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

Originally published here on JillianPransky.com

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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,
Jillian

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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Practice live with Jillian Pransky

Dear friends,

While I am deeply missing the connection of being in community and sharing yoga in person, I was full of gratitude for the opportunity to gather together Live on Zoom last Friday for practice. It certainly helped me to feel more Calm, Clear, and Connected! (To those of you there, big thank you!). Below you will find the readings I offered during class.

I am now looking forward to sharing two Live Zoom Practices this week:
Friday April 10: Slow Flow and Deep Relaxation 10am EDT

Sunday April 12: Evening Unwind: Release and Restore 8pm EDT.

If you can’t join us live, all registrants may access the class recording for three days after it streams.

Should you wish to create more calm right now, I’ve included several FREE practices below.

And may we all remember – that each time we pause to calm ourselves, to come back to our breath and body, it’s not only good for us, it’s good for everyone we come into contact with. It’s a real way of spreading peace on the planet (even at a ‘social distance’). So thank you for practicing.

May you be safe, well and at ease.
May all beings be safe, well and at ease.

With Love

Jillian

PS. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to share “relaxation” practice during this very challenging time. Please read my latest blog: Relaxing During Difficult Times: Like Waking Up During A Colonoscopy or In The Midst Of The Covid 19 Crisis

A message from the founder of Prama Institute and Wellness Center

Prama Institute

Click here to view this important video message from Sid Jordan

​Our original idea behind the Prama Institute and Wellness Center was to provide an affordable holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What makes Prama a special place to restore one’s dynamic balance, according to our attendees, is the beauty of the inner and outer “sacred space” evoked by the environment, facilities, staff, food and holistic programs. However the road to that “sacred space” is often difficult in the beginning.

We come to realize that achieving a balance in our physical, emotional, social and spiritual lives requires a longer journey of a shift in our life styles. It is for this reason that we see so many people return time and time again to the Prama Institute and Wellness Center to affirm and reaffirm that dynamic balance that Prama personifies for their lives. Please help us to continue our mission by donating to our holiday fundraiser. Read more about our history here.

New friends enjoying their last juice after the 5 day juice cleanse this past weekend!

​Are you feeling stressed and fatigued from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? It is the perfect time to start planning for your first cleanse of the New Year!

 

Bikram, So-Cal, and Priming for a Predator

I love Southern California – the sun, the sea, the optimism, the creativity!

And. . .it’s no secret that there’s a dark underbelly to the culture. I would argue that it’s this shadow side of the sunshine state that creates a fertile breeding ground for perpetrators like Bikram. When the Netflix documentary came out a few weeks ago I thought, “Yeah, I guess I should schedule that in,” (with about as much enthusiasm as I have for a pap smear). But, a few days ago, I managed to get through it. Read more here…

🙏

Kristine

Kristine Kaoverii Weber, MA, C-IAYT, ERYT500, YACEP
Director, Subtle® Health, LLC and Subtle® Yoga Professional Trainings
P.O. Box 727
Asheville, NC 28802