Hope you are well and enjoying this Sunday with rest. Class schedule remains unchanged, Tuesday and Thursday at 4:30 and Sunday at 9:00 AM EST on Zoom, sign up through the website. A few students have asked about class a little later during the week; I wonder is there interest in moving one of the classes to 5:00, 5:15 or 5:30-or adding an additional class? As I mentioned, I am also considering adding a stretch class that would also be suitable for beginners. I would appreciate your feedback on these topics both if you are a regular attendee of those classes or if you would like to attend if the time were different. It is not a commitment to attend!
Please chare the social media posts and the links to the YouTube videos as public, and I appreciate your referrals very much. As always, if you or anyone you know is not practicing with us due to financial constraints, please message me privately.
Today being Valentine's Day inspired me to focus this week's classes on some heart opening poses and to spend some time speaking about Anahata, the heart chakra. The chakras are the main energy centers of the body. You've probably heard people talk about "unblocking" their chakras, which refers to the idea that when all of our chakras are open, energy can run through them freely, and harmony exists between the physical body, mind, and spirit. In Sanskrit, chakra means wheel so think of wheels of positive energy flowing through the body. Anahata chakra is the bridge between the lower chakras (associated with materiality) and the upper chakras (associated with spirituality). As the name suggests, this chakra can influence our ability to give and receive love—from others and ourselves. Someone with a blocked heart chakra will have difficulty fully opening up to the people in their life. If someone's heart is open, they can experience deep compassion and empathy. In today's practices, we did many heart openers focusing on unblocking physically, which would also be complemented by spiritual or mental heart opening.
When the heart chakra is closed off, physical manifestations can be slouching, poor posture. Practicing heart openers can sometimes stir up emotions and it is important to keep calm and aware of your feelings when practicing these poses. When we tense or have fear of our emotions we can create tenseness in the body which can lead to injury. Physical benefits of heart opening poses can be increased energy and reduced fatigue as well as increased spinal flexibility, strengthened back muscles and improved posture.
The strong heart opener, Camel Pose (Ustrasana) was one that we worked on today. It creates space in the chest/lungs and can increase breathing capacity. The pose also stimulates the kidneys, which improves digestion. In addtion to the benefits outlined for heart openers above, camel stretches the front of the body, particularly the chest, abdomen, quadriceps, and hip flexors, I modified instructions I found in a YogaInternational article to align with my learning and teaching:
Begin in a high kneeling position with your thighs parallel to each other and your hands on your lower back (fingers up or down). Tuck your toes under (later you can try with tops of the feet flat). Lift up out of your belly and waist to lengthen your spine. As you move into the backbend, lead with your chest and let your head follow (think rainbow versus leaning back). Try not to toss your head back but also avoid tucking chin or not moving your head at all. Initiate the backbend with your chest, and move the back of your head back (not the crown) to keep length in the back of your neck. This could be enough, hold for several breaths. If you want to take it a little further, you can reach one hand or both hands back towards your heels. Press pelvis forward thinking about the rainbow image or backbending over a huge exercise ball as you lead with your chest and move the back of your head back to follow. When you're ready to come up out of the pose, lead with your chest, pressing your hands at the lower back to support. Head comes up last.
Our quote today in support of love and the heart chakra was, “Learning how to love is the goal and the purpose of spiritual life–not learning how to develop psychic powers, not learning how to bow, chant, do yoga, or even meditate, but learning to love. Love is the truth. Love is the light.” Lama Surya Das
Nurturing Through Food:
Recipe - Dark Chocolate Pudding
You may know that I don't have a huge sweet tooth, but I do like dark chocolate. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I am sharing one of my favorite recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites, Dark Chocolate Pudding. The recipe below is exactly as written in the cookbook, however, since I do not eat dairy, I now modify with non dairy milk and serve with non dairy whip cream. It is incredibly easy and really good. Serves 4. Use good quality cocoa.
Ingredients: 3 T cornstarch, 3 T sugar, 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 cups skim milk, 1 t pure vanilla extract. In a saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar and cocoa. Add the milk and stir or whisk until very smooth. Cook on medium heat until the pudding comes to a boil and then lower the heat and gently simmer, stirring continuously, for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the vanilla, pour into a decorative serving bowl or individual custard cups. Serve warm or chill for a couple of hours until cold and set.
Have a great week and see you on the mat.