a tough community.

You find your yoga bunnies who dress up the part with fancy clothes and tight designer wear. They think they are DOING yoga by simply making the shape of the pose. Usually this is set to some pop music, so really they are participating in a glorified exercise practice with a minimally-guided experience into asana, breath and spirituality.

You’ve got your pop-yogis, who are only interested in the fad of yoga. “Ooohhhh, look at my butt” or “OMG I was sooooo sweaty, that was an amazing workout!”

You’ve got your business yogis, who talk about yoga mostly in class, but on the street they have 3 faces; one for the studio, one for home, and one for their social life – all contradictory to one another. Let’s face it ladies and gents, gossip is gossip. In the space of Satya-truthfulness, it does not have its place in the yogic lifestyle.

You’ve got your Facebook yogis, who love to post everything about their lives along with big-worded inspirational quotes, so people will like them. Excuse me… people will click “like” and then forget what they posted 2 seconds later. You draw your own conclusion to that.

Now, you’ve got your studio yogis, who help their lives by taking a class or two a week to reduce stress and keep their physical body healthier. These are the yogis I see the most. They don’t know much about yoga beyond the studio or an asana practice – YET – but they know yoga is healing and helpful. They have the right attitude to delve deeper if they want to, or just stay where they are.

Then you have the inquisitive yogis, the ones who want to learn, read the books, take a retreat, and look a little deeper. They want to be a better person, more mindful and educated, and take risks to become happier and healthier.

It is a loud community.

So many people saying their piece and WANTING SO BAD to be heard. Be humble my friends. Respect your teachers, they are all around you. Not just the person who you take class with, but your students, friends, kids, people who challenge you emotionally or ethically. They are all your teachers, even your supposed heart chakra nemeses.

And boy oh boy, is this mostly female populated industry catty. Wow. It is funny how no one directly comes to you to shape their opinions anymore. Everyone just says, “I heard from so and so that _______” (you fill in the blank), and before you know it you’ve got a full blown war on your hands. And you didn’t even say a word otherwise.

It’s funny, we say GROW UP – but what I really want to say is loosen up or recall yourself as a younger, more easy-going person. Like as a child, when you just went up to people no matter their shape, size, nationality, sex, attractiveness and so forth, and made friends. You had your bullies growing up, and I am sorry to say from direct experience on both ends, you have them in the yoga community, too.

Hopefully you don’t see it. Hopefully you get to go to a class and enjoy a peaceful serene environment and truly love your teacher for what they offer you. I am praying for peace on all levels everyday, for myself, my friends, family, students, city, state… the world.

I respect boundaries, but words are knives. They are lasting. If only you were being celestially recorded and could hear yourself on playback throughout the day. How much of what you say would be truly sincere, non-harming and compassionate communication?

Try this: “OMG she/he is such a (insert bad word)“, and see how it impacts your energy level. Maybe you try instead, “Wow, I am hurt by this (insert information you are feeling)” or “I am sorry you are hurting, is what you say the truth or just what you are feeling?

Sometimes we are just emotional, and we suck others into that. But WE have to make the educated decision on how we react and move on from it. WE have to decide how we want to communicate and present ourselves to the world. But I think, and this is MY thought only, you do what you like to do. That so much is in what we don’t say, in the spaces and long pauses, or when we don’t say much and then when we finally do, that the meaning is conveyed.

Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone will be your friend. People take things personally all the time… LET THEM. You are only 100% accountable for YOURSELF and your behavior. The truth will show itself eventually, anyway.

Here are some things I do to draw my heart & mind into a better place in my community:

  • Create meaningful gatherings.
  • Respect individual boundaries, including my own and others’.
  • Nurture friendships & relationships.
  • Feel less connected to “mainstream” and more connected to “real stream”: Earth, sun, moon and ocean.
  • Release false idols like celebrity icons, media, what is in or out, and so forth…
  • Most of all, be a human being, and less human doing.

What are some ways you can cultivate heartfelt peace in your community?

How to create your own Silent Retreat

How to Create a Silent Retreat

The peak of summer is arriving, Solstice is on its way!

Right now something else is peaking in me. Anger…

It’s been about 3 months since I move out, separated from my husband.

It’s been about 6 months since going through a big shed and shift in relationships around me.

It’s been about 18 months since moving into a new home and having another child.

Right now, for some reason, I feel at the edge of the cliff again. The Fool’s journey. Do I leap or stay where I am?

I like the idea of the fool’s journey. It is the start after a graduation of a cycle of completion, and I am soooo ready to graduate from the last 2 years of my life.

I think this residual anger is taking a toll on my heart. I am ready to release it and make some big changes in my business and career, but those changes remain to be seen.

I am looking to surround myself with those who are grateful for yoga in their lives and for those who support that.

I am looking for support myself. I think in this living process, of the last 6 months especially, I have received support in so many ways and am learning from the holes in the support I did not receive. And I am ready to move on from that.

These holes are my own, so it is up to me to fill them. Right now, I am trying to fill them with love for my kids and family, resolving things in my marriage and committing myself to reaching out when I don’t feel supported, rather than festering over it.

I am told I am a giver, I am told I need to stop rescuing people, and now is the time to honor where I am.

I am ready to be rescued in some ways. It would be nice to be checked-in on, to have the knowledge that I crossed your mind today, that you were wondering if I was ok… this comes to mind right now. I think this is what I am so angry about… but then I realize EVERYONE has things going on, and move on from it.  It will be a part of my practice to reach out to someone every day, I hope, and just ask, “How are YOU doing?”.

Sometimes we take the breaks we need from things like social media, work, relationships, and regular tasks. It is healthy. It helps us redefine our routine and ourselves a bit.

So I say go for it. Take that much needed  break!

Those of you who can, do a day of silence. It is powerful!

If you have kids, a non-negotiable few hours can even help. UNPLUG. No media, no phone, computer, even fictional books. Journal, write, walk, breathe, stretch, relax, bathe, soften it all.

Most of the time, when you are quiet it might be for a couple of reasons — like self-protection or not wanting to burden other people with your stuff. During your Silent Retreat, make sure you take the time to really listen to the truth. Dig through that extra layer and I guarantee you will find the reason you are so upset isn’t really the reason you are upset.

This is why yoga is so powerful.

It helps us do the internal work so we don’t have to be so extroverted all the time and drowning in media and phones shouting at us all day long. I would rather have people do things out of good will for me and others, than feeling like it is expected.

So goodbye anger. You are no longer serving me. You have gotten me to pay attention to something deep, and to help me make the changes that will serve me.

As the sun rises and sets on the longest day of the year this Sunday, I am ready to decrease my anger and embody focus and healing on a deep solar and lunar level. I truly want to be the change I wish to see in the world. I pray for peace within me and to be surrounded by those with the same vision. I wish those who walk a different path would honor others’ paths, and to please go on their way so we may walk in light in our own way.  I am no longer slamming doors, but gently closing them so I may move on to another.

Jenn’s Silent Retreat Checklist

  • Pick a time that you know you will not be interrupted.
  • Let all your important people know you will be unplugging from life for however long you decide.
  • Have a journal close by.
  • For longer retreats, maybe an inspirational book or a book on meditation will be helpful. I love Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton or Meditation for Your Life by Robert Butera
  • Turn off your phone. Do not keep the computer around at all, and try not to listen to music, as well. Try for complete silence. It will get easier as the day goes on.
  • You can color a mandala. They have adult coloring books which are powerful and mind-clearing
  • Practice simple breath awareness or simple mind-fullness meditation (see my meditations for ideas)
  • Simple yoga postures or Surya Namaskara with some relaxation poses.
  • Take a bath and set the scene — candles, salts, oils, aromatherapy — and JUST SOAK.
  • Wrap yourself up and go to bed early.
  • If you can get a nature or beach walk in sometime during your Silent Retreat day, DO IT!