Touch your toes before jumping out of bed

I often hear the statement, “I’ve been thinking of taking some yoga classes”. They come in short conversations like passing ones at check out tills or by mail boxes. My response is usually the same, “start by touching your toes before you get out of bed, breathing into the stretch, and you’ll suddenly be doing yoga.” This tidbit never fails to meet with approval, as it brings yoga out of the realm of something you have to go far afield to study, and into the comfort of home. Yes, it’s important to get eventually get teachings in yoga, but if someone procrastinates because either they feel overwhelmed, or because they have no reference point for the positive effects of stretching and breathing, then the most important thing is to simply get them started.

Touching the toes, or Sitting Forward Bend (paschimottanasana), stretches the long muscles of the body and loosens the lower back. It wakes up the limbs and torso gently, a much needed contrast to jumping out of bed at the sound of an alarm. I believe in this simple practice because it has helped me for years, both to maintain flexibility and to centre myself after a long night of trancing in sleep.

If it seems difficult at first, persevere with patience. Keep yourself from crunching your internal organs by holding your spine as straight as you can. It’s nice to actually touch the toes because it creates an restorative energy circuit, but if that’s impossible, place the hands on the knees. If you have good flexibility, then bend all the way forward and lay your forehead on your knees. Breathe… relax… extend… and breathe.

Then, enjoy your day!

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A handout for beginner yoga students

1. Listening to your body is the most important responsibility you have in class.

2. Breathing well is the foundation of all yoga practices.

3. Good breathing is not a given for beginner students, or even experienced students. Be patient. It will come.

3. A light snack before class is good, a heavy meal is not.

4. Wear light and comfortable clothing, warm in the winter but cool in the summer.

5. Clothing that is not too loose but not snug is best as it allows the teacher to see the placement of your body in asanas.

6. Asana, pose, and posture are all interchangeable words for the same thing: the physical placement of the body in Hatha yoga.

7. Hatha is a Sanskrit word that means sun moon and is the core physical aspect of all types of yoga.

8. Yoga means union in Sanskrit therefore our goal in class is to unite the sun and moon, the yin and yang, the masculine and feminine energies of our being.

9. The creation of balance is a personal endeavour. There is no definite right or wrong in yoga practice, just the finding of equilibrium for each individual.

10. In beginner yoga classes we start off gently in preparation for the more advanced asanas, but more importantly we take it slowly so students can cultivate deeper comfortability in their own bodies.

11. Barefeet are preferable but during end relaxation we often put on our socks and sweaters.

12. Let the teacher know if you have any injuries or special conditions. If you have a serious injury or health condition please consult with a physician or health care provider before doing yoga or joining a yoga class.

13. Be respectful of others in the class, their space, their feelings and their process. They may be more sensitive than they show.

Tips

1. Arrive on time for class. Give yourself the gift of being prompt so you have the chance to calm yourself before starting.

2. Turn off cell phone, unless you are on call. If so, let the class know at the start.

3. Please consider coming to class scent-safe. Other students may have unpleasant reactions to fragrances that you find nice.

4. For your own comfort remove big jewelry and watches, and avoid wearing heavy zippers, buttons or belts.

5. Bring water. Yoga is detoxifying so it is important to stay hydrated.

6. Bring a yoga mat and a blanket.

7. If you are prone to lightheadedness, bring an apple and/or nuts to class.

8. Speak up if you have a question or if something is not working for you. We are here to share. Your feedback is important.

9. Bring your presence into class quietly.

10. Be gentle and kind to yourself, try not to compare yourself to others, allow time and space for change to happen naturally.

11. Enjoy your time with yoga and remember that laughter is the voice of spirit. Let your Self be open and free to love and receive divine inspiration.

Three part yoga breath can be done anywhere

Breathing mindfully is absolutely the very essence of yoga practice. Breathing correctly doesn’t come easily for many of us, the direct result of living in a terribly stressed-out world, but proper breathing is an essential stage to reach before practicing more advanced Pranayoga techniques. What follows is an outline of the standard 3-part yoga breath technique, which can be done while walking, grocery shopping, falling asleep, chopping wood…  the list goes on and on:

Breathe naturally. Inhale Exhale
Find your rhythm. Inhale Exhale
Place your hands on your lower abdomen. Inhale Exhale
… feel the breathe move here.
Place your hands at the sides of your ribcage. Inhale Exhale
… feel the breathe move here.
Place your hands on your upper chest beneath your collar bones. Inhale Exhale
… feel the breathe move here
If you begin to feel tense with all this focus on breathing
… breath naturally. “Let your breath breath you”
r ~ e ~ l ~ a ~ x

Inhale into your belly and feel your abdomen muscles expand. Breath right down to your sacrum/tailbone/perineum.
Exhale out the top of your head, your crown chakra, the Sahasrara
Inhale into your entire belly, and your ribcage.
Feel your ribcage expand like an accordion. Place your hands on your side ribs.
Exhale out the top of your head
Inhale into your belly, ribcage, diaphragm, and then… exhale
Inhale into your belly, ribcage, diaphragm and upper chest.
Place your hands on your chest below your collar bones.
Feel your lungs expand to accommodate the increase in breath.
Exhale
Long
Have a sacred pause here~

Do it all over again. Feel your heart opening when you breath into your upper chest.

Find your own rhythm now…
How is it different from when you first found it at the beginning of this exercise?

Practice increases our flexibility like nothing else, don’t get caught up in having A PRACTICE.
… just practice…

Aspire to increase the efficiency of your diaphragm and to tone the intercostal muscles between your ribs. Imagine your Being as radiant and flexible. Carry that divine image into the rest of your day…