Train your body and mind to prepare for sleep with Jillian Pransky

Join us for an evening of pure restoration and yogic sleep to soothe your nervous system, ease your body, calm your mind, and help you get a better night’s rest.

Tuesday, July 27 at 7:00 – 8:15pm EDT
Live online via Zoom
Recording access through September 6!
Summer is a time of expansion. Daylight is longer; nature blooms out in all directions. As we rejoice in the warmth and vitality of summer months, we must balance the heat, increased activity, and excess energy with cool ease and the magic of the night.In this 75-minute practice, Jillian will guide you through a series of gentle yin stretches, earthy grounding restorative poses, and a nourishing yoga nidra (yogic sleep).

This session will be particularly potent for us all, especially after the last 16 months, as we are now reconnecting with our communities and perhaps practicing staying centered in the midst of uncertainty and difficult circumstances.As you come home to your body, breath, mind, and heart, you’ll access a greater physical, mental, and emotional capacity—to return to a sense of calm and connectedness.

This practice will leave you feeling more deeply rested and nourished.Use this practice for the rest of the summer to train your body and mind to prepare for sleep, or use it during the day, when you need some extra rest.
This mini-retreat is available for registration a la carte — or your may sign up for my Summer package, Expanding into the Heart of Summer, which includes the mini-retreat as well as 9 on-demand practices to feel more calm, clear, and connected — plus, recording access to all through September 6.
Omega Sleep Retreat in Rhinebeck, NY
Sleep Smarter for a Healthy Life
August 27 – 29, 2021
I am excited to offer the Friday evening session on Yoga Nidra & Ayurvedic Practices For Better Sleep at this in-person weekend retreat!!
Join us for an evening of pure restoration and yogic sleep to soothe your nervous system, ease your body, calm your mind, and help you get a better night’s rest.
Tuesday, July 27 at 7:00 – 8:15pm EDT
Live online via Zoom
Recording access through September 6!
Summer is a time of expansion. Daylight is longer; nature blooms out in all directions. As we rejoice in the warmth and vitality of summer months, we must balance the heat, increased activity, and excess energy with cool ease and the magic of the night.In this 75-minute practice, Jillian will guide you through a series of gentle yin stretches, earthy grounding restorative poses, and a nourishing yoga nidra (yogic sleep).

This session will be particularly potent for us all, especially after the last 16 months, as we are now reconnecting with our communities and perhaps practicing staying centered in the midst of uncertainty and difficult circumstances.As you come home to your body, breath, mind, and heart, you’ll access a greater physical, mental, and emotional capacity—to return to a sense of calm and connectedness.

This practice will leave you feeling more deeply rested and nourished.Use this practice for the rest of the summer to train your body and mind to prepare for sleep, or use it during the day, when you need some extra rest.
This mini-retreat is available for registration a la carte — or your may sign up for my Summer package, Expanding into the Heart of Summer, which includes the mini-retreat as well as 9 on-demand practices to feel more calm, clear, and connected — plus, recording access to all through September 6.
Omega Sleep Retreat in Rhinebeck, NY
Sleep Smarter for a Healthy Life
August 27 – 29, 2021
I am excited to offer the Friday evening session on Yoga Nidra & Ayurvedic Practices For Better Sleep at this in-person weekend retreat!!

The Best, Basic, Classic Meditation Instruction for resting our Mind in the Present Moment.

How to Meditate, the classic instruction.

Originally published here on The Elephant Journal

In 1973, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa introduced a month-long period of meditation called Dathün, which he recommended to all of his students. This intensive meditation practice retreat, where even meals are taken simply, in silence, is to this day a fundamental part of the Shambhala Buddhist path.

~ Carolyn Gimian.

The shamatha style of meditation is particularly recommended by the Buddha. It has been the way for beginning meditators for 2,500 years. To describe meditation we could use the phrase touch and go. You are in contact, you’re touching the experience of being there, actually being there-—and then you let go. That applies to awareness of your breath on the cushion and also beyond that, to your day-to-day living awareness. The point of touch and go is that there is a sense of feel. The point of touch is that there is a sense of existence, that you are who you are. 

When you sit on the cushion, you feel you are sitting on the cushion and that you actually exist. You are there, you are sitting; you are there, you are sitting. That’s the touch part. The go part is that you are there—and then you don’t hang on to it. You don’t sustain your sense of being, but you let go of even that. Touch and go.

When you meditate your posture should be correct. It is recommended that you sit cross-legged on a meditation cushion, as opposed to hanging out in any convenient posture. You sit properly. You have a straight spine; your breath doesn’t strain, and your neck doesn’t strain. So sit: upright, cross-legged. If necessary, you can change your posture and rearrange yourself. There’s no point in punishing yourself and trying to strain constantly.


The attitude towards breathing in meditation is to become the breathing. Try to identify completely rather than watching it. You are the breath; the breath is you. Breath is coming out of your nostrils, going out and dissolving into the atmosphere, into the space. You put a certain energy and effort towards that. Then, as for in-breathing, should you try to deliberately draw things in? That’s not recommended. Just boycott your breath; boycott your concentration on the breath. As your breath goes out, let it dissolve, just abandon it, boycott it.

So in-breathing is just space. Physically, biologically, one does breathe in, obviously, but that’s not a big deal. Then another breath goes out—be with it. So it’s out, dissolve, gap; out, dissolve, gap. It is constant opening, gap, abandoning, boycotting. Boycotting in this case is a significant word. If you hold onto your breath, you are holding onto yourself constantly. Once you begin to boycott the end of the outbreath, then there’s no world left, except that the next outbreath reminds you to tune in. So you tune in, dissolve, tune in, dissolve, tune in, dissolve.

Thoughts arise in the midst of practice: “How should I do my yoga?,” “When can I write another article?,” “What’s happening with my investments?,” “I hate so and so who was so terrible to me,” “I would love to be with her” and “What’s the story with my parents?” All kinds of thoughts begin to arise naturally. If you have lots of time to sit, endless thoughts happen constantly.

The approach to that is actually no approach. Reduce everything to thoughtlevel rather than to concepts. Usually, if you have mental chatter, you call it your thoughts. But if you have deeply involved emotional chatter, you give it special prestige. You think those thoughts deserve the special privilege of being called emotion. Somehow, in the realm of actual mind, things don’t work that way. It’s just thinking: thinking you’re horny, thinking you’re angry. As far as shamatha practice is concerned, your thoughts are no longer regarded as V.I.P.s while you meditate. You think, you sit; you think, you sit; you think, you sit. You have thoughts, you have thoughts about thoughts. Let it happen that way. Call them thoughts.

Then, a further touch is necessary. Emotional states should not just be acknowledged and pushed off, but actually looked at. During meditation, you may experience being utterly aggressive, angry or lustful, whatever. You don’t just politely say to your emotion, “Hi. Nice seeing you again. You are okay. Goodbye, I want to get back to my breath.” That’s like meeting an old friend who reminds you of the past and rather than stopping to talk, you say, “Excuse me, I have to catch the train to my next appointment.” In the shamatha approach to practice you don’t just sign off. You acknowledge what’s happening, and then you look more closely as well. You don’t give yourself an easy time to escape the embarrassing and unpleasant moments, the self-conscious moments of your life. Such thoughts might arise as memories of the past, the painful experience of the present or painful future prospects. All those things happen: experience them and look at them, and only then do you come back to your breath. This is important.

If you feel that sitting and meditating is a way of avoiding problems, then that is the problem. In fact, most of the problems in life don’t come from being an aggressive or lustful person. The greatest problem is that you want to bottle those things up and put them aside, and you become an expert in deception. That is one of the biggest problems. Meditation practice should uncover any attempts to develop a subtle, sophisticated, deceptive approach.

Finally, in meditation, there’s a sense of individuality, a sense of person. Actually, we are here—we exist. What about the non-existence and egolessness that Buddhism emphasizes? What about spiritual materialism, wanting happiness and fulfillment from our practice? Aren’t we going to stray into some pitfall? Maybe you are. Maybe you are not. There’s no guarantee, since there’s no guarantor. However, it is possible that you could just do this technique very simply. I would recommend that you shouldn’t worry about future security, but just do this, directly, simply.

Yoga and Sex – Celibacy or Oneness?

By Kristine Kaoverii Weber

I’m 28 and backpacking around India with my hot German boyfriend. We go for long, twilight swims in the warm waters of Kerala. We sit and read novels at cafés in Goa. We explore the temples in Madras and buy each other tiny earrings at tourist gem stores in Ernaculam. We take ridiculously long train rides across the country. We drink chai out of unfired clay cups and sleep in whatever cheap hotels are recommended in our Let’s Go guide books.

But eventually he needs to get back to his life in Germany, and I wake up from my romance trance and remember that, oh yeah, I had come to India for something different actually, when I got distracted by this tryst.

We part ways and I, in what feels like a hilariously ironic next move, head to a women’s ashram to study with renunciates.

He calls me a few days later to tell me he has contracted hepatitis and is wondering how I’m doing. I’m fine. It’s 1994, so he calls the only phone in the place – in the head nun’s office.  But as I come to answer the phone, she cocks an eyebrow and purses her lips. After I put down the phone she asks, accusatory and frowning, “Who was that?!”

“Oh, just a friend,” I lie, and slink away back to my room.

It’s no-nonsense, this place. Women don’t even dance kirtan in mixed company at the main men’s ashram nearby, for fear of being labeled “loose.”

But I’m a westerner. And I like men.

And I also like yoga and spirituality and I’m willing to give this acetic lifestyle a shot for a while.

It turns out I really resonate with ashram lifestyle – lots of meditation, chanting, asanas, and pranayama, simple meals, lots of time to talk to other women and study. With a big needle and coarse thread I learn to make garlands of marigolds. I learn to make dal and chapati. I learn Sanskrit chants and mantras. This life is peaceful and deep, which gives me a sense of contentment and purpose.

At a lecture one of the renunciates talks about Brahmacarya. She explains that many people think it means “celibacy.” I’m okay with having a spell of celibacy, frankly, LOL, I’m a little worn out. But then she says that although they are celibate renunciates, their guru taught that brahmacarya means “unity” or “seeing everything as a manifestation of divine consciousness.”

Wait a minute, I don’t get it. How did you get from celibacy to seeing everything as a manifestation of divine consciousness? Her response is something along the lines of – you ask too many questions.

When I returned to the states I continue studying yoga. Over the years I’ve collected many translations of the Yoga Sutras.

So, let’s do a little comparative study here.

Here are 7 different authors defining brahmacarya, mentioned in Yoga Sutra 2.30 and fleshed out in 2.38:

  1. Swami Sachidananda – Continence.

“By one established in Continence, vigor is attained.”

  1. Pandita Rajmani – Continence.

“Upon the establishment of celibacy, power is attained.”

As someone who worked in a nursing home facility for 5 years, I always think about “continence” as meaning “not having a leaky bladder” – and that’s the way it’s used medically. However, apparently, Aristotle used the word continence to mean sexual restraint. Perhaps there was some confusion back then about what comes out of men’s penises? Or perhaps the word “continence” is just convenient when an author just wants to avoid to the taboo topic of sexuality altogether?

  1. Chip Hartranft – Celibacy.

“By one established in continence, vigor is attained.”

  1. Barbara Stoller Miller – Celibacy.

“When one observes celibacy, heroic energy accrues.”

  1. Desikachar – Moderation in all our actions

“At its best, moderation produces the highest individual vitality.”

  1. Nischala Joy Devi – Balance and moderation of the vital life force

“Devoted to living a balanced and moderate life, the scope of one’s life force becomes boundless.”

  1. Swami Jnaneshvara – Walking in awareness of the highest reality

“When walking in awareness of the highest reality is established, then a great strength, capacity, or vitality is acquired.”

After some digging, I learned that the definition of brahmacarya as “celibacy” comes from the four ashramas or four stages of life defined by some of the ancient texts (like the Dharmasūtras). The four stages of life are:

  1. Brahmacarya – student life (where you should be celibate and focus on your studies, till about 24)
  2. Grihastha – family life (having kids and supporting a family, from 24 to 48)
  3. Vanaspratha – retirement (giving advice and devoting time to spirituality, from 48-72)
  4. Sannyasa – renunciation (devoting your time to spirituality exclusively, from 72 onwards).

So, brahmacarya in the context of the four stages of life actually does mean celibacy and that’s why it gets translated as such in the context of the yamas.

The obvious problem with translating brahmacarya, as “celibacy” or “continence” as one of the yamas is that it’s confusing for folks who are not leading the life of a renunciate but want to practice Raja yoga.

So, some authors have jumped through hoops in trying to make “celibacy” more palatable by talking about things like “moderation” and “control” – which are good ideas, but don’t actually cut to the heart of the principle, or explain its etymological origins.

Because celibate renunciates are such an ancient part of Indian culture, there is a lot of information about how exactly to manage those biologically imperative urges. The advice includes eating vegetarian food, fasting regularly, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and some pretty intense encounters with buckets of ice water. Doesn’t mean the renunciates are always successful – you’ve heard about the scandals. While there is a science to celibacy and some folks manage to pull it off, clearly, it’s not for everyone.

When I was staying at the women’s ashram I couldn’t help but wonder what would it be like to be a renunciate, Do I have that in me? What compels someone to swear off sex? Could I wear those orange robes, cut my hair, and dedicate my life to a greater cause?

Nope. Not my path.

So, out of the seven translations I listed, Swami J’s “walking in awareness of the highest reality” makes the most sense to me as a non-renunciate or “householder.”

It’s basically the same definition that I was taught at the women’s ashram. Here we can think about the first part of the word as referring to Brahman or the Oneness principle. And acarya, (which is related to the English words “chariot” and “car”) as meaning “to go” or “how you go.” Acarya BTW, also means “the one who teaches by example.”

So, you could say that brahmacarya means “God is my co-pilot.” Which just goes to prove that the mysteries of life are always available on the back of a VW bus.

Brahmacarya is a powerful practice. It reminds me that there is a benevolent higher power constantly guiding my life. It helps me see the meaning of my journey. It helps me find opportunities to remember that everything I encounter is a manifestation of Oneness here to help guide me further along the path. The more time I spend in that state of awareness, the more peace, ease, and contentment I can find in my life – regardless of the storms raging around me.

The definition of brahmacarya as “walking in awareness of the highest reality” also makes sense in the context of the yamas which are a set of principles that can guide me in how to show up in the world. I think about ahimsa (non-harming), satya (honesty), asteya (non-stealing), and aparigraha (non-hoarding), as aspects of walking through the world in awareness of the highest reality. They are all satellites orbiting around the idea ofbrahmacarya. If I walk in the highest reality then I lose my compulsion toward harming, lying, cheating, and hoarding – because I see the wholeness everywhere and there’s no need to acquiesce to the fear that prompts those thoughts, feelings and/or behaviors.

Sexuality, on the other hand, is largely a private, intimate human experience. Unless there is a mental health pathology, most people don’t spend much time or energy trying to not have sex with everyone they meet.

My German boyfriend was a rebound. He showed up soon after a miserable breakup and helped me overcome grief and deep disappointment. At the time it felt as if a “higher reality” had showed up in the form this very sweet, kind person to help me get through what I needed to at that time – to let go of the past, to refocus, and to move on.

I felt as if a “higher reality” was there walking besides me, guiding me, and helping me through. And all these years later I know that the higher reality is always there, just waiting for me to turn my too often distractable, volatile attention towards it.

Just to bring a little closure to my tell-all love life story, a couple of years later I met my soulmate and we’ve been happily married for 22 years. Our meeting was something of a brahmacarya miracle, but I’ll save that for another blog…

Covid And Renewal


By Ann Cecil-Sterman

All through the Covid-19 period, patients have recounted conversations and stories of mysterious aspects of the virus. Today a patient told of the previous evening spent with a friend who works for a giant health insurance company. “It was awful. He told me that people can have antibodies and two weeks later the test can show that they have NO antibodies. They could get infected again! But the research doesn’t show that, so nobody knows what’s going on.” Another patient spoke about some friends—two couples—where one partner has antibodies and the other, none. Many stories I’ve heard during Covid have been about one person in a house becoming very ill and the others in the house symptom-free and not even testing positive later. Even people isolating perfectly can contract it. Others with Covid infection might only lose their sense of smell or have an annoying sore throat for a few days. One patient is fascinated by the story about the teenager who unknowingly contracted the virus in Florida, then went to a big graduation party in Westchester where there was no social distancing and very few tested positive. “All this news,” he said, ”and I have to tell you, I’m in touch with thousands of people, literally, and I can count on my hand the number of people I know who’ve been tested. Nobody wants to be tracked. If 8% of people tested are positive, then we might have 27 million cases in the States that we don’t know about! What’s your take on all this?”

My take is that so much of our energy is directed at not getting the virus, but our attention is better focused on our foundational health so that we can clear it easily if and when we are exposed. We know that people with pre-existing conditions are those that are have the greatest difficulty with the virus. (These are the so-called co-morbidities, but we would do well to use language with more finesse.) These conditions including mainly: high blood pressure, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, hepatitis B infection, lung disease (COPD), kidney disease, and cancer. What these diseases have in common is that they are diseases where Wei-defensive Qi—the very category of Qi needed to process the virus—is weak and suppressed.

Wei Qi is a fascinating phenomenon. I call it defensive-moving-receptive Qi.

  • It defends the body against the aftermath of a pathogenic infection.
  • It enables movement of the connective tissues so that we can move away from danger.
  • It gathers information to the sensory orifices so that we can be conscious of our environment and the respond to information from it.
  • It is the aspect of Qi that enables movement in the smooth muscle.

The last point is the key. Smooth muscle is present in the heart, lungs and blood vessels.

Wei Qi is a product of the Kidneys’ Yang (moving) aspect together with the fluids of the Stomach which are managed by the Spleen. Wei Qi is then distributed by the Lungs and the Liver. All the diseases named as principal co-morbidities in Covid are diseases of insufficiency of Wei Qi, since either its manufacture or management is impeded.

The standard Chinese Medical approach to the reconstitution of Wei Qi is two-fold: rest enough so that Kidney Yang can be restored, and hydrate enough so that Stomach Fluids can be afforded for Wei Qi manufacture. This does not mean drinking tons of water (an essential cleansing and flushing agent) but it does mean eating a lot of wet, ‘sloppy’ food—essentially fluids that flow slowly through the gut, maximizing their opportunity for absorption.

In our culture we eat processed, dried, convenient food, instead of what we were eating before the 1960’s: soups, stews and various porridges.

If we are to lower the death rate and the number of severe cases, this is the way. There is no alternate route to the immune system other than rest and the dense, rich fluids of simply cooked food. Juices and raw foods, while tantalizing, marvelous and exhilarating in the summer, if over-consumed will cool the gut down and weaken digestion. And sugar is out of the question. Sugar turns the immune system off in the first place. Sugar and sugar substitutes alike.

Viruses cannot be avoided. Every single person will have some exposure to the coronavirus. The vast majority will experience no symptoms. Nearly all the rest will have mild symptoms. Some will have severe symptoms and some will die. People will react to the virus in vastly different ways depending on their weaknesses, both inherited and resulting from their very individual health history and lifestyle habits.

Even with reliable testing (which we do not have) many with Covid will test negative as the virus has been put into latency by the Divergent Channels. These channels conduct the virus at the Wei (exterior) level and deposit it into the Yuan (deep constitutional) level, not the Ying level (blood). Another option it can use—the Luo Channel—brings blood-borne pathogens to the constitutional level, again out of the realm of Blood. Blood tests measure what is in the blood, but the body has a marvelous capacity to shift pathogens to places of latency, far away from blood and, importantly, from the organs. At the time of a blood test the body could be at any stage of its brilliant response to the pathogen. Some Wei Qi (including antibodies) engaged in the effort will go inward with the virus, rendering the blood not only clear of the virus but sometimes even clear of the antibodies. In many people, the pathogen may be undetectable in the blood and remain so perhaps for decades.

As I see it, the masks and distancing serve us in three ways. Firstly, it lowers the viral load. You don’t need a lot of virus to be served by it. A high viral load makes greater demands on Wei-defensive Qi and some people are too weak, tired or dehydrated to finance that response. Second, the distancing slows the rate of contraction down and the virus will weaken in an inverse proportion to the number of encounters, as global immunity (saturation) approaches. The other way masks and distancing helps is by soothing the populace. They stem the fear to a degree. Adrenaline and cortisol (Kidney Yang) are less taxed and therefore capacity for immune response (the manufacture of Wei Qi) is increased. Fear is more deadly than the virus in this sense—another co-morbidity.

So if it really is a foregone conclusion that everyone will encounter the virus, what extra things can we do to boost the body’s capacity for response? Typically, a viral encounter will elicit a release from the body. Because the function of viruses is to create change in consciousness, the physical glue that was holding the old view solidly in place must be evacuated. This is why the common cold (also a type of corona virus, incidentally) produces a great deal of mucus. Certainly much of this mucus is created as a vehicle for the eradication of the pathogen, but some of the phlegm has been resident long-term. As we sneeze, sweat, defecate, vomit or urinate out phlegm and pathogen, we are letting go of an outdated way of being. This is what it means to heal—to be freer in one’s views and in one’s body. This process is utterly impossible if that body is containing something that impedes its evacuations, or if the body is being subjected to practices or substances that confuse or suppress the immune system.

Foods the suppress the immune system are: sugar, sugar substitutes, cheese, milk, gluten, cold foods, and too much raw food, including juices. Sugar turns your immune system off quickly, and thickens the blood, making it sticky, a precursory condition for diabetes. Cheese, milk and gluten very often create phlegm that then traps the pathogen and holds it in the sinuses where it is constantly irritating and calling upon immunes responses. Cold foods and too much raw food and juices cool down the gut, resulting in incomplete digestion, leading to inflammation and then phlegm as a response to inflammation in the gut. The resulting mess prevents the creation of “pure fluids” (Jin-thin fluids) which are the cornerstone of the immune system—the very fluids for evacuation. Non-food substances that weaken the immune system include pesticides, glyphosate, preservatives, and any medication at all that suppresses Wei Qi responses, including sneezes, coughs, itchiness, sinus congestion, etc. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to see this virus bring its change without unnecessary loss of life? A large part of the answer may well be at the table, and before that, at the store, where we decide what will go in our mouths.

A virus is not alive. It’s just a package of instructions: “Hey, can you take this and make copies? And by the way, it’s going to alter your genetic code and ultimately the genetic code of all humanity, but it’s high time.” What we see in Covid is the response to the virus, not the actions of the virus. A fine, but crucial distinction. The body will engage with the virus, adopt the change, and then turn its attention to clearing out the debris. The corona virus seems to require the body to perform from a selection of several things in the clearing process: burn it up (fever), cough it out, vomit it out or defecate it out. But what if a person is taking a lot of anti-whatever drugs and their immune system (their Wei Qi) is depleted? These evacuation efforts will commence but fall way short. Instead of the required fever there’ll be a mild one or none at all. Instead of a productive cough, there’ll be a weakened, dry cough and a sore throat. Instead of free flowing clear mucus as a vehicle for the evacuation, there’ll be congestion. Instead of vomiting there’ll be nausea. All those symptoms then become erroneously classified as symptoms of the disease. Meanwhile, most people—those who do have sufficient Qi to push it off or out—will not even know they have encountered the virus, or may only have mild symptoms.

While we’re at it, why is it that the United States is so deeply affected by this virus? This is my take, and I’m sure it will sound strange to many. I think the answer lies in the Declaration of Independence, to this clause in particular: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The Covid period, from so many angles, brought into stark awareness that we are not living according to our own purported values as a culture, or that we haven’t quite been on our respective paths as individuals. Now, the changes are all around; they are happening, but are by any measure long overdue. Countless people (including me) have done major reassessments of the way they are thinking and living. Countless people are beginning to take a much deeper look at systemic racism and its subtleties of privilege and oppression. So many people were living without being focussed on what they really wanted to do. And on top of it all and underneath it all, the country is not operating according to its own foundational premise. The truth is out: America is living a lie. But with Covid comes a reckoning. Viruses have one job only: to create change both in individuals and in global consciousness. The country that is affected the most is the country that is most capable of change. There is now more spoken and written thought on change than perhaps in any period in history and most of it is coming from within the most diseased country. We want change and we have an agent for it. The losses are tragic, yes, but the future is tremendously bright.


Pausing & Returning: Instantly Reset Your Attention, Energy, and Presence

Originally published here on

Jillian Pransky web header

Dear Friends,

True relaxation is a conscious and intentional activity. We’re working with a system that is designed to not let its guard down easily. The more we pause, the more opportunity we have to grow relaxed and present.

We practice pausing and returning to the present so that we can choose to respond to the people and events in our lives from a place that’s more calm, clear, and open rather than react from old habits or stories that no longer serve us.

The bottom line is: the more we practice on the mat, the more our practice is there for us in the challenging moments of our lives. Ultimately, our time on the yoga mat is the ‘pre-game’. Our real practice begins, when we step off our mat.

In my Livestream Meditation and Yoga classes this week we will practice pausing and learn simple tools to help us come back to our breath and body; to relax and instantly reset our attention in the present moment.

Monday, June 22nd, 10 am – Meditation Mondays (Free)

Tuesday, June 23rd, 10 am – Mindful Flow: Recharge & Reconnect ($10/class)

Friday, June 26th, 10 am – Slow Flow and Deep Relaxation ($10/class)

If you wish to dive into a 5-day immersion, I am offering an at-home retreat with Kripalu July 13-17 2020 (Details below).

I hope to practice with you soon.

With gratitude,

The Neurobiology of De-escalation 

By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | June 18, 2020

I’m a little biased, but I think my son has always had a great sense of humor. When he was four he started putting raspberries on his fingertips and then letting them dance to a silly song he made up (Diit-diit-DEE, diit-diit DEE) before eating them one by one. It always made me laugh.

He’s an empathic kid and tunes into the emotions of those around him. When he was little, if I was having a rough day or feeling a little tense or glum, he would go get raspberries and do his dance for me until I giggled.

Right now, I think we all could use a lot more four-year-old raspberry fingers.

Tensions are running high, people are afraid, angry, hurt, ashamed and frustrated – or all of the above and remaining in these states for too long is a sure-fire way to ignite conflict.

But there’s something that we all know intuitively that de-stresses us and de-escalates conflict – laughter and play.

Dancing, playing, chanting, laughing, singing, drumming, play fighting (and even when we do certain yoga postures together with a feeling of play and fun) run nervous system circuits that create what Dr. Stephen Porges, author of Polyvagal Theory, calls the “Play/Dance” state. The Play/Dance state of the nervous system combines activation of two circuits – the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the ventral vagal complex (VVC).

The SNS is the circuit of the nervous system that gets revved up when we feel fear. It’s responsible for the “fight or flight” response. The VVC drives social engagement and elicits the “Tend and Befriend” response.

The National Guard doing the Macarena in Atlanta at a protest recently.

Can you see why the combination of the two might be useful for de-escalating? This state pivots between fight or flight and tend and befriend. It also appeals to our human need for connection, understanding and enjoyment. The Play/Dance state is essentially when we utilize some movement + a bit of excitement which = fun.

What’s particularly useful about this state is that it can help to de-escalate stress and tension between folks. Feeling frustrated and lonely? How about some dancing? Feeling ashamed or hurt by family member? Maybe tell a few jokes or do a little play fighting. Need to calm down and destress after a really hectic week? An asana class and chanting with friends?

There are so many possibilities.

In order to cultivate the Play/Dance state, protests often intuitively involve chanting, drumming, singing, puppets, and/or dancing. When you are in a group, addressing serious issues, it’s important to balance the tension, shame, pain and/or frustration with activities that activate the Play/Dance state. This leads to a reduction in individual tension, and an increase in feelings of connection, empathy, and being part of something greater than yourself in the group. The result is a de-escalation of fear and suspicion.

The Electric Slide has become the Black Lives Matter protest dance.

Also, when we move, sing, play, dance together we trigger mirror neuron networks that stimulate the insular cortex and help feel more empathic and see the and humanity in each other.

Now, if only politicians were required to do a little yoga or dancing together before they sit down to hammer out policy…

Wanna build greater resilience? Check out The Subtle Yoga Resilience Society!

Making Your Own Yoga Props

From Yoga for Healthy Aging

your own propsIn the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing my favorite supported inverted and calming poses with you. All of these poses require props of one sort or another. Now I know some people are reluctant to get started with props because they seem like such a hassle and maybe also because they’re seen as part of the whole distasteful “consumerist” aspect of yoga in America. But I’m afraid that for stress management, calming and restorative poses, props really are necessary. That’s because your body can relax much more effectively if it is being fully supported, rather than you having to use your muscles to support you.

However, using “props” doesn’t mean you need to run out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of specialized merchandise to duplicate what they have in your local yoga studio. In fact, for almost every prop we use in our poses, there is something in your house that you can use in its place.

Blocks. In most cases, you can use a book or a stack of books in place of a block. The only time you need to be careful about this is when you are placing both hands on a height (for example, in Downward-Facing Dog pose with hands on blocks). In this case, make sure the books are exactly the same height. And, of course, if you’re handy, there is no reason why you can’t make your own blocks out of pieces of wood you happen to have out in your garage. Just be sure to sand them well so you don’t get any splinters.

Straps. For a yoga strap substitute, look no further than your closet. Depending on which pose you’re doing, you can use an actual belt (leather or cloth). The sash from a bathrobe works quite well. You could even use an actual tie. And, yes, it’s nice to have one of those yoga strap buckles when you want to make a loop, but you could always tie a knot in the belt for the same effect. Just make sure that the cloth isn’t stretchy, as it won’t provide the necessary support if there is a lot of give to it.

Bolsters. I’d say if there’s one prop it’s worth investing in, a round bolster is my pick! Mine has lasted over 10 years, and has provided me with so much use and comfort…. That being said, you can “fake” a bolster by rolling a couple of blankets into a firm roll. Start with one single blanket that is folded into quarters. Then, from the narrow side, roll the blanket into a tight, firm roll. Then fold your second blanket into quarters. Finally, place the rolled-up first blanket on top of the flat second blanket, lining up the edges of both at narrow end, and then roll the second blanket around the first. Pretty close to a bolster, right? Another possibility is to use a sleeping bag that has been rolled up inside its bag for storage.

In many poses, the bolster doesn’t even need to be a round shape. In this case, you can fold some yoga blankets into long, thin rectangles and stack them on top of each other. This works well for reclined, supported poses, such as Reclined Cobbler’s pose, Reclined Hero pose, and Supported Savasana.

Blankets. The blankets used in yoga studios (and in our photographs) are wool, single-bed blankets, often from an Army Navy store. Because few people use real blankets any more, it’s a bit hard to find a substitute blanket in the house. The comforters and duvets we now use on our beds—when did that trend take over?—are too fluffy to provide any real support. However, when push comes to shove, a stack of towels can do the trick. Because towels are thinner than wool blankets, you’ll have to use more to achieve the same height. But some yoga studios, including some in India, use those very thin cotton hospital blankets, and you have to use quite a number of those, too. (I actually once taught yoga at a hospital, and we used those hospital blankets there, so I know. I’ve also done yoga in hotel rooms where I used the towels, so I know all about that, too.)

Yoga Mats. If you’re practicing on a wooden or carpeted floor, you might not even need a yoga mat at all for your standing poses. Try it and see. If you are resting your head on the floor, such as in an inverted pose, and the floor is too hard, you can put a thin towel under your head. You can also use a towel for cushioning your knees or any other part of your body.

Eye Pillows. 
An eye pillow has two functions. The first is to block out the light. For this purpose, you can drape a silk scarf or any other soft fabric over your eyes. The second purpose is to add a little weight to your eyelids, which can enhance relaxation. To add a little weight, you could wrap the silk scarf around a folded washcloth or even a small baggie filled with rice (hey, I just thought of that one).

Sandbags. So far, we haven’t been discussing and/or showing sandbags, but just so you know, a bag of rice or beans works just as well when you want to place a 1 or 5 pound weight on your body.

Be creative! Sometimes you can use various pieces of furniture in your house or hotel room, such as benches, ottomans, and coffee tables for various poses. I used to teach yoga in a room that had couches in it but no chairs, and at the end of class we used to do “Legs on a Couch pose,” which was my way of doing Easy Inverted pose. Baxter even uses a can of beans and rubber bands as props (see Friday Q&A: Bunions, a Can, and a Rubber Band). And we know teachers who use tennis and lacrosse balls for all kinds of evil—I mean, excellent—things.

That’s it for now, but if I’ve forgotten about anything important or you have some good ideas of your own, please let me know.

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