Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Flexible Youth

Sometimes I imagine my students, these kids, growing up, flexible in their mind and body!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

5 Ways to Make Every Yoga Class More Restorative and Therapeutic

A beautiful link between Yoga and Mindfulness!

"Daniel Sernicola shares five practices to help your students get grounded and cultivate mindfulness.
One of yoga’s primary aims is to bring us squarely into the present moment, which is especially important and especially difficult for trauma survivors. Present-moment experiences offer trauma survivors a chance to live “without feeling or behaving according to irrelevant demands belonging to the past,” according to Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., author of The Body Keeps the Score. But it’s also more challenging for traumatized people than non-traumatized people to be present, says David Emerson, author of Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga. The good news? We can all get better at it with practice. Here, a few key strategies for helping trauma survivors—and everyone else—in your yoga classes get grounded and present.

1. Anchor the mind.
“All practices that strengthen concentration or mindfulness use an anchor,” Willard says. He recommends inviting students to rest their attention on something—the body, the breath, movement, the senses, an image, numbers, a word or phrase—to anchor them to the present moment.

2. Cultivate mindfulness from the ground up.
“Start with simple things that can help students feel grounded and centered,” says yoga teacher Marcia Miller. She likes to start class by rolling the feet over massage balls to create heightened sensations in the feet that make it easier to feel grounded. “Then, I might ask questions like these throughout the class, ‘Can you feel how your feet are touching the floor? Can you feel the weight of your hips on the chair? Can you feel the texture of the fabric on your arms? What are the sensations you are feeling right now because of the pose we just did? Where exactly are they? Do you enjoy these sensations?’”

3. Be sure to include breath practice.
We are seldom taught how to breathe and yet, a number of studies “cite evidence that yogic breathwork may be efficacious for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder and for victims of mass disasters,” says Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga Skills for Therapists: Effective Practices for Mood Management. She suggests using three-part breath and breath retention among other techniques, adding that “control of the breath not only enables language but gives us a measure of control over our mood.” Ancient yogis knew that breath regulation could help manage and regulate feelings and moods. Studies have shown that breathwork may be helpful in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and for victims of mass disasters. “Finding and experimenting with new ways of breathing may be a way for folks to feel better in their bodies,” Emerson says. Breath practice is an effective tool all students can take home and use to help with anxiety outside of class. Try the 7-11 Breath, as taught by Christopher Willard, PSYD. He suggests breathing in for a count of 7 and breathing out for a count of 11, suggesting that this practice can reset the breath to “regulate, shift, and stabilize energy and mood.”

4. Give a nurturing Savasana.
For some, Savasana is the most welcomed pose of a yoga class. For others, it can be a difficult and uncomfortable experience. Offer choices for resting by providing suggestions on how to set up for Savasana or encouraging students to do what feels comfortable for them: sit up, lie down, use a bolster under their legs, a folded blanket under their head, a folded blanket over their belly, or a blanket to cover up with. Encourage students to close their eyes or soften their gaze, knowing some may only feel comfortable keeping their eyes wide open. Remind students that Savasana will only last a few minutes and that they can come out whenever they like.

5. Take it to the next level with Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is “a sequence of meditation practices that help you feel connected to yourself, with others, and to the world around you,” according to Richard Miller, PhD. Miller has adapted this practice, calling it Integrated Restoration, or iRest. He describes it as a guided progressive scan of the body incorporating the tools of intention, body-sensing, breath-sensing, awareness, and more. Miller has had great success treating populations suffering from trauma and PTSD with his research-based method. He says these self-care tools help students “experience self-mastery, resilience, and well-being.” Don’t be surprised if your students fall asleep, as their mind is able to release and relax in this deeply grounding practice. "

By: Daniel Sernicola


The 5 Biggest Reasons for a Daily Meditation

A short article, highlighting again main benefits of meditation.

"I am a busy single mom. For the past year I have been waking up before my son (and often before the sun), dragging myself out of bed and finding my way to my cushion in front of my alter. I light a candle and meditate for 30-45 minutes. It has made a tremendous difference in my life and in my entire being. If I can do it, anyone can.

We all know that countless studies have proven the benefits of meditation but here are some tangible and embodied reasons that I have found through my own practice:  

1. Deeper connection to your body
This includes better digestion, improved posture, and palpable awareness of heightened sensations through rooting down into your sits bones and rising up on the cushion. Couple this with intentional breath and there is the opportunity to feel a profound sense of embodiment.

2. Improved coping skills for living
One gains greater opportunity to respond to what life throws at you from an embodied and integrated place. With a regular practice you cultivate the ability to come back to your breath and respond from that place of ground and empowerment when life throws less-than-desirable situations at you. My experience is that it simply becomes more natural to do so, with less effort.  You are essentially re-patterning your entire way of being.

3. Feel more confident and empowered
 Stepping out of the space of allowing the mind to dictate your life is very empowering. You start to see all of the many, many choices available to you and are able to discern what is truth and ignore the deception of the mind; or at least shift how you respond to what it is telling you.

4. It becomes a sanctuary from the chaos of life
When I first began it did feel like yet another obligation that I had to endure, but now, I look forward to it and crave it.  The outer quiet and stillness allows me to drop into myself in a unique way.  There is something very important about doing so first thing in the morning rather than in the evening.  The sanctity of the time when the sun is just rising, our minds and bodies are empty after a nights rest is conducive for a profound time of connection to self. What my ego named as a chore all those months ago, has become my temple and the stillness and quiet that I crave before jumping into the chaos of motherhood and the varying tasks ahead.

5. Calms the entire system
The technique that I use is that of focusing on a single point. I use a candle and a simple mantra. I fluctuate between several including: So Hum (I Am), Sat Nam (I Am Truth), I Am Worthy, I Am Love, I Am (you fill in the blank as to what serves you).  The single pointedness gives my busy eyes something to focus on and the repetition of the mantra gives my overly active mind something to grasp onto. It is a win-win."


Sunday, December 11, 2016

So Yoga at Standard Chartered Marathon

Kids Yoga Demo at Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore Expo... Feels good to be involved with this event still, but from the other side!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Yoga by the Beach

Honoured and Happy to teach yoga to friendly students in these beautiful surroundings.. and even more in December, 28 degrees, bright sun and blue sky!
Breathe & Smile
#tgif #enjoytheweekend #yogaeverywhere #yogabythebeach #eastcoast#yogasg

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Little Yogis

Who would think that kids love meditation? Freeze in #lotuspose or #littlebuddha. Then you can hear all sorts of outside sounds and noises... maybe incuding butterfly wings clapping?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

10 Benefits of Restorative Yoga

I used to be more into strong, core or cardio exercising... Naturally, I slow down in my practice now, including in yoga, and pay more attention to myself.. And apparently, for a good reason!

"With the explosion of yoga in the West, there’s been an influx of yoga styles, each expressing their own blend of breathing, poses, meditation, chanting, relaxation, and philosophy. Restorative yoga, a practice that leads the yogi toward a more healing and recuperative experience, ushers in a host of wonderful benefits that are often overshadowed by the popularity and visibility of more dynamic yoga styles.
A restorative practice frequently relies on the use of props and the prolonged holding of a few simple poses to achieve a deep level of relaxation. “Restorative yoga” can also be an umbrella term that encompasses several sub-styles of relaxation and healing-based Hatha yoga practices.
But what exactly makes this style of yoga unique? Here are some of the benefits a restorative yoga practice has to offer.
Slows Down the Pace of Life
Restorative yoga is an excellent opportunity to disconnect from the frenetic activity of daily life and let your speedometer return to 0 mph. It offers a welcome respite among all the turbulence of life and helps to prepare the mind and body for the inward stroke of meditation and deepened awareness. Moving slowly through the poses allows you to explore your mind and body at a steady and natural tempo.
Soothing to the Nervous System
The slower pace and deep breathing that you get in a restorative yoga class triggers the parasympathetic nervous system from the very first pose. This activation helps to mitigate the effects of the regular fight-or-flight stress response that can be damaging to your physiology and well-being. The overall calming effect on the nervous system sets a deeply relaxing tone for the class that comforts your mind and body down to the cellular level.
Encourages Mindfulness
Restorative yoga could just as easily be called “mindful yoga” due to the expanded awareness of self and body that comes through the practice. Slower movements cultivate space for a deeper experience of the poses and the breath. Awareness of the physical sensations, the thoughts or emotions that arise, or sounds in the environment, can all take on a much more profound significance in the depth of the restorative practice. Simply put, you’re able to notice and feel more of the world through your yoga experience.
Fosters Transcendence
On the whole, many forms of Hatha yoga are considered a precursor to extended periods of meditation. Through the practice, muscles, joints, and subtle energy centers are enlivened to help facilitate a deeper and more comfortable experience of meditation. However, the practice of restorative yoga in and of itself often leads to a transcendent experience of deep oneness with the universal level of consciousness. Each pose and each breath serves to lead you further up the ladder of expanded awareness. As the practice expands, the vehicle of yoga carries you from the waking state of consciousness into the silent space between your thoughts—the space from where you’re able to glimpse the soul and awaken the divinity within.
Cultivates Heightened Body Awareness
The comfortable pace of restorative yoga opens the doorway to a deeper understanding of your own body, letting you actually feel what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience. Sadly, many people aren’t intimate with their own bodies. Through a restorative yoga practice, however, such intimacy can be explored and embraced. Deeper levels of bodily strengths can be integrated and owned and a more profound sense of self-love and acceptance can emerge.
Deepens Self-Awareness and Introspection
The subdued quality of a restorative yoga class often helps you draw attention inward and away from external events and situations of the world. With your awareness directed within, the practice becomes a sanctuary for the mind and spirit from which you can take a deeper look at who you are, what you want, and how you can serve the world. Restorative yoga opens us up to new levels of self-exploration and contemplation, allowing your inner being to shine forth.
Creates Deliberateness of Action
Through the mindfulness of the practice, you become increasingly aware of your actions or karmas, and how they influence your level of comfort or discomfort. You can see the direct cause and effect relationship between your poses, breathing, and overall level of well-being. As this experience continues to deepen, you begin to make more deliberate and attentive choices, both on and off the mat.
Strengthens Acceptance and Detachment
By its very nature, the restorative yoga practice is the antithesis of the “no-pain-no-gain” mentality. You receive the greatest benefits from your practice not through forcing yourself into a pose, but by releasing and surrendering to it. This mentality helps to cultivate acceptance of your body and its inherent limitations. Further, it strengthens your ability to let go of preconceived notions of your body and how you think it should look or feel, both in and out of a pose. When increased ease and comfort are the theme of your yoga practice, acceptance and detachment naturally emerge as a result.
Helps You Feel Safe and Nurtured
In daily life it’s easy to get pulled into the insecurity that is a byproduct of the modern world. Many people move through their days haunted by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Restorative yoga provides you with a safe harbor wherein you can reconnect with your true nature, which is immortal, invincible, pure, and nourishing. Making that connection through your poses, breathing, and deep relaxation restores the memory of who you are and helps you to reclaim the fearless nature of your soul. From this refuge, you emerge feeling secure in the inherent goodness within your heart and in the world.
Connects You to the Divine and Establishes You in Pure Being
The ultimate goal of yoga is union with the divine. Therefore, your practice should be a means to that end. Luckily, restorative yoga is the perfect vehicle to help you reconnect with the divinity within. Through the techniques of the practice, you awaken grace, poise, flexibility, balance, strength, and present moment awareness. This combination creates a mind and body ideally suited for seamlessly merging into the non-local field of awareness, or pure being.
As a tool for self-transformation, restorative yoga facilitates the integration of all the layers of life—environmental, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual—culminating in the goal of all goals, awakening to your own divine nature.
The benefits listed here may not be isolated solely to restorative yoga, but they are some of the most defining benefits to this type of practice. If you’ve never explored this style of yoga, this is your open invitation."