"Restorative, My House is Gone" Sequence

My house lit on fire last week. I feel I understand the word Trauma for the first time. As I sit with the rising and falling emotions, grief, and feelings from this incident, I come to my mat in a new way. (Truly, every time we come to our mats it is new. But this is a *new* new if you will!)

I come to my mat for solace, for grounding, for safety. I come to my mat to feel held, to meet my vulnerability with a calm and kind heart. If this feels like what you need, here is a sequence that has been helping me.

*You will need a bolster for this sequence. A long couch cushion or two pillows are suitable substitutes*

Forward Fold with a Bolster (Paschimottasana)

They say the front of your heart is where you give love, and the back of your heart is where you receive love from your community. I am opening up the back of the heart in this pose, allowing myself to receive the kind love from my community.

Fold up a blanket and sit on its edge. Grab a bolster (two bed pillows, a long couch cushion, or several sweatshirts will do the trick as well) and place it across your lap in a horizontal position. Inhale and reach your arms overhead, Exhale fold forward over the bolster. Remain here for 5 minutes for full restorative effect. 

Legs up the Wall on a Bolster

Great for moving the energy around in your body when you don't feel like moving all that much, we have restorative inversions! 

Grab a bolster (or sweatshirt, couch cushion) and place it horizontally about 4 inches from a wall. Scoot up against the wall and slowly swing your legs up the wall with your low back resting on the bolster. Your tailbone and bum should be hanging over the edge of the bolster between the bolster and the wall. Breathe here for at least 5 minutes.

Supta Baddhakonasana on a Bolster

Sometimes it is hard to open your heart after it feels so very vulnerable. If you feel ready, this gentle restorative heart opener will help keep your heart space open. So as to not succumb to a bent over posture, this pose is great to calmly remind your muscles (and your heart) that is is safe to open. Just so you don't forget :)

Sit down. Place the bolster so that one (short) edge of the bolster is against your lower back. Lay down on the bolster so that your bum is on the floor, and sacrum & low back are against the bolster. Bring the soles of your feet together into baddhakonasana (like a butterfly). You may place two pillows or rolled up blankets beneath your thighs & calves for more passive release.


*photos to come!*

Post-Surf Yoga Sesh

Some buddies have asked for suggestions on yoga poses and general stretches they could do post-surf. These are my favorites. 

(note: Post-Surf Asana & Therapeutic Poses is my academically correct title.)

1. Eagle (Garudasana) 

goal: shoulder opener


Eagle Arms are the BEST. They help stretch that sore spot you can never seem to get right around your shoulder blades that is chronically tight on all surfers I know. (Stretch of middle trapezius, rhomboids. Deltoid in eccentric contraction.) You can take full eagle, standing, or a seated pose with eagle arms (photo).

- Intertwine your arms, bringing one elbow beneath the other. 

- The fingers of one hand find the palm of the other hand. (If they don’t find them, that is totally OK, and beautiful because it is where you are at! Just rest the back of one hand on the back of the other arm.)

- Relax the shoulders away from the ears.

- Bring elbows up towards your chin (***most important)

- Repeat on other side

2. Thread the Needle

goal: thoracic opening, chest and shoulder opener

- Kneel in a cat cow position

- Raise one arm out to the side parallel to the floor.

- Thread the arm through the tunnel created by the opposite arm. 

- Bring the opposite arm overhead with a bent elbow. 

- Use the hand of the opposite arm to push into the floor and encourage rotation in your mid spine.

- Try to bring the back of the shoulder blade against the floor

- Twist from the mid back and avoid twisting from the neck

- Engage mid thighs together (you can even put a book in between them) to prevent hips from rotating (this keeps the stretch in the mid back instead of the often overstretched low back).

- Repeat on other side

3. Puppy Prayer

goal: Triceps stretch, scapular stabilization, thoracic opening

Puppy Pose is a child’s pose with the hips over the knees. 

- Come onto all 4’s.

- Slide arms forward into child’s pose.

- Bring hips over knees.

- Hands come into prayer (anjali mudra).

- Elbows bend to bring hands towards back of neck.

- Enjoy.

Note: if hands cannot come together in prayer pose, take hold of a t-shirt in both hands to bridge the distance.

4. Cow Face

goal: tricep stretch, chest opener

- Sit cross legged, kneeling, or knees on top of each other (shown in photo).

- Reach one arm towards sky, bend elbow so hand falls between shoulder blades.

- Reach other arm towards ground, bend elbow.

- Hands find each other

- If they do not, use a t-shirt (photo).

- Repeat on other side.

- Repeat the side that felt tighter.

Take care that arms are not pushing head/neck forward out of alignment by reaching crown of head towards sky. I say repeat on the side that felt tighter because most (if not all!) of us are asymmetrical-- we are unbalanced. One side is usually tighter than the other. While doing a pose on one side automatically increases some range of motion on the opposite side (thank you, corpus callosum!), it is good to repeat the pose on your tighter side to bring your body into greater balance.



5. Open Book (Supine Twist)

goal: thoracic opening, chest opener

Many people are tight in their thoracic spine and have limited rotation. They compensate for this limited rotation by twisting from their lumbar spine (low back) or cervical spine (neck). This contributes to a plethora of low back and neck ailments. Opening up your thoracic spine through Open Book can help alleviate some of these issues, especially after you have been turning your head non-stop to line yourself up with your incoming wavestorm.

- Lay down on your side with one knee stacked on top of the other, one arm closed on top of the other

- Feet are at a right angle with knee, which is at a right angle with the hip, which is at a right angle with the shoulder.

***The most important thing here is the alignment of your hip with your shoulder (See photo)

- Trace the top arm along the bottom arm, chest, and open it to the opposite side

- If shoulder of opening arm does not reach the ground, place a pillow, book, or surfboard underneath the upper arm

- Close stretch by bending elbow of opening arm (arm on left side of photo) and placing arm back on top of other arm

- Repeat on other side

- Repeat the side that felt tighter

***Again, the low back (lumbar spine) is not what is twisting here. The twist and release of the mid back (thoracic spine), which has been working overtime during a surf session, is our goal.