Restorative Yoga + Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea “Latte”

Does it get any better?

Restorative yoga and pumpkins and chai.  Not to mention cool crisp air, a changing sunset in the leaves, scarves, rainy days in, candles… All of these things represent one word for me: Fall.  My absolute favorite season.  For whatever reason it has become more of a “New Years” to me than the day itself.

It’s a chance for me to start over.  Or in yoga terms, to set my intentions.  It’s the kick off of the holidays — of time with family. Generally my only resolution is to soak it all in.  To experience the Harvest Festivals, pumpkin carving, decorating for Halloween, and to be truly thankful.

Restorative Yoga is a wonderful way to soak it all in.  I’ve been teaching my Slow Flow/Restorative class at Yoga Revolution since July.  For the past two weeks, it finally feels “right.”  Now when I teach, it’s dark outside, rather than the sun blaring through the windows.  It’s cool outside when I arrive.  Walking into a warm, post-hot yoga studio is so inviting.

It’s not just the atmosphere of the studio either.  It is as if my students are giving off this vibe that they are finally ready to relax.  There is less fidgeting and more calm in each of their poses.

If you’ve never been to a full restorative class, you should probably make it a goal.  They are wonderful classes to help you rest, relax, and renew.

In the mean time here are 3 steps to help you kick off a more relaxing Fall season:

1. Light candle. Preferably pumpkin spice, vanilla or apple cinnamon.

2. Do Slow Flow/Restorative Practice below.

3.  Make Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte below.

 

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Tadasana (Mountain Pose)- Recap for Fundamentals Class

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When climbing life’s mountains it is necessary to provide for yourself a firm and solid foundation so you can get through the peaks and valleys with as few bruises as possible.  Tadasana (Mountain Pose) is one of the most foundational poses in yoga from which all the standing poses stem.  Just like in life, in yoga, it is important for you to have a steady foundation for a safe and magnanimous practice.

Here is some important alignment from the summit to the peak (aka from the feet to the head)…

Feet:

Stand on your mat with your feet hip distance apart, toes facing forward.  Ground all four corners of your feet into the mat (base of the big toe, inside of the heel, base of the pinky toe, outside of the heel).  Spread your toes.  Feel the energetic lift of your arches reaching all the way to your groin and continuing through the crown of your head.

Knees, Thighs, Hips and Lower Back

Firm your thighs by lifting your knee caps (not locking them).  Draw your thighs back feeling your sit bones spread (place a block between your thighs and draw it back). Feel your tailbone reaching towards the ground without flattening your lower lumbar region (as you draw your tailbone down, you’ll feel the block move slightly forward).

Shoulders and Chest

Drop the tops of your shoulders away from your ears. Draw the shoulder blades down your back and then kiss the tips of the shoulder blades together.  As your shoulder blades spread across your back you should feel a nice opening of your chest and collar bones.  Be careful not to push your ribs out.  Think about your sternum (the bone that connects the ribcage) as a sword in its sheath.  A sword does not bow, but comes straight out of the sheath. This will help you lift and expand your chest, without pushing those ribs forward.

Neck and Head

Move the base of your skull back so that your ears come in line with your shoulders.  Keep your chin parallel to the ground.

Allow your arms to dangle at your side.  Welcome to Tadasana.

Come back next week as we tackle Vrksasana (Tree Pose).

Check out Yoga Journal for additional information about Mountain Pose.Image

Tree Pose (Vrksasana) Recap from Fundamentals

vrksasanaSo, I’ve been slacking off on getting my Fundamental Yoga class recaps posted, and since we’re gearing up for our final 5 weeks, I thought I better get a move on!  I am going to try to post on every other day until I’m caught up.  After that, I want to start writing on some other topics including a reoccurring series called “Eat like a Yogi.”  I am excited about that one as I used to have a food blog and miss it, kind of.

Alignment/Tips for Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Stand on your mat with your feet hip distance a part, toes facing forward.  Ground all four corners of your feet into the mat (base of the big toe, inside of the heel, base of the pinky toe, outside of the heel).  Spread your toes.  Feel the energetic lift of your arches reaching all the way to your groin and continuing through the crown of your head.

Begin to switch your weight into your left leg. Lift your right foot off the ground, as you start to bend your knee.  Place your foot on your ankle, calf or thigh (never the knee) as you open your knee out to the right.

For added support, press your foot into your standing leg and your leg into your foot (this is easier if done with the foot on the calf or thigh as the ankle may not feel stable enough).  This will help to create a new focus for balance.  From that place lengthen all the way through the crown of your head.  Bring your hands together in prayer position.  Relax through your shoulders, drawing the shoulder blades together to create openness in the chest.  Make sure your ribs aren’t pushing out.  Gently draw your belly button in towards your spine.  Breathe.  Once you feel stable grow your branches by raising your arms out over head.

If you can, practice in front of a mirror, notice if as you place your right foot on your calf, did your right hip hike up?  If so, work to lower that hip so it is even with the left side.  I worked with one lady who experienced the opposite.  Her right hip actually lowered and she had to work to raise that hip.

In class I was asked about the lifted leg being completely parallel with the rest of the body. (Think about standing up against a wall and your whole lifted leg being flesh against the wall.)  This is something that could happen over time as psoas muscles and hips begin to release the more you practice yoga.  Or, it may never happen as everyone’s bodies are different.  For now, work on your balance and even hips.

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Eat Like a Yogi: The One Bowl Method

Thanks for visiting! This post was written before I adopted an intuitive eating/anti-diet approach to eating. However, he idea of eating from one bowl still intrigues me, and it must also intrigue others as it continues to be my most visited blog post! I no longer write here at YogawithsShawnee.com. However, I recently started a new blog called Sunday Morning Yoga at www.sundaymorningyoga.com. I’m considering a regular One-Bowl featured post in the future. Please hop on over to my new blog and give me a like and a follow so you don’t miss out when it happens. For now, enjoy The One-Bowl method.

You know when you have one of those profound ideas – one of those ideas in which you are absolutely certain nobody else but you, in the history of humanity, could have possibly dreamed  up.  I had one of those thoughts recently.

This idea that I should just eat like a monk kept circulating in my mind.  I had no idea what it meant.  I just had this picture of a monk sitting in silence, getting his one bowl filled with food, expecting nothing else and being totally content.

one bowlI thought, that’s a perfect a book or cook book.  I’m gonna do it.  I’m gonna eat like a monk.  So I googled it.  Turns out there are countless articles about how eating like a monk is very beneficial to your health and can reduce weight, heart disease and cancer.  There was also a book written in the 70s called “One Bowl” and there are a few cookbooks based off of a monk-inspired three bowl eating.

Shucks.

After letting the disappointment that I did not in fact have a totally unique idea soak in, I decided to investigate further.  Turns out there is a Catholic Monastery where the monks use two bowls, and it is traditional of Buddhist monks to use three nesting bowls at each meal.

After checking out “One Bowl: A Guide to Eating for Body and Spirit” by Don Gerald from the library and reading through the first chapter, I discovered the idea of eating from just one bowl actually stems from Buddha himself.  When he started his pilgrimage as Siddhartha, he took just one bowl with him and relied on others to fill up his bowl at each meal.  I am guessing there were some meals where he went without.

The goal of one bowl, two bowl or three bowl eating is to eat in a mindful, appreciative and quiet manner, helping you to become better attune to your body, to your food, to those who prepared your food and to the earth.  It’s kind of a sweet practice.

For the past three days I’ve been eating from just one bowl.  I have a smaller two cup bowl and a larger bowl that I am designating for salads and less calorically dense food.

Today I actually used two bowls for lunch.  I had a small leafy salad in my small bowl and in my large bowl I had chicken bone broth with two small gluten free toast boats carrying two roughly poached eggs.

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It was beautiful , nutritious, and incredibly comforting on this rainy March day.  And I did find myself more mindful of my food.  I thought about the organic spring mix growing in rows; the chicken roaming on the farm; my mom gathering the eggs; and the bone broth I let simmer all day long.

During the past few days I’ve been trying this idea, I’ve found myself drawn to nutritious foods.  Since nutrition is very important to me, I want to fill my bowls with food that will be the most nourishing to my body and soul.

As I continue this journey, you can follow my one bowl eating on Instagram.  Additionally, I hope to share a few one bowl recipe ideas and a book review on my blog as well.

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Props: An Extension of Self

My name is Shawnee.  I am a Yoga Teacher.  And I use props.

Gasp!  Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head m’dear…

I don’t just use props in my classes.  I use props in my own practice too.  Props are wonderful!  I love blocks, straps, chairs, walls, bolsters, sandbags… if it has the potential to be a prop, I’ll use it!

However, many students don’t feel as passionately about props as I do.  In many yoga classes props have become a tell-tale sign for the physically weak, for the less stretchy, or for the faint of heart…

Pfft. *rolls eyes*Puh-lease!

Obviously, I disagree.

Before reading on, make a mental note of the reasons to use props.  Go on…

Here are the most likely reasons for using props:

1.) Because a student is less flexible.

2.) I dunno, because the teacher said so?

3.) To avoid injury.

Yes, yes, yes. All very valid reasons (btw, because “the teacher said so” is a VERY valid reason).  But I would also like to offer up reason # 4 and #5…

4.) Because props are fun.

5.) To experience the pose.

Take Tkonasana (Triangle) as an example.  Time and time again, I tell students to use a block behind the outside of their front ankle, dropping their hand onto the block.  Why?  Because I said so? Well, yes, but also because I know when my student doesn’t use the block, the head of their humerous (the top of the upper arm bone) will drift towards the ground, making their heart center collapse, and their ribs round up towards the ceiling.  Not very often do I see a student who is totally open in this pose.  That’s why I tell students to use the block.

Not just to avoid injury, or because the student has tight shoulders, but so the student can experience the pose — so the student can experience an open heart and a lengthening spine.

props, yoga blocks, yoga props, yoga straps, king dancer's pose, mermaid pose, bountiful life, yoga with shawnee, yoga revolution, yoga salem oregon, salem oregon, Salem Kroc Center, Indigo Wellness Center

Recently in my own practice I used a block in Mermaid Pose and a strap in King Dancer Pose.  The block took pressure off my achy knees so I could more gracefully come into a backbend and reach my foot towards my head.  In King Dancer Pose, the strap helped me bring my arms over head.

The props became an extension of myself.  The block became my sitting bones and the strap became my arms.  I could not experience these poses otherwise.

So I challenge you, rather than feel weak and feeble when you use props, feel strong, proud and accomplished.  Let yourself feel a sense of “I did it!”

And as your teacher places a block behind your front ankle in Triangle, open your heart with grace and extend your loving energy through your block, allowing it become an extension of self. signiture copy

Finding Your Energetic Balance

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This month in my Hatha classes we’re working on balance.  Funny, since I am finding balance to be somewhat difficult to obtain these days.  Not physically, I actually have a rather good sense of balance (except when in Uttitha Hasta Padagustasana and scanning the class to see how my students are doing).

My lack of balance is more mental than anything.

I just feel like there are 1000 and one things I need/want to do in a day, and I can’t seem to resurrect my college-like, Cume Laude time management skills.  There are the things I need to do: toddler care, cleaning, errands, running a yoga business, yard work, cooking, etc.  There are the things I want to do: raise a smart/intelligent/godly daughter; home yoga practice; read God’s word; yoga blog; not just cooking but planning and prepping; cardio; write a novel; study anatomy; read for pleasure; scrapbook;  renovate my home; organize; etc; etc; etc.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! *pulls hair out*

“When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance.” –Tao Te Ching

I giggled when I found the above quote while searching for some inspiration for my balancing practice. In yoga we often balance with only one foot on the ground, or maybe just our hands on the ground.  So how does this apply to yoga or to life?

In specific yoga asanas when we don’t have both feet on the ground, we can utilize other “feet.”  For example, our breath, core strength or imagining a flexed foot is pressing against the ground or wall are all stabilizers.  We can also use props, allowing these tools to become an extension of self.

Finding mental balance in this out of sorts world may not be so easy.  One place to begin keeping our “mental” feet on the ground is by letting go of our attachment to perfection.   Maybe letting go of our attachment to perfection means literally letting go of something or many things on our to-do list.  Or perhaps, it means letting go of what we need to achieve in a day.

“Don’t hold on too long, but don’t let go too soon.  Find a balance” –Morrie Swartz

For me, it’s time to take a deep breath and let go of my perfection while still holding on to my core values.  Even if I don’t balance everything perfectly every day, at least I can come to my mat or my breath or prayer and just let go.

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Bend and Be Straight

Me in Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the Oregon Coast.

Me in Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the Oregon Coast.

Last week I posted about my heartbreak over a decade old friendship that ended, in my opinion, rather abruptly.  But, since that writing, my friend and I remedied a couple fissures, leaving our relationship on a good note – a potentially open door for the future, and keeping in touch in the meantime.

While my heart is still heavy, I am ok.  God, yoga, friends and family have helped to make this scary new journey less scary.  I may be short a close friend, but I am still so loved, making me not really short at all.

Speaking of yoga…

For the month of June in my Hatha classes we’ve been working on balance.  This past week I shook things up a bit and added a little back-bending into the mix.

And like always, there’s a lesson.

I found a passage from the Tao Te Ching that offers a playfully-wise list of opposites or, rather, balances.

“Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.”

Bend and Be Straight.

How fitting for back-bending, yoga and life!  In our physical practice we are basically contorting ourselves into various postures all for the benefit of a lengthened spine, lean muscles and flexibility.  We’re bending to be straight; we’re yielding to produce; we’re humbling to blossom.

I feel as though this is happening in my own life right now.  By letting go of this relationship with an open heart and mind, I feel as though something wonderful will soon produce fruit in my life.

Already I’m experiencing a blossoming desire to not let other relationships slip away.

 

It’s like I’m letting go,

To find my way

And to experience truth

And beauty.

Out with the old,

In with the bliss.

A refiner’s fire.

Just bending to be straight.

 

Yup, I’m gonna be fine. Just fine.

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This post is super-awesome

awesomeLike any good blogger, once I’ve finished writing a post and before I hit publish, I list all my categories and tags, and check the boxes that need to be checked. One of those boxes, I kid you not, is “This post is super-awesome.”

Super-Awesome

This is an extremely hard title to live up to. What if I don’t have an inner Barney Stinson!? What if when I get sad, I just get sad, and I can’t be awesome instead?

I want to. I want to be awesome all the time. More than just being awesome, I want to believe I’m awesome so that even on those days I really am not that awesome, I can still feel awesome.

I want to check that box for every. single. post.

But am I really that person? Is it dishonest to check that box every time? What if I think the post is super awesome, but it’s not? Will somebody find out that I checked the box, when my post is not that awesome?

Perhaps I am reading into the box a little too much. Maybe it’s WordPress’s way of virtually high-fiving me for having posted at all; A little pat on the back for posting once every four months.

What if as soon as soon as I got out of bed in the morning I was met with a giant floating check box that said “This day will be super awesome”?  Maybe then, as soon as my feet hit my slippers, I’d be pepped up enough to tackle the day with an attitude of super awesomeness, even if I wasn’t really all that awesome all the time.

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(bring it back to yoga)

The consistency of my yoga practice isn’t all that awesome all the time. What with life, teaching, writing, baby, cleaning, it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a super-awesome practice when it does happen.

I roll out my mat, turn on some tunes, do some breathing, and get ready to strike a Down Dog. Baby cries. Let baby cry for one more minute. This is going to be the most awesome Down Dog ever.signiture copy copy

I eat meat. I do yoga.

I love cooking.  I once loved cooking, back before all these food allergies and intolerance made their greedy appearance in my life.

I even had a food blog. I used to get free food to review, and I got paid to host meals. It was fun. Until it wasn’t. Food blogging is taxing. Unless you’re very popular, the only people who read food blogs are food bloggers, and they only read your blog if you first have read (and commented) on theirs.  Irritating, right?

My food blog started to fizzle once I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid, auto-immune, sucks bad). Since then, I’ve tried numerous diets including 90% gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, didn’t give a crap, and finally paleo.

Meaty, meat, meat, meat.

If you’re not familiar with paleo it’s a “caveman” diet: meat, good fat (coconut oil, etc), veggies, fruit, and limited nuts. No grains, and I do strictly no dairy (due to chronic hives, yay me!)

The point is I eat meat, and lots of it. That’s right I eat meat. Un-twist your panties, yogis, I am still convicted to honor the practice of ahimsa (non harming). I chose to eat (mostly) meat that is organic and, has been pastured and humanely raised. I say mostly because sometimes its out of our budget.

But, I’m not going to flesh out my eating convictions too much here. Instead, I’d like to introduce a weekly food post. Don’t hold me to it, though. My 19-month-old makes me flaky sometimes.

I’ve recently made a vow to love cooking again — to re-commit to being paleo and share with my fellow yogis some of the recipes and meal ideas I love. ❤

Below is from my first blog, The Ex-Perfectionist. I didn’t do much paleo cooking then, but this looks like it was an awesome paleo meal. 🙂

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Paleo Scramble:

Scramble 1 all natural apple chicken sausage link, 2 eggs, 2 big handfuls of spinach, 3 asparagus stalks, onion, 1 garlic clove, tbspn fresh cilantro, salt, pepper and cumin.

Fruit: 1 banana, 5 strawberries and blueberries.

Cheers!signiture copy copy

Yoga for Diabetes

Me doing Twisted Hand to Big Toe Pose... This will definitely build some heat!

Me doing Twisted Hand to Big Toe Pose… This will definitely build some heat!

In class this morning we discussed and centered our practice around diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes is a disease that runs rampant in our society. There is type 1, which is an autoimmune disease and then there is type 2. Type two is the most common, but type one is on the rise. Now I’m no doctor and I know this is controversial (especially to those who don’t want to hear it) but I like to think of type 2 as being a lifestyle disease. Time and time again I hear of people reversing or controlling type 2 through their lifestyle: exercise, healthy eating, yoga maybe…

If you struggle with diabetes, insulin resistance or sensitivity, with regular practice yoga can help!

Here is how:

Yoga helps to keep stress levels under control. When you’re under stress cortisol and adrenalin is raised. Both contribute to overeating, increased belly fat and insulin resistance.

Balancing poses, core strengthening poses and flow (Sun Salutations) help to build heat in the body. Heat is good for those whose Aruvedyic Dosha is Kapha (generally, a heavier and more sluggish individual). Building heat and focusing on the core also helps with burning more calories, hopefully targeting belly fat.

Standing poses help to evenly distribute fat on feet. Many people with diabetes suffer from problems with their feet, such as sores, open wounds etc. Standing poses, with a focus on using the whole foot, helps to keep the fat evenly distributed to help lessen issues with feet.

Promotes mindfulness. One thing that can’t be forgotten is that yoga helps to build a sense of body and mind awareness. Many students, including myself, claim that yoga has helped them to pay more attention to their body and how it feels. After practicing for a while you may start to cue in to how certain foods or substances make you feel. You can also become more tunes in to satiation levels.

Here is a short stress-reducing, fire building yoga sequence to get you started:

Start with 5 – 10 minutes of breathing in an easy seated or lying position.

Several rounds of cat/cow

1-3 rounds of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A)

1-2 rounds of Surya Namaskar B

From a forward fold step to Warrior 1 –> Warrior 2 –> Reverse Triangle (repeat on other side)

From a forward fold step to Warrior 2 –> Triangle –>Warrior 2 –> Half Moon (repeat on other side)

From a forward fold step to High Lunge (R)–>Goddess Pose –> High Lunge (L) –> Goddess Pose –>Wide leg Fwd Bend

Downward Facing Dog

Locust Pose (Arms forward, then to out the side, then along your side body)

Downward Facing Dog

Pigeon Pose (R & L)

Boat Pose

Lying Twist

Baby

Savasana (no more than 15 minutes if you’re a kapha type)signiture copy copy