Welcome to and Welcome back to your place and space for Restorative Yoga. Yes, indeed I took a hiatus. It involved a very, very fun trip to the world’s biggest playground, Disney World and to visit family. I also needed a break from yoga, restorative and other practices, as I found that my teaching became dull. Perhaps others didn’t notice it but I did and didn’t feel like I was doing any justice to my students or myself.
So I made my reentrance to practicing and teaching yoga in January. And I found that the culprit for my much needed break was that an intense ache that I was feeling in my left hip, back leg and sometimes low back. I was constantly worried about this pain and trying all kinds of things to eradicate it from my life. It became all consuming. The holiday trip afforded me a chance to heal, walk a lot (Disney) to stretch out the muscles and give my worrying mind a break.
My restorative practice is not only a haven for healing now but a daily meditation of the here and now where I need to sit with sensation good, bad or ugly. It is where with breath, I can tap into my underlying stillness and not berate myself for needing and taking a break. This is my intention for my practice right now.
What is your intention, your sankalpa for your practice? In class, we spent a few minutes writing down our experiences from the practice. Explore more on the subject of Sankalpa. Make any additional journal entries about your sankalpa. Further down are the poses from the week’s class and the breath that we practiced. Enjoy and Welcome Home!
Give your New Year’s resolutions a yogic twist—set an intention and infuse the new year with positive change.
A new year’s resolution is a noteworthy concept—start off the year with a change for the better. So how did it devolve into a subconscious exercise in self-loathing? Lose 10 pounds! (Message to self: You’re fat.) Stop drinking caffeine! (You’re unhealthy.) Call Mom and Dad once a week! (You’re ungrateful.) Why not celebrate this new year by trading in your tired (and probably familiar) resolutions for a sankalpa instead?
POSITIVE POWER A Sanskrit word, sankalpa means “will, purpose, or determination.” To make a sankalpa is to set an intention—it’s like a New Year’s resolution with a yogic twist. While a resolution often zeros in on a perceived negative aspect of ourselves (as in, “I want to lose weight, so no more chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese”), a sankalpa explores what’s behind the thought or feeling (“I crave chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese when I’m feeling stressed or sad. I will set an intention to become conscious of this craving and allow my feelings to arise and pass, rather than fill up on fats”).
EFFORT COUNTS A sankalpa also praises the nobility of the effort rather than focusing on what you are doing wrong. “New Year’s resolutions leave me feeling guilty and mad at myself for not keeping them,” says Wendy McClellan, a yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. So, last year, in a conscious effort to reject the resolution rut, she taught a special New Year’s Eve yoga class and encouraged students to look back and let go. Her intention, or sankalpa? To open her heart to new possibilities. “An intention has much more of a global sense than a resolution,” she says. “It helps me be softer with myself.” With a sankalpa, the self-loathing that comes from dwelling on past transgressions can begin to dissolve. In its place is an exercise in effort and surrender—create an intention and open yourself to the universe.
LOOK INWARD For several days, set aside time to write in a journal and meditate. Mull over your typical resolutions. How do they make you feel? Anxious? Unsettled? Incomplete? Now contemplate how you would like to feel during the coming year. Is there any way you can reframe your results-oriented resolutions into something that will make this year’s journey more joyful and worthwhile?
REPHRASE IT Create a short sentence or phrase for your sankalpa. Be careful not to set limitations based on fear. For example, instead of “May life bring me only happiness and joy this year” consider “May I be happy and open to what life brings me.”
BE FIRM BUT FAIR Change doesn’t happen overnight. When you stray from the essence of your sankalpa, don’t berate yourself. Instead, gently remind yourself of your intention. But be firm in your resolve—it’s a good idea to incorporate your sankalpa into yoru daily routine. Use it as a mantra during pranayama or meditation practice; post it on your computer, phone, or mirror; or simply say it to yourself quietly before going to sleep. —C.G
Catherine Guthrie is a writer and yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, and a regular contributor to Yoga Journal.
1:1 Breath or Equal Breath
Find a comfortable seated position or laying down. Focus in on your breath, becoming aware of its pattern before beginning this breath. Make a conscious effort to inhale and exhale for the same count (2 to 3). Find a calm, steady awareness of the breath, the feel, the temperature, the way it enters and exits the body. Practice this breath anywhere. Continue this for 2 to 3 minutes.
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. Grounding
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.
Therapeutic Spinal Strip
Props: 1 rolled up blanket, lengthwise, 1 blanket double-fold, neck pillow
Benefits: reinvigorates the spine bringing fresh blood and oxygen. With deep breath, can give the effect of a massage on the spine.
Roll a single-fold blanket keeping the roll more on the flatter side. This becomes your spinal strip. Lay this strip down on the floor and place a double-folded blanket at one end (Letter T). Sacrum is on the double-folded blanket and carefully lay the spine and head down on rolled up blanket. Use a neck pillow in cervical curve. Arms relax by the sides, palms turned up. A variation is to have knees together, feet wide apart. Stay for about 5 -8 minutes. A nice alternative to the Heart Bench.