Category Archives: home practice

Mindfullness Apps I Love

It’s no longer realistic to think mindfulness is contained to meditating on a beach or chanting alone in the forest. One of the most inspirational teacher/healers I know, Silvia Mordini, is known as an Apple ‘Power User.’ People are amazing- we adapt to new technologies and invent ways to cultivate mindfulness within them. Here are some apps I have used that keep me centered while I’m on my phone 22.5 hours out of the day…

HEADSPACE: My #1 choice for meditation apps. It’s a simple, creative, modern app for anyone- experienced with meditation or not. The main program is called ‘Take Ten,’ with several 10 minute meditations beginning with very simple techniques and building on them. 

INSIGHT MEDITATION TIMER: The basic function of this app is a peaceful/gentle alarm that tells you when the time you have allotted for meditation is over. I need this because I’ll be anxious about being late or whatever if I don’t set a timer. This app also shows how many other people around the world are using the app to meditate which is pretty cool. You can choose between singing bowls, chimes, etc to peacefully awake you from meditation.

Insight Timer logo

SPOTIFY: I would consider this a mindfulness app because music brings me so much joy and peace. This is by far the app I use the most. If I were homeless I’d still find a way to get the $9 a month for this app. My Playlists (mostly yoga class playlists)

ANGEL CARDS (old school verion): This is sort of a silly one. I read my real Angel Cards (these ones by Doreen Virtue) every day, but this app is just a little reminder to cultivate the beautiful qualities in angel cards. It has funny music and you can even write little notes with the cards you get.

I still have not found a good app for finding yoga in the area.. I just use Yelp or Google.

All of these can be found my searching the APP store on your iphone or ipad.

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Get Clean

I haven’t been good lately. I’ve been strictly vegetarian for sure.. but I’ve been a booze-atarian bordering on drunkorexic. I’ve fallen into the same trap as millions of people. Working 60 hours a week resulting in eating shitty food, lapsing in self care, and self-medicating with beer, chocolate, and even vegan junk food I trick myself into thinking is healthy.

I will never be happy being just okay. I know from being on a high raw diet for years that my mind and body can do extraordinary things when I give them the right care. I believe a good diet can cure my chronic inflammation, help me shed unhealthy belly fat (the worst kind!) and help me be a more peaceful, happy person.

What prompted this was on Thursday I reached a breaking point. I knew my pathetic work/life balance (if you could even call it that) was not sustainable and my body felt like a dark heavy lump I was dragging around from job to job. A couple tears and $70 at Whole Foods later and I made about a gallon of green juice that I am nearly finished with after two days. I feel so much better.

Here’s the plan. February 28 starts the detox and rehabilitation process.

GOALS:

  • Fresh green juices: At least one a day. Other fruit/veg juices are bonus but getting the greens in is essential.
  • Green Smoothies: Daily. I already do this almost every day but having this goal will keep me on track.
  • 30 minutes of meditation a day: This is a huge goal and a time investment for me. After my vipassana retreat in 2013, my meditation practice has been confined to the 5 minutes of Savasana after yoga and the couple minutes when my eyes are closed before I fall asleep. 15 minutes, morning and evening. I will make time for it.
  • Practice yoga 5 times per week.
  • Work-out/Lift weights 2-3x per week: I feel 100000x better when I do this.
  • Strive for a high raw/paleo diet. Cutting out grains, dairy, legumes, processed sugar. I am not cutting out alcohol or coffee but I’m going to try to keep it to a minimum. Wine, cocktails with soda water and lemon or lime, and when possible fresh fruit juices.
  • Supplementation: Apple cidar vinegar, Algae Oil, trace minerals, and turmeric DAILY. These are things that have been recommended to me from healers but I haven’t quite been able to commit to, even though they’re sitting in my cupboard. It’s time.
  • Sunday Technology Detox: Take sundays off to be with friends, alone time, play the piano, practice yoga, rest. Keep phone/computer time to a minimum and don’t work.

February 28 I will weight myself, take measurements and photos. Because who doesn’t love a good before and after post?

Any suggestions, encouragement, words of wisdom?

love always,

little windmill

5 Ways to add shoulder opening to your hip opening poses

Two birds, one stone. Stretching both muscle groups at the same time will give you twice the benefits!

Also, it’s a good way to break any patterns or habits you may have developed in your practice. If you are a yogi that practices 3+ times a week, please don’t be afraid to break out your own remixes of the poses presented. Trust me, the teacher wants you to do what feels good and benefits you, even if it doesn’t look like what your neighbor is doing. It’s easy to go on auto pilot, especially in forward folds. I am frankly OVER yanking my hamstrings into folds 20x a class! Switch it up and give your shoulders some love in these hip openers!

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Bound high lunge. It’s not all about bound side angle pose all the time! You can do this variation with your heal up or down in a bound ‘Warrior VI’ or ‘Flying Warrior’ as some call it pose.

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Prasarita Padotanasana Cherry Picker. I love this variation, instead of just hanging down or yanking on your feet to stretch your hamstrings, this stretches your shoulders and gives you a new way to open the back body. The resistance you get when you walk your hands back behind you will make your traps and deltoids sing.

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Twisted Janu Sirsasana. I must thank my teacher Silvia Mordini for teaching me this unique variation of one legged forward fold. It’s hard to see in the photo, but this is actually a twist that you will immediately in the outer muscles of your back. Use the hand and arm not touching your foot as leverage to twist further. Further the stretch by softly bending the outstretched leg and twisting further.

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Starfish fold. This variation of Badha konasana is mostly practiced in Jivamukti classes, but this is my new favorite fold! This is a super passive fold that feels great at the end of practice, especially one heavy in back bends and heart opening.

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Bowing Balasana. This variation of child’s pose feels great in the muscles of your upper back and shoulders. To intensify, walk the elbows forward as much as possible.

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Pincha Mayurasana: Forearm Stand

Hello friends! Michelle, the Graceful Yogi and a fellow teacher trainee of mine was kind enough to provide a post in my absence! Lucky you guys get some tips from an expert teacher and student with an abundance of experience with inversions. I had the honor of photographing her at Gasworks Park in Seattle this summer, and can’t wait to share more from the shoot with you! 

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Process and Key Actions for Pincha Mayurasana:
For Pincha Mayurasana, I start in a strong Dolphin pose with my forearms parallel and hands pressing firmly into the mat. I tuck my tailbone a little, engaging Mula Bandha and my core so that my torso is strong and integrated. Once I feel solid in my Dolphin, I shift my gaze forward between my hands.
I lift my right leg high, careful to keep my hips as even as possible and keep my core engaged. I begin to shift my weight toward my hands and roll my left heel and eventually toe off the ground, bringing my hips over my shoulders. I slowly bring my left foot to meet my right in the air, keeping my gaze forward and my torso engaged. My hips are stacked direclty over my shoulders, and my shoulders are stacked over my elbows.
Fun Variations:
When I first started working on variations I hada major breakthrough learning:
to sustain Pincha, it is imperative for me to have my shoulders over my elbows, so that my arms make a right angle; this lets me use the structure of my skeleton to hold me up, taking some strain from my back and shoulder muscles. To do this, I press down through my hands, energetically lift my weight out of my shoulders, and find a tiny bit more backbend in the middle of my back. This is a VERY deep backbend (contortionists do it in the circus). A good indicator is to see if you can comfortably bring your forearms to the ground in Urdvha Danurasana, Wheel pose (guidance on this below). Vrischikasana is essentially the same shape, with the added challenge of bringing your feet to your head.
From Pincha, I start by energetically lengthening my whole body toward the sky, creating space in my spine and lightness in my shoulders. I allow a little more bend in my mid-back, creating more of a crescent shape with my body. Once I feel stable there, I mentally glue my feet together and start to bend both knees so that my feet come toward my head. From here, it’s a balancing act. I think about the feeling of Urdvha Danurasana in my back as I shift my gaze a little further forward, out past my hands. My feet come over my head, my hips are over my mid-back rather than over my shoulders, and my shoulders have to shift slightly forward (NOT back! This will knock me over almost instantly) to counterbalance my hips. It is not uncommon for me to put a little too much weight forward and fall into Urdvha Danurasana from here :).
“Weed Whacker”
Bring your right leg toward your head until it is mostly parallel with the ground as you bend your left leg so that the toes on both feet are pointing in the same direction. From here, begin to rotate your legs clockwise, bringing your right leg out to the side and extending your left leg to the other side, coming into a wide legged straddle; inverted straddles are a great passive stretch for the groin and release for the hip flexors. Continue rotating your legs clockwise until your left leg is extended over your head and your right leg is bent. Continue in the same direction or switch to counter-clockwise. It’s a fun balance challenge, and builds endurance in Pincha.
Important Tips for all variations:
-Keep your core engaged to help you balance and take the strain out of your back
-Send energy out through your toes to keep lightness in your arms and shoulders
-Use your skeleton to your advantage: stack shoulders over elbows and hips over shoulders (even though Scorpion deviates from this a bit, it is still a helpful way to think about how you are aligning your joints in Scorpion)
My Photo

Michelle Chambers I have always been in love with movement, using all of my being to express an emotion, an idea, a prayer. I did this through ballet for many years, until my body decided yoga was a better idea. I soon discovered that yoga was therapeutic not only for my aching back and joints, but also for my mind and even my soul. As I grew in my physical practice, I began to explore each asana as a means of expressing the love and gratitude in my heart. Inspired by this flow of grace, I completed a Vinyasa yoga teacher training with Silvia Mordini to share the freedom and joy of movement through the physical, mental, and spiritual practice of yoga. 
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Handstand Challenge

handstand

Handstands and inversions in general have always been a problem for me. I’m not sure if it’s self trust, or just fear of having my hips over my shoulders, but I’ll elaborate that in a future post.

I’ve studied friends in inversions carefully and taken various workshops to try to get over the wall, but I can’t seem to shake the heaviness that I feel when I try them. Even jumping forward, I can’t seem to shake the fear of putting the weight of my body into my hands. I excel at low-to-the-ground arm balances, but when it comes to throwing my limbs in the air, it feels exhausting and out of reach.

Today I found this article via twitter from the folks over at Mind Body Green written by Lara Heimann:

Handstand Therapy:
1. Get on all fours and push down into your hands as you lift your belly up. Gently lift the knees off the ground and hover, challenging the arms and core. Lower the knees and repeat 5-10 times.
2. In Down Dog, walk your feet forward 6-12 inches, press into your hands, and keep your collarbones spread. Then walk your feet back. Repeat five times, keeping your hands fully pressed into the floor the whole time.
3. For Down Dog on the wall, first come into a Down Dog with your heels touching the wall. Walk your feet up, ideally at a 90-degree angle. With your neck relaxed and arms pressed straight, roll your biceps in and pull your front ribs and low belly toward your back. Hold 15 seconds, increasing the duration to progress. You’ll likely shake, but this means you’re truly building the strength that you need to hold a handstand off the wall.
4. In standing split, keep your top leg at a 90-degree angle, with your toes facing the floor. Cobra the spine forward, gazing out slightly. Press down into your hands, lift your belly up, and lightly press your bottom foot down to push off. Do not kick your top leg. Focus on pressing down into your hands to get off the ground.
Handstands are fun, and are great for the body and the brain. So go and play!
I am going to make my best effort to practice these techniques at home a couple times a week, and I’d love for you to join me! I need to challenge myself to develop the muscle memory to improve my inversions, even though #3 is my least favorite thing to do and the cause of a near panic attack most of the time. But hey- getting out of the comfort zone is where the magic happens, right?
Handstand inspiration from Kinetic Vigilantes:
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Restorative Shoulder Openers

Happy Saturday Yogis!

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite sequences to teach at the end of a vinyasa class that’s full of chaturangas and other poses that are weight bearing on the shoulders. This sequence should be done like hip opening, spending a good amount of time (20 breaths or so) on each side. These open the the anterior shoulder muscles, specifically the deltoids, traps, and pectoralis major. It also opens muscles that are part of the shoulder but you may consider back muscles like the rhomboids and posterior traps. If you are a typical vinyasa-junkie and have been ODing on chaturangas lately, consider the following.

Chaturanga strengthens many muscles, it’s an excellent shoulder strengthener appropriately nicknamed ‘the shoulder shredder.’ However, strong, tight pectoral muscles, if not adequately stretched, pull the shoulder blades, collarbones, and upper arm bones forward and inward, creating hunched shoulders and a closed chest. Trust me yogis, this is something I’ve struggled with for a long time.

An example of how this might effect another area of your practice is shoulderstand. Tight pecs and deltoids limit arm movement and chest opening in shoulderstand and backbends. In shoulderstand you need to pull your shoulders in as much as you can to keep your neck and spine free of weight, and if you’re all muscle and no mobility then that is going to be tough, and possibly dangerous.

Be cautious if you have shoulder injuries, these are intense openings but can be modified for any level of mobility. Don’t forget to breathe!

Sphinx pose. Use this as a 'reset' between sides of the following two poses

Sphinx pose. Use this as a ‘reset’ between sides of the following two poses

Thread the needle stretches the deltoids and triceps

Thread the needle stretches the deltoids and triceps.

I've heard this called 'wing pose,' but I like to call it 'pigeon for shoulders.' This stretches the traps and the anterior pecs, and creates a tourniquet effect, letting fresh oxygenated blood flow to the shoulder when the stretch is released.

I’ve heard this called ‘wing pose,’ but I like to call it ‘pigeon for shoulders.’ This stretches the traps and the anterior pecs, and creates a tourniquet effect, letting fresh oxygenated blood flow to the shoulder when the stretch is released.

Bleeding heart pose stretches the rhomboids and deltoids and provides relief for your rotator cuff and tendons.

Bleeding heart pose stretches the rhomboids and deltoids and provides relief for your rotator cuff and tendons.

 

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5 Minute Gratitude Meditation

acupuncture-and-gratitudeOf the eight limbs of yoga, four or more are based on meditation. The goal when doing yoga postures is to open the hips, strengthen the back, and quiet the mind so we can sit comfortably and meditate. Studies show that people who regularly acknowledge the things they are thankful for live happier lives, so I started this meditation so I can express these things to myself even on days when I only have five minutes to sit down and meditate.

Other thoughts will come up, but you don’t have to chase them. Don’t go to war with your brain’s honorable attempt to do its job. So grab a seat in criss cross apple sauce or hero’s pose, and let’s get started.

Minute one

Take this minute to focus on your breath. Inhale for five counts, exhale for five counts. Walk your internal gaze through your body, breathing into any places that you’re holding tension.

Minute two

Think of all the things you are thankful for in yourself. All of the parts of your character that help you to spread positivity and light to those around you. Avoid ‘wishing’ you were a certain way, and remember that even the little things are worth acknowledging.

Minute three

Think of every person you are thankful for in your life. Surely one minute will not be enough, but just flip through your mental photo album of everyone who loves, supports, and pushes you to do better. Taking just a minute to do this every day will enrich your relationships, even if it’s just subconscious.

Minute four

Fill in the blank with your own thank you prayer to the universe. Mine today- Thank you. I am grateful. I am grateful for this moment. I am thankful for my family, the roof over my head, my boyfriend, my friends. I am thankful for my process, and what I have accomplished in my life so far.

Minute five

Repeat the mantra: My life is full and abundant.

I like to listen to a 5-6 minute song playing quietly in the background to keep in the back of my mind how much time has passed, and I know some people who even set an alarm on their phones.

NAMASTE!

grateful4 always thankful

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Vipassana

Vipassana:

  • to see things as they really are.
  • (in Theravada Buddhism) meditation involving concentration on the body or its sensations, or the insight that this provides, inward vision.
  • India’s most ancient technique of meditation, taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills.
Vipassana retreats are no joke. It is a ten day meditation described as a mental purification to eradicate suffering. The code of conduct prohibits talking, communication with the outside world, eating after midday, prayer, physical activity, music, reading, writing, and several other distracting behaviors. (Full code of conduct here). I’ve met three people in my life who have participated in Vipassana retreats, and all had amazing experiences. One described it as “the best and worst thing I’ve ever done to myself.”
A woman I respect and admire very much told me of how she focused on the spot between her nose and mouth intently for three days. One the third day, she could feel that spot, it’s energy became very vivid to her. She says she can always come back to it to ever since. A friend I met at Baptiste Level 1 training said by the last few days, he could sit outside and marvel at the world and hours would pass by that felt like minutes.
It’s clearly a transforming process, if not just radical. Vipassana meditation gives concrete results too- A prison in the south with one of the highest records of violence in the country ran a Vipassana retreat and had stunning results. You can watch the documentary on netflix, it’s called The Dhamma Brothers. 
I’d love to experience a Vipassana retreat, but right now ten days seems like a huge amount of time for me to take from the world. Sad, I know. All the info about Vipassana here, including if there’s one in your area. They’re run by donation only.
As you all must know by now, I am a huge Macklemore fan. Here’s his take on Vipassana.

“Yesterday, forget it
Tomorrow is, nada
The present is, right here, through the breath, watch it”

“Learnin’, yes, reflectin’ on what matters
People, permanence, lack of attachments
It’s space and time, a couple man-made distractions
The measure of a spirit that no human can ever capture”

“I don’t control life, but I can control how I react to it
Student of the breath, brick beats and balancin’
Desire versus truth until I finally find happiness”

“I’m not gonna be content, until I find gratitude”

“Take all ugly shit inside and try to make it beautiful
Use the cement from rock bottom and make it musical”

“I just keep walkin’ my path and blessed to share my story”

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Practicing Jump Backs

I recently attended an Ashtanga class at Salt Room Yoga in Pioneer Square. The teacher, Rhonda, provided a great way to practice jump backs from sukasana/criss cross apple sauce to chaturanga dandasana. I’d always just assumed I’d build core strength in other ways to achieve a jump back, but this is really using different core muscles than you get from bicycle crunches!

  • From sukasana, easy pose, scoot your feet close to your body and squeeze your knees into your chest.
  • Place your hands a few inches in front of your hips.
  • Press into the floor, doing your best to transfer all of your weight into your hands while simultaneously using your core to squeeze your knees and ankles into your chest. Flex your feet!
  • If you’re like me, you’re not quite there yet. So a good way to build strength is to start shuffling your feet under your body as best you can and then jump back to chaturanga dandasana. When you do this, squeeze your knees together so they fit between your arms. OR if you are a little past shuffling, start by taking 2-4 hops on your feet.

When you do this little shimmy, you really feel your core working. I love when a teacher presents a way to practice something that makes something difficult seem much more accessible! Try it out and let me know about your progress!

Kitty-in-a-rolled-up-yoga-mat.

Yoga kitty says ‘have a great weekend!’ Meow!

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Yoga for Runners

Long down dog on a wall. Gently stretches your shoulders and back.

Long down dog on a wall. Gently stretches your shoulders and back

Low runner's lunge with a quad stretch

Low runner’s lunge with a quad stretch

Dancer's Pose/ Quad stretch

Dancer’s Pose/ Quad stretch

Runner's head to knee pose

Runner’s head to knee pose

Wall dog with a calf stretch

Wall dog with a calf stretch

A bright, 29° Saturday in January turned out to make the best running weather. I know all you runners know this- but it is SO important to stretch after you run! What do you have to lose?! 5 minutes of browsing Facebook or Reddit? In that time you can prevent injury and increase your range of motion and just feel good.

Most agree that it’s not good to stretch cold muscles, so I usually stretch for 5 minutes about 1.5 miles in (good excuse for a rest!) and 15 minutes when I get back. Mind you- I do yoga daily so this is not the only stretching I do. If you are exclusively a runner I would suggest 30 minutes of stretching or whatever you have time for. Yoga is for everyone!

DO’S & DON’TS

Don’t rush it! Take your time to breath into each muscle group you are stretching, aiming for approximately 1 minute per side

Do listen to your body. What’s feeling tight today? Where could you use a little extra love and relaxation? It might even be your shoulders or low back.

Do stretch each side equally. Don’t fudge on the second side.

Don’t force it. Just like in yoga-only do what feels good and don’t try to force your body somewhere it doesn’t want to go. Sensation is okay, but pain isn’t.

Happy Running!

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