Sunday, June 25, 2017

Manage Pain with Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama)

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” – Rumi

Two days ago I woke up with searing pain in my right arm. I had no idea what I’d done, but I couldn’t lift my arm and my shoulder was tender to the touch. This morning it became so intense I actually went to Urgent Care.

In addition to taking Ibuprofen and using the wonderful free app Insight Timer to listen to others’ recommendations and meditations for dealing with pain, I have been using Ocean Breathing (Ujjayi Pranayama) to keep calm, slow my breathing and manage the persistent throbbing pain. It really does help. Pranayama refers to our life force, and by partially blocking the glottis during Ujjayi (pronounced Ooh-Jah-Ee), the life force is harnessed and amplified.

Have you ever listened to the sound of the ocean in a shell? That’s what Ujjayi sounds like. To do it, make a whispering “ha” sound like the distant ocean. It helps to tuck your chin. After you get good at it, close your mouth but still make the sound while breathing slowly through your nose.

While practicing Ujjayi today, I contemplated Rumi’s quote. To me it speaks of how complex we each are with entire worlds existing in our minds and bodies, many of which are hidden from us like the depths of the ocean. I don’t yet know what is happening inside my arm, but I now find myself on a journey of discovery. Ujjayi Pranayama, also known as Victorious Breath, will help me get through to the other side.

Image from Yoga Teddy BearA-B-C for the letter “O.” This full color, hardcover book is a great way to introduce kids to the alphabet and yoga at the same time. Photo of K. Mae Copham meditating with “Cactus Arms” by Robert Oakley.

Friday, June 16, 2017

What Floats Your Boat?

What gives you that internal lift and makes you feel a little lighter inside? Could it be music, art or food? Or is it a walk in nature, an inspiring yoga class or an engrossing book? In the yoga pose called Navasana, or Boat Pose, LIFT is the key ingredient to making your boat float. And when your boat floats not only will you strengthen your core, but your heart will soar.

To practice Navasana, begin seated with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your knees and hold the backs of your thighs. Sit up super tall and lift your feet up but don’t rock the boat backwards. Breathe in and lift your heart area towards the sky. Breathe out keeping your back tall like the mast of a boat. See if you can balance with no hands. Maybe even extend your legs. Is your boat strong? Can your boat float without rocking on the waves of your breath?

To strengthen your core, pull your belly toward your spine. Keep breathing and challenge yourself to hold Navasana for 30 seconds or more. Keep lifting your heart with every inhale, simultaneously focusing on all the things in your life that give you joy. That’s the part that buoys your heart.

Images: Collage with a young Yoga Teddy Bear pop-up shop practitioner by K. Mae Copham. Featuring Yoga Teddy Bear Show Me Mats, on sale now with free shipping only while limited supplies last (so if you enjoy this playful, unique, full size, high quality, suitable-for-adults mat, get it now or forever hold your peace because they won’t be re-ordered. Disclosure: They may fly, but they don’t float.) 
Pictures of K. Mae Copham in Central Park by Robert Oakley.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Go Deeper with Rabbit Pose (Sasangasana)

The rabbits may be sniffing for something tasty in your garden. The minute you catch them, they’ll hop away and scurry down the nearest rabbit hole. Take a hint from the rabbit and try Sasangasana to get deep into the dark spaces of your spine and back.

To practice Rabbit Pose, kneel on the floor with your toes tucked. Curve your back and reach your forehead toward the space between your knees like a shy rabbit making its way toward a rabbit hole. Grab your heels with your hands. Breathe in deeply. Breathe out as you lift your hips and gently roll forward so the top of your head touches the floor.

If your back is really flexible, you may even be able touch your head to your knees. Regardless of where you are today, press your heels into your hands and keep your chin tucked into your chest. Take long four-count breaths to really open up the space between your ribs and lengthen your spine. Namaste!

Coloring from Yoga Teddy Bear's Big Little Book of 108 Yoga Poses by Isabelle Bergman, Blekinge, Sweden. Isabelle won an Upward Dog/Downward Dog t-shirt. You can win prizes too – all you have to do is enter the contest for a chance to win! Image of K. Mae Copham by Robert Oakley next to his garden in New Paltz, NY.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Combat Hunching with Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

Spending lots of time hunched over a computer, cell phone or other work? Fish Pose is the antidote. Matsyasana can easily be practiced as an active chest and heart opener. It doesn’t require a lot of flexibility or warm up. If you incorporate yoga blocks or pillow props, it becomes a deeply restorative pose to counter fatigue.

To practice Fish Pose, lie on your back with your feet together. Tuck your hands under your seat. Press down into your elbows to lift your heart. Arch your upper spine like a hook is pulling up your chest. Rest the top of your head on the floor if it’s available. Breathe deeply and stretch open your lungs.

To practice the restorative version, place a yoga block on the middle or lowest setting between your shoulder blades. Place a second block on the middle or highest setting under the base of your skull.  Lie with your palms up. Place the soles of your feet together to simultaneously relax your hips. If you don’t have yoga blocks, try pillows and blankets to support the same shape. Get comfortable, close your eyes and breathe deeply as you recite your favorite affirmations.

Coloring page from Yoga Teddy Bear’s Big Little Coloring Book of 108 Yoga Poses colored by Miss Michele Palumbo, Bay Shore, NY. Enter our coloring contest today to win prizes! Picture of K. Mae Copham in Vail, CO by Robert Oakley.