Make My Day

Hi Yogis! Today’s post is from Debi Schenk!

Recently I told a woman that I do not know, never saw before, and likely will never see again, how beautiful she looked in a dress she was wearing. She smiled genuinely and thanked me heartily saying that I made her day. I often do this. Whether I give a compliment, smile at a stranger, or hold a door for someone who needs a little extra help, I know that I am making someone’s day better. Just think about how great you feel when a friend, coworker, classmate, or spouse tells you that you look beautiful. That one sentence can create lasting positive energy in your body and mind. So try it out. It will not only make the recipient feel better, it will make you feel better too.

Debi is founder of trueUyoga, is a registered yoga teacher with over 15 years of yoga experience. She has helped numerous clients on the path to better health. Debi began practicing yoga before it became a trend and understands the positive benefits that it can have in many areas of your life. What makes Debi different is her extensive background in alternative health. She is able to draw from her knowledge and create a yoga practice just for you, while keeping your overall health in mind.

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Pose Feature: Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

Hi Yogis! Today’s post is from Kathleen Reynolds!

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Pose Category and Description:

Camel is a backbend and heart-opening pose. It is one of my favorite poses, and one I especially like bringing into my practice as the weather begins turn toward the chillier side. Like other backbends, it can be heating and energizing. As the late autumn wind whips around, and I begin to feel a bit more “blown about,” I benefit from all the grounding and stabilizing effort it requires in order to access its exhilarating freedom. On a very practical level, I also love camel to help counter all of the “hunching over” in the upper body from driving, computer work and smartphone use.

Eye on Alignment:

Stand on your knees with the option to have your toes curled under or the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Lately, I am really liking the toes curled under option for camel. I find that I am able to use the toes to “draw up” through the rest of my feet and use that effort and energy to create a more stable foundation in the lower body — legs, pelvis, hips, glutes.

Once the lower body is engaged and grounded, all of the curve in camel comes from the lift of the sternum on the front side of the body and the curve of the thoracic spine on the back side. It is important to avoid the tendency to “go back” too quickly — which can lead to camel ending up in the neck or lower back. Work with the action of lifting from the sternum on the front side of the body while creating length up the thoracic and cervical spine, starting from in between the shoulder blades on the back side of the body. Keeping your hands on the lower back to help stabilize and support the lower body as you slowly work with the alignment and breath in camel is a great option.

I draw from various sources of inspiration in my personal practice and weave into my sequencing and teaching what I’m working with — its always a fluid mix of inspiration, intention and intution. All that said, I want to offer credit to specific sources whose knowledge and guidance have influenced and inspired my practice recently — with the one constant source of inspiration being the yogis who I am honored and priviledged to guide as they share their practices:

Jules Mitchell has warm-ups for the arms, shoulders and upper back (in addition to a lot of great stuff overall) that I’ve found helpful in preparing these areas of the body for heart-openers and backbends, including camel. Her alignment cues for keeping an “unbroken neck” in backbends are very instructive, and I love how she uses props to allow for accessibility.

Reggie Ray’s (Dharma Ocean) guided meditations have permeated every aspect of my practice recently — asana, pranayama and mediation. In particular within my sequencing, I find inspiration in them for my centering and entry into Savasana. They are grounding in the most elemental way.

Erich Schiffmann’s “Heart Breathing” and “Expanded Heart Breathing” exercises (from his Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness) are a beautiful meditation options to complement a camel or any heart-opening practice.

Richard Rosen’s “Eyes of the Heart” practice and “End of Twelve Breath” in The Yoga of Breath are complementary pranayama practices to heart-openers.

Finally, I’ve mentioned Phillip Beach’s Muscles and Meridians in previous posts, and the section of his book on the Chinese meridial map has been very enlightening. We find what we know as “camel posture” in the Chinese meridial map as a posture that maps the Conception Vessel (Ren Mai Meridian), the ventral midline. I’ve found by guiding my asana practice within this mapping that sometimes elusive but always amazing experience that balances the physical and energetic fields of the body and absorbs them into one another.

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From: Muscles and Meridians

So, yogis…

What do you love about camel? What do you find challenging about this posture? What props and alignment cues have assisted you in accessing its energy and benefits? I invite you to share your thoughts (and pictures of you in this pose should you be so inclined!) with the Allay community so we can inspire one another in and out of the studio.

Kathleen is honored to be teaching three weekly classes in Allay’s warm community. Join her for Open Flow on Mondays at 9:30am and Thursdays at noon and Level 1 on Saturdays at 9:00am. Find out More about Kathleen at http://www.lookingglasshouseyoga.com.

Open Your Heart and Shine Your Light

Hi Yogis! Today’s post is from Debi Schenk!

“Normally we are like a shuttered lantern, our light within invisible. As we create opening, this draws back the shutter, and the light of the lamp shines out.” ~IYENGAR

As yoga teachers, we often talk about opening the heart. Some students may think of this as a physical act; moving the shoulder blades further into the back, opening the arms wider, doing a deeper backbend. But for those students that are truly connecting the physical with the emotional, the body with the mind, opening the heart becomes a way to inner peace.

When doing heart openers, think about the true meaning. How can you create more love and light around you? Can you open your heart to give more? Can you open it to receive more? When you open your heart in a pose, can you actually connect inwards and imagine the heart expanding?

Chair Pose is a wonderful example of a heart opener. The pose actually stimulates the diaphragm and heart. It is a pose of the sun salutations, which clearly help us not only bring the light inwards, but shine our light out. Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, and Wheel/Upward Bow are also wonderful ways to open the heart because of the lift and expansion of the chest and heart.

Try to connect the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of heart openers…you will walk around shining your light and opening new paths of love.

Debi is founder of trueUyoga, is a registered yoga teacher with over 15 years of yoga experience. She has helped numerous clients on the path to better health. Debi began practicing yoga before it became a trend and understands the positive benefits that it can have in many areas of your life. What makes Debi different is her extensive background in alternative health. She is able to draw from her knowledge and create a yoga practice just for you, while keeping your overall health in mind.

Unexpected Peace

I am so grateful for you, our amazing community for your love and support both at and outside of the studio. It has been a journey. I tried to put an adjective in there, but couldn’t find the right one, because it was so many things.  And, isn’t that simply what a journey is? A process of so many things connected together to form an experience.

Yesterday, after an interesting two week wait, I had my beta. I wasn’t surprised to get the results, as I had been testing at home since only a few days after the transfer. I am not pregnant. I began to type “the results were negative.” But, while I’m not pregnant, the outcome is actually, not negative.

And, I’m ok. As these two weeks moved forward, and I continued to get “negative” test results, I began to feel something I did not expect to feel, given those results: peace.  While one one hand, my tests always indicated that my body responded beautifully to the medicines necessary for a frozen embryo transfer, I never, physically felt quite right. I had difficult reactions to many of the shots (so much so that they had to take me off one of them). I had a lot of mental and physical resistance to the fragility going through a process like this creates.  As the cycle moved forward, and especially throughout these last two weeks, I began to feel my yearning, my desires shift.

Instead of focusing on what could be, I wanted to be simply where I was. I am a planner, a doer–I do what it takes. I am often looking toward the future (as hard as I work to be in the present). But, as this cycle went on, I began to feel, deep within my bones, a profound happiness and satisfaction with how things are RIGHT NOW.

I needed to go back, to try. I don’t know if I would have felt differently if we had waited. Or, if the outcome would have been different, had we waited. But, it doesn’t matter. Being who I am, I needed to try. I was ready. Ben and I had a number of reasons for why the timing was right. If we were going to do it, we were going to do it. It is a difficult thing to explain, if you’ve never had an embryo waiting on ice :). And, we didn’t know how long it would take. It took us three years to have Drew.

Given the place from which I started, I didn’t expect to feel as I do as I come to the finish. I no longer feel the drive to do whatever it takes. I feel happy and content to be done, to let my body simply be, to be physically and mentally able to be with my son 100% instead of slightly less, a natural consequence of the fertility (and pregnancy and baby!) process. It feels as though my life, my future, just blew wide open.  I haven’t known a world without trying to get pregnant, pregnancy, or new baby for over four years.  Knowing that we had one frozen embryo remaining, we always knew we’d go back. And, given what we had already been through, we had assumed we could be looking at another few years of unknowns, possibly with much pain and loss. I wanted this peace, but I didn’t think it was possible for me until we that test said “positive.”

Yet, here it is. My result is positive. I’m not pregnant. But, I feel at peace. And, I have an incredible, full family with which to share it. How lucky am I?