Thursday, July 22, 2010

Restorative Vinyasa

Restorative yoga seems to be a theme in my reality lately and perhaps it is because Summer brings a flurry of activity beyond the usual gym workouts and yoga sessions. Maybe it's because we in the heat of Summer temperatures and the body needs something cooling. Or because there is an increase in running as people train and run in marathons, ultra marathons, and triathlons; cycling miles to be had as people participate in 20, 40, 60 and 100 mile organized rides on top of the daily and weekly riding; there is swimming, canoeing and kayaking; and not to forget walking, hiking, and backpacking.

And we wonder where our summer goes…

So it was on Monday night I found myself leading (by request and subsequently promised) a restorative Vinyasa session. Seems contradictory, yes? The principles behind this are based on a Chandra sequence as designed by Matthew Sweeney, a Yin session by Paul Grilley, and a Long-Slow-Deep session by Bryan Kest. The idea is simply: slow. down. mindfully.

I used Matthew Sweeneys principles as a base and to provide the flow. Students are instructed to work at no more than 80%. If one is working at 100%, how can that be restorative? I started the postures with left foot first to balance the tendency to always lead with the right. Think about this: Ashtanga – opens to the right, right foot is always first. Twist to the right then the left. Right right right… Matthew says to bring back balance by changing things up and moving from the left first. I think this helps to slow down the practice because it takes mindfulness to do something opposite from what you are used to (just try brushing your teeth with the opposite hand one night…).

I then incorporated Paul Grilley’s principles and Bryan Kest's ideas of holding the poses for longer. Not a hurried huff! huff! huff! Of five breaths then bam! Onto the other side, but a long, luxurious, deep breath. As one of my respected instructors, Joe, likes to say, “Find savasana in every pose.”

I was concerned that people would become fidgety, or that I would not have enough material to last an hour and a half, but much to my surprise, I had plenty of material and people seemed to just ooze into deep relaxation.

Would I do this again? Definitely. I think the exposure to a restorative vinyasa class is good on so many levels. I don't think it's something I would do monthly, but perhaps quarterly. I look forward to exploring this further, with perhaps the addition of some pranyama and meditation. Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yoga at Home or on the Road

Perhaps I'm an odd duck...well, I already know I am...but we're just confirming it yet again today. Even though I teach classes and I am fully capable of sequencing poses, I don't care to do it for myself at home. Oh, perhaps after a afternoon of cycling or hiking I may spend 20 minutes moving through a variety of stretches, but to do something longer is more involved than I care for.

I've found I much prefer on-line, video, or audio options. Doing my own isn't as relaxing as I would like. My brain is chattering away about the sequence, should I do this or that next? Oh, I should have done blank instead. Drat, well I can add it in here after I do this...and so on and so forth. Maybe some of you have experienced this too?

I thought with this post I would highlight some of the videos and podcasts that I gravitate to when I do a home or on the road session.

Yoga Today. A free weekly on-line yoga class. The style and location changes each week; I've done anusara, hatha, vinyasa and ashtanga based sessions. Format is usually two students and one instructor in some beautiful western location. Directions and suggested modifications are usually pretty good. Some of the instructor 'chatter' can be a bit much depending on style/individual, but hey, it's only an hour and it's not like I have to take that session again. Base option is free and you pay if you want to save and download that particular class. Sign-up for more options. Recommended if you like a variety of sessions and have an hour to practice.

Yoga Journal podcasts and videos. I have i-Tunes so I signed up for regular downloads. Couple things I like about these sessions: shorter lengths and varied sessions that target specific things. Sometimes I just don't want to do a full hour or hour and a half session. I just want something that will make my hips and back feel better. Something that will relax me before bed but doesn't involved another hour out of my day. These fit that requirement.

I-tunes. When I bought my i-Pod, I had no idea all the wonderful things I could do with it beyond listening to my music! There are free yoga sessions available! Woot! It takes a bit of searching and some experimenting with the instructor - what style do they offer? Is it something I'm comfortable with? Do their instructions make sense or is it all sanskrit? Two that I've found in the power/vinyasa category are: Wade Zinter and Baron Baptiste as led by Kinndli McDonnal. These are also great to do with a group if you have portable speakers for your i-Pod.

Videos. I am not usually a fan of videos, especially for beginners as the tendency is to watch the video and thus be craning the head and neck when one shouldn't. That being said, they do have their place in a yoga practice. I recently uploaded all my video's to my i-pod so I can take them on the road with me. I don't need to see what's happening on my 1x1.5" screen, but the verbal cues are nice.

My CD and Video collection includes:
Rocket Series II by Larry Shultz of It's Yoga, San Francisco
Primary Series Ashtanga Yoga by David Swenson
Primary Series Ashtanga Yoga by Manju Jois
Bryan Kest Power Yoga Complete DVD Three energizing sessions.
Yin Yoga: the Foundations of a Quiet Practice by Paul Grilley
Yoga Sanctuary by Shiva Rae

And for mediation, I gravitate to Common Grounds Mediation Center (Minneapolis, MN)downloads as led by Mark Numburg. These are in the Buddhist philosophy in the Vipassana tradition.

Are there any other recommended sites from blog-world? A CD or DVD in particular resonate with you? Or perhaps something else from i-Tunes?