Next week is our second annual Stretch Heal Grow yoga retreat and I am very excited. We have an incredible team this year including yoga teacher Leo Mowry. This week Leo is my guest blogger and she has some great tips for a short but effective yoga practice. Thanks Leo!
I’ve been teaching yoga for almost 13 years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about creating a home practice for my students, it’s the importance of keeping it simple. As such, when Jasmin asked me to “guest blog” for The Deva Life, I realized that I had to come up with a super-effective practice that’s so easy that anyone can do it, and in a short period of time.
As a longtime yoga therapist, I’ve also realized the value of suggesting poses that offer the most bang for their buck. For example, poses that don’t just improve flexibility, but also relieve stress. To that end, I’ve come up with the simplest possible practice; just 2 poses! This teeny tiny 10-20 minute practice will substantially soften tight shoulders and hips, leaving you a little easier in your body, and quieter in your mind. I hope you enjoy it!
1) Supported Heart Opener: (softens chest, shoulders, arms)
- Roll a yoga mat tightly (standard size mat, please, or a tightly rolled towel or blanket to simulate the size of a rolled mat) and sit down with your knees bent and feet planted. Place the bottom of the mat at your bra strap and lie down so it’s aligned along the spine and supporting the head. Extend the legs straight out in front of you (knees bent with feet planted if the lower back isn’t 100% happy) and relax. You may feel like the rolled up mat is digging quite aggressively into your back. This usually signals a tight upper back and these sensations should gradually subside as you relax and breathe. Focus on the breath as you relax for a few minutes, letting go of tension and clenching as best as you can. Then, remove the mat and notice how your shoulders connect with the ground.
- After a few minutes in position “a”, if the sensations have subsided and you’d like to increase the stretch, grab your tightly rolled mat again. This time, you’re going to lie in a “t” position: legs straight out in front of you, arms straight out at shoulder height with the palms facing up. The mat should be placed parallel with the arms, at bra strap level, and should be aligned evenly from left to right. The arms should be extended above the mat, on the floor; not on the mat or below it. Extend the legs straight out in front of you (knees bent with feet planted if the lower back isn’t happy) and relax. Focus on the breath as you relax for a few minutes, once again letting go of tension and clenching as best as you can. Then, remove the mat and notice again how your shoulders connect with the ground.
2) Legs Up the Wall: (softens hips, lower back, legs)
Lie down with your legs straight up a wall. If it’s a big leg stretch or your lower back is lifted off the ground, move your buttocks away from the wall until the lower back is on the ground and the spine is neutral. For comfort, you may need a little softness under the lower back in the form of a folded blanket, small pillow or folded towel. Imagine the thigh bones descending easily into the hip sockets, and bring a slight bend to the knees, taking care not to collapse the pose. Bring your focus to the hip creases, relaxing and breathing easily for several minutes.
Please remember that yoga should not hurt, and it’s always best to consult a doctor before beginning any exercise regimen. Moreover, the length of time we can comfortably hold a pose varies from person to person. If discomfort arises and persists beyond a few breaths, come out of the pose. Feel free to contact me with any questions!
Leo Mowry, August 2014
Back in May my hubby and I took a trip to NYC. He had to go for meetings so I happily tagged along. Although known as the city that never sleeps I need to take naps these days so they had to be built into the plan. So did meditation, chilling out, walking and eating well ( most of the time). I decided to do a low key version of NYC and it was amazing. My hubby was in meetings during the day so I had from 8 am to 6 pm all to myself. What a treat, I rarely spend time just by myself and I was looking forward to it. what ever would I do with this gift of time in such an incredible city?
New York is a perfect walking city and I did lots of it. I planned my days so that I could stop in parks along the way to rest and eat ice cream while doing some pretty awesome people watching. The three parks I spent a lot of time in were Central Park, Bryant Park and Washington Square Park. Each one was very different and very alive with the energy of NYC. Central Park was a mish mash of tourists taking pictures, locals going for bike rides or runs and horse drawn carriages. This park has such a rich history. It got me wondering about what the park was like a hundred years ago and how much has changed since then. It really is a very special part of the city. I saw two turtles there just sunning themselves on a rock, going slow and enjoying it. It reminded me to slow down and not rush through my trip.
Bryant Park was incredible because in the morning I sat there for tea and it was empty and quiet as the city was slowly getting moving. By lunchtime it was packed with hundreds of chairs and tables filled with people escaping the office to sit in the sun and eat their lunches. It was awesome. I have never seen that many people eating their lunch all at once in a park in Toronto – ever. It had a such a good energy about it. So I joined them and got a sandwich and sat by myself near the fountain watching the world go by. The sandwich was from a stall called Wichcraft and it was divine. Eating on my own gave me time to really taste my food, kind of like doing a little eating mediation. It brought me into the present moment. There are so many cool things going on in this park everyday; yoga classes, Tai Chi,storytime. They even have ping pong, chess and a carousel! Best use of a small park space I have ever seen.
Washington Square Park had a very welcoming energy. There was a special kids play area that people were only allowed in if they had children. You could hear the sounds of little kids laughing and it made me smile. There was an amazing off leash dog area – seriously it was so cool – it even had it’s own little splash pad. The park had so many benches as everyone from mommies and babies to high school kids to touring couples were taking some time to pause and chat, rest or eat. A great jazz band was playing and I could have just sat there all day, doing nothing, just being present to the life energy around me. I also found a juice bar that I loved nearby called Juice Generation. They made a crazy delish juice called Get Ur Green On – oh yeah, so good.
In between parks I walked the busy city streets in silence. Being silent amongst the chaos and liveliness of NYC was very interesting. It was therapeutic in a strange way. I was there but also completely anonymous as I blended into the crowds. As I walked a weird thing happened. All kinds of emotions started coming up about the journey I have been on and where I am at now. I thought about my family, my kids mostly and all they have had to go through the past few years while I have been in cancer treatment. The tears started to roll but not in a sad way, more in a cleansing way. Acknowledging what the past 2 years has been like and letting go so I can move forward with life. I felt like I was on my own little retreat in a way. I knew walking the city would be fun and interesting but I never expected it to also be so healing.
I had planned to go to yoga classes, get a spa treatment, maybe find a place to meditate but instead I just enjoyed time to myself to clear my head and walk where I wanted, eat when I wanted and rest when I wanted. It was a totally different side of New York for me and I loved it.
So simple and so just what I needed. Thank you New York. xo
Happy Fathers Day to all the incredible daddies out there!
My aromatherapy mentor and friend Sandy Powell has a feature on her blog where she posts about people in her life doing good things. I am honoured that this month she posted about me and the Stretch Heal Grow yoga retreat for young women with breast cancer. Sandy is always there to answer any questions I have about aromatherapy and natural healing. She is also a supporter of the retreat and donates awesome healing essential oils for all the women attending. As you know I am a little addicted to essential oils – that comes from my training with Sandy. Her knowledge and passion was a big part of what guided me towards holistic healing alternatives.
Here is her post:
Today I salute mothers of all kinds; biological, adopted or honorary. I salute women with children and women without children as we all know you can be a mother to others in so many different ways. The saying ‘it takes a village’ is so true. There are many women in my life who are like mothers to me and my girls and they each enrich our lives in many ways.
Today is my sixth mothers day as a mommy and my third one without my mother. I know she would be happy to see what good hands I am in and how many wonderful women help me out when I need it.
Thanks to Kaia and Adria for making me a mommy and giving me a chance to experience all the sublime love and delightful chaos.
Sending a huge thank you to the mother who created me, raised me, loved me like crazy, taught me how to be a good mamma and is watching over me and guiding me each day.
Motherhood is an adventure. You never know what will be coming next. But you do it with all your heart.
Happy Mothers Day to all you beautiful, brave, funny, strong, smart and loving mommies out there. You make the world a better place.
The Deva Life
I am Jasmin Fiore, a yoga teacher, aromatherapist, reiki master, mother and young breast cancer patient interested in all things that keep us happy and healthy. Please join us for weekly insights and info as we explore ways to create a brilliant,healthy, love filled deva life.
Deva - a sanskrit word for celestial or shining – a powerful connection to nature, the universe, and the ability to connect with the divine.
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