Upside Down House

Do you want to see the chaos theory hard at work?  Here I sit on the floor of my bedroom bringing you into the upside down world of my household.  My list is long.  New carpeting being put in today, living on the edge, ants running rampant and guarding my front door which so happens to not open and a visit from the locksmith, if he can get past the ants, will happen.  And to boot, printer not working, taxes not proceeding. Ah where is the peace, tranquility and grounding in all this?  Well, I have the ability to laugh at it all after some intense practice last weekend.

Do you like my segue to Laughter Yoga?  I just took the Leader training over the weekend and am still chortling.  I’ve included a You Tube clip of our trainer leading a session and a short description of what Laughter Yoga is at the bottom of the blog.  Did you get your laugh on today?

Carmen and I also wanted to remind you how important blocking out the light is in a restorative pose.  This creates an immediate sensory shutdown as the eyes have a large number of nerves.  It will make your experience that much deeper and really assist you as you settle into the poses.  The only drawback for some is that they might feel slightly claustrophobic over the eyes or too much pressure if they have very sensitive eye issues.  Another suggestion is to place the eye pillow on the forehead to help ground you.

The Breath
Heart Breathing through the Third Eye or the Ajna Chakra

It provides the opportunity to bring our sankalpa (chosen intention) directly into our heart using the breath with profound effect. What we do is inhale from the third eye (point between the eyebrows) back to the center of the head and down the spinal nerve into the heart, and then exhale back out the same route through the third eye. On the inhalation we bring our intention in, and on the exhalation we send out impurities. If we slow down the breathing (comfortably), the effects will be enhanced. Breathing through the nose is preferable, but not mandatory. This method has great benefit for the heart, purifying and opening it.  It can be done for 5-10 minutes before or after sitting practices, or anytime. Be careful not to overdo it in the beginning, as it can bring excessive karmic releases in the heart if overdone. It is suggested you start off slow and work up gradually according to comfort and effect. 

The Poses
Mountain Brook

Props: bolster, 2-3 blankets, block, neck roll, eye pillow

Benefits: counteracts the slumped position of our posture from sitting, computer use, driving, everyday activities. Opens the chest to help breathe easier. Improves digestion, reduces fatigue and can lift your mood.

Just like a babbling brook with boulders (soft one!), imagine your body like the soft rushing waters laying over those boulders, smooth, flowing.  It will allow the natural curves of the body to be held up gently and the breath to flow.
On your mat, place the bolster will your knees will be, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), a block for the feet or the heels can come to the floor and a neck roll for the cervical spine.  Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up.  If ankles need support, use rolled-up blanket or dish towel.  Eye pillows can lightly rest on eyes or even be used on forehead (useful for headaches) or even on shoulders (wherever you need to release tension). To begin with stay in pose for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes.  Great to use in savasana. Feel the heart open, the strain from holding yourself up all day evaporate.
Variations: Feeling cranky in the lumbar spine? Place blanket to fill the curves.  Want to feel more grounded while still opening the heart? Place rolled up blanket against wall and soles of feet touching blanket.  Need to feel cuddled? Swaddle your head in a blanket cradle.

Legs up the Wall (Vaparita Karani)

with Goddess Arms

Props: 1-2 blankets, strap, eye pillow, blanket for warmth, neck roll, maybe a bolster (see photo)

Benefits: increases circulation and helps venous and lymphatic flow from the lower body; relieves swelling and fatigue in the legs; helps relieve muscular skeletal stress in pelvis; quiets the mind and can help promote ease in meditation and sleep.

Begin with using a double-folded blanket to be placed right above sacrum (see photo), setting it approx. distance 6-8″ from wall (adjust in pose). Sit down on the blanket with one hip pressed right up against the wall. As you lower down, swing your legs up the wall. Once in the pose, you can adjust distance to wall, angle of legs to all, blanket and placement of legs all for comfort.  Hips and tailbone will be in space between wall and blanket. Arms rest by your side, palms face up or variation with Goddess arms (photo above).  
Variations: To ground legs, blanket or sandbag to hang from soles of the feet.  Strap can be placed around calves, so you lose the feeling of holding up legs.  Tight hamstrings or really uncomfortable with legs directly up the wall? Try a bolster angled into the wall to rest legs on, add blankets for more support or move hips further from wall.  Another variation is Legs up on a Chair or on a bolster with blankets on top to bring knees into a 90 degree angle

Supported Revolved Twist

Props: bolster, 3 blankets, 1 extra blanket for warmth and or laying on lower back to ground
Benefits: Gentle twist for the spine (quadratus lumborom) Releases stress on the back muscles and a stretch to the intercostal muscles. As muscles relax, breathing is enhanced.

Set one bolster lengthwise on your mat.  Depending upon your comfort, height can be elevated with blocks under bolster. Lay one blanket on top double-fold and one double-fold at end of bolster where your right hip will go. Sit next to bolster with your right hip touching it, bend knees, left or top ankle can lay in arch of right foot or other comfortable position for feet. For added comfort, place blanket between legs. Lengthen body over bolster, laying bent legs in one directions and upper body facing down on bolster. Arms drape down sides of the bolster.

I Laughed Until Milk Came Out of My Nose

This is an awesome way to spend an hour of your day.  Playfulness intermingling with health benefits galore.  Some of the health/social benefits are:

  • lowers blood pressure
  • increases blood circulation giving skin a boost, cleaning out toxins
  • stronger immune system
  • can aid in slowing down progression of disease
  • cardiovascular (aerobic) and core workout
  • creating stronger social connections
  • happier moods, less empathy and more compassion
  • lowers stress levels

There are thousands of Laughter Clubs in over 65 countries.  The beginnings of Laughter Yoga (LY) were humble indeed.  Dr. Madan Kataria, a general practitioner M.D. in India, had been researching laughter as medicine and thought to begin a laughter group at a local park.  What began as a group of 5 quickly spread.  His initial formula for laughter was based upon conditional laughter which is using humor to elicit laughs (jokes, funny stories).  This only worked for so long and he needed to revamp the program.  He found that pretend laughter gives the same benefits as real laughter.  He created from this discovery, laughter exercises that are still used today.  This type of laughter is unconditional laughter which really comes up like a fountain of bubbles within yourself.  He included Pranayama or yogic breath practicies in the laughter sessions so that there would be a full range of oxygen intake elimination of wastes. 

Keep on the lookout for Laughter Yoga Clubs which are springing up all over the area.  We hope to hold one at the studio in the future.  Many of the clubs go through the website.  I know of a local one at Encore Senior Center in Harleysville.  Check out some of the link below for more info.  Mo-laughing!

Laughter Yoga Meetups
Laughter Yoga International