Closing my eyes I transport myself to the warm greens of Costa Rica, the morning sounds of macaws, parakeets and one crazy rooster, and the ultimate sunrise which unfolded before the world everyday.  I am so grateful for this trip and all that presented itself.

One thing that presented itself was my impatience. As any vacation/retreat goes there is a transition to be made.  Without even realizing it, I was masking impatience for my transition to be over and to feel completely relaxed and in “vacation mode”.  I think part of the transition was my stomach converting over to insanely good organic, fresh food.   The other transitional phase involved my mood.  I was still keenly aware of myself trying to fit in with the group dynamics rather than just being myself.  Patience was not present.  I kept thinking “When will the transformation begin?”.

It did happen but it wasn’t forced or planned.  Maureen casually asked me if I wanted to try out a Sound Healing session with Becca.  She mentioned that I could leave if it wasn’t for me.  Well, two amazing hours later, I emerged like a butterfly from its cocoon.  I spread my wings and felt the sun’s rays on my face,  energy coursing through every cell in my body.  Was this my transformation that I thought was imminent?  That thought did enter my mind but soon after I took some long deep breaths to find my presence and the present.  “I am here that is all.” was my next thought.  Perhaps the transformation never ends and never begins, it just is.

The Breath
Kapalabhati (Warming Breath)  Brrr… it is cold out there, try this breath to move the circulation, remove stagnation and get the heart pumping.

Kapalabhati or “shining breath” is a yogic breathing technique that releases stress and toxins from the mind and body. It consists of a series of forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations. Here is how to perform Kapalabhati*:
  1. Sit comfortably in an upright posture and rest your hands on your lower belly.
  2. Draw your navel to your spine in a quick motion, forcefully expelling all the air from your lung. The primary movement is from your diaphragm.
  3. Allow your lungs to fill naturally, with no effort.
  4. Perform this cycle ten times, then allow your breathing return to normal and observe the sensations in your body. Repeat these cycles of ten movements three to four times.
Contraindication: Do not practice Kapalabhati if you are pregnant.

The Poses
Wide-legged Supported Forward Fold

Props: bolster, two blocks, 4 or more blankets
Benefits: releases the pelvis which can help release tension in the buttocks, hips, belly and lower back.  Quiets the organs of digestion and elimination. Opens lower back area. As head rests on bolster, releases tension in frontalis where we hold stress in contracted state. Cooling and calming to overall body and provides a nice transition from day. Can help with sleep.

Depending upon the length of your torso, you may or may not need the blocks under the bolster.  A double-folded blanket folded over one more time adds height and comfort.  Place as many of these as you need on top of the bolster. Cushions and pillows are also good.  You will straddle the props bringing them in as close to your body as possible to support you as you forward fold.  Rub hands together to warm up the hands and gently cup them over the eyes and rest on the elbows on the bolster. Avoid too much pressure on the eyes.  To lesson any strain in the lower back, sit on a single or double-fold blanket.  Can add blanket rolls under the knees. Stay for 5 to 10 minutes. 
*note that for some students the breath can be constrained. Practice belly breaths to begin with.

Reclined Bound Angle, minimal support (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 or firm pillows,  or rolled-up blankets,  one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow

Set up blanket lengthwise on mat, add neck pillow to top. Place pillows or rolled up blankets on either side to support legs. Recline over bolster or pillow and bring soles of the feet together, with bent knees, open legs to either side.   Strap can be added to contain the legs and deepen pose.  Place around your midsection and other end goes around edges of feet. Tighten so that legs get a feeling of being held up.  Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment.  Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.

Nesting Pose

Props: blankets, bolster
Benefits; Nurturing, sense of security, well-supported pose to regulate the nervous system, good for when you are feeling anxious, keeps body in alignment, supportive for the spine, hips, shoulders, head.  Allows for optimal healing and sleeping position. nurturing, sense of security, optimal for sleeping

Create a big enough folded blanket to place between the knees to align the legs in Tadasana. Add a folded blanket to rest your top arm on. Recline on a side that is comfortable, resting your head on a blanket. A neck roll can go under the ankles for support.  Bolster can rest along spine for further support and grounding. Finally, cover yourself with a blanket from head to toes.  Sink down with each long exhalation.  Mantra to accompany pose “I am safe, I am supported”.