Private Yoga Online

After much consideration, I have decided to offer private yoga classes online to those that are interested. I have been enjoying the yoga classes I have been taking online during the pandemic. I feel it is now the way of the future. I also am concerned about keeping students safe. I feel private, one- on-one, or a household of family members and friends, is the way to go for me. I specialize in gentle/restorative yoga and yoga for cancer survivors, however I also teach Hatha alignment based yoga. We can practice with vigor, ease or both.

Of course, I will tailor the practice to you! We will have a brief conversation at the beginning of our time together and I will choose the poses to practice based on what’s going on with you that day. I am excited to share my love of Yoga! I will be giving discounts for joining my email list (subscribing) The-Yoga-Goat.com and for buying a block of four classes. Privates will be $40 for the hour, $35 with a subscription. A block of 4 privates will be $150, and $130 with a subscription. Please reach out via email to amyluwho2@att.com. Or you can comment to this blog or DM me!

Resting Face

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

The buddha’s face is often referred to as a visual reminder of a face at peace. An example of contentment. I have noticed lately that many people carry tense, stern faces as they move through the day. Many refer to this as resting ***** face. These are hard days with a lot of added stress. And it doesn’t help that many of us spend a lot of time on our phones, and that adds even more opportunities for stress. So here is a de-stressing practice to try.

When looking at details on a phone, we tend to narrow the brow. The space between the eyes becomes smaller. Our heads spend a lot of time in a downward gaze, and our shoulders tend to creep up toward the ears. Have you heard of the syndrome called Tech Neck? It’s also called Anterior Head Syndrome. It describes how the head pitches forward relative to the shoulders. And the more we use our phones and computers, the worse it can get.

So next time you catch yourself staring at your screen, look away and blink. See that the space between your eyes is wide and spacious. Release your lower jaw away from your upper jaw. Soften your tongue and release it to your lower palate. Lengthen up through the back of your skull and draw the chin slightly back and down. Take some nice deep breaths and see where any tension is lingering. This could be at the temples, forehead or even the scalp. Keep breathing deeply to let it all release.

Check in with yourself throughout the day. What does my resting face feel like? Create a peaceful resting face by turning up the outer edges of the lips and soften the gaze of the eyes allowing them to radiate peace and joy. A resting face of contentment.

Future Thinking?

Photo by Bruno Cervera on Pexels.com

It’s an interesting exercise to consider how much time you spend with thoughts about the future. Most of us like to do a little planning, and even wishful thinking, about what’s coming up next. But at a time like this it’s hard to say what will be going on next year, next month, or even next week.  

For us, future thoughts are mostly about our daughter’s wedding in October. Planning that kind of event truly requires future thinking.  Other than that we have no plans.  We have things we would like to do, like trips to see friends and family. But it feels premature to make concrete plans that aren’t absolutely necessary.  

The future has never been a guarantee, yet we have taken it as if it is.  This pandemic has really brought home the idea of uncertainty.  But what if it has also provided us a gift? What if we all took this opportunity to focus on the present, instead of the uncertainty of the future? A reboot of the brain to stay closer to the now.  Concentrating on the day we are in, and trying not to stray too far from the moment  The present is the gift.  The gift is the present.

Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word.

I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,

the bees in the garden rumbling a little,

the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten

and so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.

Quiet as a feather.

I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.

Stillness – one of the doors into the temple.

–Mary Oliver

Washing Hands

There is a lot of frequent hand washing these days.  I think it is a practice that will be done more often even after the threat of the pandemic eases.  The idea of time spent washing hands has made me think of Thich Nhat Hanh.  In his book “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” he talks about making even the most benign tasks a meditative moment and a moment to be in gratitude.  His suggestion for washing hands is: 

Water flows over these hands,

May I use them skillfully

To preserve our precious planet

He also suggests that each time we turn on the facet to have a moment of gratitude for fresh water flowing out of the facet. It is a gift that is often taken for granted and it is life sustaining. 

Another idea that he presents in his book “Peace is Every Step” is to really look at your hands and see your ancestors.  He tells the story of a friend who was parting from his mother.  She held his hand and told him:  “Whenever you miss me, look into your hand, and you will see me immediately.” Washing hands could be that moment of contemplation.  Do you have hands like your mother or more like your father? Think of all of your ancestors who have come before you to create the hands you have in front of you. 

 It could also be a moment of gratitude for all that we can do because we have these hands.  The hands are truly one of the most amazing tools in the universe.  I hope these ideas give you something new to think about the next (more frequent) time you wash your hands.

To discover more about Thich Nhat Hanh go to http://www.plumvillage.org

Metta Meditation

One of the most beautiful ways to meditate is by doing a metta meditation.  Metta actually means ‘loving kindness’.  It can be done as a way to nourish yourself or a loved one.  It can also be done for someone you don’t know well like your favorite barista or grocery clerk.  It is also done for the world at large. At a time like this it really resonates with me and I am not alone in feeling this way. I have been generously included in a daily metta with a group of yogis from Prairie Yoga in Lisle, IL.  My dear friend, Jen Botka, has been leading her senior yoga class via text in a daily moment of metta which also includes 3 OMs and 3 deep breaths since the quarantine began. It’s a 5 minute pause in the day to send love and wellbeing out to the universe.  If you would like to join us, set an alarm for yourself for 3:00 pm central, 4:00 pm eastern, 2:00 pm mountain and 1:00 pacific.  Find a quiet place and place hands at the heart.  Connect to your breath and allow the mind to quiet.  Repeat these phrases to yourself and add 3 OMs and deep breaths if you like.  

May all sentient beings be mentally happy

May all sentient beings be physically happy

May all sentient beings be safe

May all sentient beings have ease of well being

On any given day you could change the wording to accomodate what you need.  If you need some lovingkindness for yourself, change the wording to: May I be mentally happy…

If you know a loved one that is in need change it to: May John Smith be mentally happy…Etc.

Let me know if you are joining in and spread the word! It’s what the world needs right now

Listening with Love

I have a delightful page-a-day calendar called Buddha Doodles.   On some days, it’s that very quick zen reminder on a busy day.  A little pearl of wisdom to carry with me.  They are often a simple sentence or two, or a quote accompanied by a cute buddist cartoon.  On a recent day it was:  Listen with Love.  At first, I brushed over the idea.  Of course, “Listen with Love” I thought.  Got it.  Except do I?  How often do I actually listen with true love in my heart.  As someone speaks, do I drop all other thoughts and truly look the speaker in the face and open my heart and listen?  As I gaze at that person, do I actually remind myself what caused me to love that person?  Do I listen with not only my ears, but with all of my senses?  Truly listening is a skill that we don’t actually practice very often.  We live in a world of distraction.  We may be raising a generation of distracted people.  I owe it to my loved ones and those I come in contact with to truly listen.  I invite you to join me in raising our listening skills.

Open the Heart

During the Quarantine there seems to be lots of time spent on our devices, seated on soft furniture and of course watching tv.  This tends to create a ‘folding forward’ action in the body. It’s a real challenge to move and be like we were prior to this time.  Yogis often speak of a counterpose to any given pose.  So, in this case, back bending would be called for to counter the forward folding we have consciously or more likely unconsciously been doing.  Now, I am not talking about some giant 4 limbed wheel pose.  I  am suggesting several back bending ideas to bring more space and lightness to the center of the chest which yogis refer to as the ‘heart center.’ Yes, back bends open up the heart.  When we open up the heart we allow more room for joy to come in! Most of us feel heavy hearted right now so this can be a mood lifter as well. 

My first suggestion is the  classic pose is called Setu Bandha Sarvangasana in Sanskrit.  Setu means bridge, Bandha means to construct, and Sarvangasana means to use all the limbs.  We are constructing a bridge using all of our limbs.  For our version we will use a block under the sacral plate.  If you don’t have a yoga block at home with you, feel free to use a stack of books, a firm folded blanket or pillow.  Anything that will provide solid support that you can trust to really rest on.  

  • Come to the floor or your mat and recline
  • Bend both knees and keep them hip distance apart as you lift pelvis onto your support
  • Adjust so that it feels comfortable on your low back, sacral area.  (Please do not attempt if you have any low back issues!)
  • Visualize that your heels are under your knees.
  • Roll your arms so that your palms face upward, see if you can tuck your shoulders in towards each other and downward, then rest arms beside you
  • Soften face and throat and allow chin to move slightly downward to chest
  • Now that you are set up, feel the movement of your breath.  
  • Breathe into the soft expanded belly, breathe into the wide open heart/lung center
  • Allow yourself time to rest and breathe fully into the front body
  • Stay awhile, breathing and resting into this shape
  • When you feel ready to come out, remove your support and slowly lower the spine to the floor.  This is one of my favorite moments in yoga, when my spine meets the mat it feels as if I have created more space between my vertebrae.
  • Keep a bend to the knees and allow them to drop side to side a few times as if they were windshield wipers 
  • As you come up from the mat notice how you feel.   

My second suggestion is, when you step away from the computer,  interlace fingers behind your back and reach your hands down, palms facing up and away from you.  Feel the width of your collarbones across the front body.  Take some deep breaths and lift, widen and open the heart center.

And lastly, anytime during the day, close the eyes and connect to the breath.  With each inhale feel as if you are lifting up the heart center.  On the exhale, keep the lift of the chest as the breath sofly leaves the body.  Allow yourself several rounds visualizing a bright light shining  right from your heart.

Smiling with your eyes

In this new ‘normal,’ it seems that we will be wearing masks for the foreseeable future.  I don’t think anyone is excited about this prospect.  We are going to have to learn a new way of communicating with each other since our mouths are completely covered.  Time to start working those eyes!  How expressive can you be just using your eyes?  Next time you are out see how much delight, joy and gratitude you can emot just from your eyes.  To quote the comedian Flip Wilson, “What you see is what you get.”  And in these times it is also  “How you see is how you give.”

Stand Still

During this pandemic, it has often been said that we are at a stand still.  So much has stopped.  So much has closed.  Uncertainty swirls around us daily.  It’s so easy to feel untethered and uneasy.  In yoga, when we stand still it is called Tadasana (mountain pose) or Samasthiti (equal standing).  While it is one of the most fundamental poses it is also one of the most complex.  I have been working on my Tadasana since day one and still feel I am a work in progress.  It is often a welcome pause during a practice to check in and see how one is doing, what the residue of the practice feels like at that moment and possibly catch one’s breath! 

At a time like this it’s nice to come to this pose as a reminder.  I am still standing, I am strong and tall and aware.  To take a moment in Tadasana, come to standing and ground feet into the floor.  Feel the earth under your feet.  See that it feels that most of your weight is in your heels. Think for a moment of being in Samasthiti, equal in both legs, stable and strong.  Lift up from your inner arches all the way up the inner leg and keep that lift as you draw up the front body.  Lowest part of the abdomen draws in and up and that allows the whole front body to lift.  Tether the ribs in place but at the same time lift up and expand the heart center.  Check that the chin is remaining parallel to the floor.  Now that the front body is lifting upward, allow the back body to melt downward.  Shoulders move away from the ears.  Now you might find yourself standing rigid, so on an exhale soften yourself a bit.  Let your gaze soften as well  or have eyes closed and connect to the movement of breath.  Visualize yourself as a mountain.  Inhale up the front side of your body and exhale down the back side.  Take several rounds of deep full breaths like this.  Strong and firm like a mountain.  A mountain that withstands all the assaults of nature and time.  

Just as we will withstand the assault to our minds and bodies of this unusual time.  After a few moments like this, release knowing you can come back to your mountain anytime to connect to this grounding and stability.