(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!
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.
(meditation: 21:11min) This is a 20-minute version of the Simple Breath meditation for those of you who want a longer practice. This practice uses breath, a traditional focus that has stood the test of time for the simplicity and depth. The breath is a portal that allows us to be quiet and sensitive at the same time, deep stillness combined with deep awareness.
Enjoy this beautiful combination, the simplicity and depth of breath.
Mindfulness Practice: Simple Breath
Begin by getting into position, whatever position works best for your body. The best position is one that is comfortable for you. If you use the same position every time, it 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, palms down, on your thighs. Don’t prop yourself up or pull yourself forward with your hands.
Feel your sit bones pressing down into the chair.
Float the crown of your head up so that it gently lifts your torso. Let your spine gently align, your shoulders relax and your chest open.
Let your back body be gently firm to keep you upright.
Let your front body be soft. Relax your belly, chest and face.
Close your eyes or lower them, softly gazing down at the floor.
2. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe. Keep most of your attention on the feeling of breathing.
3. Your thoughts and feelings will continue, which is a good thing. This means that you are alive and fully functional. Excellent. Recognize them, by simply noticing them and letting them be here with out needing to do anything with them. You don’t need to make them go away or try to control them. Simple notice them with out needing to dive into them or make them go away. Let them float through in the background like passing clouds.
4. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts (emotions or sensations) to the point that you are no longer noticing your breath, know that this is normal and a part of the practice. Once you notice, kindly and gently redirect your attention back to your breath and start a fresh.
5. End the practice when you feel ready or when your timer rings by gently opening your eyes.
Click on the Download button below.
If it does not download automatically:
A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.
Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).
(Video: 4:57min) Ujjaya breathing is a yoga breath that is fun to do because you can actually hear your self breathing! This is great for people who like to focus on sound.
Watch the video for instructions if you want them, and enjoy using this tool during stressful situations. I use it when I’m stressed and I want something else to listen to for a moment besides my speeding train of difficult thoughts.
Using ujjayi breathing a great way to stay engaged in the moment and to give myself some perspective… there are other things in my life right now than this upsetting thing that is happening… like my noisy breath!
(Video: 4:40min) This is a very quick, body based practice that I do when I’m super stressed and want to regain equilibrium.
This is part of a much deeper practice that I learned from Will Johnson’s wonderful book, Aligned, Relaxed & Resilient. This version is simple enough to do in crisis.
First, inhale and let the breath softly lift your body up straight and tall. Second, exhale and let the body melt and relax into this gently upright position. Let the body slowly align itself, gently lifting and relaxing with each breath.
This is a great meditation practice to do at any time, and works best during crisis if you teach yourself how to do it first when you’re not stressed… Then in crisis you already know how it works and it’s just a simple matter of doing it.
Struggling with life, constantly fighting with what’s happening, can become a way of life. How do we shift it? How to we go from struggle to ease?
For me it’s a simple as opening my chest and taking a deep breath. What can you do that’s simple to shift from struggle to ease?