What does your yoga practice have to do with self-love? Stephanie Birch talks about the process of showing up on the mat for herself, how it gave her purpose, turned pain into passion, and love into life.Read more
Hello, November! This month welcomes the start of the holiday season which may mean that there's a lot going on and buzzing about. From gatherings to traveling, the hectic holiday season can leave little time for the self and reflection. As you are out and about this season, take time for you and check in with your zen.
This month is all about the folds and giving your body space. We will start with grounding down, moving into standing side-bends, forward folds and then take it to the earth for a nice low-back release. These postures are great if you find yourself sitting for long periods during travel, loading yourself with honey-do lists, stepping out in those holiday heels, or putting in those extra hours at the office.
Begin in child's pose:
- Take your knees wide to the earth, bring your big toes in close to each other.
- Hinge at your hips, lowering your bum towards your heels. It is great to put a block between your heels and glutes for extra support.
- Extend your palms forward, lengthening your back, stretching the intercostals in the outer ribs.
- Drop your forward down on your mat or onto a block or rolled blanket.
From here, draw your awareness into your breath. Start to notice how you are breathing; what it feels and sounds like. Begin to grow your breath in a way that allows your entire body to fill and empty. Nice, long, slow inhales and exhales. For the next 3-5 minutes, your greatest effort is to stay close to your breath. Let your thought patterns turn to the wavelengths of your breath, visualizing your air coming in and receding like an even, calm body of water.
- From child's pose, slowly stand up tall with both hands at your hips. Your feet can be together or hip-width apart.
- Lift your right palm to the sky and lean to the left.
- Draw your front ribs in and down towards your hips.
- Your left palm remains on your left hip, rooting down towards your feet.
- Try to keep your pelvis and hips even as if you were standing upright.
- Your gaze can be up, down, or forward, whichever position feels amazing.
Stay here for a few breaths on each side. Bend in such a way that you can take long, fluid breaths. It may help to have the upper hand in a cactus shape (bent at the elbow), so your chest remains lifted leaving room to expand your lungs. This side-body opening gets into the shoulders, armpits, intercostals, psoas, and outer hips. The side-body is a huge support system for you lungs, a great way to create space to expand your breath.
Forward bend with a shoulder opener:
- Separate your feet about hip-width distance or as wide as your yoga mat.
- Hinge forward at your hips and drop your head down.
- Bend your knees so that your belly can rest on top or between your thighs, if you can.
- Option one, take your palms behind you and grab opposite elbows.
- Option two, interlace your fingers, stretching your arms straight above your head.
Let your neck be loose and heavy get heavy here. You can sway the upper body from side to side or shake out the head with a "yes" or "no" and back to "yes." Forward bends are considered to be quite calming. Hang out and breathe deeply for several breaths and up to a minute.
Lastly, one of my favorites, supported bridge:
- Grab a block or a thick book and lay down down on your back with your feet planted.
- Press your feet down and lift your hips into bridge pose.
- Set the block underneath your sacrum; it's the low part of your back, and the flat part of your lower back just above your tailbone.
- Let the block remain on the lowest setting, providing a nice and wide space for the amount of time you'll be on the floor.
You can keep your feet planted, bend the knees with your heels resting in the air towards your bum, or you can extend your legs long with your heels down onto the earth. The goal here is to have as little activation as possible, so rest the legs down to relax your belly, pelvis, and sacrum. Palms face-up by your sides or resting on your belly.
You may feel an achy-ness in the broad part of your lower back. So long as it is not a finger point sharp pain, you're great (if it's sharp, come out and knock your knees together and plant your feet wide instead for a low back release). Let your bones be heavy, as your body sinks into the earth with every exhale. Stay here for a good 5-10 minutes with your greatest effort of relaxing the body, breath, and mind. This supported bridge is a wonderful release for anyone that sits or stands for long periods of time. I have found at this time of year, we tend to sit more than in the summer months.
You can practice any or even just one of the poses and receive excellent benefits of tuning out the outside in order to tune into the inside. Give yourself some time and space at home or in your office. Even if you only have ten minutes in the day, a supported bridge or child's pose are two postures that require you to relax which calms the nervous system. Breathe slow and deep, flap your lips, and give yourself some big sighs for exhales to release the day. A great way to recharge through breath, is to take powerful inhales that pump your chest to boost your energy.
'Tis the season to get your zen on.