I am so thankful for yoga and for teaching yoga.  It is my saving grace right now as I  juggle many balls in the air right now.  But I always come back to yoga as my grounding force.  There is just one more very important grounding force in my life – LOVE.

Where is your ground, your center?  What brings you there?  When you conjure up the vision of your grounding force, do you feel a shift in your being?

(Try this centering practice from Yoga Journal and Rolf Gates any time you need it. Try it for 3-5 minutes.)

Take a very deep breath in
and a very slow breath out.

Sit up very straight. Notice that as your spine lengthens, your heart opens.
Now breathe into the space of an open-heart
feel into the space of an open heart.

A heart that is empty, a heart that holds the whole world.

Breathe into a heart that can hold the whole world.

Feel into a heart that can hold the whole world.

Breathe into the sweetness of this moment.

Feel into the sweetness of this moment.

Allow yourself to be whole-heartedly alive and well
in the life you have, now.

The Breath

Calm Your Class in One Minute with a Breathing Sphere
guest post by Jim Gillen
One of our favorite ways of teaching and encouraging children to breathe healthfully is by using a Hoberman breathing sphere – a popular children’s toy that’s basically a geodesic dome made of jointed segments. By lightly pushing or pulling it on opposite sides, you can make it expand or contract, accordion-style. The movement serves as a visual model for the type of breathing we want the kids to imitate by helping them see and synchronize their breath with movement.

How to Use A Hoberman Sphere

hobermansphere_videoThe teacher or other supervising adult may lead the group or – something we like to do – encourage one of the kids to lead, establishing the breathing rhythm. As the leader slowly expands the sphere, all inhale deeply and slowly through the nose, from the belly. The leader then pauses, emulating the short, natural pause that happens at the “top” and “bottom” of each healthy breath. As the leader contracts the sphere, all exhale through the nose just as slowly.
This efficient diaphragmatic breath is like watching the waves at the beach, with each breath swelling up from abdomen to chest and back down again.
The expansion-contraction cycle may be repeated as many times as necessary, but we find 5-10 cycles to be effective for helping the group calm and focus through this simple breath work.
Rhythm and slowness are two keys to using a breathing sphere effectively. By  consciously  slowing  our  breath, especially the exhalation, we can  facilitate the relaxation response even more and develop some control over how our nervous system responds to our environment.
In the classroom and school environments such breath work lends itself readily to focus and mindfulness, preparing students to learn. Speeding thoughts slow. The body as a whole relaxes. Body and mind become centered, grounded. Thus, many teachers, counselors and administrators start their classes off by leading students in breathing with a sphere. Some schools have even used these breathing practices at assemblies or over the school intercom to calm and focus their students.
Jim Gillen, RYT-500, is the cofounder of Yoga Calm, director of Still Moving Yoga in Portland, Oregon, and co-author of numerous education articles and Yoga Calm for Children: Educating Heart, Mind, and Body
*Since we did not have the Hoberman Sphere to use, we put our fingers together and created a pulse-like movement in and out.  Moving onto expanding our imaginary sphere outward with deeper breaths and then contracting in until finger tips touched again. 

The Poses

Supported Belly Pose

Benefits: Very grounding, allows glut, thigh and low back muscles to relax while supporting the low back, can stimulate digestive system, ease anxiety
Props: 1-2 blankets
Place a blanket horizontally on your mat or floor. Lay down on the blanket with one edge of the blanket at top of thighs and the other end at low ribs to support the low back. Make any adjustments to height of blanket for comfort.  Another blanket can be used for your head. Extend arms out to sides then bend elbows at 90 degree angle (Goddess arms), turn head to a side. When you need to turn your head to the other side, do so as you inhale softly.

Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddhakonasana)

Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems. 
Props: bolster, 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), 4 blankets and one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow

Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline, add another block under bolster for stability. We used the wall in this week’s class placing the bolster at a higher elevation. Place a double-fold blanket on floor next to low end of bolster and a long rolled blanket on top next to bolster (for sacral support). Sit with your back to the short, low end of the bolster. Place two blocks where your knees will rest (can top with a soft blanket or use other props as necessary for propping knees)  Bring your legs into Bound Angle Pose with the soles of your feet together. Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment.  Lie back on the bolster. Place supports under your arms so that they are not dangling and there is no feeling of stretch in the chest. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.