This week’s class was brought to you by the Letter J and the Letter P – that is Jillian Pransky.  The inspiration for the poses and the guidance was Jillian Pranksy’s new Yoga DVD, Calm Body Clear Mind.  I am adding the link to her website for ordering information and to experience a free restorative Goddess pose.

I’ve been a witness to so many struggles this week and to so many triumphs.  Each of these people or groups of people have experienced the lows and highs, sometimes simultaneously. How could that be?  Sadness and joy from the family of one of my yoga students who passed away last night, frustration and then space and healing from my boyfriend who is having elder care issues, and even the unsure scariness of a bomb threat at my daughter’s school, followed by their school community coming together to sing the National Anthem at the Phillies game.  

The Inspiration
Ms. Mind/Body speaks to Surrender in her recent blog. See below and to receive her weekly newsletter, go to her website

April 3, 2014
white flag“Sometimes your only available form of transportation is a leap of faith.” –Margaret Shepard
I am a big fan of taking action. All kinds of action, really – small consistent steps that add up to greatness over time, anything that’s different than what you would normally do, anything that gets you out of being stuck, anything that will give you feedback that you can use to decide what action to take next.
After all:
But there is one action that’s always in your back pocket that it is all too easy to forget about. And maybe even a little scary to contemplate. But it is so powerful. Like, dropping an eight in a game of Crazy Eights powerful. Lay this puppy down and bam! Everything changes.
It’s surrender.
There is only so much that’s in our control. And that is a beautiful thing, because how exhausting would it be if absolutely everything that happened to you was up to you?!
The equal and opposite force to putting things out there is to receive.  If you have been working like the dickens to make progress on something but you’re still bumping up against an invisible wall, there’s your cue: It’s time to give up your effort.
I’m not saying you wave the white flag, admit defeat, and let go of the dream. I’m saying you set an intention to leave some space for someone or something else to come in. You need to be open in order to receive. Soft. Not striving. Not irritated. Not trying so damn hard. So you go off and do something that makes you feel restored, at peace, supported.
When I first started practicing yoga a million years ago (OK, it was 1995), I saw people go up into headstand during my first class and thought, “WHAT IS THAT?!?” I’d never seen anything like it. A part of me wanted to do it something fierce. But I am kinda chickenshit when it comes to going upside down. As a kid, I never even learned how to do a cartwheel.
Nevertheless I swallowed hard and started doing all the prep that would get me to standing on my head in the middle of the room—bringing my head to the floor in a downward dog, eventually coming up into a little upsidedown-egg pose at the wall. Gradually straightening my legs. Moving my mat millimeters away from the wall. Once, while taking a yoga class in a gym, I moved about 6 inches–woo!—away from the mirrored wall. It was great, until I rolled out of handstand and my rump smashed into mirrored wall and cracked it like a hard-boiled egg. People, I worked hard and long on that headstand.
After about five years of this, I started to break out in a cold sweat whenever the teacher called out headstand in class. I thought I detected disappointment in my teachers’ eyes when they saw me move my mat to the wall.
That’s when I stepped away, didn’t even try to come up for a few months. Ah, peace. I focused on other things.
And then one magical day, I decided to try again in the comfort of my own home. I will never forget the way my legs floated up, like buttah, into my very first unsupported headstand. I consider it to be one of my major achievements. And it was all because I worked hard and then I surrendered.
So, where could you give up? And what would you do instead?

The Breath
Hands to Belly and Heart

This is one of my favorite breaths because I can actually feel the movement of the breath through my body, like a “hands on”.  This brings greater breath awareness and it is considered a “complete” breath where the entire lungs are filled up.  I use it to calm me down, center, become more in tune with my physical body.

Can be done either laying down, seated or standing.  Try all three positions.
Begin the first part of the breath by placing one hand on your belly, the other hand on your heart. Inhale long and deep to the belly. Feel the abdomen press against your palm and fingers with inhale. Keep breathing in to chest so that it rises.  Exhale from heart to belly feeling the chest fall and the belly deflate with the exhale.  Stay for as many breaths as you feel comfortable.  Inhaling from belly to heart and   exhaling from heart to belly.  Feel the connection between the two. The breath may be so deep and full that the complete breath may even be felt to the base of the skull.

The Poses
Elevated Legs

Props: 2 blocks, 3 blankets, neck roll and other support
Benefits: reduces fatigue, reduces swelling in the legs and feet, soothes the nerves and eases mental agitation.  Great for after a long day on your feet.

Place two blocks medium height at end of your mat, roll a blanket smoothly and place over blocks.  Two bolster folded blankets are in front of blocks stacked on top of each other.  Use a neck roll and eye pillow and any additional blankets for comfort and grounding. Can add a blanket to lower legs.  

Surfboard Pose

Props: blankets, including one for warmth, stuffed animals or eye bags for hands
Benefits: gently stretches the lumbar spine and para spinal muscles, and gives a release in the diaphragm, quiets the mind and comforting. Gives a sense of security.  

2 bolster fold blanket placed lengthwise on mat on top of each other. One blanket at end of mat for ankle support. Make roll for ankle support. Rest of that blanket fills in gap where shin does not meet the floor. Make sure no blanket is on knee. This supports the knee in the pose.  Top bolster folded blanket roll towards you in a wider roll to fit in chest and shoulder area. One more blanket folded so that its height is the same as the two bolster folded blankets. Come to all fours straddling the props, release to forearms and then fully recline on props.  Ankles rest on small roll at end of mat, shins supported by the rest of that blanket. Rest the rest of your body at hip crease on the bolster fold blankets and lay chest on wider roll of top blanket. Head rests on additional blanket at top, turned to the side. Arms come out to the sides, releasing shoulders down the back and away from the ears. Placing an eye pillow or stuffed animal in palms as they face floor is very grounding and comfortable. Additional blankets for pillows tucked in as needed with student to create boundaries or make more comfortable.
New Version includes laying tops of ankles over padded blocks for further draining of the legs.

Reclined Goddess

Props: 2 blocks, 2 blankets, neck roll
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. Shoulders release their tension. 

Bring blocks to lowest height, place rolled up blanket on top of blocks, smooth any wrinkles.  Two longer blankets folded in half go lengthwise on mat. Fold top blanket down for head pillow.  Sit between blocks and long blankets and put legs over blocks, soles of the feet together.