10 min Field of Vision & Sensational Awareness

MME Album Art(meditation: 10:47 min) This meditation is a combination of two practices. It starts with Field of Vision and then shifts to Sensational Awareness.

This meditation is great for people who prefer eyes open practices and who also want to work with pain or discomfort in their bodies.

Instructions:

  1. Begin by getting into position, whatever position works best for your body. This position will become your body-mind’s signal that you are starting a practice. I suggest the following:
  • Sit on a chair (sofa, bed, etc) with your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands in your lap. Feel your sit bones pressing down. Float the crown of your head up so that it softly lifts your torso into alignment. Let your back body be a bit firm to maintain this posture and your front body be soft and relaxed.
  1. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe for a few breaths.
  2. Then, soften your eyelids and open your eyes. Look down, comfortable distance in front of you at the floor or desk/table if you are sitting at your desk/table.
  3. Let your physical eyes be soft, relaxing the muscles around the eyes. Your vision may get blurry at some point, and let that happen.
  4. Notice what you can see in front of you and also widen your attention to notice your whole field of vision. With out moving your eyes or head, take in your peripheral vision.
  5. Let thoughts float through the background like passing clouds.
  6. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts and you’re no longer noticing what you’re looking at, gently bring your attention back to what you can see.
  7. After a few minutes, shift your attention to your breath for a few breaths, and then into body. Find an area of the body that is stiff, sore or painful.
  8. Bring your attention to this part, honoring it with your attention. You are not trying to make it go away, instead you are noticing it in all of it’s uncomfortable glory. It is there for a reason, and we’re honoring the wisdom of our body – the signals that it is giving us.
  9. Notice the qualities of the area, how big it is (where are the edges?), how dense? how sharp/dull, what texture? if you could see it what color would it be? etc.
  10. When you feel ready or when your timer rings, end the practice by bringing your attention back to your breath for a few breaths and then gently opening your eyes.

 

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3 Minute Yoga: Back and Knee Flexibility

(video 2:45) We also worked on back and knee flexibility.

Here are a few quick yoga exercises that you can do to regain flexibility in your back and knees.

Here is how I see these exercises working best for your body: If you have back or knee issues, for each movement only bend or stretch as far as feels good. If you do these exercises with out straining yourself (stopping your bend or stretch BEFORE it hurts) you will allow your body (muscles and joints) to relax and loosen. You will find that as we repeat each exercise you will naturally be able to bend or stretch a tiny bit more each time, eventually regaining your natural flexibility in that area. Celebrate each centimeter of improved flexibility!

If instead you push your body into the pain zone as you do these movements, your muscles will tense up to protect your body. You will not relax or loosen, and you will not regain flexibility. You will remain stiff. At best you will keep your injuries in place and at worst you could injure yourself more.

Of course, you may not agree with me, and you are welcome to use these exercises in the way is best for you. Whatever you do, enjoy being bendy!

 

Sun Saltuation de L’ile de Re

(video 3:46min) And now for something different…

This summer, I had the pleasure of sharing yoga with several lovely humans new to it. Over the course of the week, we slowly built up to doing a Sun Salutation…  and here it is.

Note on breathing: There are many, many schools of thought in yoga on how to breathe. For me, the most important part is that you connect your breathing with your movements, meaning that you time your movements to your breath. Whether you’re breathing in or out during a certain movement isn’t as important as that the movement starts when your breath starts. As you begin to breathe in (or out) you begin a movement. Then as you begin to breathe out (or in) you begin the next movement.

Enjoy breathing as you move! 🙂

Broken to Joy Series: How to Be Present Using Body Sensations

(video) The body is an amazing tool for awareness. Eckhart Tolle calls the body a portal to presence and many, many, many traditions use body based practices, because the body, unlike the mind, is always operating in the present moment.

Ground into the body, ground into the present.

Why?

Because a body movement only happens right now. A moment ago was a different movement and the next will change again. Yes, sometimes these changes are quite small and with sufficient attention even they can be noticed. Physical sensations change every moment, too. (Check it out for yourself!)

And, so it becomes a game, getting curious about the body… What is my body doing and feeling right now? How is this moment different? And this one? And this? And as the mind gets intrigued about the dance, the dance of walking, of typing, of running, of driving… the dance of living.

It’s so much fun!
What body awareness practices do you do?

Enjoy,
Elena
theJoyLab.net

Learning to Fall with Grace Part II

hong kong from the peak

Ok, so now that I’ve started playing with the physicality of falling down, I moved on to another forward roll technique to keep my mind engaged in the activity, and have invited the emotional part to come and play too. Yikes.

After warming up a bit and checking in with my self (Everything ok in here to play this way right now? Yes. Great. Let’s go!) I opened to the fear of falling (I imagined slipping), located the fear in my body (belly and throat as well curiously, hadn’t noticed that aspect of it before), felt into it, took a breath for courage and did a forward roll. Shew… scary. After a few rolls it came to me to just fall down on the futon and lie there as if I had fallen for real. Oh boy.

I ended up flat on my back full of fear and all of these associated feelings of incapacity, inability and unworthiness welled up. Then it came to set up a safety bubble and I laid sprawled in the fears for as long as I could, breathing gently and staying open.

Then I had to eat some chocolate and distract myself with washing some dishes.
I hadn’t expected this fear to go so deep!

After relaxing a bit, and checking in again (“Everything ok in here to do some more?”) I started playing again and noticed that the fear was much, much less intense. Great!

A Technique to Splay with

Here is the second forward roll technique, this time from gymnastics…
I found the video a helpful visual, but I really needed the written instructions below before I understood how to do this roll, so I recommend watching the video to get the idea and then reading the steps below for full understanding… and then of course, splaying with it!

Gymnastics forward roll (link to the video)

Do-a-Forward-Roll Instructions (text)

Note: I found using my hands helped with this one. First, to contact the floor lightly at the beginning of the roll helped me land on my shoulders (not on head or neck, please!), and second, at the end of the roll, immediately stretching them out in the air in front of me helped maintain and direct the momentum of my body up to standing.

Happy Splaying!,
Elena

Learning to Fall with Grace

hong kong from the peakOften, I walk up a very steep hill. This is Hong Kong, which is much like San Francisco, we don’t kid around with steep. This is 123 meters of elevation gain in less than a kilometer… That’s steep. It’s so steep that it is cemented with horizontal lines for increased traction, the whole way up. Yep, steep.

I’m walking up one rainy, slippery day and I get that familiar gut wrenching fear that I might slip and fall and suddenly it occurs to me, do I have to continue like this? What can I do to interact with this fear in a friendly way, to change my stomach churning fear of falling into something less… scary. Less reactive and more active.

And so I began to let my mind sift through ways to walk into this fear, completely accept it and play in it, thereby allowing it to shift as it wants.

One way would be to practice falling down. Yikes! I immediately decided that flinging myself down on the rough cement probably wouldn’t feel much like play, more like scabby torture… So I’ve decided to teach myself some ways to fall down at home. On my bed. From experts. From disciplines like gymnastics, Alexander technique, modern dance, martial arts… surely one of them would be fun and easy. So, off I went to do some research.

Of course synchronicity meant that when I got home with this brilliant idea, I didn’t even get it out of my mouth before my partner related a story about his day teaching two of his students how to do forward rolls… I love synchronicity.

So, here we go with how to start a practice of learning to fall with grace… With any luck I will soon be past the stiff or spat reaction.

Preparing your play space

Find a space that allows you to dive inside and not get interrupted, a safe place for you to play.

Preparing your landing pad

Play on something soft. I tried my yoga mat on the hard wood floor first. Major ouch! Maybe two or three mats would work, but I decided that the futon would be great. Your bed could be a good surface, or some soft, leafy or grassy ground.

Preparing you

Realize that this can get intense. Think about trusted friends or helpers who you can call on if you get in deep and want some help. Also, follow your innate wisdom, dive when it is good to dive and stop when it isn’t. Take care of yourself by staying attentive to your needs and when you notice that you can’t be attentive, take a break!

Warm up your body and especially if you have any physical challenges, consider how to do these practices in the safest way possible for your body. Only attempt things that seem reasonable for you and adjust as you go… remember that you are incredibly wise and capable and fully responsible for your self, so respect your infinite wisdom… Be safe and compassionate!

Finally, check in and locate in your body your fear of falling, in your belly or chest or where ever you hold it. You can even rate it for yourself from 1 – 10 (minimal to maximum fear) or write down what you notice about it to see how it changes as you play. Some things that you might notice are size, shape, weight, texture, color, sound, frequency, emotions associated with it, etc, etc, etc. If stories come up, note down one or two identifying details and let the story pass so that you don’t get caught up in mental drama. You can also keep paper handy for anything that comes up that you want to let go of with some cathartic writing (and possibly burning or throwing away).

Ready?! Let’s…

Splay!:
The first method: Jiu Jutsu forward roll!
Beginning with an inspiring tigers growl, this video features an excellent teacher giving clear and simple steps for learning a jiu jitsu forward roll (or how not to fall splat on your face)…

Watch the video! and then here are the basic steps for referral once you’ve watched and understood his method.

1. Start on your knees (praying that everything is ok, you’re just turning your world upside down, no biggie… OMG. This would be a good time to check in with your fear of falling and invite it out to play.:)
2. Place one hand out and tuck the other hand under your body in the direction of the opposite knee. Breathe. Connect with your fear of falling.
3. Tuck your chin towards your chest, start moving your ear towards the floor and sending that opposite leg up into the air (now’s your chance to pee on any fire hydrants that are handy… letting lose your fears of falling, cause here it comes!)
4. Breathe as you roll forward onto your tucked shoulder (keeping your head and neck off of the floor), across your back and onto and over your opposite hip.
5. Smile because your fear is just a fear and you are alive to play with it.

Note that if, like me, you end up doing half a roll and lying sideways on your back, it helped me to focus on sending my ear down towards the floor and also lifting up the opposite leg. This combination helped me direct my weight diagonally across my body instead of straight down my back, losing momentum and unrolling half way through. Yep, more of a splat than a roll.

When you are ready, start from standing, the biggest difference being that you will bend your knees as you go down, rolling onto on your tucked shoulder with no added arm support.Try it! It is simple once you get the kneeling roll down. Took 5 whole minutes! Wheeee!

I got so caught up in learning the roll that I didn’t play in the fear much yet.
Off to see how that goes!

I’d love to know how your own play date with falling with grace goes…

Enjoy!,
Elena