Monday, May 4, 2015

In Rhythms Yoga: Monday Morning "Spring Cleaning"

Parivritta Balasana
Find some time to "spring clean" your physical space, as well as the body and the mind. The areas in life that we choose to put energy into, will flourish and grow. Similar to taking time in the garden, when we weed out the unnecessary weeds and pests, we allow the plants to receive adequate water and sunlight, in order to grow to their fullest potential.

Find a space free of clutter, if possible take a shower prior to practicing, and send a powerful message of respect to yourself your body and your practice. While preparing for a session to “weed-out” what does not serve you on your journey, find a space, that is free from distractions and where you can focus your attention inward, in order to best “clean” the soul.

The twisting postures in yoga, create a massaging sensation to the organs. Imagine that you are “wringing-out” a sponge, twists allow the organs to receive fresh blood flow and attention to keep them healthy and functioning. Twists are also beneficial for keeping the low-back healthy and the core strong. Consequently, today we focus on twisting postures.

To come into Child’s Pose with a Twist, Parivritta Balasana: Come to the hands and knees Bring the knees out and toes in to touch, and drop the hips over the heels. Option to bring the knees together if more comfortable. Walk the palms forward and allow the forehead to rest on your mat or on a blanket or block for a more grounding and calming sensation. Stay here and focus your attention inward. Follow the breath and work to create more expansive breathing. With each inhale, feel the lungs expand, the belly inflates like a balloon, while the back line of the body also grows with each inhale. On the exhale, notice the belly softens, the lungs contract and the mind relaxes. Stay here and breathe for 3-5, full-rounds of breath. Create “rhythmic” breathing, where the inhales match the length of the exhales.

Lift the gaze towards the palms and draw the left palm under the right arm. Allow the left arm to rest extended out towards the right side of the room. Keep the right arm extended forward or take a “half-bind” by bringing the right arm resting on the back, to deepen the twist and receive more opening in the right shoulder. Stay here and breathe for 3-5 full-rounds of breath. The sitting bones are spread open towards the back of the room, and the spine and torso stay long.

To come out: Gently unwind from the twist and repeat the same instructions on the opposite side of the body, using mindful movements and attention to the breath.

To do Thread the Needle Pose: Come to the floor on the hands and knees. Pad the knees with a folded towel, blanket or yoga mat. Bring the palms directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Spread the fingers wide and gaze down in between the palms. Take a moment and take a couple slow breaths and feel the spine extended. On an inhale breath, lift the left arm up towards the ceiling and extend length through the fingers. Feel the chest and collarbones spread apart. Stay there another moment and breathe.

Thread the Needle
On an exhale, thread the needle under the right armpit and rest the left shoulder and/or ear to the floor. Twist only as far as you are comfortable. Feel the gentle twist of the spine and release in the low back. Stay here for 3-5 full rounds of breath, slowing and smoothing out the texture of the breath. Close the eyes, allowing the body and mind to calm. Notice the hips are still facing downward, towards the ground. Option to go a little deeper, and in order to create more opening into the right shoulder, by wrapping the right arm behind the back and resting the palm on the low back or hip.

To come out of the pose: slowly unwind the “thread” by pressing the right palm into the earth to lift the torso and bring the left arm back to neutral position. Repeat the pose on the other side.

To move into Revolved Downward Facing Dog, first come into Downward Facing Dog: Begin on the hands and knees, a Table-Top position. Stack the shoulders over the palms and the hips over the knees. Spread the fingers wide and press down into the finger-pads as well into as the palms of the hands.

Tuck the back toes under and begin to straighten the legs and the arms. Do not “lock-out”  the elbows and the knees. Press the hips up and back and move into Downward Facing Dog. Palms should be at shoulder-width distance apart and feet should be at hip-width distance apart. Bend the knees as much as you need to create a long, extended spine, rather than a rounded one.

Allow the head and neck to completely release. Draw the shoulder blades flush to the back. Notice if the ribs are protruding outward. Draw the lower ribs inward toward the spine. Engage the quadriceps and slowly allow the hamstrings to open over time. Shift weight in towards the heels and allow the heels to reach towards the ground. (It is not important that the heels touch  the floor.) Draw the inner thighs back towards the back of the room.

The most important aspects of the pose are to create length in the spine, to feel safe and supported while in the pose, and to allow the breath to flow in a smooth fashion. Often times, if the breath feels labored, we can check in with ourselves to notice if we have come to deeply into the pose, or perhaps try out another variation of the posture in order to better support the flow of breath.

Option to use a chair to support Downward Facing Dog. Make sure the chair is supported either resting on a yoga mat or against a wall so that it doesn’t slide while you are in the pose. Take the same instructions as above but instead of placing the palms on the ground, place the palms on the seat of the chair or even on the back of the chair for more height.

Stay here and breathe, for 3-5 rounds of breath. Draw the low-belly in on the exhales.
Create long and smooth inhales and exhales. Work to match the length of each breath as well as the amount of oxygen you breathe in and breathe out.

To move into Revolved Downward Facing Dog, Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana: Shift the weight to the right hand and lift the left hand off of the mat. Grab for the outside edge of the right shin or ankle, or place the left palm on the outside edge of the right foot, if accessible. Bend the right knee as a variation if needed to make the contact of the right hand accessible.

Continue to press the right palm evenly into the ground and continue to engage or draw the shoulder blades flush to the back. The torso is twisting open towards the right and the gaze is looking under the right armpit and shoulder. Option to lift the gaze up towards the ceiling if it feels okay on the neck.

You can use the left palm to gently pull you deeper into the twist, drawing your belly button up towards the ceiling. Never force yourself deeper into the pose, make gradual and mindful movements in order to keep the body safe. On an inhale, lengthen through the crown of the head. On an exhale, allow the breath and left palm to gently pull you in deeper. Check-in with the quality of the breath to see if you have come in too deep.

Option to lift the right heel and rise to the toes of the right foot. This variation is a little more challenging, but it allows for a nice stretch up the IT band or Iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down outside edge of the hip towards the shin.

Stay in Revolved Downward Facing Dog for up to 3-5 breaths. Create long and smooth inhales and exhales.

To come out of the pose: Slowly unwind and bring the left palm back to the ground, into Downward Facing Dog. Repeat the same instructions on the opposite side. Move with compassion and intention.

To move into Supine Twist, or Supta Matsyendrasana: Come to lie down on your back with the soles of the feet on the ground, knees bent. Draw one knee and then the other into the chest, giving yourself a big hug. Extend the left leg long while continuing to draw the right knee in towards the armpit, avoiding the rib cage. Flex the left foot towards the face and press the heel away from the body and press the thigh-bone down into the ground.

Take an inhale breath and squeeze the right knee into the chest. On an exhale, with the left arm, draw the right knee across the chest to the left side to twist. Bring the gaze to the right, if it is okay on the neck. Option to leave the neck neutral. Right arm stays long like a wing on the floor. Notice the spine, if the spine does not feel straight, gently shift the hips slightly to the right in order to align the spine. Gently working the right shoulder down towards the floor. Allow gravity to do the work. Stay here and breath deeply on each inhale and exhale. Stay here for 3-5 full rounds of breath.

To come out of the pose: Gently release the twist and draw the knees in towards the chest to neutralize the spine before repeating on the opposite side.

Come into Savasana, Corpse Pose: Find a quiet space while laying on a yoga mat, blanket, carpet, sand, or grass. Lay flat on the back with the feet splayed open wide and the palms resting towards the sky, gesture to receive whatever it is you need today. Option to place blankets or a bolster under the knees for low-back strain or to even elevate the feet on a chair.  Option to put a blanket or block under the head for comfort.

Release the shoulder blades down towards the earth and expand through the heart and chest. Notice that the heart is opened and exposed. Relax the entire body, releasing tension in the jaws. Allow the eyes to fall deep into their sockets, and even release the tongue from the roof of the mouth. Release any control over the breath. Surrender and enjoy this final gesture towards cleansing the mind and body and letting-go of what no longer serves you.

Take notice of how you feel, both after your practice and as you move throughout your day.

In yoga we practice the concept, “saucha” or “cleanliness”, as taught by Patanjali, in The Eight Limbs of Yoga. Saucha is known as one of the niyamas, or personal observances in keeping the body, mind and spirit, clean and pure. When we practice saucha, we keep our physical space free of clutter, and we use the asanas, or the postures, to keep the body free of obstructions by keeping the organs healthy and functioning and without blockage, while keeping the muscles both strong and pliable, and keeping the mind clear of harmful toxicity like anger, and conceit. We practice pranayama, or life-nourishing breathing techniques in order to keep the body fueled by oxygen and by expanding our lung capacity to keep the lungs healthy and allowing our state of mind to be calm.

Check with your doctor before performing any form of exercise including yoga and breathing techniques. Always honor your body. If a posture gives you pain, gently come out.

Christi Iacono, 500 hr. cert. yoga instructor and owner of In Rhythms Yoga

Christi Iacono is a 500 hour certified yoga instructor, kids yoga instructor, and owner of In Rhythms Yoga. IRY is a small neighborhood studio in Clairemont, S.D., located in the Mount Streets. She guides adults, kids and families in the ancient tradition of yoga. Christi has experienced many positive physical and mental transformations from her daily personal practice. She is passionate about sharing her experience, inspiration, and dedication with her students. She is committed to being a life-long student and teacher of the practice. Christi carefully works with each student in order to find the variation that best serves their body. Work to find the balance of effort and ease in every posture, “sthira sukham asanam.” Yoga is accessible to all.

IRY offers regularly scheduled vinyasa and yin-based classes on, Sat., Sun. (Yin-Yoga) and Wed. mornings as well as Tues. and Thurs. evening classes.

*In Rhythms Yoga supports the fundraiser, “Yoga for Hope”.

Donation Based classes are scheduled for: Tuesday, May 5th, 5-6 pm, In Rhythms Yoga, Clairemont, S.D.

*Christi teaches family and kids yoga. Contact her for more info. on kids and family yoga.

*Christi uses Young Living Oils at the studio to enhance yoga class, meditation and in her home.  Visit to learn more.
*Go to to see the full yoga schedule, instructors and for private lessons.

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