RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flow

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Becoming Rain, 24”x30, 2002

Soft rain into the opening Earth
Yet nothing has ever ceased streaming:
River, flower, body, mountain, Earth, galaxy.

“APRIL SHOWERS” evoke “water stream consciousness.”  Everything in the cosmos is flowing—air, Earth, star—but water is a wide-open obvious gate.

Consciousness: 85% of the brain is water, maximizing the electronic capability of a water molecule, having an angle of 104.5 degrees to make water off-balance electronically—the stickiness of water, as substance that contains more space between molecules than most substances so that substances can be added to water without increasing its volume.  Water snaps together at electronic speed, with such bonding force that only water is likely to escape from the fluid mass.

Globally, there are tens of thousands of rainstorms daily that seem to magically produce their opposite: fire/lightning.  But until this point in time, in the prevernal season in the heartland of North America, rain has been lost, stolen or strayed.  Now, rainless melt accrues in my homeland, visible on the surface of the land and flowing unseen into vast underground water tables, and beginning to stream upward in plants and higher still as evaporation.  And the rains follow the melt, with each good rainfall releasing perhaps sixteen million tons of water per second—a one-inch rainfall, ten tons of rain per acre.  Each drop of rain has swollen perhaps a million times larger than the original cloud drop.  Rain on the river dissipates into millions of rings per second.  These rings are, in turn, woven to the eye and continue to flow as impulses through billions of neurons interconnected by trillions of synapses.

In spring in the heartlands, the rains leap into consciousness.

Rain and the flow of water open imagery:

The Easter moon is up—thin and pale.  Last night much rain. 
There are puddles to be seen but not big ones.  The rain drops
 off the window above me and lands on my head in choir.
Thomas Merton, The Sign Of Jonas [p. 99]

Thomas Merton’s listening to the canticles of rain on the tin roof of his hermitage—listening to the speech of the rain that comes to all without discrimination, a holy water that cannot be controlled—as well as his contemplation of the “waters of Siloe”—“waters” of a deep stream of monastic practice;

currents of respiration and digestion, wind and water as life itself:
life: breath; breathe/respiration + water as the birthplace of life and the dominant body constituent [65%] and essentially the key dynamic of the body;

vinyasa—the flow of yoga asanas in conjunction with the breath;

flow of moments/time;

flowing movement and flowing heart-mind—zan [Jap.] “unbroken;”

flowing wind and water: being in harmony ( [Chin.] he [“huh”])
with fluctuations: calm/quick, contractive/expansive
yin-yang [Chin.], in-yo [Jap.];

pliancy: (  [Chin.] rou [“row”]= soft):
receiving/yielding;

風  流 Furyu [Jap.] “the beauty of wind and water”
[wave +waves within wave, wind curves in snow, wind swirling in grass, cascading stream];

Softness eroding hardness; mollify vs. intensify; non-resistance [wha (K.]
open/receptive vs. planned; mushin—not dwelling in a particular place—free, like water; for awareness to grow;

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience. NY: Harper & Row, 1990: “Flow”— being “in the zone:” “The state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.  The experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at a great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.
This is optimal flow, but there is a sense of flow in fluid participation in life and in encountering a sense of grace or “epiphanies” in the world as it is—in bird song, in a falling leaf, in rainfall and in the fragrance after rain, in the smile of another, by sharing food and conversation, in either the quietness or cacophony of sound in a space, in listening to music or producing a passage of music, in gardening and in walking.

With only very facile water stream consciousness, we miss our daily average direct and indirect use of perhaps 2000 gallons of water, drinking, cooking, flushing, bathing, laundry and dishwashing and food and industrial production.  The way that we overlook the role of water speaks to the way that we overlook most everything. 

In coming to intentional quiet practices such as restorative yoga, we might begin to slow enough to listen to the talk of the rain and to find much more there that we had anticipated.  We might begin to offer up our admiration, and optimize our life by coming into harmony the most abundant single substance of the biosphere that essentially comprises each of us. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spirit



Copyright Lance Kinseth, Illuminating Way/Eido, 2011

AN OVERRIDING GOAL of body-mind practices such as yoga involves integration and/or harmony between the innermost aspects of oneself with the universal.  The origin of yoga can be traced back literately to the very oldest of these scriptures, the Rig Veda, which speaks about ‘yoking the mind’ to the ‘highest truth’ and similarly, in the Brihadyogiyajnavalkyasmriti [Ch.2, V.49], “to the union of Jiva (individual consciousness) with Brahma (universal consciousness)” [Yogacharya, www.discover-yoga-online.com/yoga-definitions.html].           

More than body practice of keeping the body fit and supple, body-mind practices such as yoga involve, as Judith Lasater notes a gradual transformation of “ ‘good’ dis-identification with a false identification” [judithlasater.com].  When this occurs, “body-mind” practices consciously open an additional, larger dimension—that of spirit.  “Spirit” is an inclusive term with many meanings, but uniformly references an experience of connection between events as well as the inseparability of events.   In more personal terms, body-mind-spirit involves a sense of self-growth, moving from a real yet limited identity of self as internal and separate and stronger to an identity of one’s nature as beyond self, transpersonal, and interwoven with all of one’s experiences.  Developing inseparability is not something that we have to do, but rather is a natural state to which we can bring our awareness.  And “yoking” individual consciousness with universal consciousness is not just an aesthetic practice, but rather a practical path to optimal health.

The core experience of “spirit” is not finally something “ghostly” or ethereal, but rather, ecological.  In Western scientific understanding, the spring blossom is the consequence of the tilt of the whole Earth toward the sun.  The smallest flower petal and each tree leaf and each human life is an expression of the universal.  Even the sun is a dust speck that expresses the ongoing creation of the universe. 

In First Nation through post-industrial spiritual practices, this Western ecological sense of inseparability is intuitively encapsulated in phrases such as “ A seed is a star” [paraphrased from Dogon culture] and “The whole world is a single flower” [e.g., Seung Sahn, The Whole World Is A Single Flower. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1992].  Accordingly, we are admonished to open the spiritual dimension in everyday life--to listen “to the talk of the flower” [Zenkei Shibayama, A Flower Does Not Talk. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1970, p. 205].

Typically, attention to the nature of existence and to a transforming and expanding sense of identity is approached as aesthetic insight that can seem distant from our everyday life.   However, this is a practical insight that applies to concrete, everyday reality.  Real, solid, concrete, everyday health occurs as a result of being inside a larger circle of inclusion and support, and not just as something inside one’s body.  Optimal health involves consciousness of this larger identity to then “optimize” everyday experience by making it be in congruence with this larger reality.

The physical calmness and larger time-space of restorative yoga offers an opportunity to touch this heart meaning of the term “yoga.”  The centrality of relaxation and quietness in restorative yoga and relaxing for longer periods of time may enhance our attention to listening to the body and environment of practice to then optimize a holistic widening, broadening, and deepening of our sense of ourselves. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sacred Space


Copyright Lance Kinseth. Tranquil Way/Jakushitsu, 24”x24, acrylic, 2007

IN THE ALCHEMIST, Paulo Coelho has written beautifully, “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”  However, if we strive to become “special,” everything around us may be diminished and distanced from us.

 “Sacred” space tends to be associated with “special” space.  But the more special space becomes, the more we are distanced from it, and unable to see spirit and sacredness in the everyday.  There is not really anything around us that is not either miraculous or magical.

Every space is an “energy vortex” of sorts, deep in the abyss of the universe.  Restricting sacred space to limited special places reflects our limits—our sense of not understanding the depth of where we are at any moment as well as our inseparability from the ongoing creative process of the universe.

Coming into restorative practice, we cross over a threshold, going from everyday routine to a place of stillness.   When ever space is viewed as sacred space, creating a sacred space references optimizing our sense of sacredness that is inherent rather than creating a special place.  After “crossing over a threshold,” small rituals that affect sensory awareness enhance the opening of our awareness of inherent sacredness.  This may be a gesture of gratitude-silently saying gratitude and/or offering a small bow, the use of sound and/or fragrance, or creating a different quality of light from the everyday experience, such as very soft light and/or candles.  This is not unlike an artist preparing a canvas or a musician preparing an instrument.

Such a process can transform the words and actions that follow.  The words that follow can be anticipated to be different, perhaps more heart-felt as well as giving consideration to a larger frame of reference than oneself.   In the experience of healing, this can alter the questions a person may bring from self-centered interests to a larger question or answer.

Characteristics that can optimize the experience of the inherent healing and sacredness of  Restorative-Yin practice space:
·      Open comfortable postures;
·      Intentional relaxation: stilling the body/ slowing breath and/or following breath, a conscious return to silence;
·      Attention to sensory elements that alter routine sensory experiences:  soft light, sound [music, natural sounds, softer voice tone, eloquence of language], fragrance;
·      Develop an attitude expressed by this space or “container”: trust, calmness, deep comfort, expansiveness/connection; and
·      Overall, establish a sensory ritual for transforming from the profane to the sacred: i.e., removing shoes, a quiet gathering needed materials for a practice session, a softer lighting and/or candles, swaddling or wrapping oneself in a blanket to reduce sensory stimuli, incense as fragrance or flowers, a particular sound, a particular built or natural environment, a particular matt arrangement, etc.

Many of these qualities are inherent in Restorative-Yin Yoga, and can be brought to more intentional awareness as a crucial element of the practice.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Restorative-Yin Yoga Sequence Sampler


Copyright Lance Kinseth, Moon Lotus/Getsuren, 2011

Overall Restorative Components:

  • Pose Followed By Counter-Pose: Poses are selected that tend to provide a pose that stretches the lumbar region and/or hips, followed by a pose that counters the lumbar stretch.
  • Support: Blankets, blocks, bolsters and straps are utilized on most poses to relax muscles to relax and open the body and to concentrate on connective tissue. 
  • Longer Duration Of Pose:  3 minutes to 20 minutes allows for deep relaxation for healing restoration as well as stretching of connective tissue.  Introductory Restorative-Yin sessions may utilize shorter durations to begin to familiarize participants with the practice and to experience more options.  Restorative retreats may utilize rather lengthy durations to deepen relaxation, restoration and deep listening to body-mind-spirit. 
  • Brief Intermediary Poses: intermediary poses are used primarily for gradual transitions between primary poses, for relaxation, for massaging movements, and as points for experiences such as guided imagery.
  • Inversions And Twists: Inversions and twists are typically integrated near the end of the session.
The order of poses is not critical, nor is the sequence of ten poses inclusive.  It can be helpful to begin with gentle poses and gradually move toward more “active” poses with twists near the end for rebalancing.

There are practice blends where Yin Yoga or “gentle flow” might be the central practice, with some restorative poses as adjuncts.  While this can positively increase the calmness of yoga practice, it can miss the core values of restoration and deep relaxation.

Intensity of the stretch can be increased for more of a Yin Yoga orientation for participants who experience a need for this in a particular session.

A Sample Ten Part Restorative-Yin Sequence

1.   Supported Sphinx
2.   Supported Child
3.   Supported Reclining Bound Angle
4.   Supported Forward Fold/Butterfly
5.   Supported Half Bridge
6.   Supported Happy Baby
7.   Supported Legs-Up-The-Wall Variations:  Up Wall/Pigeon/Splits/Bound Angle
8.   Supported Kneeling Dog
9.   Supported Reclining Side Twist
10. Savasana

Description:

1] Supported Sphinx
A rather gentle pose: On belly, chest supported by blanket roll with head supported on block tilted toward head at an angle (to fit forehead)

Options: More intensive: Supported Cobra/Seal Pose

2] Supported Child
A gentle pose, but increasing height of the support increases the lumbar stretch: On bent knees, (with one block between knees, then space for folded hands, then second block in front) hug a blanket roll with folded blanket on top of roll that are raised on two blocks.  [Some participants may have difficulty keeping thighs on calves, and tend to lean forward and rest more on supports.  Support can be placed on legs between thighs and calves as well as under shins.]

3] Supported Reclining Bound Angle / Supine Goddess /Cobbler Pose
Perhaps the “heart pose” of restorative yoga, but sometimes the bound angle aspect may be discomforting for some: On back, [A] support upper back (and/or head) on blanket roll (or upper back only on block raised to various heights for more lumbar stretch) and [B] bend legs—soles of feet touching near groin—supported by blocks under knees, with optional strap circling lower back and feet for additional support

Option:Mountain Brook” Pose (with legs straight and supported on a blanket roll under knees); in addition, arms may be supported on blankets as well as body draped in blanket, eye pillows

4] Supported Bound Angle Forward Fold (similar to a Yin  “Butterfly Pose”)
A more active stretch: Seated, soles of feet together with knees supported on blocks, leaning forward and hugging a bolster, optional strap binding hips and feet (Intensity of stretch can be increased by moving support forward.)

Options: Supported Head-To-Knee Pose, Supported Forward Fold, Supported Half Butterfly Pose—all supported with blanket roll under bent knee(s); or Legs Apart Pose with knees bent to ninety degree angles [similar to Yin “Dragonfly”]

5] Supported Half Bridge
Restful yet active with a slight inversion quality: On back, blanket low under head and upper back with pelvis on block (raised to various heights for increased intensity of the lumbar stretch) or bolster

6] Supported “Bound” Happy Baby
Allows for a nice transition from Half Bridge, but somewhat more active if legs are extended up for the extended pose rather than folded: On back, legs bent forward with feet toward the ceiling, supported by blanket roll up against and slightly under gluts but not under pelvis (increasing outward lumbar arch, and supporting legs to fall forward), with optional strap around ankles; hands grabbinginside outside of extended feet or big toes

Options: Easy: Folded Pose [apanasana]—“Give Self Hug” Pose (Practitioners can shift to apanasana midway through “Happy Baby” for relaxation.

7] Supported Legs Up Wall
Once experienced, a favored pose for most participants—a refreshing inversion that can be held for a long time, and very calming, especially when wrapped in blanket(s): On back, hips and lower back supported on a blanket roll or bolster, gluts close to the wall with legs supported on the wall, optional blanket wrapped around legs and over chest and optional strap around ankles or hips for various pose options

Several options for leg position:
1) Legs straight up [option: bound for support],
2) “Butterfly on wall”: knees bent to the sides with soles of feet joined   [option: bound for support],
3) “Eye of needle”/pigeon: rotate between left and right leg crossed at knee, with option to turn sole of foot to the wall for additional lumbar stretch,
4) Both legs split out to both sides,
5) Rotate both legs lowered to one side, variation of above: turn right, lower right leg to floor, bring bent left leg over to floor if possible, repeat on other side
6) More intense: soles of both feet on the wall, legs bent toward 90 degrees, hips lifted off floor or support and pose held; additionally
8) More intense: extend one leg back overhead and hold [repeat on other side].
9) OPTION NEAR END: Side twist: turn to right, bring right leg down and put sole of right bent foot on wall, then bring left bent leg over to floor if possible. 

Options: Easy: raise legs on blankets or bolsters or ball or chair, or with knees bent to ninety degrees on chairs; COUNTER WALL POSE: Roll over onto belly, then bend knees and place legs with insteps on wall at 90 degrees, elbows on matt at shoulders—“Sphinx “on wall or more difficult Seal on wall [arms out at angles]

8] Supported “Kneeling Dog”
Very restful once participants get high enough chest support, and offers a slight inversion: Kneeling forward with legs bent at ninety degrees, lean forward with chest on bolster or high blanket roll and arms folded on matt and head turned to the side—lumbar curve/belly “sink” toward matt as in table top cow

Option: Easy: tabletop cow; tabletop “cow” but laying chest on a chair or footstool

9] Supported Reclining Spinal Twist [rotate both sides]
One variety of a number of twists that is restful with support: On back with legs straight, turn onto right side bringing left leg straight out to the right on a blanket roll, turn upper body to the left extending left arm to the left on a blanket tube or blocks, head can be turned to the left for a twist of the cervical region

10] Savasana
On back, normal breath, blanket under the thighs and soles of feet pressing against a blanket roll, with blanket(s) covering the body

Options: Reverse Savasana (on belly with one leg bent inward—leg and head on pillow); basic “Legs Up Wall” Savasana; Yin “pentacle pose” (on back, with arms and legs outspread, maximizing body surface contact with floor)


INTERMEDIARY POSES


Intermediary poses are optional, and designed to sustain the process of calm relaxation in the process of transitioning between selected restorative poses.  In flowing from back to a seated position, apanasana fits well.  In briefly releasing a forward stretch, slowing coming to a seated pose and leaning back on hands to counter the pose is natural and fluid.  In releasing from a bridge pose, imprinting the lower back into the matt, doing apanasana, and then keeping knees bent and rotating knees in small circles massages the lower back and pelvis.  Reclining on back provides a relaxing state as physiology continues to calm, to listen to the body rather than do something, as well as provide an opportunity to shift into guided imagery that either explores body sensations or intuitive responses.
 
Examples:
(a) 1--Lie on back, bring knees to chest and hug legs [apanasana]; 2—On back: from apanasana, rotate to massage lower back/pelvis
 (b) Listen to physiology: heart beat, heart pulse in lips/face/hands; listen to ring in ears
(c) Reclining On Side: Blissful Baby: Lay on side in fetal position [As a longer held restorative pose, support such as a blanket between the knees might be added.
(d) Child’s Pose: Exhale and slowly release your belly and lower your torso and head to the floor. Turn your head to one side. Lie quietly for a while, broadening your back with each inhale, and releasing any tension with each exhale. Reach tailbone toward the back while stretching arms forward.  Bring hands to side near heel, then hands clasped on back, then raised above back to a point that is “edgy,” yet comfortable.
(e) Gentle Cat/Cow/Child vinyasa
(f) Guided body scans
(g) Guided Imagery:  recalling an early childhood memory; meeting a teacher/healer; being in a favorite healing/relaxing place (either real or imagined); opening body; grounding or floating
(h) Concepts: “thriving” vs. surviving, optimal health, and transformation
(i) “Themes:” surrender, eloquence, oneness/wholeness, kindness
             

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Breath



Copyright Lance Kinseth, Shining Spring/Shun Sho, 2011

North’s bow to the sun
Spills the ocean of sky.
Treetops become windsingers.

WINTER IS FALLING APART.  And with its fall, March winds bring awareness to breath. 

Perhaps a hundred thousand miles of wind pass overhead annually—freshness endlessly replacing freshness.

Each hour, we might take 700 to 900 breaths, perhaps 20,000 breaths daily, and more than 150,000 breaths weekly. Air is dynamic, not static, with oxygen moving at a thousand miles per hour at a cool room temperature of fifty degrees Fahrenheit [but blazing hot in the context of the universe], colliding continually every 1/10000 inch.

Each breath offers a communion of sorts: Each breath easily contains several thousand- billion-billion atoms—breathed by living organisms  and past living biota, and atoms once comprising the bodies of most plants, animals and people, and atoms from the oceans, the body of the Earth, and all atoms, originally from generations of stars. We image the breath as offering us refreshing oxygen, and it does.  But each breath contains a taste of nearly everything—powdered glass and quartz and mica, carbon particulate from exhausts, meteoritic dust, plant spores and pollen, viruses and encysted bacteria, radioactive iodine 131, cesium 137, and on and on, ad infinitum. 

Looking like next to nothing, the encompassing atmosphere is dense and even weighty.  Each cubic inch of atmosphere contains perhaps 440 billion billion atoms.  We live in the belly of an abyss of atmosphere.  We wear a half-ton robe of atmosphere that sustains a temperate climate [that glows with radiant energy] and shields us from harsh solar radiation.

Attending to the breath, body and mind come directly together.

We might attend to the breath just as it is, imagining breath as a wave or a horse and our mind, a rider. 

Remaining calm, the body begins to “soften” the breath.  Practically, softening the breath corresponds to lengthening the inhalation/exhalation breath cycle.  We might intentionally imagine inhaling into the belly or lifting the lower ribs that fills the lower lungs and eases the lengthening of the breath.  The rate of respiration gradually decreases, but oxygenation remains either stable or is enhanced and, gradually,
  • the parasympathetic nervous system may be stimulated (lowering both heart rate and blood pressure), and
  • neurochemistry may be altered, increasing the production of  alpha brain waves and the reduction of reactivity to stimuli.
Consciously attending to the unconscious, “automatic” breath, we gradually do more than physiologically calm and quiet ourselves.  Body and mind calm, expanding attention both internally and externally.  In the calmness and quietness, we begin to listen to the body, to observe thoughts coming and going.  Our language and thoughts may gradually begin to blossom beyond everyday chatter. 

As body and mind come together, there may be an increasing sense of the integration—“the coming together,” the inseparability—of all of our experiences.  The calmness enhances our ability to listen deeply to the body, perhaps opening an increasing sense of intuition—of hearing something very authentic emanating from within that is offering us away forward in optimal health.