Easy bedtime yoga sequence for a better night’s sleep

Legs up the wall and seated forward bend - September 26, 2014

Legs up the wall and seated forward bend – September 26, 2014

(Casper, the company that reimagined the mattress, tweeted this post!! Maybe they’ll feature me on their blog next.)

Bedtime sequence: Legs up the wall to seated forward fold to savasana to sleep


Growing up, I shared a room with my younger sister. We had bunk beds on one wall, a dresser with a mirror on another, and a bookshelf filled with books and boardgames on a third. We spent a lot of time together in our room playing (and fighting), talking and growing closer.

The best time for bonding and togetherness happened at night after our mom tucked us in and kissed us each good night. When the lights went out and the door closed, our room came alive with whispers and giggles. We enjoyed conversations that gradually dissipated into the darkness until all that could be heard–if you were a fly on the wall–were our deep inhales and exhales. Sometimes, if my sister fell to sleep before me, I would focus on the rhythm of her breath coming from the bunk below, which soon lulled me fast asleep.

I look back now and think, “How very yoga-like and comforting we were for each other.”

Today, I have a 9-year-old son. He has no siblings, and sometimes I feel guilty about that, especially when it’s time to tuck him into bed at night. When I turn away and shut the door, he is alone in the darkness. There are no whisperings or shared laughter or the gentle sound of inhales and exhales in tandem.

It’s just him.

So I make it a habit each night to spend time together on my bed just before tucking him into his bed for the night.

We sprawl out on the mattress, talking and giggling and  sometimes hitting each other with pillows. Most nights, we even practice a few gentle yoga postures together.

He likes headstands, while I prefer shoulder stands or legs up the wall to relieve pressure in my lower back and legs. We both like countering those poses with a seated forward fold and even make it a game to see who can touch their toes and hold the position the longest.

Although it’s a challenge some nights, we end the ritual lying still and quietly in savasana (corpse pose) for a few minutes just breathing and meditating on the sound of our collective breath.

He may view this as a quirky request from his mother…I don’t know. But I can’t help but believe that when I do step out of his room at night leaving him alone on his bed, he can still hear the sound of our collective breathing in his mind and find comfort in the darkness.


Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)

Benefits (list source – Yoga Journal):

This pose is considered by many to be a restorative posture and may help to:

  • Relieve tired or cramped legs and feet
  • Gently stretch the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck
  • Relieve mild backache
  • Calm the mind

Getting into the pose

Start with your pillows or rolled blanket or bolster about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit to the right of the pillow with your right side against the wall. Exhale and swing your legs up onto the wall. Your buttocks is as close to the wall as possible (not on the pillow) while your lower back rests on the pillow/bolster and your shoulders and head rest onto the mattress behind you. Extend and straighten your legs to a point that is comfortable for you. (You can also move further away from the wall and bend your legs deep enough to place the soles of your feet on the wall.) Flex your feet and engage the front and back of your calves and thighs. You will feel a gentle release of tension in your lower back and hips. Your arms are either outstretched on either side of your body or can be placed on your belly or chest. Focus on your breath and gently and deeply inhale through your mouth and exhale through your mouth.

Hold Time:

5 to 15 minutes

Coming out of the pose:

Do not twist or contort your body to come out of the posture. Either slide backwards off the pillow putting your butt on the mattress or bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the pillow and move it to the side. Lower your pelvis to the mattress and turn to the side. Stay on your side for a few breaths then come up to sitting with an exhalation.

(Read more about viparita karani here.)

Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Benefits (list source – Yoga Journal):

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings
  • Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis

Getting into the pose:

From a seated position at the top of the bed either directly on the mattress or using a pillow to prop your pelvis, extend your legs straight out in front of you. Flex your feet and toes to the ceiling. Adjust your sits bones as needed for comfort. Place your hands firmly on the mattress on either side of your hip bones. Inhale and lift your sternum (chest) energetically to the sky as the backs of your thighs and knees gently relax and straighten meeting the mattress. Draw in your groin toward the pelvis and inhale deeply and begin to fold forward from your hip joint, not your waist. Extend your arms out in front of you and touch or grab your toes. Your torso rests on your thighs. With each inhale, lift through your pelvis. With each exhale, relax deeper into the pose bending your elbows the deeper your are able to extend the crown of your head forward closer to your toes. If you are not able to go that deep, no worries. Fold forward as far as you can and place your hands on your thighs or shins, whichever is accessible to you today. It’s not about depth but about engagement of your breath and body together. The benefits are the same regardless of depth.

Hold time:

1 to 3 minutes

Coming out of the pose:

Lift the torso away from the thighs and straighten the elbows again if they are bent. Inhale and lift the torso up by pulling the tailbone down and into the pelvis. Relax back into savasana for 5 to 10 minutes.

(Read more about paschimottanasana here.)

Sweet dreams!

Paula


 

Paula Carrasquilo is a certified yoga teacher, health coach and author of Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Follow her on Twitter and on her Love-Life-Om blog.

Side Crow Pose (Parsva Bakasana)

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Practicing side crow in my dining room – 9/6/2014

Today’s yoga pose: Side Crow Pose (Parsva Bakasana) is an arm-balancing posture that challenges and builds balance, strength and patience. Do not expect to get into this pose the very first time you try it. And expect to be challenged in different ways depending on which side you do.

Getting into the pose (instructions for right side):

  1. Sit comfortably on the floor or mat with your legs extended straight in front of you.
  2. Cross your right leg over top your left knee and place the sole of your right foot firmly on the ground on the outside of your left knee.
  3. Gently bend your left knee and pull your left leg toward your body, rest your left thigh and shin on the ground and your left foot on the outside of your right hip.
  4. Gently twist your upper body to the right and place both hands on the ground on the right side of your body shoulder width apart, palms flat and fingers splayed and grounded.
  5. Keeping your legs crossed in front of you, begin shifting your weight to the right into your shoulders, arms and hands. Your buttocks will natural rise from the floor.
  6. Re-position yourself so your left elbow is pressed against your right knee and your right elbow is pressed against your right hip.
  7. Keep your gaze focused on a spot on the floor just beyond your hands and begin to slowly shift all of your weight into your shoulders, arms and wrists. Your feet will naturally come off the floor the more you shift your weight forward into your arms.
  8. Maintain your gaze, breathe and if it’s available to you, extend your legs straight out to the side. Your elbows maintain contact with your right thigh and hip.
  9. Repeat on the opposite side.


Namaste!

~Paula

Back to Bikram at a non-affiliated Bikram Studio

After 5 months of searching, I finally discovered a studio that teaches Bikram Yoga but is not a Bikram Yoga affiliate/franchise.

If you read my post from January about mourning my Bikram Yoga practice, you know I gave up the practice after much struggle, thought, and consideration.

I am a survivor of abuse and work every day to bring awareness and help to others struggling in the aftermath of their abuse. When I discovered the abuse and sexual assault allegations against Bikram Choudhury, I had to consider their legitimacy based on the combination of multiple allegations and on what my gut and intuition was telling me.

And because the majority of studios that teach Bikram Yoga are affiliates and pay fees to Bikram, Inc., I could no longer reconcile giving my hard-earned money and energy to a man and empire that directly counters my ultimate hopes for this world.

Last week, my husband, son, and I were driving through Bethesda. I glanced over in the direction of the Bikram Yoga Bethesda studio and was shocked to see that the name of the studio had changed to Pure Om Yoga. I immediately grabbed my phone and messaged the studio through its Facebook page asking if they still offered Bikram-style yoga and if they remained affiliated with the Bikram brand and empire. Happily surprised, I received a response within an hour confirming that they still taught the same yoga but were no longer affiliated with Bikram, Inc.

Do yo have any idea how thrilled I was? Despite who and what Bikram is today, he created a series of poses and breathing exercises that helped me in many ways. Like with any style, there are teachers who exploit and harm through inflated egos and their need to be revered as gurus.

I just want the yoga without the guru and without knowing my money is lining the pockets of an empire that misrepresents all that I have come to understand and love about yoga and life on this planet.

I am a conscientious consumer. Every day and with each new experience, I become more and more aware of what I put into my body and where and with whom I interact daily. As information is provided to me, I will continue to make choices that resonate with my core values and beliefs. As a deep feeler and emotional person who has been harmed in the past by overlooking the seemingly insignificant misdeeds of those around me, I can never again compromise my core beliefs, as I have in the past, for the sake of convenience.

I visited Pure Om Yoga on Saturday and went back on Sunday. The anxieties I had been feeling a few months ago before I quit my Bikram Yoga practice no longer interfered with my conscience while on the mat and in the hot room. Where I was drained prior, I am invigorated today.

Outside of this explanation, I can’t express exactly how that “letting go” filled me with peace, joy, and hope.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2014 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

I’m going to be featured in OM Yoga Magazine!

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International, UK-based OM Yoga Magazine will feature my book (Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath), me and fellow survivor, blogger, and entrepreneur, Andrea Clark, in their upcoming edition.

As part of a larger story on the benefits of yoga and meditation for domestic violence victims and their children, our professional bios and contributions to issues of safety, DV/abuse recovery, and sociopath awareness will be highlighted.

To put an international spotlight on survivors of sociopath/pathological abuse is HUGE!! It’s huge for everyone from victims to those who offer assistance and support to survivors in recovery.

Please checkout Andrea’s blog, The Eternal Victim and her Safe Girl Security site.

Also, consider following OM Yoga Magazine or getting a subscription. Their mobile app is free!

Namaste!
~Paula

Energy of Yoga on the Mall with Shiva Rae and the Akoma Drummers

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I participated in the 9th annual Yoga on the Mall on Saturday, May 3, 2014. This event was free and part of DC Yoga Week.

Needless to say, I was exceptionally anxious last week leading up to the event. I was up very early Saturday morning and met a group of fellow yoga teacher trainees at the Shady Grove metro station at 7:30 a.m. We each had our mats over our shoulders and the expectation that we were going to have a great time…I think we were all pleasantly surprised.

The specific location of the event was on a grassy, sloping hill adjacent to the Constitution Gardens Pond near the Vietnam War Memorial. The Washington Monument was the back drop.

Much to our surprise, we were the first yogis to arrive! The event crew was still setting up the stage as we formed a cozy row of mats near the front of the stage. Soon, we were joined by a few other friends and many, many strangers trickling in behind us. Music played, and I grew more and more anxious to get started. I really wasn’t prepared for what I was about to experience.

Hawat Kasat, co-founder of the DC-based non-profit One Common Unity, was our host and MC. He introduced himself, the drummers and the volunteers walking around the hill offering assistance to participants.

The first part of the event was a 30-minute beginners class led by two local yoga instructors: Annie Moyer of Sun & Moon Yoga Studio in Arlington, Va. and Arlet Kosein of Extend Yoga in Bethesda, Md.

Gentle sun salutations and twists warmed our muscles and connected us each to the other. I’d never experienced such a strong group consciousness and energy. I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed, but allowed myself to feel whatever sensations my body and mind wanted to feel.

After the 30-minute beginner class, several local yogis got up on stage and demo-ed poses in a gentle flowing exhibition as music floated in the background. There were some amazing demonstrations of arm balances and back bends and forward folds. Just amazing to watch and a great opportunity for me to absorb the beginner class.

Then Kristen Arant, the Drum Lady, led the 6,000 participants in music and singing/chanting and movement in preparation for Shiva Rae to take the stage who led a one-hour flow class. Kristen was accompanied by her “brother” drummers, the Akoma Drummers, and there was no denying their beat. As a participant, my only choice was to move with it.

Then it was time for Shiva Rae to take the stage. To be honest, I had no idea Shiva Rae was going to be there. I had come across her name and some of her images sporadically over the past few months. I knew very little about her but knew that she was an inspiration to many. And she did not disappoint.

For the first few minutes of her hour on stage, she energetically spoke to the crowd in a voice that resonated as genuine, compassionate and natural. There was nothing contrived. She seemed to really care about being there and leading the group. At one point, she walked into the middle of the crowd and asked us to roll up our mats and touch the earth. Our first movements of her class were done mat-free! It was rather liberating and freeing. A great reminder that we don’t need a mat to practice and can get close to nature doing our yoga at any time and in any place.

As the hour came to a close, she asked everyone to gather our belongings and move closer to the stage. The drummers drummed and everyone danced together for the last seven minutes or so. Truly amazing.

As Hawah thanked the crowd and invited everyone to come again next year, I couldn’t control my welling emotions any longer and finally released my tears. Luckily, my friend Birgit was next to me and offered me her shoulder and a hug. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed by the positive and contagious energy the group had formulated and continued to sustain in the aftermath of practicing, singing, chanting and dancing together.

Just amazing. I recommend such an event to anyone and everyone…even those fearful of large crowds like myself. As a matter of fact, I’m heading to the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Philadelphia on Saturday, June 7. Anyone interested in joining me?

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2014 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate and lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Article share: 7 Scientific Examples of When Yoga is the Best Medicine

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Victims of domestic violence, war veterans, children with autism, caregivers…all proven to benefit from a therapeutic yoga practice.

It’s amazing to find this information in one place. I have experienced many of these benefits personally.

7 Scientific Examples of When Yoga is the Best Medicine:

Yoga helped me calm my mind long enough to allow my old habits to be broken and for my brain to get rewired toward focusing on life-preserving behaviors, thoughts and actions.

Yoga is amazing! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself to be honest. 🙂

Namaste!
~Paula

(Image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/235031674273329001/)