Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yoga and Healing: Guest bloggers wanted!

We have all heard stories of the amazing healing that yoga can bring.  In honour of a yoga friend who recently suffered a bad accident, I am going to do a series of posts on yoga and healing - and I need your help!

Whether physical, mental or emotional, whether your story or a loved one's, if you have a yoga and healing story, I want to hear it.  I believe that by sharing stories we can inspire each other, and people at any stage of healing can take heart from that inspiration.

Get in touch with me! lagitane at mac dot com

Monday, October 25, 2010

In Pictures: Weekend fun

Well, it was a mammoth weekend with dolphin-spotting, diving and some big events happening in town (the kind that I probably wouldn't have gone to except for the words "if you really love me then you'll come with me...", and ended up enjoying anyway. ;) ).  Peeps, am I getting old?  I used to be able to work hard, play hard and still be bright and chirpy Monday morning.  Now I feel like I need a weekend from my weekends!

Anyway, onto the pictures:


Fraser's dolphins, to be specific.  Aren't they magical?
A pilot whale takes a dive - they are very shy!
Home made pizza with cherry tomatoes, green pepper and olives for lunch - yummy!  To save time, we cheat and use pita-bread for the base.  It makes a quick, fresh meal - ingeniously invented by my honey.

So it was a great weekend although exhausting.  I missed my morning practice this morning due to not sleeping well last night, so I think I'm going to round off my Monday with a groovy flow practice.

How do you balance work and play?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's Friday! So I filled in the blanks.

It's been a busy week readers! Time flies when you're... (fill in the blank! ;) ) working 2 contracts and teaching yoga. :)  Time for the weekend, oh yes!

To round off the week I teach a nice slow flow class on Friday evenings.  It's the kind of yoga that I love as an evening practice: slow, breath-centered, deep stretching.  I've been trying to make the best of my disappointing music purchases of late, and I was fairly happy with my playlist tonight.  Still feeling a bit music-starved though!

Anyway, without any further ado... It's fill in the blanks Friday, courtesy of Lauren!

I am... A gypsy girl.  Who loves yoga.  Go figure!

I wish... that I could see my Grandma more often.  Cause I love her but she lives 3 days away by airplane.

I like... the ocean! No, I love the ocean.  And all the creatures, big and small, who live in it.

I can... pretty much do whatever I please... and I do NOT take that for granted.  It is the most incredible blessing.

I hope... that I see dolphins tomorrow! We are going out on a boat looking for them, and whales too.  :D :D

I think... A little bit less than I used to.  And I like it this way!

I was... super impressed today with the new solar lamp I bought for my security guards! It comes with a wee solar panel and once fully charged gives off a nice bright beam. Way cool! And totally what we call "appropriate technology", meaning that it's relatively cheap and doesn't require any further investment (like batteries).  In addition, low environmental impact (no batteries to throw away) AND... get this - it charges your mobile phone. Bonus!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back 2 Basics: 4 simple stretches to ease back tension

It seems that almost everyone I meet (well, everyone over the age of 25, anyway!) has suffered from some sort of backache.  Our backs are literally the centre of our lives, through which the spinal column runs.  Whether you are aware of it or not, your back muscles are almost always working in some way or another, whether you are sitting, standing, running, walking, and even sometimes when you are sleeping!

A regular yoga practice is a great way to strengthen the muscles in your back in a balanced way.  But for immediate relief of some backaches, here are 4 simple stretches for when the tension builds up.

These are restorative stretches, and will have the best effect if you hold them each for about 3-5 minutes, so make sure you are comfortable in each stretch!

[NB, readers: Because of their hard working nature, backs are prone to pain and also to injury.  And while I am a certified yoga teacher, I am by no means a back specialist.  If you have persistent pain in your back (i.e. the same pain that has lasted for 2 weeks or more), please consult a specialist!  Also, if any of these or any other yoga postures seem to make your pain worse, stop straight away and consult someone before you continue your yoga practice.]

You will need: a rolled up yoga mat or rolled up blanket, and some small pillows.  I also recommend putting on some blissful music and using an eye pillow for a truly relaxing experience! Use a kitchen timer, mobile phone or a nice chiming app (I like Zen Timer, which has a variety of Tibetan bowl chimes to choose from!) to time your postures for a beautiful back restoring sequence.

If you're feeling stiff, you can warm up your back with Cat & Cow, a few gentle sun salutations, or any other stretches that feel appropriate.  You can also use the following sequence to finish off your regular yoga practice.

1. Heart opening stretch

Open the heart and the sides of your back with this easy, relaxing stretch.
  • Begin sitting on the floor.  Place a rolled up yoga mat or blanket lengthwise behind you, with one end at your tailbone.
  • Gently lie back on the yoga mat or blanket, adjusting the position of the mat or blanket so that your lower back and your head are both comfortably supported (use a pillow under the head if necessary).
  • Open your arms out to the sides, palms facing upwards, opening your heart up towards the sky.
  • Breathe deeply in and out.  As you inhale, focus the breath into the back of your body, and as you exhale focus on releasing tension and letting the muscles in your back relax completely.
  • This stretch is great for releasing the muscles that run alongside of your spine.
2.  Supine Twists

There are many variations of the supine twist, so try a few and find which one feels right for you and gives you the best release.  Here is one simple option.

Supine twists.  Keep the left shoulder on the floor and let your knees sink into the pillow.
  • From the previous pose, gently remove the mat or blanket from underneath you and lie with your back on the ground.  Draw your knees in towards your chest and remain here for as many breaths as you like.
  • When you're ready, stretch your arms out to the sides, palms facing upwards.  Inhale and broaden the shoulders.  Exhale and gently release both your knees towards the right hand side.  For the restorative version of this pose, aim to keep the left shoulder on the ground, using pillows underneath your knees in order to comfortably do so.
  • When your knees are comfortably supported, gently turn your head towards the left hand side.
  • Breathe deeply here for 3-5 minutes, and then switch sides.

3. Lengthwise Stretch
Personalise this stretch by moving the mat to find the best spot to release your back!
  • Sit on your mat and place the rolled up mat or blanket behind you again, but this time place it sideways.  Aim to have the mat running sideways just underneath your ribs for starters.
  • Gently lie back down over the rolled up mat.
  • On an inhalation, stretch your arms up over your head.
  • If you find this too intense, you can try resting your hands on a block or pillow to elevate them off the floor.  Alternately, do the pose with your hands on your belly or in another comfortable position.
  • Personalise the stretch by changing the positioning of the support to find the spot that best releases your back.  Or, find multiple spots and spend a few minutes in each.

4. Child's pose
  • Following the lengthwise stretch, round your spine the other way with a nice long child's pose.  For maximum comfort use pillows or your blanket/mat placed lengthwise underneath you.  Mmmmmm.
Round off with a yummy savasana, meditation or a nice cup of tea.

Readers, what aches plague your backs and how to you release the tension?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday blanks

Oooooh, don't you just love a blank slate?  A blank mind?  A blank... blank to fill in?  Courtesy of Lauren, here are a few filled in blanks.  :)  And ooooh I do love Fridays!

1. Blogging is... a fun creative outlet and a way to connect with people.

2.  A current fashion trend I wish I was brave enough to wear is... well, I am pretty far removed from the fashion world and I have no idea what's hot and what's not.  But I can tell you, if I lived in a temperate climate there is only one word: boots.  Boots, boots, boots, boots.  Sigh...

3.  My greatest accomplishment in life thus far is... being me.  Seriously.  I spent a long time wondering who to be - it took a lot to just be me.

4.  If I had to choose between a mountain or a beach vacation I'd choose: mountains! Any day. I loooooove mountains.  The cool climate, the amazing scenery, cozy dinners by the fire.  (Plus - I live by the beach!)

5.  A talent I wish I had is... saying what's on my mind and getting it over with.  I'm more the type to mull it over, hold it in, and then mull it over some more.  And folks, this usually ends in tears.  I wish I could just get it out and then move on - I admire the people who can!

6.  A talent I do have is... singing.  And I do love it!

7.  This week... has been kind of emotionally draining, to be honest.  But the weekend is looking good with some sailing, some diving and some time with my sweetie. :)

Well that's all for now peeps... And remember to comment on my last post if you have any musical inspiration for me!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Moving to the Music

We all know that there are 101 ways of practising (and teaching) yoga.  Now more than ever yoga is kind of a free-for-all, with something for everyone, from naked yoga in Hawaii to yoga with your dog.  And somewhere in between, there is yoga with music.

Different styles embrace different techniques, and music is no exeption.  An absolute no-no in Iyengar classes, music is becoming a must for the Vinyasa Flow style.  And then, of course, there's the ever-so-exiting new trend of practicing yoga to live music, which you can find more and more (at least, in America) from small classrooms to huge yoga festivals.

Last week the rocking Misanthropic Yogini posted about the challenges as a teacher of making yoga playlists for her classes, here.  A great discussion followed, and the overall synopsis seemed to be fairly neutral: few people expressed strong opinions either way.  The consensus seemed to be that good yoga is good yoga, no matter what the soundtrack.

I use music in my vinyasa classes and while my own practice is mostly without music I do use it to drown out the occasional distracting ambient noise and enjoy it.  For teaching I have about 10 playlists organized by tempo and duration (e.g. "mellow 1.2 hours") that I use in my classes, and every now and then I resuffle them.

Recently though I have been craving new music and sadly have been fairly disappointed by the compilations I've bought. :(  My last 5 albums have been pretty much busts - albums that I'm struggling to find even 1 or 2 songs that I can use in my classes!  This has got me down to no end...

So, if you practice vinyasa and love moving to the music... Any recommendations?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Underwater Joy - In Pictures

I'm back! I had a fabulous break in neighbouring Indonesia and spent a great deal of my time underwater in and around Komodo national park.

Scuba diving is one of my favourite ways to spend my time.  It's a visit to another world teeming with amazing colours and creatures. It's blue and you get to blow bubbles.  It's a breath-centered moving meditation.  In short, it's like a  form of yoga - but with fish!

This holiday I was blessed to spend some time with some of the rarest creatures beneath the waves: the majestic rays.  In particular, a large and beautiful Eagle Ray, and a gathering of Reef Manta Rays.  Be still my heart!!  Witnessing the magnificence of these creatures underwater is an absolutely amazing experience and one I will never forget.  It really hits home just how precious the oceans are and just how little we know about them and the amazing creatures who live there.

So here are some pictures for you all to enjoy!

Eagle Ray
Manta Rays!!

Did you know...
  • Rays are related to sharks, but they have no teeth!  They use a type of filter to feed exclusively on plankton and other microscopic organisms.
  • Manta rays and stingrays are related, but Mantas no longer have a stinger.
  • Mantas are the largest rays. The Giant Manta can be up to 25 feet in length, and they "fly" through the water using their wing-like fins.
Also...  Today is my birthday!!


PS - yes, I did see a Komodo dragon.  Horrible lizard.  I much prefer what's under the water.