by Inbal Meron
Our modern lives can be pretty hectic. I enjoy the intensity and energy of my life, which is why I’m drawn to big cities and buzzing atmospheres. I have many hobbies and am involved with some awesome communities. I prefer to be challenged by work and have an abundance of social interactions. Sound familiar? Many of us lead very busy and full lives, which is why it is so important to create balance through a restorative yoga practice.
I find that my practice of yoga sometimes mirrors the fast pace of life; I like classes that are dynamic and that make me move and sweat. However, nothing feels as good as Savasana: Corpse pose. Savasana is considered to be one of the most, if not the most important pose in our practice. When we have enough time to be in the pose, we have the opportunity to enter the state of Yoga Nidra or Yogic sleep, the conscious awareness in the deep sleep state, or a state of relaxation much deeper and more profound than traditional sleep.
I like to think of Restorative Yoga as a practice of different variations of Savasana. The poses are completely supported with props so that we don’t have to strain to be in or stay in them, allowing us to drop into a deep Yogic sleep. When we take an active asana practice, we intentionally put our bodies into intense situations in order to find release. In the practice of restorative yoga we do the opposite; we fully support the body and try to be as passive as possible in order to release. In other words, two different methods of getting to the same goal – entering into a space in which we can let go of all the layers of who we aren’t in order to drop deep into who we are.
The benefits of an active asana practice are evident, not only do you get to have really profound experiences, but you get a workout as well. So what are the benefits of a passive practice?
1. Restorative Yoga is healing for the body and mind.
It engages our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which takes the body into the “rest and digest” state. This state is incredibly healing. This is why after an injury or surgery it’s so important to rest; we heal when we rest, not when we run around. In this state our tissues renew and rejuvenate themselves, our cells and tissues and organs get to live out their purpose and prosper. Our active Yoga practice helps to discipline our Sympathetic Nervous System, in charge of the “fight or flight” response, which is very important for our health, but we need to engage our PNS in order to heal.
2. Long supported holds of poses allow us to really engage in the benefits of the poses.
In an active practice we don’t spend much time in each pose. For example, we can only be in a deep backbend for a few breaths before it becomes fatiguing. But in a restorative practice, the body is supported and we can stay in the poses for long periods of time and really let them do their magic. In that way the poses enhance flexibility, nourish fertility, balance our hormonal activity and lymphatic system and aid our immune and digestive systems as well.
3. Reduce stress.
In our fast paced lives it’s crucial for us to find time and space to be still. It’s incredibly beneficial to create space to physically let go of the hold of our muscles, release the muscle tonus, and relieve our body from chronic strain. That’s why we use props, to create a base of support that encourages us to let go.
4. Create space for emotional healing.
In a way, we hold our emotional issues in our bodies. By physically toning down, deep seeded issues can come up and wash out of our systems. That’s why we may find ourselves experiencing joy, confusion, frustration, or fear during our practice, or even weeping in Savasana. This means feelings are coming up and cycling through.
These are just a few benefits of a Restorative Yoga practice. Just like any other method of Yoga, when we continually show up and nourish our relationship with our practice and with ourselves, it can be profoundly transformative.
Inbal’s classes provide an opportunity to go deep within and to playfully explore the connection of breath, motion and awareness, all while falling in love with sweet subtleties of creation. Inbal teaches Lotus Yin from 4:00-5:15PM on Tuesday, Gentle Flow from 8:30-9:30PM on Wednesday, and Restorative from 6:30-7:45PM on Sunday. She also offers tarot readings at the Lotus! To make an appointment, please call the center at 415-555-1600.
by Sarah Tomlinson
Vitality is a big deal. It is the juice we all crave to express ourselves fully. It is the gasoline in the car; the energy behind the wellness of the physical body, and it fuels the aura one exudes. No matter how perfectly one eats and exercises, unless the vital body is also addressed, one’s mental stress can create weakness in the physical body. I am looking forward to my trip to San Francisco’s Lotus Gem to share some ayurvedic teachings on the vital body. The vital body, the seat of one’s vitality, is also known as the pranic sheath or body. It is the layer of your being that is most responsive to breath, feng shui (space clearing and balancing) and individual preferences for stress-reduction methods. Stress reduction can vary from person to person: for some, an exotic party may be the recharge they need, and for others, be an energy drain. Another person might find silent meditation retreats to be the elixir needed to replenish the cup when empty. I hope you will join me and discover yours.
I am en route to San Francisco already, I have left New York City for the summer and am discovering, and reclaiming my very own personal preference for rejuvenation. The ocean here in San Diego is spectacular. The beaches, the lunar cycles witnessed in the tides, and the abundance of sky in contrast to my former metropolis, is a welcoming treat. My personal mental relaxation style is governed by the Moon; indicating that surrounding myself with water, nature, the feminine, children, babies and myths could all be beneficial. I am feeling that to be true. Once nourished, the vital body has the capacity to project your gifts into the world, thereby achieving more success in your endeavors, I look forward to my upcoming creative projects as a new wave of inspiration strikes.
If you are feeling drawn to some renewal, mental vitality and personal vibrancy, come to my workshop at Laughing Lotus SF. You will explore the eight styles for personal renewal, the asanas that correlate to your archetype, and see other lifestyle choices that may or may not be working for you. You will also see how your living space can reflect and support your vitality. This workshop is part lecture, part discussion and part asana. I hope it will in itself be a renewing experience!
Sarah Tomlinson is a pioneer in the field of Yoga, Ayurveda, Maternal Care, and Healing With Yantras. From extensive time in India with her teacher Harish Johari, Sarah shares the spiritual practice of working with Yantras and Ayurveda. Sarah is a mother of two and dedicates much of her spiritual journey to guiding women through the stages of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Sarah is the author of Nine Designs For Inner Peace, Inner Traditions Publishing, 2008, www.yantratecture.com.
Sarah will be offering individual consultations on Thursday, August 7 and Friday, August 8. Please book directly with Sarah at Sarahtomlinson3@gmail.com. The sessions require advance preparation by
Your elemental ayurvedic consultation is an in-depth session that will give you insights into your personal make-up, how and why you feel and belong in the Universe in the particular way that you and only you, do. You will be given dietary guidelines, spiritual tools, emotional and mental stress reducing techniques as well as a concise map of your relationship and career path tendencies.
Sessions are Two hours. Cost: $150.
by Enrique Vallejo
“God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.” –Mother Teresa
I’ve been encouraging my 66-year-old mother to give flying trapeze a go. Just once. That might sound insane to you, but I absolutely think she could do it. Besides, I am fiercely protective of her (do NOT try to mess with a Cancerian’s Mama!!) and would never dream of putting her in harm’s way. She’s an active yogini, has taken adult ballet for years and goes out dancing with her man every weekend. Yeah, she can do it.
Worst case scenario: she freaks out as she walks up the ladder. Maybe the first time she attempts it she can only take a few steps. That’s a few steps more than shes ever take before!! Maybe she tries again but then panics when it’s time to grab the bar and take off. The trapeze teacher reviews what to do over and over; she’d be in a safety harness, and there’s a safety net underneath, so no matter what, she’d be okay.
Often, the dangerous terrain isn’t really physical, it’s mental. As Anais Nin put it: “the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Every little milestone along the way is a huuuuuuge victory. Let’s celebrate those victories instead of obsessing over (rather arbitrary) black and white results!
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela
To tell you the truth, I don’t really care if my mother masters a knee hang or does a catch. And if she ends up not wanting to try it, then I would completely respect that and not push it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it would be dope if she ended up doing some cool trick (and I’d probably document the event within an inch of its life and plaster it all over Facebook), but that would really just be icing on the cake. I’m more interested in the psychological and spiritual expansion that happens when, motivated by love, we approach situations that scare the crap out of us and realize just how limitless we are. Then, we realize how limitless life is, how limitless God is. I believe that we get wings every time that happens (Hanuman, anyone?).
So, enough trapeze talk, let’s bring this back to yoga–another place where we can fly. As a teacher, it always breaks my heart when I offer a slightly wacky or unfamiliar asana, and I see people who won’t even take the first stab at it. Mind you, I’m not talking about someone who sensibly does not want to aggravate an injury or anything like that. Self care and listening to your body are essential. I’m referring to a student who (in my opinion) is unfairly hard on themselves and has taken themselves out of the running before even attempting an asana that they might really enjoy (or hate? Who knows until you try?).
We can be so mean to ourselves on and off the mat by depriving ourselves of novel, potentially fabulous experiences. We just assume we’re incapable. We assume with no evidence that if something hasn’t come together yet that it won’t come together ever. Hogwash, I tell you!
Two of the most fascinating ideals of the eight limbs of yoga for me, as delineated in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, are tapas and ishvara pranidhana. Tapas refers to effort; discipline; trying your hardest; and not automatically taking the easiest; most comfortable path. Ishvara pranidhana refers to surrender to the Divine, complete trust in God and the universe. Out of context, these two concepts may seem completely at odds with one another. But, stepping into the unknown and expanding the outer limits of our comfort zone, actually requires both effort and surrender in equal measure. That goes for rather you’re attempting an arm balance or preparing to have a difficult conversation. The yogini has a lazer-like focus so she can put forth her best effort, but she also has to trust herself and the universe enough to be spontaneous and open to life as it mysteriously unfolds. As Sri Alice Tarkeshi says about meditation: “Not too tight, not too slack.
Both asana and life in general can at times be difficult, absurd, magnificent, and absolutely hysterical. Try, and keep trying, even when you’re discouraged. Laughter is key; we must be able to laugh at ourselves as we stumble through our journey (we practice at Laughing Lotus for heaven’s sake, not at serious…um, Sagebrush?). Trust that as long as you do your part, the Divine will do the rest. Let’s explore together in the spirit of childlike wonder and play. Up, up and away!
Join Enrique for a “From Basics to Intermediate” workshop on Sunday, July 20 from 1:00-3:00PM. All levels are welcome! Sign up here.
Enrique teaches Candlelight Flow (Level 1/2) at Laughing Lotus on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30pm. His style is playful, humorous, and expansive. He enjoys watching the impossible become possible.
by Dana Marie Nielsen
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
― Henry David Thoreau
As someone who is only recently truly finding my feet on this beautiful Mother Earth, I couldn’t be more enamored with this month’s theme at the Laughing Lotus; the Divine Mother. To me this theme celebrates all Earth Energy, all things grounding, the Goddess in her many forms.
In the yogic culture and almost every ancient culture, the feminine form of God (Goddess) is representative of Mother Nature in all of her beautiful, real and at times even destructive manifestations. I have a deck of Goddess tarot cards and each day during my morning spiritual practice or Sadhana, I draw a new card and soak in the card’s wisdom. And each Goddess that I read about, regardless of cultural heritage, represents a cycle of birth and death, of creation and destruction. Through these cards I am reminded daily of these beautiful cycles, which I as a human being on planet earth cannot run from, or bypass.
The Goddess energy of the Divine Mother teaches me the power of being with each and every life experience, each and every human condition, emotion and moment. It reminds me of the importance of coming back down to earth and learning how to be in My Own Body. Here. Now. The energy of the Divine Mother inspires me to pay loving attention to my lower three chakras:
1) Muladhara: my primal earth energy that connects me to my physical existence
2) Swadhisthana my fluid and watery experience of emotions
3) Manipura my relationship with my ‘get up and go’ fire where I cultivate courage to live my life each day and believe in myself that I am enough.
Without the energy of these first three chakras, human beings don’t have the capacity to authentically and powerfully connect to others through the heart chakra, nor to transform, transcend, or grow in the upper chakras. For without the foundation and container of our physical body connecting us into the earth, how can our relationships, messages, and Divine connections have an impact on the very real human world that we live in today?
It’s taken me a long time to believe the above statement about the importance of grounding. I’ve spent some time of my life hopping from one thing to the next, floating along the path of spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984 to describe using spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. Spiritual bypass shields us from the truth, it disconnects us from our feelings, and helps us avoid the big picture. It is more about checking out than checking in—and the difference is so subtle that we usually don’t even know we are doing it. (Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D.)
For me, this subconscious bypassing has been easier than actually dealing with the hum drum “stuff” of life. I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming up in the stars to avoid the “stuff.” Yet, my life isn’t in the stars. My life is on this beautiful, amazing and very tangible Divine Mother Earth. Yes the stars exist and are also incredible! And don’t get me wrong – anyone who knows me will agree that I still love being ‘up there’ celebrating the ethereal, but just as the Buddha said, “Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I am learning to honor the earthly experience of feeling my feet in the dirt and the tears on my face. I am channeling Mama Earth and all of her many cycles of birth, preservation and death that exist in each sunrise and sunset. And, I’m finding that life is so much sweeter with a little dirt in it.
Through believing that God takes form through the physical Earth, Water and Fire in the greater world and inside ourselves I believe that all cycles of life become Divine. Just like a seedling, I feel that we too need to grow our roots, our connection down to the Divine Mother Earth and allow all cycles of creation and destruction to take place so that we can evolve. For, just like a tree can’t outgrow it’s roots, we can’t outrun our own feet!
Dana teaches at Laughing Lotus on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9am, and Wednesday at 4pm. (Sign Up Here) She is currently studying a Masters degree in Somatic Psychology at the California Institute for Integral Studies, and aims to support people to reclaim their own embodied selves.
by Inbal Meron
As a yoga teacher I’ve noticed that a lot of beginner and intermediate yogis struggle with the transition of stepping one foot forward from Downward Facing Dog. Another big struggle that I’ve noticed and have experienced myself, is the transition of stepping onto your yoga mat outside of the studio.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of these transitions, let’s consider some basic keys to making any kind of progress in the practice of yoga asana.
The main one is consistency, showing up continuously. Our lives are very dynamic and our circumstances are always changing. If you manage to maintain your practice throughout all of the up and down and ins and outs of your life – you better bet you’ll be making some serious progress! This means practicing at home when you can’t make it to your regular classes. If you’re intimidated by this notion – have no fear – we’ll get to what this “home practice” could look like in a bit.
Secondly, there needs to be a strong sense of studentship. We all come to yoga for different reasons, but when we get onto our mats, we eventually figure out that it’s all about learning. We learn about ourselves and about life on many different levels. It’s key to keep that mind, we might never “master” the pose, but really what we gain is the experience and the wisdom that comes with it.
Lastly, we need to have patience. In this day and age, that’s a tough one. Everything happens so fast and is so convenient. I get frustrated when my smartphone takes an extra couple of seconds to load an app. I personally find it very challenging to truly cultivate patience, however with our bodies – it is key! The more we push – the more our body will just push us back.
Taking the step to practicing at home isn’t a big as it seems. Your practice at home can be simple, it doesn’t have to look like your practice in class, it could, but it certainly doesn’t have to.
If you’re busy and don’t have time, just do one pose, it could be the one that your remember from class or your favorite pose or your least favorite pose or anything in between.
For those of you struggling with stepping forward from Downward Dog, Supine Pigeon is your pose to practice at home. This is one of my favorite poses it’s relaxing and very effective in releasing tension in tight hip flexor muscles.
Lay on the ground near a wall with your knees bent and your feet at about a 90° angle.
Bring your right ankle onto your left knee in a figure four shape.
Lightly flex your right foot to protect your knee joint.
you could also gently press your right knee towards the wall with your right hand, but keep your right elbow on the ground so that your arm is resting and serving as a “kick stand”.
Cultivate deep full and slow breaths and try to direct them right into the areas where you feel sensation.
Practice this pose daily (or every other day) for 2-3 minutes on each side. If you have some extra time, throw in a downward facing dog and try to step forward with each leg before and after practicing supine pigeon and notice the difference. If you really want to be advanced add in savasana, corpse pose, for 3-5 minutes.
It’s that simple, you can do it, and if you do, I promise that just like that you’ll step right into an advanced practice, no matter flexible you are.