Summer Gentle Yoga Home Practice

Summer 2017 Home Practice Suggestions

This can take 10-30 minutes. You can shorten or lengthen it to fit the time available. You can select ‘sections’ of the practice to make each yoga practice what you want it to be, each time.  You can also just lie on your mat and breathe.

First just find a place in your home to lay out your mat and leave it there. You may find it entices you to lie down on it now and then, and then . . .See what happens.

1.    Knees bent and feet on the mat, move your body to the breath, tilting on exhale and gently arching the back on inhale – undulatating pelvic tilts.  You might add rasing and lowering the arms. You might add lifting the upper body and head to look between the knees on the exhalations

2.    Hips. Bring one bent knee towards the shoulder and draw it close,  to open SI joint. Circle the leg in its socket. Draw it across to opposite side for cross twist.  Stretch leg to ceiling and flex the foot to stretch back of the leg. Lower straight leg down and repeat on other leg.

3.    Seated stretches: Raise and lower arms with the breath. Add a side stretch. Add a gentle twist: one hand on opposite thigh and twist towards it.

4. Table: cat/cow, hip swings, ½ plank to open child’s pose. Move your spine all around.

5.   Back bend: from a ½ plank (knees on the mat and hips low) roll onto the belly and lift upper body to baby cobra.

7.     Standing: slow ½ Sun Salutations. Raise arms over head, lift chest for small back bend, forward bend, stretch back and hamstrings, forward bend, rise.

8.    Supine (lying on the back): full body stretch. Bridge.

Yoga for a Sore Neck

One of the most common discomforts that present at our yoga classes is a stiff and sore neck.

Why do our necks get sore? Think of the hard work they do ALL DAY LONG – holding up our heavy heads. Stress, poor posture, accidents, and long-stored physiological tension can all contribute to a mild stiff neck or even a full-blown muscle spasm. Add to this the hours we spend sitting in front of our computers and hunched over our digital devices. The repetitive movement patterns these demand also cause neck and shoulder strain.

Yoga can help with all that! Learning to move in ways that realign our posture helps release that tension and promotes more functional movement patterns. And simple stretches open up the constricted areas so energy flows freely.

Two common sense daily actions will help keep the neck muscles supple and relaxed so the tension doesn’t build up leading to a SORE NECK CRISIS.

1.    Stand and sit up straight. Good posture and proper alignment prevent a host of musculoskeletal and energetic issues that rounded shoulders, slumped spine, and over extended neck cause.

2.    Move your neck through its full range of motion every day. The muscles, bones, and connective tissue in our necks want to move and remain flexible as we age. The simple act of moving our neck forward and back, side to side, and in circles gives this important part of our body the attention and love it needs. 

Movements that reduce neck muscle tension are simple:

1.    Move the head in all 6 directions slowly, and with conscious breathing:

-       nodding NO (looking over each shoulder)

-       nodding YES (following chin to the chest and to the sky)

-       nodding MAYBE (each ear tipped down to its shoulder)

2.    Shoulder rolls, forward and back

3.    Shoulder see-saw - inhale,  raise your right shoulder as high as you can, while lowering your left. When exhaling, lower your right shoulder and raise your left. Coordinate your shoulder shrugs with your inhale and exhale for up to two minutes.

Asana (yoga poses) that improve posture and alignment feel good to do and have lasting positive effects:

1. Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Marjariasana (Cat Pose):

Cow-Cat pose is a gentle up-and-down flowing posture that brings flexibility to the entire spine. It stretches and lengthens the back torso and neck. It’s a wonderful and easy movement to open and create space through the entire neck. 

2. Balasana: Child’s pose is a deeply restorative pose that can be very relaxing for the neck and back. It can also help to reduce stress, anxiety, and mental tension.

3. Ardha Matsyendrasana

 The seated twist is a wonderful pose to bring flexibility to the entire spinal column. It provides an inner massage to the abdominal organs and encourages side-to-side flexibility of the neck.

4. Arm Across Chest Pose

Sit comfortably on the floor or on a chair with your spine straight, neck elongated, and shoulders in a relaxed position. Reach the right arm out so it is at shoulder height and bring it across the chest toward the left side of your body. Turn your gaze to look over your right shoulder. This pose will stretch the neck and back of the shoulders. Hold for approximately 8-10 breaths then switch sides.

4.    Viparita Karani (Legs Against the Wall Pose)

These movements and poses will help avoid a sore neck by keeping the neck muscles toned and relaxed, or manage a stiff or sore neck should it occur.  So consider incorporating them into your life – and gaze around your world in comfort.




Yoga for the Eyes

Watching, reading, scanning, searching, gazing . . . our eyes are working hard, all our waking hours. The muscles around them get tired and strained. Yoga can help.

Here are some exercises to strengthen eye muscles and relieve eye strain.

They can be done anywhere, any time and only take a few moments.

1.     Close your eyes as tightly as possible for 5 seconds. Open them and close them again. Repeat 6 times.

2.     Shut your eyes and roll your eyeballs around for a minute.

3.     Palming: rub your hands together and place them over your closed eyes. Give your eyes the occasional darkness they need to rejuvenate. Can be done anytime the eyes feel tired and in need of a break.

4.     Imagine a huge clock in front of you. Gaze up at number 12 for around 10 seconds. Then down to 6. Alternate looking at 12 and 6 rapidly several times. Then do the same with numbers 3 and 9. Then move them diagonally from 2 to 7, and 10 to 4.

5.     Sambhavi mudra: Look up to the 3rd eye (middle of the eyebrows). Then move your gaze down towards your nose. Hold for a few seconds there.

6.     Imagine an infinity sign or horizontal figure eight in front of you. Trace the eight with only your eyes slowly, about ten times, without moving your head. Blink between repetitions.


Be kind to your eyes.

1.     If you spend long times in front of a screen give your eyes a 2 minute break every half hour. Getting up and moving around will rest your eyes, and feel good for your whole body

2.     Exercising your body reduces pressure on the eyes so keep exercising.

3.     Make a conscious effort to blink more to lubricate your eyes.

4.     Dim the lights to reduce eye strain, including on your computer screen.

5.     Massage your eyes. It relieves tension or stress because it helps stimulate increased blood flow to targeted areas. Begin by gently massaging your upper eyelids for 10 seconds. Then, gently massage your lower eyelids.


Yoga for Osteoporosis


Yoga for Osteoporosis and osteopenia

 Osteoporosis is a disorder that thins and weakens bones, making them more porous.  Osteopenia, or low bone density, is a precursor to osteoporosis and puts one at an increased risk of fracture.

Boning Up:  The skeleton is very much alive, constantly breaking down and renewing itself in a two-step process called bone remodeling. The rate at which bone remodeling happens is affected by how much calcium is stored in the bones and introduced in the diet, as well as by three catalysts (vitamin D, hormones, and exercise) that determine how effectively the body uses calcium to build new bone and prevent bone loss through resorption. Osteoporosis results from an imbalance in remodeling—where too much old bone is broken down and removed, or too little new bone is formed, or both.

Maintenance Plan:  Peak bone mass is achieved by age 20. After about age 40, bone’s withdrawal period starts, and less bone is replaced during remodeling. For women, a drop in estrogen at the time of menopause leads to a more rapid and significant loss of bone mass.  Hormone replacement therapy was used in the past to strengthen bones and reduce fracture risk in postmenopausal women but was subsequently shown to significantly increased the risk of breast cancer and stroke.  But you can strengthen the bone mass you already have by:

1.    adding Vitamin D

2.    aerobic exercising, especially progressive-resistance exercise [such as jogging, jumping, or walking], where you move your body or a weight against gravity while you remain upright

3.    yoga,  specifically weight-bearing postures

 Yoga Practice for Osteoporosis

 DO Include weight bearing poses like table and plank, or half plank:


Chaturanga Dandasana and Extended Catcan also help strengthen bone.

Recognize the stress response from any health challenge and practice savasana, pranayama and meditation. These practices can shift the balance in the autonomic nervous system which in turn can promote. a better ratio of old bone being broken down and new bone being built. They also increase balance, reduce the fear of falling, and elevate mood, which research demonstrates are key for maintaining bone health.

Pranayama: Sitali (straw) Open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.” Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw. Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand. Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils. Continue doing sitali for 2 to 3 minutes.

Mudra: Rupa, gesture for osteoporosis and health of the skeletal system (see attached)


1.    Cat-Cow Pose, which can cause tiny fractures in the spine.  Also use caution and modification with other back bends.

2. Twists could also cause tiny fractures but are the best way  to strengthen the anterior part of the vertebral body.


It is important to maintain a neutral spine. Poses which put pressure on the neck, or the spine is in strong flexion or extension should be avoided. These include headstand, plough and shoulder stand.  Sun salutations should be done with bent knees and a long spine.

 Suggested Practice for osteoporosis and osteopenia: To build bone strength see



Keeping Hands and Fingers Strong and Flexible

Well functioning hands are a vital part of overall health and well being. As we age, however, hand function can decrease due to structural changes in joints, muscle, tendon, bone, nerve and receptors, blood supply and skin. Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, the ‘wear and tear’ common conditions in older people, cancause further challenges in comfort, strength and mobility.

Well chosen and regularly practiced exercises will help maintain functionality in the hands and fingers. Thumbs, in particular, will benefit from regular, fluid movements to avoid stiffness, which can interfere with daily activities. You might try these:

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     1. Simple -  stretch the hand and make a fist. Alternate several times with each hand

1. Simple -  stretch the hand and make a fist. Alternate several times with each hand

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    2.  Thumb cross  Start with hand in open position and fingers straight. Then bend the thumb and reach it across the palm to touch base of the baby finger. If you can’t reach all the way go as far as you can.  Return thumb to starting position and repeat several times with each hand.

2.  Thumb cross

Start with hand in open position and fingers straight. Then bend the thumb and reach it across the palm to touch base of the baby finger. If you can’t reach all the way go as far as you can.  Return thumb to starting position and repeat several times with each hand.

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     3. Finger dexterity    Start with hand in open position and fingers straight. Move the thumb across, holding down fingers as you stretch 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then reverse, extending 4, 3, 2 and 1. Repeat on both hands.

3. Finger dexterity

Start with hand in open position and fingers straight. Move the thumb across, holding down fingers as you stretch 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then reverse, extending 4, 3, 2 and 1. Repeat on both hands.

4. Rest hand on a flat surface, palm down. Move thumb away from the other fingers. Move index finger toward the thumb, followed by the other fingers one at a time. Repeat several times with each hand.





Yoga for Gardeners

Yoga and Gardening.

Connecting to the earth, nurturing growth, creating beauty.

Digging, planting, weeding, hauling bags of soil, reaching, bending, mowing, raking, tying,. . . . . the unparalleled ecstasy and agony of gardening.

For many of us gardening is a pleasure. It can also be the cause of sore backs, creaky knees and stiff joints. If there is one common factor that results in gardening aches and pains it is Alignment – twisting, pulling and pushing, and bending all cause shifts in the body which can stress joints and strain muscles. 

How can yoga help? Some gentle yoga poses can reduce or eliminate discomfort before, during and after your time in the garden.

 Before you start working in the garden prepare your body:

- stretch your lower  back  (Apanasana) Knees towards chest, squeezing and rocking.

-   create flexibility in your spine (Bitilasana) Cat-Cow pose


- stretch the inner thighs and open the hips. (Baddha Konasana) Tailer sit.

While gardening choose your stances carefully:

- when weeding try a wide leg forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana) Remember to keep knees soft and back straight.

-  when planting try a squat (Malasana) If your knees are good this is much better than leaning over. If your knees are cranky better to sit on a low stool.

- when heavy lifting, if you can’t delegate to a younger stronger person,  face the load straight on, bend your knees and avoid the ‘lift and twist”

 After you’re done, re-align and relax:

- gentle backbending to counteract all that forward bending.

- gentle forward bend to lengthen the spine (Yoga Mudra)

- realign the whole skeletal system with Legs Up the Wall (Viparata Karani)


And throughout your gardening session remember to breath slowly and deeply, smell the flowers, look around and enjoy the beauty you are creating..


Koshas - why know about them?

What are the Koshas and why do we want to understand them?

 Introduction to the koshas:

The Koshas give us a map of ourselves – layers of the self, like an onion, starting at the outermost layer of skin to the deep spiritual core. Understanding the koshas is a useful tool for deepening yoga practice and awareness of self in all aspects of life. Think of the Koshas as a series of Russian nesting dolls, each embedded within the others.

 Much like the chakra system, the koshas each have their own physiological function and psychology.

 Kosha perspective allow us to bring body, breath, mind, wisdom and spirit into harmony. We all experience this – when we feel stressed our  muscles tighten, breathing is shallow, thoughts and emotions are agitated, joy feels far away. When our systems are in harmony the body is comfortable, breathing is smooth and deep, thoughts and emotions are positive and calm, all seems ‘right’ with our world.

1. Annamaya kosha 

The first layer of the koshas represents the physical body, When we touch or move our body, we engage with annamayakosha. This layer might be where we spend the most time hanging out, locked in our physical senses.

 2. Pranamaya kosha 

 The second layer represents the energetic body: the circulatory system for prana, or “’life force’.  It includes the movement of breath through the respiratory system.  When we breathe deeply, feel surges of energy thoughout the body and co-ordinate movement with breathing we engage with pranamayakosha.

 3. Manomaya kosha 

The third layer takes us into the deep recesses of the mind, emotions and nervous system. In this layer we move from physical feeling and rhythm to emotional feeling.  Manomayakosha  expresses itself as waves of thought or awareness. When we sit in stillness and become aware of thoughts and emotions we engage with manomayakosha.  

 4. Vijanamaya kosha 

 In the fourth kosha we develop awareness, insight and consciousness. We recognize underlying beliefs and patterns and access wisdom or insight about our life journey. When we choose to feel or act with intention we engage with vijanamayakosha.

 5. Anandamaya kosha 

 The fifth and last kosha is our spiritual body. We move from conscious awareness into pure and radiant bliss. Within the anadamayakosha we experience ourselves as being part of all things, including the divine.

 Yoga helps us create a path to the deeper, subtle kosha layers, so they’re easier to access. Asana, physical practice prepares the outer body. Pranayama, conscious breathing, connects us to the energetic body. Yogic philosophy provides the tools for bringing awareness to our thoughts and emotions, values and inner wisdom so we can embody and radiate health and bliss. 

 (thank you to Shiva Rea  and Joseph Lepage for clarification)


Why practice yoga, and why we don’t.

We all know that yoga is good for us. Our friends, health care providers, magazines and kids tell us regularly.  We know it builds strength and balance. It increases our mobility, and improves our breathing. Not only all this, but yoga just make us feel good: calm, grounded, happy.

Yet we come up with lots of reasons not to: not to go to yoga class and not to roll out our mat and get on it at home. The 3 most common objections are time, money, and ability.

 “I’d love to do yoga but I don’t have time.”  Ask yourself : Are you a morning or evening person?  Do you live in the city? Can you walk or drive? Yoga centres offer classes from 6 am to evening to suit any time preferences. If you are up early in the morning or late in the evening you can make time for yoga. It can be a full 90 minute class or as little as a 10 minute home practice.

 “I just can’t afford it”. Ask yourself: Can you afford coffee, wine, clothing, gas, music . . . Yoga classes are available online, videos can be borrowed from the library, classes are held at community centres (free or low cost) at Yoga centres (class packages available), small groups or personalized one to one.  In other words, from free to costly. What is the cost of chiropractic,  physiotherapy, prescription drugs, medical procedures and recovery? Can you afford not to become and stay healthy with no added costs or side effects?

 “It’s not for me. I’m not flexible.” Or I’m too old, too heavy, too out of shape. Or it’s too slow and boring.Or I have a bad knee, hip, shoulder, or back.  Ask yourself : What are your yoga models? Do you picture the young, slim, flexible, spandex wearing gals from the media? They are just the poster people for the yoga industry. The fact is – Yoga is for everyone

Choose the right teacher and class, start at the right level, modify to meet your personal needs and yoga can help you be comfortable in your own body and move you into a healthier state of being.

 In the words Judith Hanson Lasater (Ph.D., Physical Therapist, yoga teacher and one of the founders of Yoga Journal magazine):

“People often ask me, is it necessary to practice yoga every day? I tell them, 'No, not at all. Just practice on the days you want to feel good!”




Yoga for Winter Walking Tension

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It’s been cold, warmer, colder, mild, freezing. We’ve had rain, freezing rain, sleet, hard snow, soft snow.  That means the ground is wet, icy, obstructed, dry,  (did I already say icy?) We watch our feet and anticipate the unexpected. That means our shoulders are hunched, our footing is cautious, our spines are rigid, our necks are stiff.

When we get indoors we are tight and tense and that’s not good! What to do? Easy to say “just relax” but how to do that?! Try these 3 simple moves to get grounded, loosen up those clenched muscles and let the energy flow your body again.  

Neck Tilt - Sit tall with your shoulders down. Tilt your head to the right side. Elongate your neck into the space to your right rather than aiming ear to shoulder. The opposite shoulder and side of the neck will lengthen as well. Hold for 3 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Yoga mudra – Standing or seated on chair: link fingers behind your back (or, if that is too far to reach, hold opposite wrist or thumb). Squeeze shoulder blades closer together and lift chest. Then forward bend and raise arms behind you just as far as they go – don’t force it.

Child's Pose – From hands and knees push back, moving buttocks towards the heels. Arms stretch out front, back lengthens. Chin drops so back of the neck elongates and forehead comes to the floor.  Ahh!



Yoga: Beneficial for Women with Breast Cancer

The ABC News (3/5, Krol) “Medical Unit” blog reports that research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that “yoga can help ease pain, fatigue and depression among women battling breast cancer.” Researchers “randomly assigned 191 women with breast cancer who were undergoing radiation therapy into one of three groups. One group did yoga, another did simple stretching exercises, and a third group did neither.”

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Happiness Rules to Live By

The following comes from 40 Tips for a Better Life by Deepak Belani.

  1. Take a 10–30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.
  2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.
  3. Live with the 3 E's — Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
  4. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, tai chi, and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.
  5. Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
  6. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
  7. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds and walnuts.
  8. Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and flowing energy into your life.
  9. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.
  10. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the energy vampires away.
  11. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  12. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
  13. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
  14. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
  15. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  16. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
  17. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  18. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Stay in touch.
  19. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
  20. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.
  21. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it. Enjoy the ride.

Advice for Beginners

How to Find the Right Path for You

There are countless paths, methods, traditions, religions, and yogas. Which should you choose? What's the best place to begin?

If you're hoping to find answers here, sorry. That's not possible. But we can suggest a few useful things to keep in mind while you ponder those questions for yourself:

  • The teacher may be more important than the tradition. If you find a teacher who has personal qualities you admire, who is genuinely kind to people, who cares about your happiness, who makes you feel the way you'd like to feel all the time -- that person may be the right teacher for you regardless of his or her tradition.
  • Awareness is an important component of many paths. You can't go wrong by being aware as much as possible.
  • Have fun. Pick something you enjoy.
  • Whichever path you choose, do it. This stuff only works if you devote yourself to it.
  • It's better to start out on some path now rather than postpone beginning while you search for the perfect path.
  • Don't worry about making a wrong choice. No matter which path you choose, you'll learn something from it. In fact, many people say you can walk on any path, and if you have the right intention, you will automatically progress toward the goal.


The application of the ancient science of Yoga to enhance health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological and spiritual.
— Joseph Lapage