When my insides get ANGRY…

Body aches, angry belly and exhaustion: inflammation! inflammation! inflammation! My insides are pissed. I’m not sure what the culprit is though I have some suspicions– (I’m looking at you: food allergies, overtaxed muscles, coming down from an emotional high and STRESS.)  This last week has been brutal.

I have been doing some reading about the impact of yoga on inflammation in order to revamp my practice to address my angry bod. I came across this journal article. The study found that IL-6 levels were 41% higher in novice yoga practitioners than in individuals who have been practicing longer.

**For reference, Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a cytokine (molecule that signals cells) which mediates the immune response that occurs due to fever, infection, allergic response or trauma leading to inflammation.

Encouraged by this finding, I decided to dig a little deeper to see if I could find other studies that demonstrate the impact of yoga on inflammatory markers.

Click HERE, HERE, and HERE for a few studies that I came across.  There were many!   If this isn’t motivation to get my rear in gear, then I don’t know what is.

When you’re feeling uncomfortable in your body, it can be challenging to engage in a body centered practice because it requires acknowledging the discomfort.  I know that for me, if I ignore the discomfort, it will persist.  I put together a gentle yoga sequence that feels good in my body to reduce inflammation.  As always, just because this is a good sequence for me, that doesn’t mean it is what your body needs.  Feel free to use it as a guide and make any changes along the way.  All yoga should be practiced with caution.  Respect your body.  New bodies are hard to come by.

Gentle anti-inflammatory mini sequence:

1. Balasana (childs pose)

2. Seated tummy circles

  • Sit up with your legs crossed.
  • Place your hands on your knees.
  • rotate your stomach in a large circle counter clockwise for 90 seconds.  Imagine drawing a big circle with your belly button.
  • After 90 seconds (or really, however long feels good to you) rotate your stomach clockwise.

*Benefits of tummy circles: warms up lumbar region of the spine,              improves digestion as the gentle movement massages your internal organs, particularly those involved in eliminating waste.  This movement also activates and aligns the ileocecal valve.  (TMI?  Oh well!)

3. Seated tummy massage

  • sit on your knees with your bottom resting on your heels (if your knees are sensitive, fold a soft blanket under your knees for cushion.  If your hips do not reach your heels, prop up your bottom with a block (placed between your legs)
  • reach your arms out in front of you and make two fists.  Your knuckles should be facing up towards the ceiling.  Your 2 fists should be against one another, with your thumbs touching.
  • curl your fists down and under so that your knuckles are facing your belly.  As you move your fists closer to your belly, lean into your fists so that they begin to compress into your belly.  Use your fists to explore any tension in your abdominal area.  begin on the lower right hand side of your belly, just above your pelvis.  This is your ascending colon.  Move your fists in a circle starting at your ascending colon up and over (just below your diaphragm) ending at your descending colon.  I lean deeper into any area that feels especially tender and massage that area with my fingers.  Please note that if anything hurts, STOP!  You know your body best.  Practice with caution.photo (20)

4. Table top to cat/cow with dynamic movement (shift hips back and side to side)

5. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

6. Uttanasana (forward fold) come into a wide legged forward fold

  • in this posture, lift your left heel off of the ground (leaving your toes on the mat)
  • lower your left heel and repeat with your right heel (you should feel a stretch in the gluteus medius)

7. Arda uttanasana (half way lift)

8. Come to a seat for a seated body scan. Check in with your body and notice if there are any areas that feel swollen, inflamed, bloated or irritated.  Imagine soothing warm salt water infiltrating those parts of your body– moving in an out and around the irritated parts.  That imagery works well for me, but you can choose whatever is soothing to you.

9.Viparita karani (literally: inverted action; a.k.a. legs up the wall)– get cozy and hold for 10 minutes.

10.bring knees to chest and roll gently left to right to massage lower back

11. savasana- 10-15 minutes

One of the very first posts on the Acorn Bends Facebook page was this photo from The American Institute of Stress, shared by Anatomy in Motion (if you have an interest in anatomy, I recommend following their Facebook page– great, accessible information on the human body.)

1013457_524791714242313_1497556850_n

Click to enlarge! credit: The American Institute on Stress

What do you do when your insides get angry? If you have any favorite ways to decrease inflammation, please share!

-acorn.

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” -Dalai Lama

Advertisements

Is yoga TRULY for EVERYbody? (Please share your thoughts!)

Hi Readers! I have been thinking a lot about the barriers that exist that make yoga inaccessible or even unappealing to certain segments of the population.

In my last post, I wrote:

“Yoga is for every body- all colors, shapes and sizes.  Yoga is for all people across the ability spectrum.  Yoga is for queer, trans and gender non-conforming folks.  Yoga is for body builders and football players– miners and advertising executives.  And yes, it’s for young, petite white women like me. As long as the yoga community continues to depict yoginis as young, white, petite and female, we are sending a message of exclusion.”  

In order for the above to be true, barriers need to be broken.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what truly accessible yoga would look like.

What would need to exist in a yoga class to make it completely barrier free, so that ALL PEOPLE feel accepted?

Please chime in!

-acorn.

I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch their arms and their souls.”  -W. E. B. Du Bois

Blog-a-rama!

In the spirit of ‘keeping it real,’ I must admit that I’m not certain what the difference is between a blog and tumblr.   I still don’t understand reddit and BuzzFeed and while I’m pretty fluent in Facebook, I am not acquainted with Twitter.   I don’t really have much of an excuse for my ignorance.  After all, at 30 years old, I am officially a Millennial.   Although I didn’t grow up with the internet, the internet has been around long enough for me to know better.  

I started blogging as a platform to delve deeper into thoughts I was having related to the intersection of mind and body– a space to process information and put it out there for others to think about as well.   Acorn Bends is not meant to be an authority on anything, simply a platform for exploration and sharing.  Ideally it would be a forum for exchanging ideas and creating dialogue around the subject matter presented and what it stirs up for readers.  Writing again, after several years of “not having the time or energy,” has been thrilling.  Taking the time to mobilize my thoughts and deliver them publicly has re-energized me in a way that I didn’t necessarily expect.  

In fact, one of my posts was recently published on Elephant Journal, an online magazine “dedicated to the mindful life.”  Click here for a link to my article.  I am totally excited about this opportunity to connect with others, who wouldn’t otherwise stumble upon my blog. The only beef I have with the publication, is the image they selected to represent what I wrote.  Yes, I am a petite, young, white woman with an average frame but I feel strongly about decreasing barriers to accessing yoga.  

Soapbox:

Yoga is for every body- all colors, shapes and sizes.  Yoga is for all people across the ability spectrum.  Yoga is for queer, trans and gender non-conforming folks.  Yoga is for body builders and football players– miners and advertising executives.  And yes, it’s for young, petite white women like me. As long as the yoga community continues to depict yoginis as young, white, petite and female, we are sending a message of exclusion.  

/end soapbox.

In the spirit of celebrating writing, I wanted to share some of the blogs that I’m totally digging right now.  Yay blogging!  Yay sharing information!  Yay thinking!  Yay connecting!

Blogroll, please…

  1. Decolonizing Yoga
  2. The Fashion Huntress
  3. Trial of the Century
  4. Living Yoga
  5. Heal+Restore
  6. Root Wisdom Yoga
  7. ROCK THAT VEIL!
  8. Quintrospection
  9. Pug’s Planet 
  10. AlteaYoga

What are your favorite blogs?

Image

“blogroll” image belongs to market with a red pen

-acorn.

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples, then you and I will still have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” -George Bernard Shaw

Feminist Art Therapy

Art (like movement) is a powerful means of expression. Words are a popular marker of experience but sometimes, words are inadequate.  I have run into the inadequacy of words both in my personal and professional life.

Prior to returning to school to complete a Master’s in Social Work, I worked as a substance abuse counselor in New York City. Even then, I was aware of the limitations of words.  Sure, words are powerful; they carry meaning and evoke emotion but words have their limits.  Often times, I would be face to face with a person who had so much to express, but again, words failed them.  Their stories were often expressed in physical and emotional pain, pain that words couldn’t adequately capture.  Sometimes the pain became too much and without the appropriate tools to first acknowledge and then eventually work through the pain, I would see individuals return to the streets.  Drugs felt “safe”– a familiar way to self soothe.

man

Art therapy project

After completing my Masters in social work, I worked for the state of Illinois, investigating elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.  Although everyone’s story is different, pain is universal and again, I stumbled across the inadequacy of words.  In this work, I caught a glimpse of atrocity.  The underbelly of our society.  I was compelled to find a way to connect with the darkness that I saw in order to work with individuals (and often families) to find resolution and a greater sense of wholeness in the midst of chaos and injustice.

doll

Art therapy project

The limitations of words were again forefront as I completed a post master’s clinical fellowship in psychotherapy.  I would come across individuals with brilliant and sometimes tragic stories, who couldn’t quite express them, verbally, in a way that felt sufficient.  Immediately following the completion of that fellowship, I began taking courses in art therapy in order to expand my tool box as a therapist.

This weekend I had the privilege of reconnecting with my “art therapy cohort” at a reunion hosted by the wonderful, Joanne Ramseyer of Blue Lotus Art Studio. Joanne is an artist, educator and trauma informed art therapist who has taught me so much in a short period of time. At the reunion,  I saw several familiar faces and made new connections as well.  This reunion made me think about the work that I did while studying with Joanne.  I took a class called “Foundations of Art Therapy.”  In that class we learned about the key players in the development of art therapy as a concept and as a profession.  Our final assignment was to pick an art therapist and give an overview of their work and then develop an art therapy lesson in the lineage of that particular therapist.  I was interested in looking at the intersection of art therapy and feminist theory.  Even though my interest diverged a bit from the assignment, Joanne gave me the freedom to move forward.

As I was researching, I found a lot of information on feminist theory and a lot of information on art therapy but very little on the intersection of the two. Feminist theory is based on idea that we live in a Patriarchal culture.  Our culture promotes disconnection from others and from our own bodies.  If we look at traditional psychodynamic theory, there is an emphasis on separation: “the self versus others.”  Traditional psychodynamic theory is largely an outgrowth of male thought  (Freud, Jung, Winnicott, Kohut).  Of course there are female “greats” as well, but the dominating theories are very much male-driven.  While there is so much to appreciate about “the greats” and what they postulate, so much of the theory is based on “the self.”  Even theories that are more relational (i.e. object relations theory) emphasize the experience of the self above all.

Art therapy is a relatively female-centric profession.  Some men enroll in Art Therapy Master’s programs, but enrollment is largely female. Much of art therapy was built around traditional psychodynamic theory which emerged out of patriarchal context and tends to misunderstand and neglect women’s experience.

Feminist theory challenges traditional psychodynamic theory which promotes separation, and instead focuses on connection– connection to others, to nature, to the world around us– connection to ourselves and to our body.  The disconnection from our body is generally a response to internalized images of how or who we should be, cultural messages, objectification of our bodies and possible trauma.

Interestingly, the way that the art therapy profession has organized and advocated for their professionalization as a field, is very much in line with feminist theory.  So, then why does the art therapy field (and other helping professions) continue to rely so heavily on theory that operates on outdated social constructs that serve to oppress women and other marginalized people?  Fortunately, not everyone practices with “old school” separatist methodology.  Feminist writers of the 60’s and 70’s were taking on these issues, which inspired a group of women (Judith Jordan, Janet Surrey, Irene Stiver and Jean Baker Miller) to get together in 1977 to discuss relationships, connections and communication.  These casual discussions ultimately led to a theory called Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) and in 1981, they became associated with the Stone Center at Wellesley College.

RCT focuses on growth fostering relationships, connection and the idea that isolation is the greatest cause of human suffering.  Conversely, mainstream psychological theory promotes separation and individuation as the goal for development.

I would propose that in RCT, the role of a feminist art therapist is to develop a relationship of mutuality and through that work to empower the client to transcend  internalized oppression, inadequacy and “otherness.”

Mutuality in the context of feminist therapy is the concept that the therapist and client work as a team to use the clients experience in a way that fosters growth and healing, using empathy as a corrective experience.  The focus would be on sharing power rather than having “power-over”– this involves acknowledging power differential in the therapeutic alliance.  It also highlights the importance of an openness of the therapist to being influenced by the client as opposed to setting rigid boundaries and assuming a stance of neutrality. The thought is that by acknowledging power differential while also dismantling traditional hierarchy in the therapeutic alliance, the therapy itself can serve as a corrective experience without inadvertently eliciting feelings of powerlessness and isolation in the presence of a powerful “other” and subsequently enhance disconnection.

I have an interest in using expressive therapies (yoga, art, etc.) to work with individuals around body awareness and acceptance.  RCT views body image as internalized images of ourselves in response to the messages we pick up from our culture, our family and our experiences. I think we can all agree that we are bombarded with powerful images every day.

In thinking about body image and the ways in which we internalize our own experience, the culture in which we live provides content for our personal beliefs about who we are.  These messages are impossible to escape but we do have the power to become aware of the messages we receive about who we are and decide for ourselves whether or not we want to embody these depictions.  RCT describes “cultural controlling images” as socially constructed ideas that serve to maintain the status quo and keep people in power, in place.  The dominant culture group constructs images that represent distortions of a non dominant culture group with the (either conscious or unconscious) intent to disempower, demonize and pathologize.  Some examples of “cultural controlling images” are the stereotype of “the welfare queen”, “the Jewish mother” and “the Borderline client.”  If you are not familiar with the term “borderline” just Google it and you will see how this “diagnosis” is depicted in mainstream culture.  It is frankly horrifying.  I really like what Anji Capes writes on Borderline Personality Disorder  (she writes from the UK where the diagnosis is known as “Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder.”)

These caricatures lead to disconnection and to dismissal of personhood.  When we label and stereotype in this way, we are doing great harm.

I mentioned earlier that I delved into this topic to explore the intersection of art therapy and feminist theory for my final project in a foundational art therapy class.  For my final project, I decided to use art to explore body image and understand the messages we internalize and embody.

Body tracing is a nice way to explore body images issues as it creates a visible container to externalize intense emotions that we hold in our bodies and eventually rid of the internalized images that no longer serve us.  This process enlivens empathy, connection and relationship, both with ourselves and with another person (i.e. client and therapist.) Body tracing and the discussion that it incites allows us to use our imagination in order re-envision who we want to be and who we believe ourselves to be.

I facilitated this project with a friend for the purpose of this class.  See below for the steps we used to carry out the body tracing…

  • Traced full bodies on large banner paper
  • Responded to our bodies as we perceive ourselves.  We used markers to depict positive, negative and neutral responses to our bodies.  We used shapes, lines, images, symbols and words in response to our internalized image of ourselves and drew drew the responses where they resonated in our bodies.
  • Respond to each others image in terms of our perception of the other person
  • Based on our perception of the other, we added supportive images to the other person’s body outline (again using markers but obviously you can use whatever materials you like!)
  • Discussed our feelings in response to the other persons perception and images they provided.
  • We then used pipe cleaners to connect the drawings in order to symbolize the connection forged through the process.  (My friend had a strong urge to connect the drawings at the head. I wanted to connect at the hands and heart.  We did both.  After connecting at the head, my friend sighed in relief.  The pipe cleaners bowed and created what she described as “an empty head between our heads—a clear mind to balance the chaos”.)

During this process, we were able to express our internalized images of ourselves, our “hang-ups” about our physical bodies and both cry and laugh about these internalizations.  We acknowledged that these negative beliefs may not disappear but externalizing them, and seeing how we view one another diffuses some of the power of these beliefs. This project elicited dialogue about standards of beauty and how oppressive these standards are.  The maintenance of these standards are in line with RCTs concept of “cultural controlling images” and the misnomer that ideal womanhood means: petite, waif life, submissive and compliant.  These images of womanhood serve to maintain power of the patriarchy.

I believe strongly in the need to continue to challenge our internalized images or who we are and to challenge ourselves to examine how we internalize groups that are different from ourselves.  Even if our intentions are good, until we examine our own deep-seated beliefs, we can’t be assured that we aren’t part of the problem.

-acron.

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way- things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Yo-Yo Yoga

“The yo-yo in its simplest form is an object consisting of an axle connected to two disks, and a length of twine looped around the axle, similar to a slender spool. It is played by holding the free end of the string (usually by inserting one finger in a slip knot) allowing gravity or the force of a throw to spin the yo-yo and unwind the string (similar to how a pullstring works), then allowing the yo-yo to wind itself back to one’s hand, exploiting its spin (and the associated rotational energy).” (Wikipedia)

photo 2 (3)

Do you ever feel like a yo-yo? Over the past several weeks, I have felt a tremendous shift in my life.   Specifically, I have noticed a change in my perception of myself and of what I am capable of.  I recently returned from a trip to Arizona, where I traveled with a large group of friends and family.   Arizona was absolutely beautiful; I woke up every morning to a cascade of colors: red rocks, blue sky, shiny quartz poking through the red dust that covers the town of Sedona.  I was surrounded by beauty and love and returning to my life in Chicago was disarming.

Reintegration was more difficult than I had imagined.  I realized quickly that I needed to make a concerted effort to integrate more joy and beauty into “the everyday.”  This realization carried with it a great deal of action which resulted in exciting opportunities- lots of them- all at once!   Even with the excitement, the ferocity with which the opportunities arose left me feeling overwhelmed.  I felt like a yo-yo, like “my spin” was being impacted by excitement and opportunity,  swept up by a hasty force that felt intense, almost esoteric.

As the dust begins to settle and I feel more at home in my shifting perception of myself, I am left thinking about the forces we are confronted with, over which we have very little control.

Aristotle wrote a great deal about entelechy, actuality, the vital force that directs an organism towards self-fulfillment. As viscerally as I feel the movement of the force, my rational mind fumbles with these concepts.  The concepts of “vital force” and “universal provision” seem really abstract to me but experience is difficult to ignore.  This seems greater than cause and effect.

In Aristotle’s depiction of entelechy, the “acorn and oak tree example” is widely used:

While the acorn looks and feels like an acorn does (hard, sturdy, round) it is capable of moving, growing and bending. The acorn has the potential to become an oak tree but in order to shift from acorn to oak tree, there is a process of actualization and realization of its essential nature.  It’s this vital force that moves the acorn along and encourages it’s growth. the growth is sometimes slow and steady and sometimes rapid and forceful.

The same can be said for a human embryo or a popcorn kernel. The process of self actualization, growth and change occurs in all living things and takes shape differently depending on the object undergoing transformation.

There are always forces at play in our lives that impact our sense of stability and balance.  Sometimes these forces come from within (our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations) and sometimes they come from without (nature, other people, circumstances, etc.)

When I begin to feel as though I’m spinning out of control, whether from my own internal process or external processes, my practice emphasizes balancing Vata in order to return to feeling grounded and steady. In Ayurveda, Vata governs movement and change in our mind and our body. The elements are air and ether.

Samastitihi with hands in prayer at heart center

My ayurvedic dosha (constitution) is primarily Kapha, meaning inertia is where I party.  My Pitta traits fuel my drive and forward movement but I am very rarely aggravated by Vata energy.  In order to pacify the Vata aggravation, I developed the below mini sequence “yo-yo yoga” to reconnect with the earth.  My favorite grounding posture is samastitihi (“equal standing pose”– essentially mountain pose with hands at heart center.)

Mini Sequence

Yo-yo yoga: a sequence for balancing vata

pranayama: 3 part breath. I prefer to practice this lying down, supported by a bolster.  As I practice, not only do I attend to my abdomen, mid and upper chest, but I also incorporate my pelvic area.  I learned this simple yet powerful technique from the fabulous Brooks Hall of Root Wisdom Yoga.

*a note on beauty…  I didn’t have to look hard.  Once I really opened my eyes, I found cascading colors everywhere.  Sedona is beautiful and so is Chicago.

-acorn.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” -Anaïs Nin

Protect Ya Neck

“Protect Ya Neck” was Wu-Tang’s debut single.  I spent ages 12-16 in Santiago, Chile– formative years!  When I lived in Chile, I fell into a group that was part of Santiago’s hip hop scene.  I never felt like I was part of that scene.  During those years, I can say that I never felt fully part of any specific thing- always one foot in, and one foot out.  But there was (and still is) something about hip hop that is alluring to me.  Sure, there are a lot of problems with hip hop but it’s not my place to pick apart a culture that I don’t fully know.  Hip hop is audacious and loud, often brilliant and sometimes crude.  

I was a spunky little kid, no doubt, but even in my spunkiest spunk, I always carried around the idea that I “should”(<—- see # 9) be or act a certain way .  We grow up with so many messages about what it means to be “good” or to be “a girl” or “a boy” or whatever.  These messages come at many levels (political, cultural, peer, familial, etc.)  Hip hop gave me an outlet to hear other people speak out, in an emphatic way, about their observations and strife.  I am in no way likening my “stuff” to the “stuff” of hip hop artists, but hearing other people speak frankly, inspires me to consider that I might also have something important to say.  

9a828-photo17

Do pelicans quack?

Just the other day, my good friend walked into my office and just stared at me.   Her brow began to furrow and her eyes were wide.  She asked me “what ARE you doing?”  For as much body awareness as I believe myself to have, I had no idea that she was referring to the fact that the bottom of my skull was resting on my T1 (thoracic vertebrae.)  My cervical spine was pretty much completely collapsed.  I imagine that I looked like a pelican does, as it is savoring it’s prey.  


Since becoming aware of this, I have noticed just how often I collapse my neck.  Why has no one ever pointed it out to me?  It’s super weird looking!  In order to help release this samaskara (pattern), I have started to integrate Jalandhara Bandha into my practice.  In Sanskrit, bandha means “bond” or “lock.”  There are 3 main bandhas in yoga and a 4th that ties them all together.  Click here to learn more about bandhas. 

Jalandhara Bandha activates the Vishuddha chakra (throat chakra).  The term chakra gets tossed around a lot these days.  When I first started learning about this stuff, the idea of “the subtle energy body” which includes concepts such as chakrasnadis and koshas was incredibly alienating. Over time, I have opened myself up to different frameworks for understanding the layers of anatomy.  In many Eastern systems of understanding the body, there are 7 major energy centers located inside the body.  In Hindu philosophy, these energy centers are referred to as chakras.  In Western science, there are major nerve plexuses located where the chakras are said to be, in the body.  Each chakra is associated with the physiology of a specific organ system, glandular system and nerve plexus.  The Vishuddha chakra governs voice.

There are several ways to work with this chakra and the approach will vary from person to person, depending on the origin of the disharmony. Blogging is a great way to work with “voice”.  By activating the Vishuddha chakra,  I am working towards freeing myself to speak fearlessly.  

Hip hop helps too. 

Not feeling so heroic in Supta Virasana

I recently purchased a snazzy new bike.  Okay, snazzy is pushing it but it’s purple and has red wheels.  The purple reminds me of the (now defunct) Welch’s grape soda can.  Welch’s grape soda was really the only saving grace in the steamy Texas summer, in the 1980’s.  I HATED tennis lessons.  I really only took them because my older brother did.  He was good.  I was not.  I was more interested in gymnastics, my skip-it and in challenging my hula hoop to stay above my knees while twirling and the like.  The reason I kept going to tennis lessons: Welch’s grape soda.  This was my post-tennis treat and I enjoyed the hell out of it!


I bought this bike to replace my OLD, HEAVY pile of steel (1970’s 10 speed Schwinn.)  Oooof.  I tend not to attach too strongly to material goods, but the thought of letting go of my Schwinn made me fight back tears. I felt as though I was walking around with a 10 pound dumbbell adhered to my chest.  This clearly gave me pause.  Fortunately, I have enough people around me to check my attitude when I am blindly and strongly spewing funk.  When I stopped long enough to look inward, I realized that the feelings I was having with letting go of my Schwinn, mirrored the feelings that I’m having in another part of my life.   

My Schwinn represented the heaviness of the past, memories and stagnation.  Holding on to it felt safe.  My new bike is lighter, more colorful, swifter.  It feels like freedom.  With freedom, comes the unknown and the unknown can be scary.  When I recognized the parallels between my bike situation and the other situation I referred to, I no longer felt attached.  Up on Craigslist the Schwinn went.  

 

I bought the new bike in order to ease my commute to work.  I was certain(ish) that this bike was lighter.  To make sure, my girlfriend stood on my bathroom scale to get her poundage sans bicycle.  She then lifted my (almost!) 40 pound Schwinn and got back on the scale.  She’s a strong girl!  She did the same with my new bike.  At 7 pounds lighter, I felt confident that my purchase was worth the emotional flux.  I suppose the emotional flux was worth it, in and of itself.  Sometimes it takes an external event to realize what’s going on inside.


All of that to say, I biked to work today and after biking a total of 18 miles today, my quads needed some love.  I decided that Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose) was the way to go.  Supta virasana requires the body to be warm.  Please do not practice the below mini sequence without a proper warm up.  Watch out if you have knee pain, stiff ankles, extremely tight quadriceps or lower back pain.  All yoga should be practiced with caution.  Respect your body.  New bodies are hard to come by.


In Supta Virasana…

 
Psychological response
 
Thoughts:  THIS. SUCKS. GET. ME. OUT.
 
Emotions:  When I think of supta virasana, I think of my quadriceps.  I hadn’t considered that it’s also a major heart opener.  With so much transition happening in my life right now, stretching the front line of my body felt incredibly overwhelming.  
 
other psychological reactions (imagery, narrative, etc.):  Supta virasana reminds me of my gymnastics days.  My coach used to caution against sitting on our knees.  He said that he tore his knee doing this.  For years, I didn’t dare sit on my knees and still refrain from doing it, unless it’s with extreme caution and for a specific reason. 
 
 
Physical response
 
Felt open:  quads, knees, hip flexors, front body, chest, throat
 
Felt strengthened: low back
 
other physical sensations: I felt waves of movement in my front body.  I felt like a human pin ball machine.  It probably didn’t help that I had recently had dinner.  I don’t usually eat before I practice but tonight I did.  I was hungry after that ride! 
 
Mini Sequence (to move into and out of this posture)
 
1. seated pranayama in supported virasana (hero pose)  (block under sit bones)
2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)
3. Uttanasana (forward fold)
4. Arda uttanasana (half way lift)
5. kick back to Anjaneyasana (crescent lunge) on right with chest expansion
6. release fingertips to the mat and come into high lunge.  Dynamic straightening and bending of the front leg.
7. Uttanasana (forward fold)
8. Arda uttanasana (half way lift)
9. kick back to Anjaneyasana (crescent lunge) on left with chest expansion
10. release fingertips to the mat and come into high lunge.  Dynamic straightening and bending of the front leg.
11. Uttanasana (forward fold)
12. Arda uttanasana (half way lift)
13. plank– gently lower down onto belly
14. Bhujangasana (cobra)

15. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge)

16. Ustrasana (camel)
17. Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose)
18. Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose)
19. seated meditation
 
-acorn.


“Next to a leisurely walk I enjoy a spin on my tandem bicycle. It is splendid to feel the wind blowing in my face and the springy motion of my iron steed. The rapid rush through the air gives me a delicious sense of strength and buoyancy, and the exercise makes my pulse dance and my heart sing.”  -Helen Keller