Compassionate Self Meditation
When fighting the battle against our own inner self-critic, we can often feel like we're desperately losing the fight. How do we approach this part of ourself that likes to tear us down and constantly wave our mistakes in front of our face? We begin with the practice of self-compassion. By breathing life into your compassionate self, you're allowing yourself to access the part of you that believes in you -- the part of you who knows you deserve the best and who looks out for your well-being. This part of you is unconditionally loving and whole-heartedly supportive. This part also helps you find your feet again when you've fallen, through kindness and acceptance. How do we tap into this compassionate part of ourselves? This meditation provides a way to manifest this compassionate self, and allows us to strengthen it through visualization. I encourage you to write down what your compassionate self says, and to hold these words close whenever you feel hopeless or overwhelmed.
Meditation for Accepting Emotions
Accepting emotions can be incredibly difficult, especially when we are experiencing things like anger, fear, or sadness. This meditation offers us a chance to be present with difficult emotions, and helps us "drop the struggle" with them. Accepting these emotions doesn't mean we have to like them -- it simply means we are present with what is there, and we let go of our battle with them (aka trying to push them away, suppress, or distract ourselves from them). Try this meditation when you are feeling overwhelmed by an uncomfortable emotion. Once you're done, you can journal about your experience trying to stay with this emotion, and how this felt different from your usual reaction. You'll likely find that approaching our emotions in this way may actually be more productive, and that learning to face our difficult feelings with patience and compassion can be way more useful than trying to pretend they aren't there.
Ardha Chandrasana / Half Moon Pose
Chapasana / Sugarcane Pose
Half Moon has been a favorite pose of mine for as long as I can remember. However, I'm inclined to think at some point, I probably hated it. Why? Because so many of my students do! Maybe hate is a strong word, but whenever I cue this pose in class, I can see the hesitancy and hear the groans and moans. And that's not without reason! This pose is super challenging and uses the whole body in a strong and expansive way. In this video, I'll show you how to use a block to help you get a little extension towards the floor and also to help you stabilize within the pose (the balance work can be tricky). I'll also offer the chance to move towards Sugarcane pose, a bound variation of Half Moon, which adds a beautiful, heart-opening element to the original pose. No matter what variation you're working with, remember to press down firmly through the big toe of the standing leg to negotiate your weight and root down deeply. Also, never let that floating leg get lazy -- press firmly through your foot to get as much power as you can, while flexing to engage it even more. Play with balance once you feel more stable by lifting your hand off the ground and trying to float in the pose without the support. This will help coach your body to use the strength of the standing leg rather than your hands to keep you elevated. Remember, be expressive through all four limbs and take up lots of space in this pose! And also remember that the wobbles are normal and all part of your journey.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana / Upward Facing Dog
A staple pose in the vinyasa-style of yoga, upward facing dog is an incredible heart-opener and a great release for our back, spine, and front body. However, this pose is often rushed through, especially when it is part of fluidly moving sequence of poses (like Sun Salutation A) and can leave our back susceptible to injury if we're not mindful of our alignment. Remember move through this pose mindfully, keep legs strong and fully engaged, activate your core, and move those shoulders DOWN & AWAY from your ears -- make as much space between your earlobes and your traps / shoulders as possible. Use the modifications offered for days when your spine wants a little less intensity, but still wants to reap the benefits of a backbending practice. We tend to forget that upward facing dog is actually a pretty advanced backbend, so treat it (and your body) with respect!
Gomukhasana / Cow Face Pose
This yummy hip-opener stretches the ankles, hips and thighs, shoulders, armpits and triceps, and chest all at once! Try using a strap if the shoulders are too tight to take the full arm bind. If you find that your sit bones are sitting unevenly on the ground, try placing a blanket or small bolster underneath them to support your pelvis evenly. For some major deepening, fold over and rest your forehead or chin on your knees. Ahhhhh, hip-freeing deliciousness!