Friday, June 30, 2017

Walking the Royal Road

There are many paths one can take on this adventure through the jungles of space and time, however in yoga they all start at the Royal Road. The Royal Road begins with 8 steps. These 8 steps lead one down a pathway of conscious transformation. The most difficult part is taking the first shaky steps on the path, but if you do perhaps someday it will lead you home.
Patanjali's 8 steps, called "The Yoga Sutras," lead aspiring yogis on the path of a beautifully balanced and holistic life. If one decides to embark on this journey, improved health, greater awareness and mental clarity are a few of the changes that will most likely occur. The further one travels along this road the more profound the changes. 
The Royal Road is a path that can lead to self-awareness. Focusing on becoming more mindful in our thoughts, words, and actions can help us to make better choices, and bring us closer to living an enlightened life. 
The following is a brief summary of the 8 steps. 
Yamas; moral restraints
Niyamas; moral observances
Asana; steady posture
Pranayama; control of vital energy through breath work
Pratyahara; releasing attachments
Dharana; concentration
Dhyana; meditation
Samadhi; self-awareness, enlightenment
The yamas and the niyamas are universal truths. The yamas are often considered "thou-must-nots" and are the guidelines of our relationships with others. The niyamas are "thou-musts" and they give us a foundation on which to build our relationship with ourselves. 
The next steps are asana and pranayama. Asana strengthens and purifies the body leading to radiant health. Pranayama, control of the breath, awakens vital energy which can lead to higher levels of consciousness. 
Practicing asana and pranayama may very well set you on the path to the Royal Road. The yamas and the niyamas can keep you steady and grounded on the path. Finally you may want to explore the inner world of pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, that can ultimately bring about self-awareness, peace, and joy. 
Continuing on the path of the Royal Road will help us to develop awareness while keeping us focused on the journey, allowing life to expand joyfully.
The Sassy Seniors joined our adventure through the jungles of space and time. Our story; Walking the Royal Road. 
Science has now proven that yoga is good for the body and the MIND!
Scientist used to think that the brain always degenerated with age. However, now we know the brain and nervous system are continuously regenerating. The brain's ability to change is known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain's capacity to create new neural pathways.
Creating new neural pathways strengthen new ways of being. Areas of the brain that are active in cognitive function are active during movement. Yoga can help train the brain!
For seniors with memory care issues, focusing on the gentle movements of yoga; lifting the legs, opening the arms, flexing the fingers, and taking deep breaths help build new neural pathways. These simple movements enhance seniors' ability to perform daily activities, allowing life to expand joyfully.  
Om shanti

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Forward Bends and Backbends

Our spine moves in four different directions, flexion; folding forward, extension; folding backward, rotation; twisting from side to side and lateral flexion; side bending. This month we are focusing on two of our spinal directions, forward bends and backward bends. In yoga a backbend provides a nice counter pose to a forward bend, practicing both creates a balance in the spine. Executing both forward bends and backbends can balance out not only our spine but also our emotions. 

Our story this month; I am strong and flexible. 

Forward Bends create length and space in the spine, counteracting compression. Forward bends are relaxing and calming. After a hard day, we can surrender into a forward fold and release whatever we may need to let go of. Alignment is key. The action is to fold at the hip crease, bringing the top of the pelvis forward. Lengthen the front of the body as you fold. Props are your friends. Use blocks in standing forward bends if your hands don't reach the floor easily. Bolster your seat with blankets for sitting forward folds and grab a strap to reach your feet. Don't force it. Forward bends are not about how deep you can go but rather how deeply you can release. "Less is more."

Backbends improve your posture by bending the spine in a direction it isn't use to. It can also help open the shoulders and strengthen the back. It's best to warm up the body before executing backbends by stretching the shoulders, quads, and psoas. Backbends are rejuvenating and energizing. If we are feeling tired and slow, joyfully sinking into a slow backbend can bring our exuberance back. As backbends open the chest and upper body they stimulate the Heart chakra allowing us to open more fully in our lives, our emotions, and in our relationships. 

Our spines offer us an incredible combination of strength and flexibility. May you be strong and flexible in body, mind, and heart. 

Cobra Pose is a deep upper backbend. This pose is more difficult than it looks. Lie down on your belly. Feet are flat and separated a bit. Press the hipbones down into the mat. Energize the legs by pressing the feet flat, tightening the thighs and stretching back through the legs and feet. Press down on your hands as your lift the torso. Roll your shoulders up and back while energetically pulling back on the hands. Hug the elbows in. Keep the back of the neck long and gaze at the ground. Pay attention to how you feel in this pose and allow yourself freedom and joy. 

Head to Knee Pose is a seated forward bend that helps calm the mind. Sit on the ground with both legs extended straight in front of you. Bend the right leg and place the sole of the right foot against the inner edge of the left thigh. Inhale and lengthen the spine. Exhale and fold at the hip. Catch hold of the left foot with both hands. If you cannot reach your foot use a strap.  Although the pose is called Head to Knee Pose, movement is forward toward the foot, not downward to the knee. Take a few slow deep breaths. Allow the mind to become calm. Slowly sit up and repeat the pose on the other side.