Checking In

Sat Naam and Namaste

I write today, on one of these first days of spring, as the snow falls gently outside my window.  Our world is a very different place today than a few short weeks ago.

I sincerely hope everyone is doing okay.  I know my whole world has changed, as I navigate a temporarily closed studio but still searching for ways I can be of service in our community through the gift of yoga, my husband is now working from home in our cozy living space, and amidst all of this learning how to be a full time home school teaching mom.

Grateful for my yoga practice, now more than ever.

I think many of us are still in shock at the state of our world, sending compassion to every country in our global community as we dive into the shared suffering we are all experiencing.  Many are falling into a state of fear in the face of so many unknowns.  I’m writing today, as a  little check in, to make sure you’re okay.  Navigating the changing landscape of our own lives, our collective of teachers are going to put some classes together for all of you for over the next while.  We don’t know how long it will be before we’re all physically practicing together again, but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice together in the comfort of our own homes.  As we get live classes set up, and others recorded, we’ll be sure to send out links and invites, please we ask, be patient with us.  Creating from a place of peace and ease, finding our own centers first, as a few weeks ago we hadn’t imagined we’d need to learn the art of online yoga classes.

In traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is a time of creating, cleansing, activity and movement, growth and renewal.  I want  you to try to allow the intention set forth in this season to be your anchor. The liver is the organ we need to work with in the transition to spring.  Spring can be a time of intense energy, and we want to move a little slower as we allow for an easeful transition.    The liver has the potential to become stressed and strained from the intense emotions and energies of our present day world, it would seem this spring our livers need even more love than ever.

The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes toxins. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines. The liver also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions.  Emotionally we associate the liver as the seat of anger, a healthy balanced liver allows us to go with the flow, to naturally cool our intense emotions and to see the road in front of us clearly.

We are being asked to stay in our homes and physically distance ourselves from others, perhaps a perfect time to honor and understand your own body better.  While spending extra time at home, make space in your cupboards and in your body through your own spring cleansing practices, and  plant  seeds of growth and renewal.  Taking some time on your mat or or out in nature is the perfect place to plant those seeds.  We are also being given this time to reflect and release emotions that no longer serve us, especially those rooted in anger, resentment, fear, frustration and lethargy.  In a mindfulness practice we explore our mind patterns and emotions that continue to visit us, can you take  this time to observe the patterns arising now, note what they are and send them compassion.

Give yourself permission to release what no longer serves you.

We will find ourselves on the other side of this, harnessing the true power and vitality waiting for us.

A breath that can be especially helpful right now is Skull Shining Breath, Kapalabhati or Breath of Fire, regardless of the name you’re familiar with the, effect and the practice is the same.

This practice is a traditional breathing exercise in yoga that helps to detoxify the body, increase Prana or life force in your being, decongest your lung tissue, lift a depressive mood, energize the body and clarify the mind. (Just to name a few benefits)

  1. Sit up tall, relax your shoulders, and take a few deep breaths in and out from your nose. With each inhale, expand your belly fully as you breathe, stretch your diaphragm, relax
  2. Begin Skull Shining or breath of fire, by exhaling forcefully through your nose. Follow by inhaling forcefully at the rate of one second per cycle.  Some people find it helpful to start the practice with the mouth open, panting like a dog and then continue the same breath pattern with the mouth closed – breathing through the nose.  Ideally your inhale and exhale are of an equal length.
  3. Focus on your lower belly, for beginners this may be difficult.  Sometimes it is helpful to place a hand on the lower belly connecting with the movement.  Make sure the breath is coming from your diaphragm; keep your head, neck, shoulders, and chest still while your belly moves in and out.

For your first cycle, allow about 20 seconds of the practice, then take a break and breathe naturally, observing the sensations in your mind and body. After a 15 to 30 second break, begin the next round  for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Finally, after pausing for another 30 seconds, complete a third round for at least 1 minute working up to 3 minutes.

Make sure to listen to your body during the practice. This is a safe practice, but if you feel light-headed in any way, take a pause for a few minutes while breathing naturally. When the discomfort passes, try another round, slower and with less intensity.

When is a good time to practice?

First thing in the morning: Since this practice is so detoxifying and energizing, try it first thing in the morning for a wake-up call that will get your blood pumping and get you in the perfect mode to start your day.

During the mid-day slump: This helps to boost your energy and your mood, wakes up your inner fire to get through the day.

Before movement: Getting ready for a walk, a run, yoga, or general movement session? Before you lace up your shoes or roll out your mat, sit for a few rounds of breath of fire to warm you up.

Contraindications: Do not practice Breath of fire if you’re pregnant, on the first days of your menstrual cycle, have uncontrolled hypertension, epilepsy, seizures, or panic disorder. You should also avoid practicing on a full stomach; wait at least two hours after eating.

We hope to see you on your mat soon, or out in our community.

Much love to each of you

Written by Amber Young

close up of tree against sky

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