Legs Up the Wall

I LOVE Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani Mudra).

It’s my absolute favorite restorative yoga pose and often my favorite part of the day, especially after a lot of desk-sitting or a long drive or flight. As a restorative pose it’s simple to hold and it has most of the headstand’s benefits without the effort and skill of a headstand.

I often do a simple version with no bolsters. Penny demonstrates the simple version at the beginning of this video and she’ll also tell you some more of the amazing benefits. Enjoy!

Desk Yoga

Taming tension at your desk is an ongoing challenge if you spend much time there. Sometimes simple is the way to go, and this stretch can revitalize you on the spot. As you move through the steps, allow your movement to be fluid and easy from one step to the next.

  1. Push your chair back and sit toward the front of the chair, feet flat on the floor and belly button pulling in slightly toward your spine. Place your hands in your lap, palms up, one on top of the other.
  2. Stretch your arms out to the sides, parallel with the floor… and reach out through your fingers.
  3. Arms still outstretched, raise your hands up over your head until they meet each other and you can interlace your fingers.
  4. Turn your palms upward and reach for the sky.
  5. Arms still outstretched, lower them back to parallel with the floor, and then return to your starting position with hands in your lap.

Now add your breath like this …

Breathe in as you raise your arms and reach up. Breathe out as you lower your arms back to your sides and return your hands to your lap. Pace your movement so your breathing is comfortable, with no strain. Keep your movement smooth and easy.

How do you feel after doing this 2 or 3 times?

Even with simple movements like these, always maintain awareness and do what you know you can do safely. 

Meditation – Training your Puppy Mind

First, just because someone is sitting quietly with their eyes closed in meditation doesn’t mean they’re better at it than you are, even if you’ve never tried it before. Really.

There are a few more things you might like to know. You don’t have to sit on the floor to meditate. Meditation does not mean making your mind a blank, and you can never fail at meditation. It’s a practice and you start where you are. No tests. No pass, no fail.

I started meditating years ago because I was drawn to yoga, and meditation is part of yoga. At retreats I learned a method and I was hooked. I was also pretty sure that everyone else was doing it better than I was. My mind was distracted, my thoughts wandered and I would end the meditation feeling strangely guilty and glad no one could see inside my mind.

Over the years I grew to like meditation more and more. I grew to see my tangled, unruly mind as a puppy-mind. After all, we don’t expect puppies to train themselves, and we think they’re adorable. Why not pay the same loving attention to my mind? We train puppies step by step, and so it is with the mind. I found that paying attention to my puppy-mind, watching its antics, and gently redirecting it again and again to the focus of my meditation was very calming, very relaxing, very grounding. I’m still practicing.

I will say that over time my mind has learned to settle down and my wildest thought-ramblings are somewhat tamed. But the most important thing I’ve learned is that it’s called practice for a reason. We are practicing the art of concentration, just the way you might practice the piano or painting or throwing a baseball. Meditation is a learning process.

Here are a few methods of meditation for you to enjoy. Sitting in a posture with an upright spine is very helpful, and a straightback chair is perfectly fine.

  1. Choose an inspiring word or image as your focus. Repeat the word silently within, or hold the image in your mind in a steady way.
  2. Meditate on your breath. Pay attention to your breath as it comes in and goes out. That’s all. Follow it in, follow it out.
  3. Picture a flame in your heart. See it filling your heart with the glow of light, love and compassion. Feel it spread to fill your whole body… then gradually fill the room…  the building, your neighborhood, your city, your country, the world, the universe! When everything is filled with the glow of light, love and compassion, rest in that place for as long as you like.

Don’t worry when a thought interrupts your concentration. Simply return your attention to the focus of your meditation. And if you get lost in your thoughts for awhile before you’re even aware of having them, this is normal. What you’re practicing is: (1) Noticing and (2) Returning your attention to the meditation. We practice this over and over and over again. That’s meditation.

Did you know?  Meditation causes pain reduction roughly equivalent to the benefits of morphine. From an article called, Thinking Away the Pain: Meditation as cheap, self-administered morphine:

Consider a study by scientists at Wake Forest University. After only a few days of meditation training—teaching people to better focus their attention, concentrating less on the discomfort and more on a soothing stimulus—subjects reported a 57% reduction in the “unpleasantness” of their pain. Such improvements are roughly equivalent to the benefits of morphine.