Chair Yoga

 

 

Chair Yoga is an excellent opportunity to practice yoga using a clear support that makes it easier for us to notice the relationships between different parts of our body as well as the actions of our joints. Chair yoga can also make it easier for us to practice when we have limited mobility

Like in any other physical yoga practice, make sure that there is no strain, no struggle and no self-judgement. Instead, invest your energy on making your breath smooth and continuous and on having a friendly and relaxed attitude.

I hope you enjoy this video:

Peace,
rubén

Affordable Yoga Retreat Costa Rica

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Combining Horizontal and Vertical

 

 

One of the objectives in yoga is to become aware of what we are doing (in posture, movement, feeling, thinking and breathing), to clarify if we are actually doing what we think we are doing and also to notice if what we are doing (in posture, movement, feeling, thinking and breathing) is helpful or not helpful. In the process, we end up learning a lot about ourselves and about our reactions to what we discover. It is likely that we may want to stay in a familiar pattern because it is comfortable and also because it gives us a sense of accomplishment.

However, in order to expand our choices and abilities it is necessary to move beyond the familiar patterns. This can create a bit of discomfort as we try to navigate new territory, and that is where we get a chance to forge new paths, new connections and new insights. This is one of the reasons we want to try to move into learning new patterns in the Dance of Shiva. So, if during our practice we notice that we are thinking about other times and places, we are getting a signal that the horizontal and vertical patterns have become familiar enough and that it will be beneficial to explore new territory. For instance, we can try to combine the two patterns by doing one whole pattern first followed by the other pattern.

Here are two possible options to explore:

  • Horizontal Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Vertical Backward (4-3-2-1)
  • Vertical Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Horizontal Backward (4-3-2-1)

Horizontal Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Vertical Backward (4-3-2-1)

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 1

Of course, We can also play with a second option:

Vertical Forward (1-2-3-4) followed by Horizontal Backward (4-3-2-1)

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 4

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 1

Options

What happens when we try to move at different speeds?

Video

In this video you can see an example of playing with these two options in the Dance of Shiva

As with other practices, staying with the practice may show us some of the habits we may have developed, like an attitude to be unwilling to try something new, or the reluctance to let go of what we have already achieved, or perhaps impatience that emerges when it takes us time to learn something, or maybe even our unwillingness to accept that we are not perfect. Whatever the case, can we try this exploration with gentle curiosity, without struggle and choosing not to judge ourselves?

If you like this practice, there is a very complete DVD on the Theory and Practice of the Dance of Shiva by Andrey Lappa on Pranamaya.com.

I’ll be glad to know about your experience.

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Moving Meditation Dance of Shiva with Modified Initial Position

 

 

The Dance of Shiva is one way of playing with very simple elements to help us expand possibilities from the seemingly simple and limited. In other words, the practice is a way to re-train our mind-body connections. Like in much learning, once we know the basics we start making changes to keep expanding the options we have. (You may review the basic positions and movements)

Movement Patterns

Remember that we can create 4 variations in the way we move our arms:

  • Both arms flowing forward (1-2-3-4-1)
  • Both arms flowing backward, (1-4-3-2-1)
  • Alternating arms: one arm flows forward (1-2-3-4-1) while the other arm flows back (1-4-3-2-1)
  • Reversing the previous alternation, so that now the other arm that was moving forward flows back (1-4-3-2-1) while the arm that was flowing back now moves forward (1-2-3-4-1)

We can explore deeper focus by varying the initial position from both arms at position 1 to one arm at position 1 and the other arm at position 2. We can follow the 4 movement patterns outlined above from the following 4 starting positions:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

To ensure balanced expansion we can also include a mirror reflection of the starting position, thus starting from the following 9 combination of positions:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 2 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 3 and 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

Dance of Shiva Horizontal Pattern Starting Position: 4 and 1

Since we know both a horizontal pattern and a vertical pattern we can explore all of these variations of the initial position for both the horizontal (as seen above) and the vertical pattern as seen below.

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 2 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 3 and 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 1 and 4

Dance of Shiva Vertical Pattern Starting Position: 4 and 1

Video

In this video you can follow the combination of movements with all of the modified initial positions.

Like any other mindfulness practice, the Dance of Shiva works best when we try to feel clearly what we are doing and when we notice the effects in breath, body and mind. In addition, engage your emotional being by observing the process with little to no self-judgement.

Consider practicing these simple patterns with consistency until they seem quite easy and can be done slow or fast. As usual, trust that taking small manageable steps will provide benefits. When the practice gets easy enough that you can do them at different speeds.

Please remember that there is an excellent instructional DVD created by teacher Andrey Lappa at Pranamaya.com

I hope that you enjoy this exploration.
Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Introduction to Dance of Shiva (Shiva Nata)

 

 

The Dance of Shiva is a form of moving meditation rescued by Ukranian Yoga Teacher Andrey Lappa. The practice starts with two basic patterns, horizontal and vertical. Each pattern consists of 4 simple arm positions. In the Dance of Shiva the practitioner moves the arms between these four basic positions.

This practice is very helpful in cultivating

  • Attention, Concentration & Focus
  • Coordination
  • Expanded mental processing capacity

As usual, as we practice we:

  • Do what we can, not more, not less
  • Let go of all struggle, forcing and strain
  • Favor easeful and fluid movements

Horizontal Pattern

Throughout all the movements the palms of the hands try to remain facing up as if holding tea cups and trying not to spill. Also, each arm-hand avoids crossing the vertical mid-axis of the body.

The four arm positions for the horizontal pattern:

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Horizontal pattern position 4

Arm Movements

We start with the simplest pattern, Forward pattern, moving from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and then returning to 1. Notice that this creates a horizontal spiraling motion. Just as in learning anything else, we start really slow to clarify all of the movements. For instance, we can try to ensure that the movements of the arms include harmonious movements of the shoulder blades.

Then we can explore a second pattern, Backward pattern, moving from 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. Gradually we can expand to a third pattern where one arm moves in the forward pattern (1-2-3-4) while the other arms moves simultaneously in the backward pattern (4-3-2-1). Notice that this pattern can be done alternating the arms, so that the arm that starts with forward pattern then performs the backward pattern.

Vertical Pattern

Throughout all the movements the palms of the hands try to remain facing outward as if pressing against imaginary walls to the sides. Similar to the horizontal pattern, each arm-hand avoids crossing the vertical mid-axis of the body.

The four arm positions for the vertical pattern:

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 1

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 2

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 3

Dance of Shiva Vertical pattern position 4

Arm Movements

Just as we did with the horizontal pattern, we start with the simplest pattern, Forward pattern, moving from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and then returning to 1. Notice that this creates a vertical spiraling motion. We start with slow movements to clarify the pattern, and just as we did with the horizontal movements we favor movements of the arms that include harmonious movements of the shoulder blades.

Then we can explore a second pattern, Backward pattern, moving from 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. Similar to the horizontal pattern, we can expand to a third pattern where one arm moves in the forward pattern (1-2-3-4) while the other arm moves simultaneously in the backward pattern (4-3-2-1). Here as well the arms can alternate patterns.

Video

In this video you can see examples of the horizontal y vertical patterns combined in the Forward, Backward and Alternate patterns. You may also see an example of a leg movement pattern.

As with any other practice, after the practice take a moment to notice its effects. Sense the effects at the physical level through experiencing the sensations in your body. Also, notice the effects at the mental level, for instance, was the series of movements interesting enough to capture your attention so that you were not thinking about anything else? At the emotional level, were you able to practice without having to judge yourself when you got distracted or confused?

Consider practicing these simple patterns with consistency until they seem quite easy and can be done slow or fast. As usual, trust that taking small manageable steps will provide benefits. When the practice gets easy enough that you can do them at different speeds, it may be time to add variations to continue growing. For example, it can be fun to play with combinations of starting points, such as one arm starting at 1 and the other starting at 2 and following the patterns outlined above (both arms forward, backward, alternating).

If you like this practice, there is a very complete DVD on the Theory and Practice of the Dance of Shiva by Andrey Lappa on Pranamaya.com.

I hope you find this practice enjoyable and that you share any questions and discoveries you make along the way.

Peace,
rubén

More Dance of Shiva articles:

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Increasing Shoulder Flexibility with Yoga

 

 

Unfortunately shoulder tension is very common nowadays. It seems like there is at least one student in each class asking for yoga sequences to help remove shoulder tension. The shoulder joint is the joint that has the widest range of movement in the human body. However, overusing the shoulders through movement in one direction tends to generate restriction, often characterized by tightness at the front of the shoulder. It makes sense to try to counteract the typical pattern of movement with movements that help us restore the natural range of movement of the shoulder.

Yoga is a path to self discovery that leads us to greater balance at all levels. It is important to remember that yoga is a practice of integration, where we try to bring together all aspects of our being. In other words, we are trying to get body, breath, mind and heart to work in unison, in harmony. Sometimes, when we think about the shoulders we think about the responsibilities we carry with us, such as in the expression “to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.” Or we may think about working hard and making an effort, like when we say “put your shoulder to the wheel.”

In general, i see many people who are working very hard and who carry many responsibilities with them all of the time. I agree that it is important to give our best effort and that we need to be responsible. However, carrying a burden on our shoulders all the time without rest, tends to generate tension and stress.

I am going to suggest that we can give ourselves a break, for a few minutes and that we can let go of worries and expectations so that we can breathe and explore the range of movement in our shoulders through the sequence in the video below. As usual, follow the guidelines in the video, do what you can without struggling and without forcing.

Try this video a few times, keeping a positive attitude and synchronizing your movements with a serene and satisfying breathing rhythm. Notice the effects. If one side is tighter or more restricted than the other consider balancing the sides by performing the movements for a longer period of time on the side that is more limited.

If you notice soreness that lasts longer than 48 hours, you may have tried to hard. Take a couple of days to rest and resume when you feel ready. I hope that you find the sequence enjoyable and that you start noticing that your shoulder flexibility is increasing at a gradual and manageable pace. By restoring our natural range of movement and flexibility in the shoulders we may be better able to participate in our lives with enthusiasm and energy and without unnecessary tension. Thank you for embarking on the journey of yoga.

Namaste,

rubén

 

 

Release neck and shoulder pain

As a result of engaging in activities that require our arms to move forward, there is a general tendency for the shoulders to become tighter at the front. This tightness at the front of the shoulders generally limits mobility of the shoulder joint that contributes to create further tension and tightness in the shoulders and neck area. In addition, limitation in the shoulders requires elbows and wrists to compensate through over-movement. Furthermore, tightness at the front of the shoulders is often associated with rounding of the upper back and moving the head forward out of alignment. A combination of some or all of these factors tends to generate tension and pain in the neck and shoulders, an unhealthy posture as well as restricted breathing.

The general approach in yoga is to notice a tendency and to observe its effects. If the tendency does not contribute to optimal flow of life energy and deeper peace of mind and heart, we try to find ways to counteract the existing tendency until there is greater balance.

The video below offers a short sequence of yoga movements focused on creating greater shoulder mobility to release tension and stress in shoulders and neck, to improve posture and to help with deeper breathing. As usual, there is never forcing or pain in yoga. The idea is just to do what we can do at this moment. Remember that yoga benefits result from practicing with patient persistence.

I hope you find this practice helpful.

Namaste.

 

 

Easy Chair Yoga Stretches for Beginners

No matter how comfortable a position our body was not really made to stay in the same position for many hours on end almost every day of the week. However, it seems like a very large number of people spend most of their time sitting on a chair. Here is an easy, short, simple and effective sequence with Missy Feathers to help release tension in the torso. These stretches move the spine in six directions to counteract the tightness and pain that result from sitting for a long time. This is an excellent practice for everybody, including people working at an office as well as for people with restricted mobility. As usual keep in mind that in yoga our intention is to be present and to meet ourselves where we are so we are attentive to any pain, strain, tingling and numbness as signs of trying too hard.

I hope you enjoy this video and that you use it regularly.

Namaste,
rubén

 

FREE Video: Yoga postures for Lower Back Pain, Hip Flexibility and Thigh Flexibility Breath

 

Yoga Postures to Release Lower Back Pain

This is a brief 12 minute video to help release tightness and tension from the lower back and to help increase mobility and flexibility in the hip joints and thighs. This session can be practiced in the morning, after exercising, at the end of the day or in preparation for sleeping. Patient persistence is the way of yoga, and it is IMPORTANT to remember that creating pain, forcing, numbness and tingling are not part of Yoga.

If you have chronic pain please consult a health professional before starting any exercise program.

After the practice you can check if you feel better than you felt before the practice, this is an indication that the practice is working and that you are practicing correctly.
I hope you enjoy the practice and its benefits

Namaste.

 

Free Yoga Classes in September at New Tampa Regional Library

I am glad to announce that thanks to the support of the New Tampa Regional Library and the The Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County I’ll be offering FREE classes at the New Tampa Regional Library in September. Starting tomorrow, every Thursday (8, 15, 22, 29), 6-7pm, a Yoga for Well Being class for students at all levels.
Bring your mat, comfortable clothing and let’s breathe and move together.

Location: New Tampa Regional Library 10001 Cross Creek Blvd, Tampa, FL 33647-2581. Telephone: 813.273.3652

5 minute easy and effective chair Yoga practice (excellent for the office!)

5 minute easy and effective chair Yoga practice (excellent for the office!)

Those of us who spend a lot of time sitting every day, for instance in front of our computers, driving and watching TV, often start noticing weakness and tension in the lower back as well as in the upper back, shoulder and neck areas. Certainly it is best to take frequent breaks, as often as every 30 minutes, to stand-up, walk around and move our body and counteract the habitual position we maintain for long periods.

Here is a simple 5 minute chair Yoga session to help you revitalize and refresh yourself even while sitting. Remember that the it is essential to be aware of the breath and of the quality of our participation.(If you have not read the disclaimer yet, please do. )

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If you sit for long periods of time, you can try this practice once of twice a day, noticing its effects on your body, breath, heart and mind. Enjoy!

Namaste.