Handstands

Hatha_LowRes-155I love handstands.  I have loved and practiced them for decades and I never tire of the exhilaration I feel after each one. They help me feel strong and alive, even as I move deeper into my 60s. As a yoga teacher I also know that almost anyone can learn to do at least some version of a handstand, and that many students will be surprised, thrilled and amazed to get up in either a handstand prep or the full pose. Handstands empower us.

Because I teach handstands almost every week in at least one of my classes I am always looking for new ways of making this pose more accessible to my students. I’m always asking myself what alignment tips and various muscular and energetic actions can move my students (and me!) toward more ease, fun and airtime in this amazing pose.

This year I found another physical action that can help us balance in the pose. If you are not yet able to get up into handstand against a wall, then come to class to learn the basics. You can also practice this tip and get your body ready to support you.

The premise behind this practice is that handstand is not just about strength in the arms and wrists as some people imagine. An easeful handstand requires balanced muscular actions throughout the whole body. My students are telling me that doing this exercise, especially right before doing a handstand, awakens what they need to happen in the body to balance off the wall. See what you think.

Begin by lying on the floor on your back. Create the shape of Supta Padangusthasana (SP) with the left leg stretched out along the floor and the right leg up in the air with a strap looped around the center of the arch.

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In this version of SP the main actions of the pose happen in the leg on the floor.  The top leg can be extended into the strap but have enough ease through the back of the leg that the whole pelvis (especially the lower half) is completely on the floor.

As you focus on the bottom leg, feel it spreading lengthwise and sideways along the floor. Let the leg feel wide and completely glued to the floor. Keeping the leg glued to the floor, create the action in the body that would lift it off the floor and do that action strongly even though the leg is staying on the floor.  You’ll immediately feel the whole front of your leg and the left side of your torso up to your ribcage “wake up” with the toning of muscular action. These muscles are the stabilizers that will help you get up into handstand easily and balance once you are up. Relax effort and let the toning go, and then pause and do it again. Repeat on the other side. Be sure as you do this action that you are not flattening or overarching the back; let the front of the body do all the work.

If you look at the photo below I am pressing on the front of Evan’s shin and asking him to push me away. This way I can feel if he is getting the action correctly, and, if you are a yoga teacher, this is a useful assist.

Marcia Miller is teaching a Restorative Master Class on Inversions at Yoga on High February 21st from 9:30a-4p. You can also catch Marcia teacher her favorite handstand variations during her Wednesday evenings Hatha Level 2 & 3 drop in class at 5:45p at Yoga on High.

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Ujjayi

Ujjayi is a foundational breathing technique used alone or while practicing other techniques such as kumbhaka (breath holding) or nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing). The Sanskrit word ujjayi translates as ‘victoriously uprising,’ referring to the expansion and upward movement of the pranic energy of the breath. In practicing ujjayi, you slightly contract the throat muscles,  which provides more resistance to the flow of the breath in and out of the body. The glottis (the opening between the vocal chords) partially closes when you do that too. This restriction of the airway evens and lengthens both the inhalation and exhalation and brings the action of the breath down into the diaphragm. Ideally, the force behind both the ujjayi inhalation and exhalation is even and uniform throughout, from its first impulse to its conclusion. The same volume of breath moves through the nostrils with the same force at the same rate of flow from beginning to end.  The sensation of an even inhalation or exhalation is often described as like the feeling of pulling a silk thread evenly through your fingers.

During ujjayi breathing, you can hear the breath whisper in and out of the body. The sound helps you focus your attention on the breath and pay attention to its qualities. The sound should be subdued, barely audible; no need to accentuate it.

  1. To practice ujjayi, you can be sitting or reclining.
  2. Take a normal breath in through the nostrils.
  3. As you exhale, slightly restrict the throat as though you are whispering and imagine making the sound “oooohhh.” Notice the sound the breath makes.
  4. Take multiple breaths in this fashion, breathing normally on the inhalation and restricting the throat on the exhalation. It is easier for most people to practice the restriction on the exhalation.
  5. When you are ready, restrict the throat on both the inhalation and exhalation. On the inhalation, imagine making the sound “aaaahhh.”
  6. Inhaling, “aaahhh” exhaling, “ooohhh.” Once you know the feeling in the throat, stop saying the sounds to yourself, but continue restricting the throat following the pattern your have just established. Focus on the sound the breath itself makes.
  7. Keep the rate of flow constant, without fluctuation. The exhalation will probably be longer than the inhalation. You may find that you pause slightly at the top of the inhalation or bottom of the exhalation. Allow the breath to feel natural and unforced.
  8. Lie down or sit up and practice ujjayi for 5 to 10 minutes. How do you feel afterwards?

linda-3829_0_0Linda Oshins has made practicing and teaching pranayama her focus for a number of years. She teaches the 9-month pranayama teacher training course (taught by phone) [link] and a pranayama class (also by phone) [link]. This is a section of her book Pranayama: A Compendium of Practices, available through Yoga on High.

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Patterns of Consciousness

DeborahForsbloomDuring my 200-hour Teacher Training, I began to see more and more that being Present suffused every part of yoga.   When I needed a topic for a paper on Yoga Philosophy, I decided to see what Patanjali had to say about being Present.   Stephen Cope’s The Wisdom of Yoga became my guide to the sutras of Patanjali.  This is part of that query.

For 3000 years, renunciates in India have been trying to discover what causes human suffering and how humans can live a happy life.  Through trial and error, they decided that the answer to suffering was Liberation, which meant “freedom from all sources of conditioning that bind us to small ways of thinking and being.  Liberation means being entirely awake and fully alive.”[1]  I am calling this being Present.

Read More…

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February Happenings

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Yoga on High February Print Schedule (PDF)

Upcoming February Workshops and Trainings:
Feb 5 Sekoia Hike
Feb 6 Reiki: Healing in the Language of Love
Feb 7 Charles Gibson: Thai Yoga Massage
Feb 10 Pranayama Teacher Training
Feb 13 Couples Massage
Feb 13-14 Acro Yoga Workshop
Feb 14 4-Part Melt Workshop
Feb 20 108 Hour Ashtanga Teacher Training
Feb 21 Restorative Master Class: Inversions

Reiki Shares:
Feb 1, 8, 15, 29

Information Sessions:
200hr TT: Feb 28 1:15-2:15
Ayurveda: Feb 12 5:00- 5:45

All Life Center – Powell – Drop In Classes:
Monday:
9:30a Slow Burn Vinyasa Level 1 & 2 with Marcy Freed
Wednesday:
7:00p Slow Burn Vinyasa Level 1 & 2 with Marcy Freed

Step by Step Wellness – Westerville – Series Classes:
Monday:
9:15a Mommy & Baby with Janet Braden (Starts Feb 8)
6:00p Prenatal Yoga with Julie Carpenter (Starts Feb 22)
Tuesday:
7:00p Yoga for Runners with Marcy Freed (Starts Feb 9)
Thursday:
6:00p Yoga for Highschoolers (teens 13+) with Katie Whitsett (Starts Feb 18)
Saturday:
11:00a Kids Yoga (ages 6-12) with Mary Lynn Niland (Starts Feb 13)

Yoga on High -- Short North -- Series Classes:
Tuesday:
6:00p EMBER with Michele Vinbury (Starts Feb 23)

Grow Yoga Upcoming Workshops:
Feb 13 Valentine Yoga and Poetry
March 5 Melt Method Introduction
April 16 Ignite Your Personal Transformation

Grow Yoga February Print Schedule (PDF)

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Yogi of the Month: Deborah

Meet this month’s Yogi of the Month, Deborah Forsblom.  She is a long time student of yoga on high and currently in the 300 Hour Teacher Training program. Here’s her #whyyoga:

Why Yoga On High? We moved to Bexley in the late 1970’s and joined what was then the Bexley Food Coop. Marcia was one of the founders, and we met her there. Then we took her yoga class at Bexley Rec. When I was ready to take studio classes, I never considered anywhere else. I am so happy that I can go to great, safe classes and get training and attend world-class workshops 10 minutes from my house. Marcia, Martha, and Linda created something wonderful for Columbus, and Jasmine and Michele are helping to build it and keep it going. Yoga on High has become my home away from home.

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Meditation

linda-3829_0_0The following is a page taken from Kim Stafford’s The Muses among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft.

There was a physicist who played the violin. One morning he took his fiddle to the lab, wrapped it green with felt, clamped it gently in a vise, and trained the electron microscope close on the spruce belly, just beside the sound hole, where a steel peg was humming at a high frequency. Through the microscope, once he got it focused right, he saw the molecular surface of the wood begin to pucker and ripple outward like rings on a pond, the ripples rising gradually into waves, and the steel peg a blur at the heart of play.

When he drew the peg away, the ripples did not stop. In twenty-four hours, the ripples had not stopped. He saw, still, a concentric tremor on the molecular quilt of the wood. The violin, in the firm embrace of the vise, had a song, a thing to say.

In another twelve hours, the ripples flattened and the wood lay inert. Read More…

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Grace

marcia_ReikiI experienced a few moments of grace this past week, and I’m considering how best to honor that experience. I was giving Reiki to a student who has had a troubled and challenging life so far. Though she is not that interested in yoga, she really enjoys Reiki. When I was with her I had such a strong desire for her to feel the love that was present in that moment—love that I imagined had not been a big part of her life. At a certain point it felt bigger than anything I have ever experienced. I was part of a flow of LOVE that felt absolutely holy. It felt like I was channeling a mother-love that was so, so big that it was way beyond anything personal. At one point my mind wondered what was going on or if I was “up to the vastness of this experience.”  That thought felt so much smaller than what I was experiencing that I had to let it go in order to get back to the beauty of what had been happening. Read More…

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Big, Safe Space

scunningham“You’re so calm.”

So many people have said this to me in my adult life that I began to believe it was true.

I am an oncology nurse, a breast cancer survivor. I have witnessed and helped many friends and family members through illness and death. I am the middle child—the children known to be good negotiators, mediators, the calm ones. We middle children go with the flow to keep the family peace. I used these tools my whole life.  By the time I enrolled in the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) training I was convinced I was a calm person.

When Steve, my husband, was hit by a car one month into UZIT training I was sucked in to a space I have yet to leave. His injuries were severe. A brain injury and broken body from head to toe. I have vivid memories from this time. The sound of the voice of the surgeon, and this strange moan coming from my body. Of my niece Lauren’s strong arms wrapping a coat around me. The vibration of the car engine as she drove us to the ER. The strength of Lauren clinging to my arm in the waiting room. Feeling not only my feet firmly planted on the floor but my whole body…in this shape, sitting, breathing…I felt my breath go in and out of my body as I saw Steve’s bloody, bruised face amid the swirl of medical personnel and equipment. Vivid memories in the form of sensation rather than words or events. I shake as I write this. Read More…

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Kitchari: Nourishment in Each Bowl

Seamless texture of spices on blackThe ancient healing medicine of Ayurvedic places a strong emphasis on food as a way to restore health to the body and the mind. In the Ayurvedic tradition, Kitchari is used to balance digestive health. As you will see below in the recipe, Kitchari is a soup of rice, protein-rich mung beans, nutrient- dense greens and seasonal vegetables, spiced with fresh and dried herbs to support digestion and eliminate toxins. It is a nourishing and cleansing meal in itself. It is often the sole menu item during Ayurvedic cleanses. Sometimes just spending a day or two doing a kitchari diet can ease digestive problems. The amount of water added to the recipe determines how soupy the kitchari is, and can vary depending on your tastes.

This recipe that was given to me by Gary Jacobsson, C.A.S., master teacher and talented chef at the California College of Ayurveda.

1 Tbs                      Ghee or Olive Oil
1 Tsp                      Dry Ginger or 1 Tbs. Fresh Ginger, chopped fine
1 Tsp                      Cumin Powder
1 Tsp                      Coriander Powder
1 Tsp                      Black Mustard Seeds
½ Tsp                     Turmeric Powder
½ Tsp                     Yellow Curry Powder
1 Tsp                      Fennel Powder
1 Tsp                      Sea Salt
1 Tsp                      Asafoetida Powder or 1 Clove of Fresh Garlic
1 Tbs                      Braggs Liquid Aminos
½ Cup                    Basmati Rice
½ Cup                    Split Yellow Mung Beans
4-6 Cups               Filtered Water – Add more water to make soupy
1 Bunch                Fresh Cilantro, chopped as topping
1-2                          Limes, quartered and squeezed over top Read More…

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The World Needs Your Gifts: End of Year Letter

Partners-1456eDear friends, colleagues, students and anyone else who is reading this blog,

The following poem is our gift to you at the end of 2015. You have offered us many blessings because you have been a part of Yoga on High this past year. You have come to our classes and workshops, shopped in our bookstore, recommended us to your friends, let us know you are grateful for what we offer and even let us know how we can make Yoga on High better and better.  We are all better as a result of our work together, and we know it.  Thanks so much for being a part of our lives.

With love and deep pranams (bows),

Marcia, Jasmine and Michele

Poem-01

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