Monday, September 22, 2008

How to make your own lavender eye pillow for Svavasana!

If you want to make your own eye pillow for svavasana (corpse pose), below are the simplest instructions:

Materials (Yields 1 Pillow)
Organic Flax Seeds (2 cups per pillow should be about right)
A 9-by-9 inch square of a soft fabric (Organic fabric is best, but use whatever you have onhand—fabric remnants work well, too.)
1 Heaping Tablespoon of Dried Organic Lavender Per Pillow
1 Funnel
A Needle, Thread, Sewing Machine (with zigzag stitch), Scissors, Measuring Tape

Step By Step:

1. With the right sides together, fold the fabric in half.
2. Sew a straight edge around the three cut edges, leaving a 5/8-inch seam allowance. IMPORTANT: Leave about an inch at the corner not sewn!
3. Zigzag stitch around the raw edges, to keep your fabric from unraveling. Again, leaving about an inch at the corner not sewn.
4. Turn the fabric inside out through the opening you left at the corner.
5. Insert the funnel into the opening.
6. Using the funnel, fill your pillow approximately half of the way with the flax seeds and dried lavender.
7. Sew together the one-inch opening in the corner with your needle and thread. Make your stitches as close together as possible.

Voila! Share your adventures with the eye pillow below!

Blessings and Namaste,


Sunday, September 21, 2008

How do we cultivate peace in ourselves and the world?

"Perhaps the key to transforming war is to give so much joy to the world that we all stop needing violence to reduce our frustrations, ignorance and fear."

Today is the International Day of Peace as designated by the United Nations. I thought I could say a few words on behalf of this day to bring some awareness and attention to its meaning. Sometimes I get so down and negative on everything that's going on in the world today. I check and it seems that there's a new conflict everyday: "Russia invades Georgia", "devastating floods in India, Cuba and Haiti", "deadly bomb kills diplomat in Pakistan", "US faces worst financial crisis in history", "British soldiers killed in Iraq"...the list goes on. But are these events really that surprising when I see daily events in people's personal lives (on a smaller scale obviously) that mirror these global conflicts? I myself struggle with getting along with some people, I see relationships and marriages fail, friendships end...That's why I do yoga and meditate. I pray for peace and will dedicate my yoga practice today to inner and outer (world) peace. I wish it for you today. I wish it for everyone in this world.

Blessings and Namaste,

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Caragh's Vinyasa Workshop at Sunrise Studio...

I was lucky to participate in Caragh's three-hour Vinyasa Workshop at her studio today. Caragh was inspired by a workshop she attended with Shiva Rea in California this past summer (see a sample of Shiva's graceful and fluid movement in the video below). I hadn't been to an interesting workshop and challenging class since I moved to Ireland 3.5 months ago, so this was really refreshing!

She started off by explaining the essence of Vinyasa..the flow of breath (prana) linked with movement and asked the participants to share instances of "flow" in our own lives. Some people felt in the flow when cleaning, or spending time with their children...others noted dancing or writing. It was good to share and participate in the conversation. Caragh also asked us to write down how we felt today in a stream of consciousness. We were then asked to create a phrase out of the words and share them out loud with the group. My phrase was something like: "I am a bit sleepy and tired today but eager to learn and to start moving my body..and use my breath to connect with the spirit and energy of others." (Note: It's always good to check in and be aware of how you feel before a class). She then gave us a colorful handout with clear pictures of the asanas and sequencing for our physical practice. After our little discussion, we started to move. The practice began with chanting OM to movement with prana. What was "new" to me was the pulsating movement....I enjoyed the "building" of the asanas to a peak pose of bakasana (crow pose) variations. The progression of the poses and the grace, fluidity and elegance of the movement was also lovely. (I didn't exhibit all these qualities at all times, but I tried!!) We all ended with a very enjoyable and cozy reclining svavasana while Caragh led us through some visualization and relaxation exercises and read some inspiring words about the breath. I loved it! And, I must have picked up something from the workshop, because later on today I taught my regular Sunday afternoon class...and one of my students commented that my class "had a nice flow to it.." :)

Blessings and Namaste,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

How has yoga changed your life? The benefits...

Aside from making you feel good, what are the benefits of doing yoga? Well, there are many... and well-supported by medical studies and journals. Here's just a few:

1. Regular yoga practice reduces stress.
2. Yoga can ease pain such as back and neck pain..even emotional pain!
3. Yoga teaches you how to breathe and expand your lung capacity!
4. Yoga improves flexibility, mobility and alignment. Your posture will improve!
5. Yoga asana (physical postures help you to build strength!)
6. Yoga can help you to control your weight!
7. Yoga improves your circulation and oxygenates your body!
8. Yoga gives you a workout!
9. Yoga improves your concentration and allows you to focus on the present!
10. Yoga gives you inner peace and more satisfaction about your life!

So, these are great reasons to do yoga! What do you get out of it personally? How has yoga changed your life? Would love to hear from you and how you've benefited from yoga practice!! Share your comments or questions below!

Blessings and Namaste,

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What is meditation?

I have to admit that I didn't start to practice meditation right away...or at least as quickly as I started to get into the physical practice of yoga. I just didn't see the point of sitting in a cross-legged position and doing nothing. Then as my physical practice of yoga evolved, I started to explore meditation. I heard so many good things about it: Neuroscientists have found that people who meditate shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex - brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear (Psychology Today, 2003)

Anyway, this is what I experienced by meditating 18 minutes/day for the past few months: I experienced that by meditating and recognizing or watching my thoughts without grabbing on to them, I began to create space in my mind and from that space insights arose. These insights were different from my normal thought process and enabled me to look at the world, to investigate things, to make connections in a way that freed me from the same old pattern of behavior and thinking.
There are different types of meditation, but the hardest part is to get started. Anyway, here's what I suggest:

1. Start with 10 minutes a day when you can sit quietly with no noise or interruptions. Set a timer (most cellphones have timers built into them, so check out yours to see if it has one!)

2. Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position with your back against the wall with your spine nice and long. You can place a blanket underneath your sitbones, or sit up on your yoga mat folded several times.

3. Close your eyes and just focus on your breath. Watch your breath and see if you can inhale and exhale through your nose. As you do this regularly, you will notice that your breath will lengthen.

That's it! Try this, and let me know what comes up!! Be'll start to notice subtle but wonderful things happen as you do this everyday!! I'll write about more advanced techniques in future posts...

Blessings and Namaste,