This month’s photo is from the Morris Arboretum.  I took the photo while on a hike there last Sunday. I discovered treasures around every nook, cranny and corner and anticipate more discoveries in the future. Check out their website for more information on their programs and membership. Morris Arboretum.  Nature was calling to me.  We feel it in the shifting winds, the earth turning up new growth and in our upturned gaze to the buds on the trees.  May you find some magic on the forest floor.  Treasures are sure to show up.

Welcome back to your restorative practice.  Some are picking up from last month and some are returning after a few months off.  Take your time to come into the practice, never rushing.  And don’t worry if it is not completely bliss at first.  Use your breath and return to your intention (Sankalpa); perhaps even making it a mantra you can use in the poses.  See what unfolds

The Breath
Rhythmic Breathing

Rhythmic breathing is becoming aware of the breath and follow a rhythm in breathing. For example, you may start breathing with a pattern of inhalation for 5 seconds and exhalation for 5 seconds and say repeat 10 times. Take a moments rest and repeat. Gradually increase the number of repetitions.

Benefits of this breath:

    ~ More oxygen intake increases the energy levels ~ Body organs receive more ‘prana’ or energy and health improves. ~ Better removal of toxins from the blood. ~ Better blood circulation, digestive system, heart beats at slower rate and blood pressure reduces. ~ Emotions are better controlled.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This breath invites the calm in, balancing both sides of our nasal passages and our brain.  We tend to breath predominately with either the left or right nasal passage and we become unbalanced.  A few minutes at the start of a class or practice, can merge the two hemispheres of the brain and allow you to become more receptive.

Breathing through the right or left nostrils gives different effects.
Right Nostril
increases heart rate, increases verbal performance, stimulates left brain, increases rate of blinking
Left Nostril decreases heart rate, increases spatial performance, stimulates right brain, reduces rate of blinking,

The Practice: Find a comfortable seat or laying down.  Using the right hand, bring the middle and index fingers to rest toward the palm.  Alternatively, they can be placed at your third eye (forehead area). Begin with even breaths through both nostrils, gently close off right nostril, then inhale through left nostril and exhale through the right nostril.  Gently close off left nostril, as you inhale through right and exhale through left. Keep the same count for both sides. That is one round.  Repeat for 5 to 6 rounds or more.  Tongue comes to rest on roof of mouth.

Other variations of this breath are:
  • Retaining the breath after the inhale while keeping both nostrils gently closed. 
  • Extending the exhale longer than inhale
  • Cessation of breath after the exhale, with only one nostril closed
  • Mental Nadi Shodhana.  Mentally instruct the breath to come in and out through alternating nostrils.  Can even visualize breathing in from one far away place and breathing out to another far away place (Mt. Everest (Inhale), African plains (Exhale)

The Poses
Passive Back Arch

Props: 2 blankets folded lengthwise

Benefits: helps open chest and abdomen, encouraging deeper breathing and oxygenation. Abdominal organs are stimulated as well as circulation. Aids in depression

Place one folded blanket lengthwise on your mat and 2nd blanket over the first one in a “T” figure or cross.  The end where your head will go may be flipped under to create a head and neck support. Sit at fringe end of blanket, sacrum at edge and lower down onto blankets. Arms can be straight out to the sides, hands at belly or for a shoulder opener, 90 deg. angle (Goddess arms) at either side. Stay for 5- 15 minutes, breathing a 3-Part breath.

Supported Childs Pose

Props: bolster, two blocks, 2-3 blankets
Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind.  Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum

Place the two blocks at either the lowest or medium height, equidistant from each other bolster lengthwise on top of blocks. A s-fold or triple fold blanket on top of bolster.  It may be more comfortable without blocks.  Legs straddle the props at one end, and lengthen body over them. Head will rest on props.  Additional blanket(s) may be used behind knees. Ideally props should extend all the way to the pelvis area but this may not be the case with your body structure.   Stay here for 10 minutes to begin with, rotating head side to side. 


Rediscover your Sankalpa 

Read on about setting a Sankalpa and spend a few minutes meditating on your intention, spinning it with a positive energy.

How to set an intention for your practice

Kelly Fisher in uttatasana

Kelly Fisher in uttanasana
by guest author Kelly Fisher, Yoga Unlimited
From a yogic point of view, the process of setting a sankalpa (an intention) goes a little like this.
Step one: Set a positive intention, focusing on the results you want, rather than thinking about what you don’t want (as tends to be the case when we set New Year’s resolutions).
Step two: Let it go. The Universe conspires on our behalf. Where energy is placed, the Universe augments it.
At a workshop I recently attended, Anusara teacher Sianna Sherman told a story from Mary Poppins to illustrate this point.
The two children in the story were putting together their wish-list of characteristics for the new nanny their father was seeking for them. They poured their heart and soul into the list and gave it to their father. Of course, the characteristics that were important to the children “rosy cheeks, pleasing disposition, etc” did not feature in their father’s priorities and so the list ended up torn to shreds in the fireplace. As luck would have it, a fierce wind picked up the bits of paper and carried them all the way to Mary Poppins where they were reassembled so she could read it. She then sought out the family and much to the children’s delight, went on to become their nanny.
As this rather simple story illustrates, we need to set our intention with all the positive energy and fervor we can muster and then step back to let the winds of grace lift it. We humans try to muscle our way towards New Year’s resolutions, to make something happen by sheer force of will. And if it doesn’t happen, we give up. Hence we see the old familiar pattern of setting New Year’s resolutions only to abandon them three weeks later.
When you set a sankalpa, you let go of the fruits of your actions. Letting go of the results doesn’t mean you aren’t working towards goals. It means knowing where you’re heading, then identifying your edge, where your human capabilities end and riding that edge, making small adjustments in response to the ever-changing circumstances. In effect you simply invest in the process, rather than clinging to the outcomes.
The Universe supports us in whatever path we take, whether that’s positive or negative. If we choose a positive direction, we can trust that the Universe will respond in kind, creating an exponential effect on our energy. We just have to choose our direction, make a sincere but sustainable effort and then wait for the updraft to augment our efforts.
Kelly Fisher is a former IT specialist and now owns Yoga Unlimited. You can read Kelly’s yoga teacher profile here.
Check out more articles like this one at  The Yoga Lunchbox
Rediscover Nature
Journal about your favorite place in nature, outside or inside (Longwood Gardens is one of my favs.).  Include sensations felt while there, how your body feels, your mind and how it affects your senses.  Feel free to share any photos with me and I’ll post them with your permission.