Archive | Free RSS feed for this section

Heart Meditation

30 Oct

ūüĆô Take Back The Night

22 Oct

I am so excited to be teaching ūüíĖ¬†Yoga for Peace & Healing¬†ūüíĖ¬†at Take Back the Night, an international event to raise awareness and empowerment against sexual & domestic violence on October 26th. Wheeling Jesuit University is one of Ten Points of Light, and this event is being held for the first time in West Virginia on our campus! Free & Open to all. ūüíĖ¬†Join me.
#metooTBTN WJU Flier

RSVP & spread the word on Facebook.

Here is the backstory.   Hope to see you Thursday!

Greetings WJU Community:

I am pleased to share the attached flier regarding the upcoming 10 Points of Light event that will be hosted on campus on Thursday, October 26, 2017.

‚ÄčTake Back The Night represents the earliest world-wide stand against sexual violence, especially violence against women. TBTN events began happening in the 1960‚Äôs. Belgium and England held some of the earliest protests about women not being safe even walking down the street alone. In the United States, in 1973, women at a Florida campus marched together demanding a women‚Äôs center. In 1975, a crowd in Philadelphia held a Take Back The Night Event to protest the rape and murder of a microbiologist walking home after work. Also in the 70‚Äôs San Francisco had a number of rallies in protest ‚Äúsnuff‚ÄĚ pornography and violence against women. These events grew into hundreds of events on college campuses and in communities of all sizes and locations. The unifying theme was protest of sexual violence and support for victims.‚Äč

‚ÄčOn the last Thursday in October (and again in April), TBTN holds a global event in ten locations world wide. These events are known as the 10 Points of Light. These communities unite to demonstrate their support for survivors of sexual violence through speeches, marches, performances, and vigils. ‚Äč

WJU is proud to have been chosen as one of the ten locations to host a Point of Light event, the first of its kind in West Virginia!

Please join us on October 26, 2017, for a day of reflection, education and support as we Take Back the Night!

Contact the Title IX Office with any questions regarding the event.
David Hacker | Director
Title IX Coordinator
Office of Human Resources
316 Washington Ave, Wheeling WV, 26003
Phone: (304) 243-26‚Äč50‚Äč


Go-To Yoga for Your Desk Job

8 Apr

Yoga is a wonderful practice you can incorporate into any part of your life.  If you are like 4 out of 5 Americans who have a desk job, it is even more important to bring some healthy, vital movement & breath into your workday.

Here are 5 poses you can integrate into your workplace that fit into a cubicle.


Printable version: Desk Yoga

Feel free to share with your coworkers!

Holiday Gift Bags!

28 Nov

I hope you all have received a holiday gift bag from our wonderful circle of local healers (just scroll down to meet them!) by now.  If not, join me for a yoga class and pick one up!

My contribution to the bags was a small dram of doTERRA essential oil for you to enjoy this holiday season. ¬†Your dram contains one of the following oils (which are my personal favorites!), plus MANY more goodies complements of Jelan … ¬†Read on to learn more about how to enjoy your doTERRA oils and meet the practitioners responsible for your gift bags!

Balance_15mlBalance¬ģ Grounding Blend

  • USES: Aromatic, Topical, No Dilution Needed
  • Promotes whole-body relaxation
  • Soothes sore muscles and joints
  • Evokes feelings of tranquility and balance

OnGuard_15mlOnGaurd¬ģ Protective Blend

  • USES: Aromatic, Topical, Internal, Dilute for young or sensitive skin
  • Supports healthy immune function
  • Protects against environmental threats
  • Cleanses surfaces
  • Purifies the skin while promoting healthy circulation
  • Energizing and uplifting aroma

AromaTouch_15mlAromaTouch¬ģ¬†Massage Blend

  • USES: Aromatic, Topical,¬†No Dilution Needed
  • Relaxes muscles and soothes joints
  • Promotes circulation
  • Supports a healthy inflammatory response


  • Uses: Aromatic, topical – no need for dilution, internal
  • Widely used for its calming and relaxing qualities
  • Soothes occasional skin irritations
  • Helps skin recover quickly
  • Eases muscle tension

Slim & Sassy¬ģ ¬†Metabolic Blendslimsassy_15ml

  • Uses: aromatic, topical and internal
  • Promotes healthy metabolism
  • Helps manage hunger cravings
  • Calms your stomach and lifts your mood
  • Diuretic stimulant and calorie free

How to use Essential Oils

There are so many ways for you to enjoy your oils!

  • A few drops on the clay charm necklace that is included in your gift bag!
  • One drop on the wrist, rub wrists together, then rub on your neck near your lymph nodes
  • Add to a witch hazel spray for a yoga mat cleaner or all-purpose household cleaner
  • Rub a drop or two into¬†the bottoms of your feet

A Note from Jelan:

The Holiday Gift Bags are up and running!  Much thanks and gratitude goes out to this amazing circle of healers for making these little bits of holiday cheer such a huge success!  I could not have done it with out you!

I would like to acknowledge T. L. Garrett of Mountain Sunrise Pottery for creating the darling little charms you will find in your gift bag.¬† Teri does beautiful pottery.¬† Many of you have seen some of her pieces in my salon.¬† She specializes in “functional ~ unique ~ wearable ~ beautiful” pieces.¬† You may contact her at or 406-696-5195 for customized orders.

The charm has not been glazed on purpose.  It is porous to hold and absorb a drop or two of an essential oil to carry your aroma therapy blend with you throughout the day.  They may be worn as a necklace or simply placed near you on your desk, in your car, on your nightstand, wherever you wish.  They make a nice addition to your meditation / prayer practice, or simply to freshen the air in a stuffy environment.  One drop of essential oil will last for several days.  If you have questions about essential oils or would like to purchase additional oils, contact Jessie.  Enjoy!

In addition to the charms, you will find a few small tumbled stones with a brief description of the healing properties for which they may be used.  To use a stone for healing purposes, take a moment or two to think about an area in your life that you would either like to cultivate or release while holding the stone.  Then simply carry the stone with you in your purse or pocket, or place on your dresser, nightstand, or special place to serve as a gentle reminder to yourself of your intention to create positive change in your life.  Explore your heart and mind and Play!

Wishing Each of You and Your Families a Wonderful Holiday Season!

Many Blessings,


Practitioners you’ll find in your Gift Bag!

Jelan Petersen, Reiki Master / Teacher, Cosmetologist, Proprietor, The Reiki Sylist


“Bringing Beauty to the Body, Mind & Spirit”

Jelan offers a unique healing opportunity for her clients.  Combining the healing energies of unconditional Love and Compassion with traditional salon & spa services, offers a relaxed, fun and safe environment to facilitate subtle shifts of perspective while chatting about day to day events.  Deep healing experiences take place effortlessly as conversations bring issues to the surface.  The energetic environment within the salon offers a reprieve from the outside world, allowing one to connect with their own divine self, relax, rejuvenate, and release.  Healing sessions may be scheduled for more in-depth exploration of your inner being.  Classes may also be scheduled to learn how to connect more clearly with your intuition to heal yourself and others using the healing energy of Reiki.

Jelan combines the healing practices of Reiki,Theta Healing¬ģ, Crystal Therapy and her Intuitive Knowledge in her practice.

Hadea Tift, Owner of Skagit Community Acupuncture, Licensed & Board Certified Acupuncturist, Chief Creator

Hadea1Skagit Community Acupuncture provides a radical and yet sensible solution to feeling better on a budget, treating multiple people per hour so that you can afford to come often enough to get better while not breaking the bank.  SCA is a part of a network of practitioners across the country (200 strong!) who believe in offering acupuncture in an affordable setting.  All are individually owned and operated, connected solely by a common goal.

Trained at Bastyr, Hadea uses a Japanese style of needling which is gentle. ¬†She practices distal¬†treatments ‚Äď meaning that no matter what she is¬†treating (from headaches to back pain to hormonal or digestive issues) she¬†uses acupuncture points that are on your legs, arms, and your head. ¬†Schedule an appointment to experience this unique and effective healing experience for yourself.

Kathleen Sweeney, Reflexologist and owner of the Sedro Woolley Center of Holistic Wellness

Kathleen offers a blend of her many gifts out of the Center of Holistic Wellness, drawing from her most beloved trainings including Intuitive Reflexology, Reiki Raindrop therapy, Structural Relief Therapy, Aromatherapy, custom essential oil blends & perfumes, and plain old fashioned listening!

The Center hosts a lending library, fair trade & local gift store (stop in!), and a myriad of resources including classes, workshops, and healing practitioners to help you find community, wholeness and healing on a deep level. ¬†Sign up for Kathleen’s e-mail list by clicking here.

Suzy Cornell, LMP, CPT, Structural Medicine Specialist, Yoga & Pilates Instructor and owner of Body Free

Suzy Cornell

Suzy integrates her many advanced trainings in the healing arts with an extensive movement background to empower her clients to achieve a high level of freedom and functional ability in their lives.  Through Body Free, she offers hourlong or two-hour massage, Aromatouch, Functional Movement Screens and Structural Medicine treatments out of Concrete and Sedro Woolley.  She also teaches a weekly yoga class at the Center of Holistic Wellness.

Jessie Tierney, Experienced Registered Yoga Instructor & Physical Therapist Aide

Jessie-ProfileI teach therapeutic yoga and offer workshops around the Skagit Valley.  From Therapeutic Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Back Care Yoga and even Horseback Yoga, it is my deepest love to share the benefits of this life-changing practice to all.  I supplement my yoga teaching (and my life) with Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade doTERRA essential oils, which I am thrilled to be sharing with all of you.  You can sign up for my e-mail list by clicking here (be sure you check the box that corresponds to your interests!).

In case you missed it …

22 Jul

The long-awaited Yoga Blanket Folding How-To Video … for your viewing and learning pleasure, from the comfort of your own home!

I have joked so many times about needing to teach an entire class dedicated to the art of yoga blanket folding. ¬†Here’s to spending less time figuring out how to fold a blanket and more time in the juicy postures that we love so much!

Happy folding!


26 Jun

Don’t miss this intriguing story¬†on NPR about why many indigenous¬†cultures are free from back pain, and what we can learn from them. ¬†You can listen online.


Primal posture: Ubong tribesmen in Borneo (right) display the perfect J-shaped spines. A woman in Burkina Faso (left) holds her baby so that his spine stays straight. The center image shows the S-shaped spine drawn in a modern anatomy book (Fig. I) and the J-shaped spine (Fig. II) drawn in the 1897 anatomy book Traite d’Anatomie Humaine.


5 Minute Pranayama

2 Jun

Today my physiology colleagues and I presented our poster at WWU, where we studied the impacts of Pranayama (breathing) and Viparita Karani (inverted pose or legs up the wall pose) on blood pressure in college-age women.

Our results showed that a 5-minute breathing practice significantly lowered blood pressure from a baseline measurement. The above recording was what we used for participants in all trials. The cool thing is it only takes 5 minutes to create a measurable change!

Breathe deep,


Adventure Yoga Retreat!

23 May

A Biking Yoga Beach Picnic!

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 10.27.21 PMHere’s the scoop:

Saturday, June 27th
10:00 am – 2:30ish (?) pm
Pack a lunch, wear your suit, and bring your bike!

Join us for a leisurely bike ride down the Cascade Trail, where we’ll end at the sandy banks of the Skagit River for a gentle yoga practice, followed by a packed lunch, a dip in the river (it’s going to be a scorcher on Saturday!) and soaking in the sun. ¬†Hope you can come. ¬†Invite a friend!. ¬†Free, in celebration of summer and connecting with Nature!

  • Meet at the small crushed gravel parking lot on¬†Polte Road, just off Township. ¬†We’ll take off at 10am, so arrive¬†in time to unload your bike and pack your backpack.The_Route
  • Bike down the Cascade Trail about 6.8¬†miles (Google Maps estimates it takes 33 minutes, but we’ll take it easy and stop many times to really take in¬†the scenic farmland & foothills views)
  • We’ll reach the Ann Wolfred River Edge Park, secure¬†our bikes, and walk to the sandy banks of the Skagit River, where we will:
    • Practice yoga in the sand
    • Eat our packed lunches
    • Swim in the river
    • Lounge in the sun
    • Watch for birds and salmon
  • Then we’ll bike back home!


Above, one of the first glimpses of the Skagit River along the way, the perfect spot for a brief Sun Salutation and a few choice poses to help balance a biking-body (that may or may not be in the best biking shape!).

Donation-only for this fun festivity.  Bring your own water and lunch (and sunsrcreen!).

Please RSVP by replying below, joining on facebook or contacting Jessie

Blanket Folding 101

29 Apr

The long-awaited Yoga Blanket Folding How-To Video … for your viewing and learning pleasure, from the comfort of your own home!


I have joked so many times about needing to teach an entire class dedicated to the art of yoga blanket folding. ¬†Here’s to spending less time figuring out how to fold a blanket and more time in the juicy postures that we love so much!

Happy folding!


Free Yoga Festival

4 Mar

FreeYogaFestival2015 Yoga instructors from across the Valley offer an entire day of free yoga classes in the upstairs of the Mount Vernon Food CoOp.¬† Come up to the third floor, kick off your shoes and explore a variety of yoga styles in celebration of the rich diversity of yoga offered in the Valley.¬† Each class starts on the hour every hour beginning at 11 am.¬† Classes are suitable for all levels (including beginners!).¬† Bring your own yoga mat if you have one‚Äďotherwise, supplies will be provided.¬† No RSVP needed ~ come as you are!

Saturday May 16th, 2015

11:00 Р11:45 am Structural Yoga Therapy with Kathleen Grimbly

12:00 – 12:45 pm Children’s Yoga¬†with Jessica Azeez

1:00 Р1:45 pm Chair Yoga with Simme Bobrosky

2:00 Р2:45 pm Yin Yoga with Shelley Dorland

3:00 Р3:45 pm Power Flow  with Krista Squibb  

4:00 Р4:45 pm Yoga Pilates Infusion with Suzy Cornell

5:00 Р5:45 pm Gentle Back Care Yoga with Jessie Tierney

Classes & Instructors

Structural Yoga Therapy ~ 11:00 Р11:45 am


Kathleen Grimbly

In this Joint-Freeing Series, students will be guided through gentle work that can restore range of motion and reveal and heal muscular imbalance and joint pain.  This practice is an ideal warm up for all physical activities, with body-mind-spirit practices of union. Kathleen Grimbly has been a Kripalu Yoga Teacher since 1995,  Yoga Therapy practitioner and student since 2002 and is a Postural Analysis Specialist.  She leads and instructs sea kayak, x-c ski, bike and hike retreats and tours, incorporating sport specific yoga practices,  teaches at Holden Village and various symposiums.  Contact Kathleen here.

Children’s Yoga¬†~ 12:00 – 12:45 pm



Children will be immersed in a fun and child-friendly yoga class taught by Jessica with songs, movement, stories and play. Parents are welcomed to join. Ages 3-6

Jessica Azeez is a 500 RYT with a Bachelor’s degree in Yoga and a minor in Contemplative Education from Naropa University. Jessica also has a certification and training in Storytime Yoga and Prenatal Yoga. She completed her Level 1 and 2 ChildLight Yoga TeacherTraining and Yoga 4 Classrooms Trainer Intensive in August 2014. Jessica holds a CO and CA teachers license with an endorsement in Elementary Education. In addition, Jessica is a certified Waldorf teacher through the Rudolf Steiner College in CA.
She is currently weaving her love for yoga, children, songs and stories into her children’s yoga classes. Her children‚Äôs yoga business is entitled Story Blossom Yoga, LLC. She teaches at several locations and schools in the Skagit County of WA state. Jessica also teaches private and group yoga classes to adults. When she is not¬†teaching¬†yoga she is working part time at the Lululemon Athletica Outlet in Burlington, WA.
It is her hope that the yogic lifestyle and philosophy will inspire children and adults in schools and at home and that a shift towards greater peace and joy be felt throughout the nation and in every classroom.
You can find Jessica teaching yoga at Cresent Moon Yoga Studio in La Conner, Studio 1010 in Anacortes, The Children’s Museum of Skagit County in Burlington, The Anacortes School District (seasonal after school programs), & private homes.
For more information please visit

Chair Yoga ~ 1:00 Р1:45 pm

simme yoga day

Simme Bobrosky

Move through life in grace and ease in a conscious journey of self discovery. This Hatha Yoga class is presented in the holistic style of Akandha Yoga. Akhanda ¬†means whole, complete, unbroken. This style of yoga, transmitted from Yogi Vishvketu, promotes flexibility, strength, healing, relaxation, inspiration, clarity of mind and inner peace. Fully realize the mind-heart-body connection in a class designed for YOU. Simme’s¬†class will include chanting, breath work, asana and meditation. Her focus is with the senior population, adapting poses for those with chronic pain, orthopedic and dis-ease limitations. We will be using the chair for seated poses and standing balance poses.¬† Learn more about Akhanda yoga here. Simme Bobrosky, OTR/L, RYT of Yoga Heart Space has practiced yoga for 20 years and is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor who completed her 200 hour certification course in Rishikesh, India in 2008.¬† She is a Registered/Licensed Occupational Therapist and a certified Reiki Master.¬† She leads kirtan in Skagit Valley and sings at local retirement homes, farmers markets and churches.¬† Kirtan is devotional chanting in Sanskrit that allows us to ‚Äúconnect with and express the JOY within.‚Ä̬† Deeply resonant sacred words are chanted with musical accompaniment in the call/response model called kirtan. She offers yoga classes in group and private instruction.¬† Visit her website,

Yin Yoga ~ 2:00 Р2:45 pm

Shelley Dorland

Shelley Dorland

As we age and/or become more sedentary, our bodies may experience chronic pain and stiffness. Yin Yoga is a quiet, personal practice to help the nadis, or energy channels of the body to open, becoming more alive and healthy. Yin postures are gentle floor poses held in a relaxed, meditative way designed to release tight muscles, joints and connective tissue, and to stimulate new cell growth. With long, relaxed, gentle traction we are able to heal and rebuild our bodies. Some experience in yoga is helpful, but not required. Yin yoga is gentle by nature, so that all may participate. If you can lie down or sit on the floor, you can do yin yoga. Shelley took her first yoga class in 1997 and it was love at first downward facing dog. She began taking yoga classes 5 days a week and was soon enrolled in a teacher training program. Since then she has been studying and teaching yoga nearly everyday for 14 years, studied in many styles of yoga with world class teachers including Naga, Hatha, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Anusara. She has also studied Yin Yoga and Anatomy of Yoga with Paul Grilley in 2006 and recently completed a 20 hour Yin training program at Twist Yoga Edmonds Wa in 2014. Shelley has deepened her practice and expanding her teaching skills by completing a 100hr Anusara Teacher Training Program and 100hr Anusara immersion in 2010. She also has extensive studies in Yoga as Therapy with Douglas Keller and Yoga Philosophy with Douglas Brooks. She currently owns and teaches at Riverwalk Yoga Studio in Mount Vernon.

Power Flow ~ 3:00 Р3:45 pm


Krista Squibb

Power Flow is a moving style of yoga where poses run together in a slow, fluid way connecting your breath almost like a dance.  Sometimes holding postures longer to really feel the heat and other times moving a bit quicker.  Working hard while learning to relax.  Strong emphasis on breath and an over all balance to your body. Creating strength, flexibility and endurance.  All levels are welcome.  Class is usually done in a 80 degree room. Krista discovered yoga while trying to heal wrist and back pain and never looked backed.  She brings 14 years of teaching experience.  She owned and operated Hot Yoga of Laurelhurst in Seattle for over 8 years before moving and settling in beautiful Skagit Valley with her family.  She has been through Bikram Chaurdry and Ana Forrest teacher trainings and has been lucky enough to have taken many workshops over the years with some of our best master teachers including, Shiva Rea, Bryan Kest, Baron Baptist and Shakta Kaur Khalsa.  She also holds a certificate of training in Pilates.   Krista’s style is an eclectic blend of her years of experience. Krista teaches in her studio, Bay View Yoga, in Bow, WA.

Yoga Pilates Infusion ~ 4:00 – 4:45 pm

Suzy Cornell

Suzy Cornell

Yoga Pilates Infusion for Beginners is a practice that uses breath and  movement to increase deep core strength & stability while also expanding range of motion in all the major joints of the body.  If you have never practiced yoga or pilates before, if you want to learn how to access those elusive deep core muscles, or if you wish to learn how to find balance in body and beyond, this is the class for you! Suzy Cornell was born and raised in Seattle, WA and received her BA in Physical Education from Western Washington University in 1985.  She has over 20 years experience in the field of Adult Fitness and has taught Yoga and Pilates for over 10 years.  She received her yoga certification from Pacific Yoga at The Yoga Tree in Seattle, and has continued her education through YogaFit, Inc, obtaining certifications in Levels 1-5, Prenatal Yoga and YogaFit for Seniors.  She was certified in Pilates through Balance Within in Redmond. Suzy teaches Yoga Therapy at the Center for Holistic Wellness in Sedro-Woolley and is a Licensed Massage Practitioner and Structural Medicine Specialist out of Body Free in Concrete.

Gentle Back Care Yoga ~ 5:00 Р5:45 pm


Jessie Tierney

Gentle Back Care Yoga introduces you to mindful breath work and focused, gentle movements that bring balance and stability to the deep core muscles of the spine.  As we gently learn to locate, activate, strengthen and stretch, we gain the tools we need to bring the body into balance and freedom. Jessie Tierney is a is a 320-Hour Yoga Alliance Certified & Registered graduate of the Shambhava School of Yoga.  She is en route to Physical Therapy school, where she intends to integrate the ancient science of yoga with modern western medicine for a holistic and lasting approach to healing. Jessie teaches weekly yoga classes and a variety of workshops at the Sedro Woolley Center for Holistic Wellness and Hayloft Yoga classes & Horseback Yoga Workhsops at Double S Quarter Horses in Bow, WA.


Spread the word!

You can find more details, RSVP (not required), spread the word and join the conversation on Facebook (just click here).


Download the 2015 Yoga Poster.

See you at the Festival!

1 Hour Intermediate Yoga Practice for the Shoulders & Core

22 Jan

Core and Shoulder Strengthening & Preparation for Arm Balancing Postures

Enjoy this intermediate class from the comfort of your home!

Approach these asanas slowly and mindfully. If something hurts, back out of the pose gently and reassess. Do not ever push through pain. The techniques and suggestions presented in these videos are not intended to substitute for medical advice. Consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program. Jessie Tierney and YogAscent/Horseback Yoga videos and website assume no responsibility for injuries suffered while practicing these techniques. If you are new to exercise or yoga, are elderly, have any chronic or recurring conditions such as high blood pressure, neck or back pain, arthritis, heart disease, and so on, seek your physician’s advice before practicing to determine necessary precautions.

Vinyasa IV: Posture Perks

18 Sep

This Posture-Perking Vinyasa is dedicated to all my yoga students (who are also my teachers!), and also in gratitude and dedication to all my beloved yoga teachers, past, present and future.  Namaste.


Begin seated on a chair or in Sukhasana on the floor for a centering Pranayama practice.  Enjoy at least ten slow, deep Yogic Belly Breaths, gradually lengthening the duration of the inhale and exhale.  You may choose to place your hands on your belly to help guide breath into the space of the belly and low back.  Following ten rounds of belly breaths, transition to the Middle Ribs Breath, inhaling to inflate the side and back ribs, exhaling to release and relax, gently drawing navel to spine.  Keeping the navel gently drawn in to the spine, repeat the middle ribs breath for at least ten rounds.



Sitting in the center of your chair with feet flat on the floor, find your strap and extend your strap between arms in front of you. Hold the strap taught. Inhale, slowly and mindfully (we are simply warming up the shoulders) lift the strap overhead, seeing how straight you are able to keep the elbows. You may notice that you need to adjust the distance between your hands‚ÄĒbe sure to do so. On an exhale, keep your side chests lifted as you arch over to the left. Inhale through center (overhead). Exhale to the right. Notice that your sit bones are equally rooted. Repeat for ten full-breathing rounds of Strappy Side Bends, lingering in any expression of the pose that feels nourishing.



Please be very mindful and gentle to the shoulders in this posture. Inhale, lift the arms overhead, keeping a steady tension in the strap. Exhale, reach the arms back (please slide your hands farther apart on the strap until this action is comfortable for you) and perhaps the arms lower toward the back hips (it’s okay if they don’t today). Inhale the arms up and overhead. Exhale the arms to the front.   Repeat for ten full-breathing rounds of Strappy Shoulder Rolls, lingering in any expression of the pose that feels healthy. Over-stretching in this postures is not useful; listen to your body and only go as deeply as feels safe and comfortable.



Come to standing at the front of your mat with two blocks closeby. Place one block between your upper thighs, standing with the feet hip width apart. Find Tadasana (mountain) by lifting your inner arches, spreading your toes, lifting your knees to engage your quads, and drawing the inner thighs back. Lift your side and back chest, spread your collarbones and let your ears rest over your shoulders. Reach down through the four corners of your feet as you reach up through the crown of your head. Draw your top thighs back and side chest tall.



Take a second¬†block into your palms. Extend the elbows straight, pressing the pinky finger side of your hand more firmly into the block than the thumb side. Maintaining the integrity in your spine (your low back will want to arch; front ribs poking forward), inhale and begin to lift the block a few inches higher. Pause to exhale, checking in with the shoulders‚ÄĒplug them back; keep the front ribs back. Inhale, lift the block a few inches higher. Pause to exhale. Honor where your shoulders are able to move in Urdvha Hastasana keeping an external rotation to the shoulders and internal rotation to the thighs. Work toward five or ten full breaths in this posture, being gentle yet strong.¬†¬† Exhale to slowly lower the block down, keeping the elbows straight and pinky fingers of the fingers pressing in. Bend your knees, place both blocks onto the floor. You may choose to explore Urdvha Hastasana without the blocks, and see if you can keep the block-inspired actions as you move into and out of the pose.



Find a chair and place it facing the long edge of your mat for Anjaneyasana. Step your right thigh over the chair, and rest the ball of your foot on the ground directly beneath your knee. If your front foot does not reach the ground, use a blanket or yoga block beneath the foot. Hands come to the hips, drawing left hip forward, plugging the right hip back. Walk your left toes back, back, back, until just your toes are on the ground and the heel is lifted. Toes point directly forward (in the same direction as your left hip). Extend through the back left heel; draw your inner left thigh up toward the sky, straightening the knee. Keep your quadriceps engaged. Inhale, reach arms forward, parallel with the ground. Exhale, plug the shoulders back into their sockets. Inhale, lift the arms overhead. Maintain the same action as you did in Urdvha Hastasana, drawing outer armpits in toward your ears. Draw the tailbone toward the earth and keep extending the back leg. Exhale, release the arms down to your sides. You may either progress to Virabhadrasana I on chair next pose) or repeat Anjaneyasana on the other side.



To transition from Anjaneyasana into Virabhadrasana I with Chair, angle your back heel in toward the center of the mat slightly, then ground into the outside edge of the back foot. Continue to draw the inner back knee up toward the sky and press the back leg long. Inhale arms level with the floor; exhale plug the shoulders back. Inhale to raise the arms overhead, magnetizing the pinky side of the arms toward one another to find an external rotation to the arms. Draw the tailbone down toward the earth, float the front ribs back, and extend the spine upward through the crown toward the sky. Enjoy a few mindful breaths here. On an exhale, hands to hips, bend the back knee and carefully switch sides.



You may choose to move directly into Virabhadrasana II on Chair from Vira I: to do this, bring the hands back to the hips. Gently open your hips toward the front edge of the chair. You will find that this rotation allows for you to scoot your back foot further away from the body: do this, and then find a rooted outer edge of your back arch. Hands are still on hips at this point. Draw the inner right (front leg) groin toward the inner right knee; draw the outer right knee toward the outer right hip to find healthy knee and hip alignment. Lift the back kneecap to engage your quadriceps; this will help to release and straighten the back knee/hamstring as you root your outer back foot into the earth. Inhale, grow tall through your spine, checking in so that your spine is perpendicular to the earth. Tailbone descends as you inhale to reach your arms out to T. Exhale, find a soft gaze over your front middle finger. Elbows straight; shoulders release from your ears. Exhale arms down, resting hands on hips. Carefully step the back leg forward and repeat on the other side. The former three postures can be done sequentially (all on one side, then change) or one at a time.



Here is a fun variation on Virabhadrasana I with a block just below the knee on the front of the shin. Come to the wall and step your front leg close in, placing the block. Walk your back leg as far back as you can without losing your square hips. You can work here, feeling the solidness of the legs pressing into the wall and the sturdiness of the outside edge of the back foot. You can also walk the fingertips up the wall, plugging shoulders back, then raising the arms overhead. Find some full breaths into the space of the back ribs here. Exhale to release the arms, bend the back knee and grasp the block to step the feet together. Enjoy the pose on the other side. You may choose to explore the posture without the block, seeing if you can mimic the actions you found at the wall.



Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation (Downward Dog) begins standing facing the back of the chair. Step your hands shoulder wide apart on the chair, resting the pinky side of your hands onto the chair back. Bend the knees *this is a top priority in this posture* and begin to step the legs back. Keeping knees bent, lengthen your spine as you step your legs back until the feet are beneath the hip sockets. Press into the chair and lengthen back through your tailbone‚ÄĒas though someone is pulling your tail‚ÄĒas you continue to activate the arms, releasing the heart toward the earth (if you are already very flexible in the shoulders, you will need to actively resist hyperextending the shoulder joints by pressing into the chair and keeping your front ribs lifted). Keep the knees bent, continuing to work with lengthening the spine, growing an inch longer with each exhale. Only if you are able to maintain the neutral spine (no rounding!), you may begin to straighten the legs by drawing the inner knees back and lifting the quadriceps. Work here for ten breaths. To come out, bend the knees, draw the navel toward the spine, gaze forward and step one foot forward at a time to find Tadasana.



You may find Parsvottanasana from Adho Mukha Svanasana (above). Knees can stay bent. As above, bend the knees and walk the legs back. From there, step the right foot forward‚ÄĒtoes face the chair‚ÄĒand check in with the alignment of the hips: draw the right hip back and left hip forward. The back toes angle out to the left slightly. Lift the arches of the feet; lift the kneecaps to engage the quadriceps. Lengthen both side bodies and press the hands (or arms, as shown) into the chair. *Note: your torso may not be level with the floor. Make sure your spine is neutral; you may have your hands on the chair but chest lifted higher. Do what ensures a neutral spine. Each inhale inflates the length of spine; each exhale draws the navel in and lengthens your body crown to tailbone. Breathe here for ten rounds before bending both knees and gazing forward to step the feet toward the chair and transition to the other side.



Set the chair aside to prepare for Shakti Goddess Flow. Step your feet wide apart, toes pointing out. See that the kneecaps and toes are pointing in the same direction. Sink the tailbone toward the floor as you lower the hips. Find cactus arms. Inhale, straighten the knees and reach the arms overhead in prayer position. If you feel balanced and your neck is happy, you may choose to gaze at the hands. Exhale, bend the knees, sinking the tailbone, and open the heart to find cactus arms. Inhale here, then exhale, side bending to the left. Inhale through center and side bend to the right. Inhale through center; exhale, sink deeper. Inhale repeat the flow by straightening the legs and reaching arms overhead. Continue for five to ten rounds, exploring openness and stability in the hips and thighs.



From the wide Shakti stance, turn your left toes toward the short edge of your mat, and turn your right toes in about 45 degrees from the back edge of your mat, internally rotating your entire right thigh. Lift your arches and kneecaps. Draw both hips toward the back foot as you lengthen out of the hips, both sides of the spine long. Reach the left arm out over your toes and catch a chair, your leg, or a block (avoid the knee joint) for Trikonasana (Triangle). Press strongly into the ball mound of the left big toe and equally strongly into the outside edge of the back right foot. Draw the shoulders away from your ears as you reach the arms out, extending through fingertips. To come up, draw your belly to your spine, press strongly into your feet and inhale to bring the torso horizontal. Face the other way and repeat on the other side.



Make your way back to the wall, taking your blocks along. You may recognize Posture Practice at the Wall from an earlier Vinyasa, but it is so potent that I chose to include it here as well. Lean against the wall as though you are sitting in a chair. Notice if your chin or shoulders come forward of the wall. Plug your shoulders back to touch the wall and see if you can touch the back of your head to the wall, keeping your chin level with the floor. This may be a sufficient practice to work with for awhile. As you progress, inhale to lift your arms parallel with the floor, palms facing each other. Plug your shoulders into the wall on the exhale. Magnetize your pinkies toward one another to externally rotate the shoulders. Inhale, lifting your arms up a few inches. See that your back hasn’t arched away from the wall. Working with breath, gradually inhale to lift your arms higher (pause on the exhale), keeping the back body in contact with the wall. Exhale to release the arms down to the sides. Eventually, once posture practice feels simple, you may choose to squeeze a block between your knees and hold a block between the palms to increase strength in this pose.



Step one foot onto your chair. Allow the hips to be open. Lift the kneecap of your standing leg to strengthen the leg as you inhale, lift the chest, lengthening out of the spine. Exhale, fold forward, pulling your navel toward your spine to help support the back. Inhale, lengthen forward and up, finding a long spine. Exhale, fold forward into your pose and catch both elbows gently for a ragdoll variation. Shake your head softly to release your neck. Breathe deeply into the back body here, keeping navel in. You may wave the spine side to side to help release and relax muscles here, being sure to keep a firm standing leg. Inhale, belly to spine as you roll up bone by bone; the head comes up last.



Move your chair to the side and make your way into Savasana Variation with the legs elevated on a stack of blocks and a rolled up blanket to nourish the low back. Roll the shoulders back and down, lifting the chest gently. Lengthen the back of the neck. Settle in. Make any modifications so that you can surrender completely here. Soften all muscles, all thoughts, even the breath. Watch the activity of the mind, the breath, as an observer, for at least ten minutes as you fully integrate all the benefits from your practice.



“You create the space, and the universe fills it.”

~Leslie Kaminoff  in Yoga Anatomy

Our bodies have so much to teach us. Be patient, soften, persist, and practice. Let your body be your guide.

The highest potential in me honors the highest potential in you.

Here are some useful resources for more work with posture, which really begins with breath awareness and an expansion of your ability to use your diaphragm and supporting muscles:

  • Many of you have asked about a guided meditation. ¬†One practice that helps if you are in acute pain or experiencing anxiety is¬†progressive muscle relaxation. ¬†There are many versions and voices, with or without music, available online for free. ¬†Here is one that I think is nice.
  • As you explore deep breathing, consider the diaphragm muscle and how it moves to assist the breathing process. ¬†To the right is a simplified image that may help you visualize the action of the diaphragm. ¬†Click here for a link to a more detailed illustration¬†by Sharon Ellis from the book Yoga Anatomy.
  • I recommend¬†Yoga Anatomy if you are interested in learning about the physiology of asana in beautiful¬†depth (available as an e-book or paperback). ¬†The quote above is excerpted from here. ¬†A sweet¬†blend of ancient and modern.
  • Here is a video of Ginger Garner, a Physical Therapist, demonstrating what she calls the TATD breath. ¬†You can practice along with her at home:

Vinyasa III: Hip Healers

10 Sep

This Hip Helping Vinyasa is lovingly dedicated to the talented Matney Cook, a horse & human-healer and musician I am honored to have on my journey, and also in gratitude and dedication to all my beloved teachers, past, present and future.  Namaste.


1.Virasana_on_blocksVirasana on Support Please take care to build up your support in this posture by stacking two or three blocks and a blanket to sit on, then slowly removing layers until you are in a comfortable posture. The sensation is felt in the belly of your thigh muscles, never in the knee joints (if you feel strain/stretching in your knee joints, you are doing damage to the body; please come out of the pose and find a higher seat until there is no knee pain). The inner knees touch; the feet are just under or slightly wider than the hips. The spine is tall, sit bones equally rooted, shoulders relaxed, back of neck long. Enjoy at least ten rounds of your choice of pranayama (suggestion: belly breathing) with your palms folded in your lap.

Note: the next series of asanas can be done seated in a chair or squat if your knees do not tolerate Virasana


To find Virasana with Arms Extended, reach your arms in front of you, level with the floor. Bend your elbows, interlace your fingers, and flip your palms away from your face. Keeping the alignment of your spine (avoid over-arching the back), lift your arms overhead, elbows straight. Breathe fully here. Inhale to lift energetically through the hands and top of the head; exhale to melt any tension down through your legs into the earth.


To Twist in Virasana begin by noticing your hip alignment. Notice that the right and left hip bones are level. Inhale, lift through the crown of the head. On your exhale, draw your navel in toward your spine. Keep an expansive inhale and gentle drawing in for the exhale throughout the twist. Inhale, grow tall through your spine. Exhale, lead the twist with your belly button (not your face) and keep your hips square as you twist right. Inhale stay in the depth of your twist, then exhale spiral deeper beginning with the belly, followed by ribcage. You may place your left fingertips on your right knee and your right arm behind you (if you are on height, you may wish to use a block behind you to rest your fingers). Breathe dynamically gently moving deeper with each exhale, keeping chest lifted and shoulders relaxed from your ears. After five to ten breaths, inhale to unwind back to center. Exhale, settle here for a moment. Repeat the twist to the left.


Keeping shoulders lowered away from the ears & back of your neck long, inhale your right arm up beside your ear. Exhale, keeping sit bones rooted evenly, arc over to the left, keeping the left side body long. Lift your belly to lift your left arm up on the inhale‚ÄĒboth arms extend overhead‚ÄĒand then exhale reach over to the right, side bending and resting your right hand onto the floor or a block. Continue breathing dynamically through Virasana Side Bends, inhaling to lift the arms overhead, exhaling the find a side bend. Feeling the arch in your upper back, space between your side ribs. If you neck feels happy, you may choose to gaze up toward your lifted arm. After five rounds of dynamic side bending, you may choose to hold the side bend expression for a few full, chest- and belly-expansive breaths. Inhale to return to center; exhale rest the arms at your sides and absorb the effects.



Be mindful of the sensation of the knees in Supta Virasana: your sensation should be felt in the belly of the thighs; not ever in the knee joint. If you feel a pulling or tightness in the knee joint, come out of the pose and try Dhanurasana (an upcoming pose, on your belly) instead. From Virasana, Inhale to lift your chest. Exhale, roll your shoulders back and down away from the ears. Inhale lift through the spine. Exhale, begin to walk your hands back on the floor. Inhale, lift the heart toward the sky. Exhale here. Inhale lift your hips slightly off your block. Exhale, draw your tailbone toward your knees to create more space for your low back. A tendency in this pose is to crunch the lumbar spine, so mindfully keep space for the low, neutral back and find the arch in the upper back. Inhale navel to spine as you return to vertical.



From Virasana, extend your right leg out in front of you for Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana Variation. Find that the sit bones are even; you may need to adjust your block or add a blanket or second block to help level the hips. Lift tall through your spine. Lasso the ball mounds of the feet with your strap and walk your arms forward on the strap so your elbows are straight, without rounding your spine or shoulders forward. Inhale and lift tall through the heart and crown. Having your leg outstretched like this may create a strong sensation in your hamstring: if so, breathe here into the space of tension. Engage your quadriceps muscles at the front of your thighs and feel equal weight in right and left sit bones. Inhale to extend tall, and exhale‚ÄĒif you have space, can keep your spine neutral and knee straight‚ÄĒhinge forward at the hips, drawing your shoulders back and leading with your heart for a slight forward bend in the pose (if your knee bends or your spine rounds, avoid bending forward and instead breathe and keep the spine tall). Stay in your expression of the pose for five to ten breaths. Inhale to lift back to neutral. Gently bend your right knee to place your leg back in Virasana, extend your left leg and repeat on the left side.



Begin in Virasana with one leg forward, lifting tall through the crown. Exhale, begin to walk the arms back behind the body. Pause a moment to lift the hips slightly and draw the tailbone toward the knees. Each inhale lengthens the spine, and each exhale moves you deeper into the posture. Breathe in this Supta Virasana Variation, feeling the inner thighs rolling in and down, for five to ten breaths. Extend your neck long, shoulders down away from ears. Inhale to lift up with the strength of your arms. Change legs and repeat on the opposite side.



Urdhva Prasarita Padasana begins on the back with knees bend, feet on the floor. Draw your knees into your chest on an inhale, and exhale to extend your feet up toward the sky. Lasso the ball mounds of both feet and walk your arms up your strap until the elbows are straight and the shoulders are lifted slightly away from the mat. Straighten your knees and engage your quadriceps‚ÄĒthis may mean lowering the legs toward the floor until your knees can be straight. Feel the sacrum balanced on the floor; internally rotate your thighs; the tops of your thighs away from your torso. Observe the alignment of your knees, ankles, and feet. Keep the navel drawn back toward the earth. Soft face. This can be a very strong pose, so practice here with a strap, creating space in the hips and low back by pressing the tops of the thighs away, extending through the heels.



Transition to Supta Padangusthasana from UPP (above) by removing the left foot from the strap and placing the foot on the floor (knee bent to start). Check in with the hip alignment. On an exhale, extend the left leg to the floor, flexing the toes toward the knee and drawing the inner thigh down toward the earth. Soften your face, root the top of the left thigh down and feel the low back lengthen. Keep both quadriceps engaged to help release the hamstring muscles. Remain here for at least 30 seconds‚ÄĒup to two minutes‚ÄĒso that your body‚Äôs stretch reflex lets go and you can truly help the hamstring muscles to lengthen. Inhale, return to UPP by placing the left foot up into the strap. Exhale, lower the right foot to the floor and repeat on the right side.



From Supta Padangusthasana with the left leg lifted, place both straps in your right hand, extending your left arm on the floor in T, palm face up. Plug your left hip into the floor (see arrow); keeping your hip in contact with the floor, move your left foot toward midline (to the right). Inhale pause. Exhale, move the leg maybe a centimeter to the right. Exhale to pause. Here you will find an Iliotibial Band Stretch, but if you go to far across the midline, you will miss the stretch. Lengthen your left side body long (the hip tends to hike toward the ear, so balance your hips side to side). Breathe here for at least five to ten breaths. Inhale, lift the leg back up to straight. Mindfully switch sides, and repeat with the right foot lifted, moving across toward the left.



Staying on your back, feet on the floor with knees bent, cross your right ankle over your left thigh for Supta Eka Pada Utkatasana (Figure Four). Be very mindful of hip alignment in this posture, as it is easy for one side of the hip to creep up toward the ears. Keep length in both side bodies and slowly, on an inhale, lift your left thigh toward your torso. You may place a strap behind the left thigh or if your arms reach, clasp your hands behind your left thigh. Check back in with hip alignment; shift your weight slightly toward the left side. Keep both those flexed toward your knees to prevent knee strain. Big inhale, slow, complete exhale to melt any tension out of your hips. Stay here for up to ten breaths, softening the face and incrementally, gently, drawing the left thigh closer toward the torso, gently accessing the stretch of the right piriformis. On an exhale, slowly release the left thigh and lower the foot to the earth, followed by the right. With feet as wide as your mat, inhale, and exhale to lower the knees to the right. Inhale through center, and exhale lower the knees to the right. Repeat as many times as feels great for your body before finding Figure Four on the opposite side.



Roll onto your belly and fold your blanket to the hot dog orientation, placing it under your forehead. Keeping your forehead on the floor, catch your ankles with your strap and flex your toes toward your knees. Notice the stretch in the quadriceps, forehead still on the floor. Root the pubic bone down into the floor to protect the low back from compression. If the sensation in your thighs is intense, stay here and breathe deeply, melting tension one ach exhale. This may be your work for some time until the quadriceps can let go. To progress to Dhanurasana Knees Down Variation, the knees and pubic bone stay grounded for the rest of our work in this pose. Inhale, roll your shoulders back and down away from ears; exhale, pressing your ankles into the strap to lift the chest then forehead off the floor. The arms are not doing the work, except for holding onto the strap. Find the lift of the torso from the strength in the legs. Inhale, broaden your chest; exhale, root the pubic bone down into the earth and press the legs away from the body. Exhale, lower down, release your strap, let the head rest on the blanket and feet on the floor. Breathe deeply into the space of the low back.



Catch your ankles with your strap, floint (flex and point) the toes, and press the feet into the strap. Keep the feet hip wide apart, knees hip wide apart. Root the pubic bone into the earth, and notice the stretch in the quadriceps. If this sensation is intense, stay here and breathe, inviting your quadriceps muscles to let go with each exhale. This may be where you work for awhile until your quad muscles lengthen and you can easily keep the pubic bone touching the earth.

To progress, connect with your core; rooting your pubic bone down into the earth, lengthening the small of your back. Keep your head comfortably resting on the blanket for Dhanurasana ~ Knees Up Variation. On an inhale, roll shoulders back and away from ears. Exhale, press feet strongly into your strap, keeping the knees hip wide apart (they will want to splay apart). Continue pressing the feet into the strap, and perhaps you will find that the knees are able to lift a centimeter off the floor (this takes a good amount of hip extension, so if this is not possible for you, don’t be concerned; Anjaneyasana and the variation of this pose described above are great work for you to practice). Exhale, lower the knees back to the earth for a resting breath. Inhale, repeat, pressing the feet into the strap to lift the knees, keeping the pubic bone rooted and the low back neutral. Exhale, release the knees down. Repeat lifting on the inhale and releasing on the exhale. When you are ready, lower feet to the earth, placing the strap to one side. Invite at least three full belly breaths into the space of your low back, inflating so that your back lifts away from the earth.

Please find Bhaktasana (devotional), Balasana (child’s pose) or Puppy Pose as a counter pose before moving on to the next postures.



Lay on your side with either a block covered by a blanket for your head or holding your head in your arm for neck support. Bend both knees, stacking the ankles. Place your hand on your hip and notice if the top hip creeps toward your ear. Lengthen both sides of the body. Keeping the knees together, inhale to lift the top foot up, leading with the heel (toes point toward the earth) as you internally rotate your thigh slightly without shifting your hip alignment. Exhale, slowly lower your foot back down, taking your time and using the entire duration of your out-breath. Continue Mermaid Flips for at least ten rounds of breath, feeling some warmth in your hips and core from this gentle yet strong work. Smile. You can progress to the next two postures before switching sides.



In the same orientation as Mermaid Flips, this time keep the feet married as you inhale to lift the top knee up toward the sky. Exhale, slowly lower your top knee to meet the bottom. Use the entire duration of your breath to inhale open, exhale close your hip for Clamshells.  Mindful of your hip alignment, your breath, and keeping the top hip from rolling back as you inhale. These postures may not look glorious, but they are doing good work on your deep stabilizing muscles, so be loving and precise with these movements.



Continuing in the same orientation as Clamshells, extend your bottom leg straight out, knee extended, heel flexing toward your body. You may keep your top hand on the hip for added challenge (pictured) or place your fingertips on the floor in front of your body for stability. Bend your top knee and place your foot on the floor. Check in with hip alignment. Inhale, lead with the heel to lift your bottom, extended leg an inch or so off the floor. Exhale to lower. Repeat with breath for five repetitions, gradually increasing to ten, then thirty, with practice. Whale Fins strengthen the adductors as well as the glutes and hips, so breathe deeply and have a soft, happy face as you practice.

To progress, you may wish to inhale, lift the heel and hold for a few breaths, then lower slowly down. Maintain the alignment of the knee and see that the heel is elevated higher than the toes.



Transition slowly through hands and knees, making your way to standing with a chair nearby. Here we will find Anjaneyasana on a Chair, emphasizing the alignment of the hips and extension of the back leg. Begin with your right thigh resting on the chair. Step your left leg back, tucking your toes under. Hands on your hips, walk the toes back and extend back through the heel, lifting the inner left thigh up toward the sky. Plug the right hip back and draw the front of the left hip forward. This action lengthens the left leg in both directions, while protecting the hip joint. Lift your front ribs up and back, side body long as you inhale your arms forward, 90 degrees. Exhale, plug your shoulders back. Inhale to lift the arms up and overhead, without arching the low back. Keep drawing the tailbone down toward the earth, extending back through the heel, lifting the arms up. Your body is extending in all directions here, from a strong core center. Exhale, lower the arms down to the hips, and mindfully step your left leg forward. Transition to the other side.



Setup for Virabhadrasana I on a Chair is similar to Anjaneyasana. Here, angle the heel toward the middle of the mat slightly as you¬†plant the foot down onto the floor. This requires slightly greater openness in the back of the legs. Press down through the outer edge of the foot, lifting the inner arch. Same process to lift the arms overhead. Cactus arms are also an option. Keep drawing the hips square‚ÄĒright hip plugs back as the left hip draws forward, pressing out through the back leg. Exhale to return the hands to hips, stepping the back leg forward. Transition to the opposite side.



Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation on Chair (Down Dog) or at the wall helps us to find a neutral spine while using the support of a chair or the wall. With the chair at the front edge of your mat, stack one forearm on top of the other on the back of the chair‚ÄĒpalms resting on elbows. Step your feet back and bend your knees as you lower your chest and torso level with the earth. Keep the knees bent as you inhale, lengthen your spine back through your tailbone. Exhale, draw your belly button toward your backbone, creating a slight concave belly. Find length in the side body, a gentle stretch in the shoulders. Keep the knees bent as you hone in on the beautiful length of the spine that can be experienced in this supportive Dog pose. If you are able to keep the neutrality of your spine, you may choose to begin, on each exhale, to draw the inner knees / inner thighs back as you straighten your knees. Keep the tops of the thighs moving back, length to the spine, space between the torso and hips. Breathe in your expression of the pose. To come out, bend your knees, gaze forward, and step one foot at a time toward your chair to stand up. You may also practice at the wall with arms extended, palms flat on the wall shoulder wide apart.



Virabhadrasana III at the chair begins in Adho Mukha Svanasana as above. It is absolutely okay to practice this posture with the standing knee bent. Most important is the alignment and protection of the neutral spine in this pose. With the belly lifted toward the spine to protect the low back, inhale to extend the left leg straight up and back. It does not have to come level with the floor (as shown); if your foot hovers a few feet off the floor that is great. More important than how high the leg floats up is the action of the hips: draw the inner left thigh up toward the ceiling so the flexed toes point down ot the earth. You can move dynamically here, inhaling to lift and exhaling to lower the leg. Notice the alignment of the hips; move slowly and mindfully with breath.

If you are feeling very strong and balanced here, you may choose to inhale, lift the leg and exhale hold the lift, extending out through the heel and out through the arms, belly lifted and strong. Notice hip alignment, keeping the hips level with the floor. Exhale lower the foot and repeat on the opposite side.

Uttanasana at Wall (forward fold, not pictured) begins standing with the hips resting at the wall, feet hip wide apart. Inhale, extend up through he crown of the head, engage the quads and draw your inner thighs back. Exhale, navel to spine as you hinge forward from the hips, lowering your torso between your thighs. You may bend your knees or keep them straight, making sure to keep the belly lifted to protect the back. Place your hands on a block or catch your elbows. Allow the head to hang. Shake your head side to side; nod your head; draw your chin toward your chest; release. Breathe deeply into the entire back body, finding length and release. Be sure to have the knees bent if you are feeling a stretch in the base of the pelvis (sits bones area) or in the knee joints; finding the stretch in the belly of the muscles. Inhale, draw the belly strongly toward the spine, hands come to the hips, lengthen through the crown of the head as you come halfway up. Exhale re-activate the belly, inhale rise all the way up so your back is against the wall.

Find your way onto the floor for supported Supta Baddha Konasana (supine bound angle). Draw the bottoms of both feet together and place a block beneath each knee. Lay back onto the floor, tucking the shoulders under to lift and broaden the chest. Enjoy this posture for ten full breaths. To come out, use the hands to pull your knees together. Transition to Savasana.



Settle into Savasana Variation with the legs elevated on a stack of blocks and a rolled up blanket to nourish the low back. Roll the shoulders back and down, lifting the chest gently. Lengthen the back of the neck. Settle in. Make any modifications so that you can surrender completely here. Soften all muscles, all thoughts, even the breath. Watch the activity of the mind, the breath, as an observer, for at least ten minutes as you fully integrate all the benefits from your practice.



Enjoy your yoga journey! Our bodies have so much to teach us. Be patient, soften, persist, and practice. Let your body be your guide.

The highest potential in me honors the highest potential in you.

Here are some useful resources for more work with the hips & lower extremities:

  • from Wikipedia

    For some quick relief from knee pain (and a slightly different approach to the Iliotibial Stretch that we have in the above vinyasa), you may consider trying a foam roller on your IT band.  Here is a link to a video by Dr. Peggy Malone that explains how to roll your IT band.  Note that strengthening the hips and glutes will help the root cause of IT band tightness, so keep doing your clamshells and mermaid flips!

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the hip anatomy by reading this article by Julie Gudmestad, a Physical Therapist in Portland, OR (she currently sees patients and treats them all exclusively with yoga!), called Hip to be Square.
  • It is important to understand the anatomy of the knee joint if you are practicing Virasana, so please take a moment to read Keep the Knees Healthy by Roger Cole, PhD.
  • For those of us who spend time at a desk or seated, take 20 minutes to integrate this sweet, gentle chair yoga sequence into your seated time! ¬†You can pick bits and pieces and practice whenever you think to.

Back Care Vinyasa II: Upper Back, Neck & Shoulder Love

3 Sep

This Vinyasa¬†is dedicated¬†to Nathan Malcomb (the photographer’s boots are in the picture below ~ his healing journey inspired many of the postures included here), and also in gratitude and dedication to all my beloved teachers, past, present and future. ¬†Namaste.


1V1.Supported_FishBegin in Supta Matsyasana on a rolled up blanket or mat: hips on the floor with your spine and back of your head resting on support. Knees bent (or if comfortable, legs out straight). Enjoy at least ten slow, deep breaths, gradually lengthening the duration of the inhale and exhale. You may choose to place your hands on your ribcage to help guide breath into the space of the circumference of your ribs.


Note: the next three asanas can be done seated, standing at the wall, or supine


With knees bent, practice dynamic Snow Angels on a rolled up mat / blanket: palms face the sky, inhale arms out to sides, then overhead, thumbs almost touching. Exhale stretch arms out to the sides and down next to hips. Keep the elbows straight, extending through the fingertips, hovering the backs of the hands just an inch off the floor. Keep the low back long, gently pressing the small of your back toward the floor and depressing shoulders away from your ears.



For Owl~Eyes Nerve Glides begin with arms out to sides, pointing your fingers toward your head, palms facing out (1). Bend your elbows so your fingers point toward your ears (2). This may be a deep stretch for you; if so, continue inhaling fingers toward ears and exhaling arms out to sides.

When you can do (1) and (2) without feeling tingling in your arms or hands, you may progress to (3), pointing your fingers down toward your shoulders as you draw your elbows up. Once this feels accessible without discomfort, progress to (4), lifting your elbows up further: this is akin to the ‚ÄúOwl Eyes‚ÄĚ you may be familiar with from childhood. Feel free to create circles with your fingers and Hoot if it makes you smile



Keeping shoulders lowered away from the ears & back of your neck long, bend the elbows and flip palms facing overhead. Inhale, then exhale to extend the arms out to the sides until you feel a gentle sensation in your arms. Inhale, draw hands in toward your shoulders. Continue dynamic Serving Tray Nerve Glide for up to ten breaths.



Be mindful of the alignment of the neck: not looking down or up, simply straight forward at the sky. Feel the back of the head sink subtly into the rolled up mat. Feet are hip wide apart; press into your heels and allow knees to rest together or hip wide apart. Keep the shoulders depressed away from the ears, gently flattening your low back toward your rolled up blanket or mat.

Practice Shoulder Extension dynamically first, flipping your palms to face each other at your sides, inhale arms up so fingers touch the sky on the inhale and lowering the arms over your head toward the earth on the exhale. Inhale up again so fingers touch the sky, then lower back toward the hips on the exhale. Continue for ten rounds of breath.

Once that feels supple yet strong, you may progress to Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge ~ see Vinyasa I) moving your arms dynamically as you lift your hips up toward the sky. Arms lift as hips lift on the inhale; arms lower as hips lower on the exhale.



From where you are, keep your neck relaxed as you lift your hips up. Scoot your palms and forearms toward your rolled up blanket / mat as much as you can without discomfort. Notice the broadening of your front chest, your collarbone area. Keep your low back neutral, drawing tailbone gently toward your heels. Enjoy five breaths here. This may be your edge (that’s great!) so enjoy Modified Matsyasana as you breathe into any space where you feel tension.

If it is appropriate for your neck and shoulders, progress to Matsyasana (Fish): keeping your neck relaxed, roll your shoulders down away from your ears and press your elbows and palms firmly into the earth. From the strength of your arms pressing into the earth, draw your heart up toward the sun, shoulders back and down to lift the chest. The elbows bend slightly, the crown of the head is resting on your support, but not holding the weight (arms support this position). Keep the low back from arching; find the extension in your upper back.

To come out of the pose, lengthen the back of the neck (draw your chin toward your chest) at the same time as you straighten the elbows, gently lowering yourself back onto support.



For Prone Tadasana, roll to your belly, resting your forehead on a blanket or the floor. Tuck your toes under, draw your inner thighs toward the sky; lift your kneecaps; root your pubic bone down. Place your palms under shoulders. Lift the shoulders back, away from the floor and ears. Stay here, continuing to rest the head on a blanket for ten breaths. If this feels simple, inhale to gently lift the face from the blanket without looking up or down, hovering your hose and chin just barely off the floor. Broadening the chest and back, take three breaths here, lowering on an exhale to return the forehead to the blanket.  Check out this video for some more in-depth instruction.



I’s Y’s and T’s begin in the same orientation as above (remember the legs and pubic bone), with the forehead on a blanket or the floor. For Y’s Begin with arms at your sides, palms down. Keep your forehead resting on the blanket as you gain strength. Eventually, you may lift your forehead up to hover just a few centimeters above your blanket once you become stronger in this posture. Inhale, lift the palms and the shoulders up toward the sky. Exhale lower. Repeat for five rounds of breath.

Progress to T’s by bringing your arms out to airplane position, palms facing the floor. Keep elbows straight as you lift the palms up and shoulders up. Exhale lower. Repeat for 5 rounds of breath.

When you feel very strong with Y’s and T’s, progress to I’s (or Superman), with arms overhead, palms facing one another. Find starfish fingers as you extend out through your fingers and out through your heels. Plug the shoulders into their sockets. As you inhale, lengthen the arms (keeping shoulders plugged in) and lift the hands and shoulders up. Exhale lower. Whew! Repeat for 5 rounds of breath.



For Bhaktasana Variation (Devotional), begin on hands and knees. Sink your hips back and down toward your heels (if you have knee or hip pain, place a folded blanket behind your knees or in your hip crease). Inhale, reach your spine and side body long, walking your hands forward without lifting your hips. Exhale, walk your hands to the right. Enjoy the side stretch for five full breaths. Inhale, walk your hands to center. Re-lengthen your spine. Exhale, walk your hands to the left. Enjoy this side for five full breaths. Inhale to return to center.



From hands and knees, shift your hips back a few inches (not all the way to your heels), and walk your hands forward to find Puppy Pose. Allow your heart to melt toward the earth with each exhale, feeling length in your shoulders and side body. Stay for five to ten breaths, melting deeper with each exhale. Note: If you are already very flexible in the shoulders (or tend to hyperextend), instead of melting with each exhale, press firmly into your hands and lift your inner elbows up toward the sky, rotating your shoulders to build strength rather than flexibility.



Beginning on hands and knees, place a strap on your forearms so that they are shoulder-wide apart. Palms spread wide, index fingers parallel. Inhale, tuck your toes under. Exhale, draw your navel toward your spine. On your next exhale, lift your hips up and back for Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) with strap. Allow your spine to lengthen (bend the knees if your spine rounds) and press your palms into the earth. Rotate your shoulders down and wrap them around your ribcage while keeping the strap taught. Exhale to lower your knees to the floor.  Click here for alternatives and more work in the pose.


1V16.Thread_NeedleThread the Needle begins with a neutral spine on hands and keens. Inhale the right arm out to the side, palm facing down. Exhale, thread the right arm through, just behind the left arm. This is a twist, so allow your left elbow to bend as you continue to reach the right arm across. Inhale to come up, reaching the right arm out to the side again. Repeat on the left side. After about 5 rounds on each side, building strength first, you may choose to find depth in the pose by threading the needle until you can rest the back of your right arm, shoulder, and temple on the earth. You may move your left hand a few inches away from your body. Press your left hand into the earth to help spiral the spine, heart opening toward your left forearm, keeping the hips square so that you feel the twist in your upper back (not lumbar). You may choose to stay for five breaths.



Begin seated in the center of a chair or standing for Yoga Jet Pack. Place the center of a strap behind the base of your neck, draw the strap forward around the shoulders, then back and across the upper back. Take hold of the ends of the strap. Inhale, lift the chest, exhale pull the ends of the strap forward to strap yourself into the jet pack! You may choose to clasp the belt and wear the strap while you are performing an activity to increase your awareness of your posture. Enjoy five breaths here, then release yourself from the strap.



Practice this Shoulder, Neck & Forearm Warming Cycle seated or standing. Inhale, roll your shoulders up; exhale shoulders back and down to pocket the blades. You can repeat this as many times as you like for tension release and to help find a relaxed seat for your shoulders.

Next, inhale with your chin level with the floor, exhale to draw your chin straight back. You may choose to use one hand to gently guide your head. Eventually progress to hands and knees (drawing the back of the head up toward the sky against gravity).

Finally, use your breath and awareness to explore the wrist stretches shown on the bottom row.



You may sit, stand, or sit on your heels (pictured) for Gomukasana (cow face) Arms. Take your strap in the right hand. Inhale, lift the right arm straight up overhead. Externally rotate the arm. Exhale, bend at the elbow (right hand comes to shoulder). You may use your left hand to gently guide the right forearm to roll in. Inhale, reach your left arm out to the side, palm facing back. Exhale, bend your left elbow, reaching your arm across your back comfortably. Find the strap, clasping it with your left hand. Inhale, lift the heart and the chin level with the floor. Exhale, roll the shoulders back and down. Enjoy five breaths here, softening the shoulders with each exhale. Inhale to gently slide your left hand down the strap, releasing the strap and extending your arms out to T. Exhale, release your arms to your sides. Repeat on the other side.



Place your hands in prayer position. Slowly, keeping the heels of the hands touching, lower your hands to find a gentle Namascar Wrist Stretch. Inhale, lift the hands up to heart center. Repeat dynamically with your breath five to ten times.



Practice Robin’s Breath seated or standing. Inhale hands to Namascar. Exhale, point your fingers away from heart center, pressing your palms together. Extend your arms straight ahead. Inhale, spread the arms wide apart like you are spreading your wings, lifting your chest up toward the sky (lifting your gaze is optional if appropriate for your neck). Exhale, draw the chin to chest, tucking the tail under, rounding the spine as you return your palms together in front of you. Inhale, draw the hands in to heart center, finding a neutral spine. Repeat for five rounds of Robin’s Breath.   You may choose to hold any expression of this flow for a few breaths, perhaps exploring the openness of the chest or the roundness of the spine. Do what feels great for your body.



Inhale your arms out to T.  Exhale, hug yourself, wrapping your left arm over your right (1).  Walk your fingers toward your shoulder blades, massaging your back here as you breathe.  Inhale to draw the backs of your arms together (2).  You can stay here, working in the pose.  Inhale to lift the elbows up; exhale drawing the shoulders down and back.  If it is accessible to you, you may choose to draw your left thumb toward your nose, then wrap your arms further so your palms touch.  Breathe deeply into the space between the shoulders for Garudasana (Eagle), keeping your chin lifted, gazing softly through your arms.  Enjoy up to ten breaths here, being gentle with your shoulders.  Exhale, slowly unwrap your arms and reach out to T.  On the next exhale, relax your arms to the sides.  Repeat with the right arm on top.



Interlace the fingers at the base of the skull, thumbs pointing down your neck toward your shoulders. Inhale, reach tall through your crown. Exhale, draw your elbows forward. Inhale, lift your elbows up toward the sky as your gaze follows, finding a very gentle supported Cervical Spine Upper Backbend. Keep the low back from arching by lengthening your tailbone down, finding a lift to the back of the heart. Exhale, then inhale, using your arms to return your gaze forward.



Upper Trap Release with strap begins seated on one end of your strap. Bring the strap up your back and over one shoulder. Holding onto the strap inhale, then exhale pulling gently. Keep a steady gentle pull as you exhale, lowering the opposite ear toward the shoulder. Breathe fully here to release the muscles of the upper shoulders. Inhale to return to center. Exhale, gaze over the opposite shoulder, lowering your chin toward your shoulder. Breathe here. Inhale lift the gaze and return to face forward. Repeat each on the opposite side.  Special thanks to the amazing Emily M-P at CorePhysio in Fairhaven for this gem!



Baradvajasana on Chair (Sage Twist) emphasizes the twist while keeping hips level: Inhale the right arm out to the side, thumb pointing down(similar to Gomukasana). Exhale, bend the right elbow and walk the arm across your back. If you reach, gently clasp your left forearm. If not, you may loop a strap around your left forearm and hold onto the strap. Inhale, lengthen up through the crown of your head. Exhale, twist from the belly button toward the right. Inhale staying in the twist, lifting through your crown. Exhale, finding more depth. Perhaps the left hand reaches toward the right hip. Continue working to lengthen the spine on the in-breath, and deepening the twist on the exhale. Keep the hips squared forward and the gaze in line with the sternum. After five to ten rounds of breath, inhale to unwind and face forward. Release the arms. Repeat on the other side.



Come to standing next to the wall so it is next to your left hip.  Find Tadasana.  Inhale, lift your left knee so that it is level with your hip (avoid lifting the hip as the knee comes up).  Exhale navel to spine as you place your right hand on your left thigh or knee.  Inhale lift the heart.  Keeping both hip points forward, exhale to twist your belly button toward the wall (left) to find a Standing Wall Twist.  Inhale here to re-lift the spine and check in with the alignment of the hips.  Exhale, find a deeper twist.  Continue working in this way, slowly spider-walking your fingers along the wall to gently increase the twist.  Keep your gaze in the same direction as your sternum.  To come out, inhale face forward; exhale lower the left foot to the floor.  Switch directions and repeat, lifting the right knee and twisting right.



Lean against the wall as though you are sitting in a chair. Inhale, find Cactus Arms, palms facing away from the wall. It is okay if your arms hover away from the wall. Keep the shoulders seated as you inhale, draw the hands overhead. Exhale through cactus arms, drawing the elbows into your sides. Repeat for five breaths, inhaling arms overhead and exhaling to lower.



Posture Practice at Wall / Utkatasana at Wall begins the same as above. Notice if your chin or shoulders come forward of the wall. Plug your shoulders back to touch the wall and see if you can touch the back of your head to the wall, keeping your chin level with the floor. This may be a sufficient practice to work with for awhile. As you progress, inhale to lift your arms parallel with the floor, palms facing each other. Plug your shoulders into the wall on the exhale. Magnetize your pinkies toward one another to externally rotate the shoulders. Inhale, lifting your arms up a few inches. See that your back hasn’t arched away from the wall. Working with breath, gradually inhale to lift your arms higher (pause on the exhale), keeping the back body in contact with the wall. Exhale to release the arms down to the sides.



Savasana Variation with the legs elevated on a chair or knees bent if you wish to nourish the low back. Otherwise, you may choose to extend the legs fully onto the floor. Settle in. Make any modifications so that you can surrender completely here. Soften all muscles, all thoughts, even the breath. Watch the activity of the mind, the breath, as an observer, for at least ten minutes as you fully integrate all the benefits from your practice.


Enjoy your yoga journey! Our bodies have so much to teach us. Be patient, soften, persist, and practice. Let your body be your guide.

The highest potential in me honors the highest potential in you.

Here are some useful resources for more work with the neck, shoulders, and thoracic spine:

Back Care Vinyasa I: Awakening the Deep Core

27 Aug

This Vinyasa is dedicated to Terri Cook of TLC Horsemanship.  She dreamed up the idea of a specialized series of workshops inspired by an intention to heal from back discomfort and gently bring balance and strength into the body.  I also offer this vinyasa in gratitude and dedication to all my beloved teachers, past, present and future.  Namaste.

Yogic_Belly_breath_variationŗ•ź ¬† Yogic Belly Breathing on your back with legs elevated (or seated upright).¬† Enjoy at least ten slow, deep breaths, gradually lengthening the duration of the inhale and exhale.¬† You may choose to place your hands on your belly to help guide breath into the space of the belly and low back.

2.Puraka_Recaka_Pranayamaŗ•ź¬† At least ten full rounds of Puraka Pranayama to connect with the flow of energy in your body.¬† Deep, long, slow inhales to expand and inflate your ribcage, followed by a free exhale.¬† Can you keep the chest expansive as the exhale relaxes the belly?

ŗ•ź¬† At least ten full rounds of Recaka Pranayama, enjoying a free, un-forced inhale followed by a long, slow, deep and complete exhale, feeling a deep experience of surrender with each out-breath.¬† Can you allow the exhale to get longer and slower with each passing breath?



ŗ•ź ¬† Awaken your psoas by keeping your belly muscles soft and sinking toward your backbone as you lift your toes.¬† Slowly slide one heel toward your body.¬† Repeat on the other side.¬† Practice Single Leg Heel Slides (not pictured) until you can accomplish the action on both sides easily while keeping your belly soft.

Once single leg heel slides feel effortless, you may progress to both leg Heel Slides (pictured above).  Same process as above, with both legs at the same time, keeping the belly soft and breathing fully.  Notice the gentle sense of deep engagement in your hip flexors.



ŗ•ź¬† Keeping your belly relaxed, sinking your navel toward the spine without engaging, extend one leg straight, flexing your toes toward your knees.¬† Engage your quadriceps to keep your knee straight.¬† Lift up slowly on the inhale, and lower slowly down to rest or hover over the floor on the exhale.¬† Practice 10 repetitions of Heel Lifts on each side.

Once heel lifts feel effortless, you may choose to progress to hovering the heel a few inches above the ground for five breaths on each side (not pictured).



ŗ•ź¬† Practice Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge) dynamically first, lifting hips up on the inhale and lowering back to the earth‚ÄĒtailbone touches last‚ÄĒon the exhale.¬† Feet are hip wide apart.¬† Press into your heels and keep the knees from splaying out to the sides.¬† Progress to lifting the hips, keeping them lifted as you lengthen the back body for three to five breaths.

Once that feels strong and you can comfortably breathe while keeping the hips up for at least ten breaths, you may progress to Bridge Heel Lifts, keeping your hips balanced and lifting one heel at a time from the earth (keep toes touching).

When heel lifts feels simple and you can keep your hips balanced, you may progress to Bridge Marches, lifting one knee at a time so your toes come off the floor.  Keep the hips balanced, and breathe fully.


9-11.Supta Matsyendrasana

ŗ•ź¬† Lie on your back, flexing at the hips so your shins are parallel to the earth.¬† Hold this Supine Bent Knee Pose (pictured in center), relaxing the belly toward the spine, seeing how you can soften the back toward the earth so the back flattens gently.¬† Breathe here.¬† Keeping knees level and ankles together (you can also use a block between the knees), slowly lower the knees to the right, hovering above the floor, not touching the earth.¬† Slowly inhale the knees up to center.¬† Exhale to the other side for Supta Matsyendrasana.¬† Important in this pose: maintain alignment of the knees & ankles. ¬†If the knees slide so one is further forward than the other, you are twisting at the sacrum (please avoid doing this).¬† Do not practice this posture if it causes discomfort.



ŗ•ź¬† For Todd‚Äôs Roll (named after the Physical Therapist, Todd Dawes of Sedro Woolley PT, who taught it to me–thanks Todd!), begin on your back, legs outstretched.¬† Lift the right arm over your head so the forearm is next to the ear.¬† Lift the left arm up toward the sky.¬† Now, acting as though you are completely paralyzed from the waist down, use your arm positioning and abdominal core to lift your chin up and reach across your body, turning your head as though you are sniffing your right armpit.¬† Lead with the face and arm to roll over.

This exercise looks far easier than it is (when done correctly)!¬† It may take months to be able to roll completely without the use of your legs.¬† Practicing‚ÄĒeven if you cannot roll completely‚ÄĒis still beneficial, as you are awakening the deep core stabilizing muscles required to do this work.¬† Be patient with your body; treat it as a newborn baby just learning how to roll over (your neurons are learning this movement all over again; it takes practice).¬† Can you smile while you roll?



ŗ•ź¬† Bhujangasana is a beautiful way to strengthen the core‚ÄĒfront and back. ¬†Forehead (or chin) starts on the earth; step the feet hip-wide apart.¬† Keep the quadriceps engaged and pubic bone pressing into the earth.¬† Shoulders back and down as you inhale and lift the heart forward.¬† Keep the gaze at the earth, long back of the neck.¬† Inhale to lift; exhale to lower.

Eventually, practice breathing fully as you stay lifted for five to ten breaths.  You can then progress to lifting the palms off the floor, keeping shoulders away from your ears and tailbone moving toward your heels as you strengthen your back and abdominal core.



ŗ•ź Bhujangasana Variation begins with your forehead (or chin) on the earth, palms at your sides facing the sky.¬† Same lower body setup as Bhujangasana.¬† Inhale, lift the palms off the floor, keeping the arms extended.¬† Exhale keep the palms lifted and reemphasize rooting the pubis.¬† Inhale, lift the palms higher, roll your shoulders back and away from the ears and reach back toward the heels to lift the shoulders and chest. Keep the gaze at the earth ahead of you.¬† Exhale lower.¬† Repeat, and you may eventually progress to holding the lift for up to ten breaths.



ŗ•ź¬† Begin in neutral spine, hands shoulder wide apart with fingers spread, pointer fingers parallel.¬† Knees are hip-wide apart (rest on a folded blanket for support).¬† Inhale, lower the shoulders away from your ears and shine your heart forward.¬† De-emphasize the low back arch and focus on extending the area of the upper back, broadening your heart with breath for Bitilasana (cow).¬† Exhale, curl the tailbone under, lift your belly button toward the sky, emphasizing the tuck of the tail; allow the crown of the head to lower, gazing at your belly button for Marjariasana (cat). ¬†Find length in the low back here; de-emphasize the upper back arch (most of us are imbalanced already in this way).¬† Inhale for Bitilasana and exhale for Marjariasana dynamically for at least ten breaths, lingering in either expression of the pose to explore depth and space.



ŗ•ź ¬†Beginning in neutral spine (as above), inhale one leg straight behind you, drawing your toes toward your knee and extending through the heel.¬† Draw the inner thigh up toward the sky.¬† Exhale to lower the knee to the ground.¬† Breathe, alternating between each leg.¬† Transition to the arms: inhale, lift the arm level to the earth, thumb pointing up toward the sky.¬† Keep the elbow straight and plug the shoulder into the socket.¬† Exhale, lower the arm to the earth.¬† Alternate, lifting the arm up on the inhale, releasing down on the exhale.¬† When legs and arms feel strong, try Bird Dog (pictured), lifting the right arm and left leg at the same time on the inhale, exhale to lower down.

Progress by lifting opposite arm/leg and holding Bird Dog for 3-5 breaths.  Keep the spine neutral, drawing your tailbone toward the extended heel and lifting the navel toward spine.



ŗ•ź¬† From hands and knees, step one foot forward.¬† See that the knee does not move beyond the ankle as you lower both hips.¬† Draw the tailbone toward the earth and square your hips with a ‚Äúscissoring‚ÄĚ action, energetically drawing your knees toward each other.¬† Anjaneyasana is beneficial to practice with hands on hips.¬† When you feel balanced, inhale to lift the arms parallel to the earth, exhale plug the shoulders back into their sockets.¬† Keeping your tailbone descending to inhale the arms overhead.¬† Option: cactus arms.



ŗ•ź¬† Begin seated in the center of a chair for Navasana.¬† Inhale, lift the chest and lengthen the tailbone into the chair.¬† Exhale to draw your navel gently toward your spine as you lower back toward the back of the chair without touching it.¬† Breathe here, continuing to engage the belly gently to support the spine.¬† Inhale to return to neutral.


Eventually, working toward sitting on the floor with knees bent for this posture.


21.Savasana_Low_Back_Reliefŗ•ź¬† Savasana modification with the legs elevated on a chair.¬† Settle in, make any modifications so that you can surrender completely here.¬† Watch the activity of the mind, the breath, as an observer, for at least ten to fifteen minutes to fully absorb and integrate your practice.¬† Roll to one side and press up with the strength of your arms.

Enjoy your healing journey!  Our bodies have so much to teach us.  Listen and breathe with an open heart.

The highest potential in me honors the highest potential in you.

Here are some useful resources for more work with the deep core:

  • Yoga International article on Mula Bandha (root lock).
  • Here is a link to a poster delineating the levels of the spine as they correlate to the chakra system in yoga. ¬†You may find it useful to investigate some possible underlying beliefs or emotions associated with the different levels of the spine.
  • Tom Nagel gives an accessible explanation of the psoas muscles as they relate to horseback riding. ¬†Even if you are not a rider you can benefit from the way he teaches¬†and writes about the psoas. ¬†You’ll find more¬†on his website.
  • If you are looking for a DVD to practice along with at home, I recommend Elsie Browning Miller’s Yoga for Scoliosis. ¬†Even if you don’t have scoliosis, her cueing and postures are appropriate for anyone who is interested in caring for the back with asana.
  • I also like Diane Lee’s–a physical therapist in Canada– step-by-step cues to awaken the Transversus Abdominus, Multifidi, and Pelvic Floor.
  • Finally, for meditation instruction, I would recommend Shinzen Young’s Break Through Pain. ¬†You can download a digital version from Soulds True. ¬†He instructs a number of meditation practices that will transform how you respond to pain.