Effort versus ease

By Guest Blogger: Eva Montalvo

Sthira Sukham Asanam

We may think that ease (sukha) is better than effort, because it just sounds so, well EASY.  Yet without effort (sthira) there is no strength or stability.  On the other hand, we can overdo effort and feel as if we are straining and stressed.

In yoga we come into poses (asanam) that may be relaxing, and others that feel more strenuous.  Practicing Sthira and Sukha really isn’t an either/or, though.  It is balancing both at the same time

For example, even in a relaxing stretch like child’s pose we can find a steadiness in our breathing and thoughts.  In a stronger pose such as Warrior II, even while feeling the effort of the body’s muscles used to hold the pose, we can still look for a lightness and comfort by letting the shoulders relax down away from the ears and softening the muscles of the face.

Often, we can find ease or contentment simply by letting go of expectations – what we think “should” be – and simply acknowledging what IS.  We can feel the pose and use the breath as a guide to that sweet spot of harmony within.

As you step off your mat and into your life, can you find this same balance of effort and ease?  For example, even while performing a task such as preparing dinner, I find a sense of ease by putting on my favorite music and reflecting on the day with gratitude.  

More about our guest blogger:

Eva is the Owner/Founder of Nourish Yoga & Wellness. Her mission is to inspire adults to live more energetically and vibrantly by helping them incorporate simple changes in their lifestyle, especially in learning how to move and breathe to connect to their body through yoga. She believes strongly in making yoga available for EVERY BODY and specializes in working with beginners and older adults. To learn more click here: https://www.nourishyogawellness.com/

Should?

Just because you CAN do something, does it mean you should? I recently realized while practicing yoga, after years of thinking I can’t do Camel Pose (Ustrasana), I actually can. Imagine that! I felt accomplished, proud of myself. All from a discovery that if I widened the space between my knees, I’m able to bend back just a bit deeper and take hold of my ankles. Prior to this discovery, I’d been priming my back with other poses which created some space. So I was ready at that time for this epiphany.

Fast forward about 2-3 weeks and I decide to teach it in class. First I demonstrate the gentle version of it, which I really like. And then for those who want to try a fuller expression, I demonstrate. The next day, I noticed sensation in my mid-back. The only explanation is that I should have stayed with the gentle version knowing that when I teach, I have a harder time being mindful of myself, because I’m focused on students. I did not, in that moment, have the ability to discern my best course of action. The Sanskrit for the concept of discernment is Vivek. I’d been learning about Vivek in a weekly class through the Princeton University Hindu Life Program. I had discovered the perfect lesson in Vivek (the hard way).

How can we take this lesson into our every day lives? Discerning how much we want to take in. One more news segment? One more Netflix series? Reaching, striving. One more commitment on the calendar? Should? Should not? Pause, breathe, think, weigh, assess…

Read more here about Camel Pose: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/camel-pose

Yoga In Place

While we’re sheltering in place (and even afterward), virtual yoga can be accessed from anywhere. If you’re enjoying the content I share, you may enjoy my virtual classes as well! If you’d like to be added to my email list for regular updates of virtual and in person offerings (some are free), it’s easy. Just email me at: lyn.sirota@gmail.com. See below:

For a limited time, I am offering a free virtual Yoga Nidra and Meditation experience.  Please ensure your account and device are set about 15 minutes in advance and gather your props: mat, cushion, blanket/s, pillow/s. Meet me in cyberspace!

~Remote Yoga Nidra (Deep Relaxation) and Meditation – Tuesday evenings 7:30-8:15 p.m. This can be practiced reclining or seated. Yoga nidra takes the student on a journey within connecting the mind/body through a series of steps to a quieter place for meditation. Ongoing until further notice.

~*New* Remote Mindful Chair Yoga and Meditation  – Tuesday mornings at 10:00 a.m. beginning 5/19 (includes 5/19, 5/26, 6/2, 6/9, and 6/16) Cost: $40. There will be subsequent sessions so please reach out if you’re interested. Registration is now open. Anyone who lives anywhere can join from the comfort of home and even in PJs!

~Remote Gentle Yoga and Meditation – Friday Mornings at 9:00. New session beginning  Friday, May 8th (five sessions: 5/8, 5/15, 5/22, 5/29, and 6/5). There will be subsequent sessions so please reach out if you’re interested. Cost $40. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

~*Hurry* Remote Gentle Yoga for Anxiety and Busy Minds – Saturday May 16th, 9:00-10:30.  In this class we’ll practice poses to calm the nervous system blended with mindfulness practices for anxiety. Cost $10. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home. This class is free for Healthcare professionals.

~Remote Gentle Yoga for Computer Users – Saturday, May 30th 9:00-10:30. Looking to counter the effects of heavy computer/device usage? Are your shoulders, neck, upper back bothering you and maybe even your wrists? Look no further, this Gentle Yoga class is for you! Cost $10. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

Enlightened Readers Book Group – Lyn/Lilavati leads these discussions on mostly historical fiction titles (with some exceptions). Next meeting TBD in June via Zoom. Princeton Integral Yoga Community Center, 12:00. Book discussion:  The Rules of Magic. This is a free offering.

Testimonials

“Chair yoga is a practice that nourishes the mind, body, and soul! I have found it outstanding “exercise” for arthritis as well. Instructor, Lyn Sirota understands joints and how movement and breath can relieve pain. For me, chair yoga is gentle impact and far better rehab than any physical therapy I’ve done. Give it a try!”

~Lynn R

“I’ve been a student in Lyn Lilavati Sirota’s Gentle Mat Yoga classes for several years now, and can’t imagine a week without this type of yoga practice that stretches my body and mind. During her class I can just focus on myself, learn breathing practices that help me cope with life and stress, practice staying (and living) in the moment, and of course stretch out my body. I feel renewed, less tense, more flexible, for the whole day!”

~Stephanie C

“I just wanted to thank you one more time for that amazing class this morning. You are truly so talented and I feel like this is the class I’ve been looking for all my life LOL! I loved the little extras that you added like explaining what each pose was and the reason for doing it, the reading of the passage, incorporating scents like lavender and eucalyptus. I defuse it with essential oil’s, but I really loved how your house smelled and so many other little things that really made it the perfect class. I look forward to joining more in the future.”

~Joanne H

“Thank you for giving so much of yourself to your students. I feel so calm and safe in your classes.”

~Tamar B

Trikonasana-Triangle Pose

Trikonasana (TREE-kone-AA-SUN-aa) — is an asana (posture) that activates and moves energy through the entire body by stretching the side body and challenging the balance. This asana is named from the Sanskrit words, Trikona, meaning triangle, and asana.

Some of the benefits

Stretches and opens the hips, chest, and lengthens the spine.

Opens the hamstrings, groin, calves, and shoulders.

Stretches and tones the muscles of the legs.

Stretches the intercostal muscles of the rib cage.

Strengthens the neck. Note: ensure the head isn’t droppping down to the shoulder.

Can bring relief to backaches and menstrual cramps.

Gives a deep, full, nourishing stretch to the sides of the body.

Strengthens the legs, knees, ankles, arms, and chest.

Increases mental and physical balance.

Improves digestion.

Reduces anxiety, stress, back pain, and sciatica

Finding Savasana

Savasana, or more fondly, Corpse Pose is not an easy pose to find. According to the yoga masters, the hardest pose to practice. Letting go and being in stillness is a tall order. Life gets in the way, but it doesn’t have to.

Take a few moments of your day to connect with the earth through your body. Walk barefoot and really feel the earth with mindful, slow steps. Connect through your eyes, through your nose. Watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly. It’s a great start!

Right in this Moment!

Whether your practice is yoga, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, golf, or other beautiful moving meditations, every moment is an opportunity to grow your practice. Yes, every minute. How? By paying attention to your thoughts, your breath, your energy (physical, spiritual, emotional, cognitive, etc.). Your entire landscape. It’s being here now. Right in this moment.

Look inside and ask yourself questions. What can I do to grow? I have asked myself this question and the answer is my destiny. I am moving my Friday yoga classes from the Township to the Sand Hills Wellness center. There, they are a better fit in mind and body. Not only will my teaching practice grow, but there will be growth opportunities for students. This is a quiet, supportive, nourishing space. The setting for new practices will avail, there are many yoga props for new practices (bolster pillows, straps, extra mats, etc.). Props will also better support current practices. They make poses more accessible for the body. The wall space will be something completely new for students (note: an entire yoga class can be taught using the wall). Standing poses using the wall will grow and deepen with better alignment and support.

If you haven’t signed up for classes at Sand Hills, what are you waiting for? Class size is limited. Join me today…right in this moment!

Contact: lyn.sirota@gmail.com or 732-241-7497

Get Your Spot!

A gentle reminder that there are only 4 classes left in the Franklin Township program I’m teaching. If you’re in that program (Gentle Mat Yoga or Chair Yoga both on Fridays) and want to continue your yoga journey with me, it’s time to get your spot in the new location at Sand Hills Wellness Center (just 10-15 minutes from the current location). Information is below with details.

This new space offers many other wellness services from massage to nutritional assistance. The yoga space is beautiful with a vast array of props all at the students disposal to make poses more relaxing, inviting, and accessible. Please share!

 

Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani or legs-up-the-wall is one of the best yoga postures to use for back issues and overall relaxation. While not considered an inversion, it benefits the body by helping the blood circulate toward the upper body and head, thus creating a feeling of restoration. It helps realign the body after prolonged standing or sitting and is particularly nice if you’re feeling stressed, fatigued, or even jet-lagged. It’s a posture that promotes the feeling of the myriad of positive results of doing less, not more. It creates a paradigm shift in the mind and activates the relaxation response in the parasympathetic nervous system (a countering of the fight or flight response in the sympathetic nervous system).

In Yin Yoga, a more passive and meditative form of yoga, this posture targets the kidney and benefits the urinary bladder meridian. It helps to reduce swelling in the body and  tempers overall anxiety. It’s also effective for fatigue and insomnia. Note: Another variation of this posture is legs up the chair.

Additional Benefits:

  • Alleviates headaches
  • Boosts energy
  • Can help to soothe menstrual cramps (some yoga traditions advice against doing Viparita Karani during menstruation)
  • Relieves lower-back pain

Contraindications: Glaucoma, Hypertension, Hernia

 

The Beauty of Balasana

Balasana (Child’s pose) is a beautiful, multi-functional posture that can provide a soothing, nourishing respite from the outer world. Yes, a mini vacation!

It is an asana (posture) that stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. By having your brain beneath your heart, you receive the benefits of being in an inversion that isn’t too taxing on your shoulders or neck. It relieves back and neck pain when the head and torso are supported. The forward bend of the torso and positioning of the head can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” feature of the autonomic nervous system. It can also tone the vagus nerve (which regulates the heart, blood pressure, digestion, etc.). Toning the vagus nerve is becoming a treatment for many issues, such as migraines, Parkinson’s, PTSD, epilepsy, and depression/anxiety to name a few.

Balasana allows you to check in with your body and breath. It’s restful and restorative. It can even be practiced in bed! It’s a wonderful tool to connect with your back body. While in this pose: Tune into your breath. Feel your back body rise with your inhale and lower with your exhale. Follow the breath up and down the spine. After several breaths, shift your attention and awareness to the ribs, feeling them widen with your inhale and soften with the exhale.

You may need to modify this posture for comfort. Or just like other yoga poses, listen to your body, and know when to back off.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • If it’s difficult to rest your buttocks on your heels, place a folded blanket between the backs of your thighs and your calves.
  • Try spreading knees wider apart. This can prompt a deeper stretch in the hips.
  • Cushion the top of your feet with a blanket or fold your mat for padding under feet.
  • Support your forehead with a firm pillow, block, or blanket. You can also stack your hands and rest your head on your hands.
  • Extending your arms opens the shoulders and chest.  Doing this makes the pose more active versus restorative. Note: see the featured image in this post. As an alternative, try resting your arms alongside your thighs, palms up, giving your shoulders a well-deserved break.

For more information on Balasana (Child’s Pose) click here:  https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/child-s-pose