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.

Yoga heals the body and the mind

Yoga heals the body and the mind.

Yoga heals the body and the mind.

Yoga is not just a passing fad for exercise elitists. Yoga is a safe and highly effective form of therapy for individuals seeking relief from post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety in the aftermath of abuse and trauma. Do you know how yoga works?

To learn more, read my latest story on CDN:

Yoga therapy for survivors of trauma and abuse

Namaste!
~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.

 

To my teacher training class… I love you!

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For the past 10 months, I have participated in a 200-hour yoga teacher training program. Outside of my day-job responsibilities, my life has been very yoga- centric and yoga-intense.

Although I love everything I have learned and the friendships I have formed, I am ready for a much-needed break once I complete my final test/practicum in two weeks.

The program was not an intense, emersion. Rather, it was a weekend-formatted program designed for busy folks like myself, people who have families and career responsibilities. My fellow yoga trainees come from varying backgrounds and cultures, range in age, and vary in gender. There are men, women, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, scientists, college students, college professors, engineers, poets, musicians, photographers, web developers, and world travelers.

For the past 10 months, one weekend per month (sometimes two weekends),
we were dedicated to practicing and training. Training weekends began with a 90-minute, Saturday-morning practice at 10:45 a.m. and ended with a 30-minute meditation on Sunday at 7:00 p.m.

In preparation for these weekends, we read yoga books, practiced yoga, read
some more yoga books, and did some more practice. From books on breathing, anatomy, history, and Ayurveda to practices of restorative, yin, vinyasa, and prenatal yoga, we consumed and digested a plethora of information both on and off the mat.

Once certified later this summer, some of us will go on to teach; some of us
won’t. But all of us, I suspect, will take what we’ve learned and deepen our
practices and continue journeying into ourselves.

This post is simply to thank my fellow trainees for their inspiration, dedication,
and motivation. I learned something from each and every member of my class and will never forget my experience and how it has changed me, my yoga practice, and my approach to teaching new students.

Thank you! I love you. Namaste!
~Paula

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.

Teaching Yoga to Women in Correctional Settings

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I will earn my yoga teacher certification in July 2014. I’ve decided I want to teach yoga to women behind bars and/or in community corrections.

Did you know that 85+% of incarcerated women self-report being involved in a domestic violence situation within 6 months of their arrest? If these women could get to a healthy level of self-worth and self-awareness, their rate of recidivism could drastically be reduced once released.

I think learning yoga and meditation could be the tool that empowers them to transform their lives for the better.

Certainly, the most difficult part will be earning their trust. I’ve worked in community corrections as an educator in the past. But somehow I think teaching yoga is going to be a bit different than teaching GED or ABE skills.

If anyone out there has specific experience or insight, let me know. My plan is to design a workshop series with a posture and meditation guide, something tangible the women can take away. So even if they decide they never want to take another class with me, they have a token that may serve as a motivator to return to yoga some day in the future.

Namaste!
~Paula


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.

(Image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/107945722292099400/)

The pleasant surprises of yoga

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My yoga practice surprises me daily. It’s one of the reasons I love yoga so much.

Whether it’s suddenly finding myself in a pose/asana I was unable to do last week or finding my mind free of a long-held, unwanted belief, I’m repeatedly and joyfully surprised.

Does yoga surprise you, too?


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.