Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Energy Flow: Yin/Yang Yoga


"Though we all have the fear and the seeds of anger within us, we must learn 
not to water those seeds and instead nourish our positive qualities - 
those of compassion, understanding, and loving kindness." 
Thich Nhat Hanh

Staying present with mental, emotional, and physical sensations in the body is an ongoing conversation. Listening, observing, and acknowledging without reacting is a moment to moment practice of mindfulness. These days there is a lot to process externally, the way we live our lives is changing rapidly, and can become overwhelming quickly. Lately, I've been drawn to a quieter practice, one that allows me to mentally focus on sensation and breath while challenging my physical body. The shapes, when held for 1 minute or more, gently release muscles and connective tissues, while softening my overall disposition.

Yin yoga is a slower paced movement practice that incorporates the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, with specific poses that are held for longer periods of time.

There are 3 main principles of yin yoga.
1. Enter the shape to your appropriate depth of sensation.
2. Allow gravity to take you deeper into the stretch.
3. Stay in the pose for 1, 3, 5 10 minutes based on your comfort.

Start with shorter time increments and work your way up to longer time holds. Remember, your body sensation changes day to day, and each respective side of the body may have different boundaries.
The qualities of settling and sensing, sinking and staying provides the basis for a 'needle-less' acupuncture session.

Yin Yoga: Liver/Gallbladder short session

This short yin session focuses on strengthening the liver/gallbladder meridian lines in the legs, pelvis, hips, low abdomen, chest, neck, and throat. In Chinese Meridian Theory, the liver/gallbladder meridians are paired to harmonize the elements of yin/yang energy. These organs work together to assist in the healthy flow of energy, when these organs are in balance, the flow is clear and unobstructed.

The liver is associated with our ability to change and adapt, to stay flexible with what life brings to our days. The gallbladder relates to our staying the course, to follow our path in life. It also relates to our capacity to regain equilibrium after inevitable disruptions. The combined emotional connections are anger vs compassion. This short session tackles the tension that can build up in hips and hearts. General discomfort in the upper shoulders and back (behind the heart), low back and hips are reflective of heaviness, a weight of discontent. Chronic anger, frustration, explosive impulsivity, defensiveness and resistance build up over time. These emotions must reside somewhere if not let go. Notice if there is a place in your body where you feel tightness regularly, now breathe into those areas with a gentle quality of tenderness. This is the first step in the practice. It is much easier to succumb to unhealthy coping skills by making choices that quickly relieve or numb. Begin with the breath, give yourself time, care, love and compassion without judgment. It is not the quicker fix, but it does chip away at the root of it all. The goal is to keep the energy flowing. The sense door for the liver/gallbladder channel are the eyes. Energy that flows swiftly and freely allows for clarity of vision. Look deeper into what you want, need and feel.

The poses chosen for this short yin session heighten the inner aspect of the legs, knees, hips, pelvis, groin, abdomen, chest, neck and throat. Set a timer and enjoy the yin flow.




Safety: This video focuses on the energy lines of the body related to the liver and gallbladder, it is not a replacement for conventional medical care if needed. Be guided by comfort and breath.

Music credit: Opus 23 by Dustin O'Halloran


Yang Yoga: Body in Balance

Balance in life is everything. We balance work, responsibility, decisions, choices, emotions, and actions. To find that sweet spot of homeostasis we need to breathe and move, elevate our hearts to receive. Strength and grounding requires a firm base for growth to take shape and flourish. Listening and observing what is needed day to day, or moment to moment allows for opportunities to cultivate an attitude of attentiveness, awareness and loving kindness. While yin yoga attends to our inner energy to build a slow and steady softening with static poses, yang yoga is mobile, creating space to warm up the joints, lengthen the extremities, progressing towards potential of adaptability and endurance and strength. Finding an appropriate edge to push ourselves to a point of challenge and effort without injury increases our body's capacity to evolve. 



Safety: This is a moderate grounding practice, stay safe and be guided by breath and comfort. 

With love and care,
Michelle

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Notes on Nursing

'Give me strength and wisdom, when others need my touch; 
A soothing word to speak to them, their hearts yearn so much.
Give me joy and laughter, to lift a weary soul;
Pour in me compassion, to make the broken whole.
Give me gentle, healing hands, for those placed in my care;
A blessing to those who need me, this is a Nurse's Prayer."

This is the view I want my patients to see, not the face behind the mask, the tight fitting respirator, the face shield, the gown, and the gloves. The social distancing, shielding, and mandatory mask wearing for every patient interaction is new world nursing, and it may continue for the rest of my career. As a daughter, sister, wife, and mama, I have been a caregiver for most of my life. I graduated nursing school at the age of 20 and had my first job in a hospital taking care of patients when I turned 21. Since then, I have had the pleasure of working in many different areas and with many wonderful people. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been functioning as a relief nurse in an urban community hospital, which means I am floated to where I am needed. If you are a nurse, you know that floating is a challenge. As professionals, we have the ability to specialize within the healthcare field, fine tune our nursing skills, and take pride in our experience practicing in the areas we thrive in. With 17 years working as an intensive care nurse, I tansitioned to post anesthesia nursing 5 years ago for a much needed reprieve from caring for patients and families in crisis. I work part-time and enjoy caring for patients having surgery. The skill set is specific, fast paced and full of health related teaching. Most of the patients go home, and that is good to see from a personal perspective. For the past few months, my job has changed every day. I have had to adapt, remain flexible, and expect the unknown.

This week marks a celebration of nurses and nursing as May 12 is International Nurse's Day. 2020 honors 200 years of modern nursing, led by Florence Nightingale on the day of her birth. Florence Nightingale was a war nurse, a British social reformer, a writer, a teacher, and a mathematical statistician. She is the reason every prospective nurse must take statistics in college. Her work focused on the very basics of health, including sanitation, hygiene, observation, and common sense.

The World Health Organization (WHO) designated this year the 'Year of the Nurse and Midwife', highlighting the role of nurses that make up the majority (more than 50%) of the healthcare force worldwide. An initiative of the WHO is to bring adequate healthcare to humans across the globe. The organization believes that nurses are the "bridge", a crucial link between the complex healthcare systems and the people in the communities. Nurses are on the "front lines" of healthcare, and are the key factor in achieving this goal. The nursing profession has been ranked the most trusted profession for the eighteenth consecutive year as noted by the Gallup poll. Nurses continue to uphold the highest ethical standards out of a wide range of professions, including doctors, police, and teachers.

This year also marks the release of the first ever 'World Nursing Report', which provides an assessment of the 'fitness for purpose' relative to the General Programme of Work from 2019-2023 (GPW13). The leadership priorities are high, with goals to reduce global maternal mortality by 30% and reducing malaria case incidences by 50%. Gender equality, health equity, strengthened national, regional, and global capacity for epidemic prevention and protection, communicable and non-communciable diease prevention, mental health prioritization, and addressing the health impacts of climate change and its associated environmental risks are just some of the other outcomes this report hopes to achieve.

In addition to the WHO efforts, the "Nursing Now" campaign, endorsed by Kate Middleton, elevates the role of nursing in health promotion, disease prevention, and access to treatment. If you want to support this movement, you can join Nursing Now, pledge, raise awareness, and share your experiences.


As a young nurse, one of the first books I read about the profession was 'Notes on Nursing: what it is and what it is not' by Florence Nightingale. I recently re-read this book, as it had been over 10 years since I pulled it off my bookshelf. Originally published in 1860, it is amazing to me how her research on nursing remains the foundation for health care, prevention and treatment. She stressed the power of observation, experience, non-judgment, cleanliness, hydration, nourishing foods, healing environments, and strict sanitation as the fundamentals to becoming "a good nurse." Her "notes" were meant to provide knowledge and practical advice on the very basics of how to nurse, with the belief that anyone who has ever had personal charge of the health of others, is a nurse. The details to which she describes the importance of the health of one's house to keep families healthy is still valid today. In the section titled, "Health of Houses", she states the five essential points in securing the health of one's house:

1. Pure Air. 2. Pure Water. 3. Efficient Drainage. 4. Cleanliness. 5. Light.

With regard to ventilation and light, Nightingale states, "A dark house is always an unhealthy house, always an ill-aired house, always a dirty house. People lose their health in a dark house, and if they get ill they cannot get well again in it."

In addition to these essential points, Nightingale writes about how dirty, overcrowded hospitals often meant death for patients. Her observations of sick patients led to the practice of compassionate care, acknowledging the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects that make up a whole person. Hygiene, cleanliness and sanitation were top priorities. "Every nurse ought to be careful to wash her hands very frequently during the day. If her face too, so much the better." She promoted the importance of rest and sleep, pointing out that an environment filled with unnecessary noise and too many people is not a healing environment. She addressed the unethical situations of talking loudly, having conversations over patients, and generally having disregard for one's healing process related to overstimulation of their senses and emotions, an issue still prevelant today.

As nurses, we continue to uphold these standards and carry on a legacy of nursing that is filled with other inspiring caregivers. Here are a few examples of amazing nurses in history.

Clara Barton was originally a teacher, but became an independent nurse during the Civil War. She is most famous for her relief work with an organization known as the International Red Cross. Her statue at the State House in Boston, MA was an inspiring symbol to me when I first saw it on a fifth grade field trip with my class. 

Mary Jane Seacole was a Jamaican born Creole nurse who utilized traditional African and Caribbean medicines along with modern knowledge of medicine and infection. 

Dorothea Dix a teacher and mental health advocate helped provide humane housing and treatment for people suffering with mental illness during her lifetime. 

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African American registered nurse in post-Civil War era U.S. who paved the way for other women of color to receive formal nursing training. She held positions of respect and leadership, joined what is now known as the American Nurses Association, and was one of the first women in Boston to register to vote in 1920.

Lillian Wald founded the first organization of "Public Health Nurses" in New York, her focus was caring for immigrants, and people who couldn't afford healthcare. 

Margaret Sanger spoke out against laws related to the reproductive health rights of women. Her exposure of back alley abortions gone wrong, public lectures, and subsequent arrest assisted in the legal discussion of women's health issues and birth control. She founded the organization now known as Planned Parenthood. 

Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, humanist, and volunteer nurse during the Civil War. "The Wound Dresser", one of Whitman's "Drum Taps" poems, described his service as a nurse during this time. 



I don't know what the future of my nursing career holds, but I do know that for me, nursing has always been a practice of hopesupport, strengthening, caring, cheering, and empowering others to nurse themselves.

2020
~The Year of the Nurse and Midwife~
This post is dedicated to all essential workers, and to those who have taught me to nurse, and who continue to inspire me to be a nurse. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Yin/Yang Flow: A balanced practice



Qi ~ Ki ~ Prana ~ Life Force energy is the spark that animates all living things. We are made of this energy that flows through our bodies weaving along our muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue and organs of the body. Meridians are energetic pathways of flow. The goal is to have the energy flow freely, unobstructed and accessible. Life happens and our energy changes, the flow moves more sluggishly or stops completely causing symptoms, sensation and discomfort within the body. The practice of listening, paying attention and becoming aware of what is happening inside the body, as well as outside the body is just the beginning.

In Chinese Meridian Theory, Yin and Yang exist to keep the balance. Yin and Yang are adjectives to describe qi energy.

Yin represents the receptive, passive, darker, more hidden energy that is connected with the moon and the feminine aspect of things.

Yang represents the dynamic, active, brighter, closer to the surface energy that is connected with the sun and the masculine aspect of things.

The way we move at different times of the day is our body communicating to our brains what the preference of qi is day to day, and moment to moment. Noticing what types of movement your body needs and what feels right for you is a lifelong process. If you have a practice of moving, breathing and meditating then this information will help guide you toward balance.

These days there are a lot of unknowns, finding ways to bring stability, resilience, effort and ease into the body, heart and mind is an ongoing practice.

Below you will find two different styles of yoga. Take time to reflect and evaluate what type of movement will bring you into wholeness and enjoy the practices I have shared with you.

Yin Yoga: Kidney/Bladder short session

Yin Yoga is a passive practice of staying with sensation and breath. Yin yoga uses gravity and time to bring release, softening and surrender into the body, heart and mind. This short yin session focuses on strengthening the kidney/bladder meridian lines, pelvis, low abdomen and low back. In Chinese Meridian Theory, the kidney-bladder meridians are paired to harmonize the elements to the yin/yang energy. These organs work together to maintain the vibrant quality of energy flow. The kidneys house our essence energy, known as jing which is inherited upon birth and displays our general constitution towards life. The emotional connections of fear, insecurity and mistrust must be balanced with knowledge, wisdom, experience and openness. The sense door associated with the kidney/urinary bladder meridian are the ears, listen to what your body is trying to communicate. Sink, settle and stay.




Yang Yoga: Slow Flow Style: Stabilize and Strengthen

Yang yoga is an active practice of coordinating movement and breath. Yang yoga uses props and awareness of comfort to flow safely. This specific flow is set at a slower pace to connect with alignment and breath, a practice of steadying to carry us into the weeks ahead.


A balanced yoga practice consists of moving into shapes or postures to stimulate the muscles, blood, and meridians that are housed in the connective tissue. Slow, conscious, focused breathing regulates the nervous system and enhances the energy coming into the body. Meditating can be done in many ways, finding the form that allows space to connect to sensation and breath is one way to focus the mind and stay with moment to moment awareness.

Newly published 'Awaken your Energy Body' free guided meditation on Insight Timer, check it out!

See you soon,
Michelle

Monday, May 4, 2020

May the 4th Be With You

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

we held Jedi Yoga classes and workshops for kids to carry on the teachings of moving, breathing and meditating in a fun and creative way. The stories told by George Lucas in the epic saga, 'Star Wars' was based on the Zen philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism, which is all about understanding the world beyond thoughts and language. It also has roots in Taoism, which is a religion based on being true to our real nature, living in harmony with the universe, and cultivating qi, which is the energy the 'FORCE' is based on. This Life Force is our primordial energy, it creates life, and makes it grow. Other cultures in the world acknowledge this Life Force Energy as 'ki', 'prana', and 'mana'.

"The strongest stars have hearts of kyber."
Chirrut Imwe
We used 'selenite' crystals to symbolize our 'kyber' crystals, and received them upon completing Jedi challenges.
"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, it penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together." Obi-Wan Kenobi

The main characters in the story strive toward a way of living in the 'light' which honor virtues of goodness, kindness, truth, patience and peace. Our yoga classes weaved in the yoga sutras or 'threads of knowledge', as well as Patanjali's 'eight limbs or branches of yoga to enhance the power of knowledge, wisdom, concentration, breath, balance and strength to build the merit of a modern day Jedi warrior. We had a lot of fun in the early days of 'Jedi Yoga', and in honor of our Star Wars day here are a few ways to move with the 'Force'!

A Wing Pose
X Wing Pose

Y Wing Pose

Stand with your feet grounded into the mat, floor, or Earth for A Wing Pose. Engage the muscles that support the joints of your ankles, knees, and hips. Walk your feet out further than hip width, in a wide standing base. Once you feel strong and steady, inhale your arms up overhead. Press the palms together on the exhale. Try holding this pose for a few cycles of breathing in and out. For a challenge, keep your focus on a mantra. 
A mantra is a repetitive phrase or word used to help focus the mind. 

Inhale: "I am one with the FORCE" Exhale: "The FORCE is with me"

X Wing Pose keeps the same position in the lower body, while the arms open out wider than the shoulders. Try holding this pose for a few rounds of breath. To bring movement into this pose, as if your are soaring through the sky, begin to shift the arms with the breath. Inhale arms up, exhale arms down, then coordinate the breath to move the arms side to side, as if you are navigating through asteroids. 

Walk the feet together for Y Wing Pose and stand firm with the feet aligned under the hips. When ready, inhale the arms up overhead creating the letter 'Y' with the shape of your body. Breathe in and out for 5-10 cycles. Practicing these 3 poses will lengthen the spine, build strength, steadiness, and stability in the body, and bring clear focus to the mind. Close your eyes, notice your feelings, and use the FORCE. When you feel complete, lower your arms down by your side, and try these next few poses to bring in a feeling of calm, relaxed energy.

Yoda Pose

Start to bend through your knees and lower your hips and pelvis into a classic yoga squat. Press into the feet, and try bringing the palms of your hands together. Pause, and breathe peace and patience in Yoda Pose, to awaken the Force within.


R2D2 Pose/Table pose

R2D2 Pose/Child Pose

Resting R2D2 Pose

Start in table pose, or hands and knees pose, aka R2D2 Pose. A blanket or padded mat is nice to use when resting weight on the knees. Begin to breathe into the length of the spine, while pressing down through the hands and tops of feet. Slowly rock forward and back warming up the 'squeaky' droid joints of the shoulders and hips. Exhale all the way down into child pose, resting the belly on the tops of the thighs. When ready to breathe in again, press into the hands and tops of feet and push back up into table pose. Flow in and out of R2D2 pose with the breath until you are ready to stay in Resting R2D2 pose. Stay in this pose for 5-10 cycles of breath. Observe how you feel in body and mind while breathing in and out.


BB8 Pose: Rock & Roll

Take the time to press up, cross the ankles, and sit up before gently lying down spine to mat for BB8 Pose. Draw both knees in toward your chest, and begin to rock and roll. Try rocking forward and rolling back and sway like BB8 would travel. As the movement slows, try rocking and rolling from side to side before settling in for a long resting pose. Have someone cover you with a blanket, and use props to support the weight of your body to bring in coziness and comfort. Close your eyes, and keep your mind awake, while relaxing all the muscles of your body. Set the timer for 5-10 minutes, or if you are settling in for a longer rest, listen to 'Space Meditation' on Insight Timera free guided meditation that was written and inspired by all our Jedi Yogi's.

May you be kind and peaceful.
May you be safe and healthy.
May the FORCE be with you.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Relaxing Breath

Many people ask me what to do to stay healthy and decrease the risk of spreading this terrible virus that has taken over ALL of our lives. I have attached a COVID checklist that my 8 year old neighbor sent to me, which I promote whole-heartedly!



1. Wash hands with soap for a full 30 seconds! Make sure to lather up palms, tops of hands and in between the fingers. Save water while lathering up, and rinse thoroughly.
2. Wear gloves. As a nurse, I must wear gloves (and a mask) with every patient I come in contact with. Wearing gloves is not needed while running errands or going out. If it makes you feel more comfortable to wear gloves, it is important to note that once in use, gloves are dirty. Do not touch your face with dirty hands or dirty gloves. The most important thing to do is wash hands after taking gloves off every time and often.
3. Wear a mask. Surgical masks, handmade fabric masks or a handkerchief is best worn when heading out in public. Wearing a mask protects others from getting exposed if they come in contact with you. Think of this phrase when wondering if a mask is needed. "I protect you, you protect me."
4. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps to keep the body balanced. Consume half your weight in ounces of water a day to stay optimal.
5. Eat healthy. Enjoy a diet as colorful as the rainbow, it is the best nourishment for the body.
6. Stay 6 feet apart. This is the minimal social distancing rule, feel free to lengthen that distance when out and about.

I would add on deep breathing and moving to this list. Staying active by walking or running, and gentle stretching to keep muscles, tendons, and ligaments limber keep us healthy. Try a 20 minute movement break to get your heart rate elevated. Take the stairs over the elevator, when running errands park the car further away from the entrance, and take advantage of online fitness classes that are being offered freely these days.

The Relaxing Breath or 4~7~8 breath is a deep breathing exercise that opens and expands the lungs. The process of breathing is a chemical cycle of incoming oxygen that nourishes your tissues and outgoing carbon dioxide that elminates waste and toxins from your body. When the body or mind is tired, we tend to yawn as a way to release excess carbon dioxide that has built up from shallow breathing.

The 4~7~8 breath instructs us to inhale to a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, and exhale to a count of 8. 

The inhale fills up the lungs with air, inflating the base of the lung lobes. The retention of breath holds the breath in the lungs increasing lung capacity and opening the tiny grape like air sacs known as alveoli, which allow for gas exchange. When we expose our lungs to smoke or are sick with a cold, flu or pneumonia the alveoli can collapse decreasing the flow of gas exchange. Lastly, the prolonged exhale stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system causing a feeling of calm relaxation, and lowered stress levels.

Sit comfortably with a tall spine and rooted pelvis, connect with your breath and establish an easy rhythm of inhale followed by exhale. If it feels comfortable place one hand on the lower abdomen and one hand over the heart. Start by noticing the breath move in and out of the body. When ready, inhale to a count of 4, hold the breath to a count of 7, and exhale long and slow to a count of 8. I would recommend a round of 5-10 cycles of this deep breathing exercise to gain the most benefit. Practice it daily, or a few times a day and notice how it makes you feel.






With love and care,
Michelle

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

April's Last Quarter


Many people ask me what to do to stay healthy and decrease the risk of spreading this terrible virus that has taken over ALL of our lives. I have attached a COVID checklist that my 8 year old neighbor sent to me, which I promote whole-heartedly!



1. Wash hands with soap for a full 30 seconds! Make sure to lather up palms, tops of hands and in between the fingers. Save water while lathering up, and rinse thoroughly.
2. Wear gloves. As a nurse, I must wear gloves (and a mask) with every patient I come in contact with. Wearing gloves is not needed while running errands or going out. If it makes you feel more comfortable to wear gloves, it is important to note that once in use, gloves are dirty. Do not touch your face with dirty hands or dirty gloves. The most important thing to do is wash hands after taking gloves off every time and often.
3. Wear a mask. Surgical masks, handmade fabric masks or a handkerchief is best worn when heading out in public. Wearing a mask protects others from getting exposed if they come in contact with you. Think of this phrase when wondering if a mask is needed. "I protect you, you protect me."
4. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps to keep the body balanced. Consume half your weight in ounces of water a day to stay optimal.
5. Eat healthy. Enjoy a diet as colorful as the rainbow, it is the best nourishment for the body.
6. Stay 6 feet apart. This is the minimal social distancing rule, feel free to lengthen that distance when out and about.

I would add on deep breathing and moving to this list. Staying active by walking or running, and gentle stretching to keep muscles, tendons, and ligaments limber keep us healthy. Try a 20 minute movement break to get your heart rate elevated. Take the stairs over the elevator, when running errands park the car further away from the entrance, and take advantage of online fitness classes that are being offered freely these days.

The Relaxing Breath or 4~7~8 breath is a deep breathing exercise that opens and expands the lungs. The process of breathing is a chemical cycle of incoming oxygen that nourishes your tissues and outgoing carbon dioxide that elminates waste and toxins from your body. When the body or mind is tired, we tend to yawn as a way to release excess carbon dioxide that has built up from shallow breathing.

The 4~7~8 breath instructs us to inhale to a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, and exhale to a count of 8. 

The inhale fills up the lungs with air, inflating the base of the lung lobes. The retention of breath holds the breath in the lungs increasing lung capacity and opening the tiny grape like air sacs known as alveoli, which allow for gas exchange. When we expose our lungs to smoke or are sick with a cold, flu or pneumonia the alveoli can collapse decreasing the flow of gas exchange. Lastly, the prolonged exhale stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system causing a feeling of calm relaxation, and lowered stress levels.

Sit comfortably with a tall spine and rooted pelvis, connect with your breath and establish an easy rhythm of inhale followed by exhale. If it feels comfortable place one hand on the lower abdomen and one hand over the heart. Start by noticing the breath move in and out of the body. When ready, inhale to a count of 4, hold the breath to a count of 7, and exhale long and slow to a count of 8. I would recommend a round of 5-10 cycles of this deep breathing exercise to gain the most benefit. Practice it daily, or a few times a day and notice how it makes you feel.




MOVE ~ BREATHE ~ MEDITATE

Here are some ways to move this week. Inspired by sweet William and the waning moon of April. As we enter the last quarter phase of this moon cycle, the moon looks half illuminated, and takes the shape of a pie sliced in half. The season of Spring has been turbulant. March into April has brought continued difficulties, last quarter moon phases are powerful times that swiftly shift energy and emotion within us and outside of us. The changing phases of the moon are a symbol to connect with life transitions. Nothing stays the same, change is inevitable, and this too shall pass.

Lean into the last quarter waning moon energy with these yoga poses.

Half Moon pose 'Ardha Chandrasana'

Moon Salute:
Stay grounded through both feet, breathe in to lift arms up and out of the waist, press the palms together. Breathe out as you reach to the side. Repeat a few times reaching right and left, then release back to center.
Stay safe: If it is difficult to raise the arms overhead, place hands on hips or at heart center. If there is low back sensitivity, bend the knees.
Benefits: This side stretch elongates the spine, and opens up the spaces between the ribs. Use the inhaling breath to isolate the intercostal muscles that are often inflexible. Exhale back to center.


Mountain pose 'Tadasana'
Centering and Grounding:
Stand with your feet wider than hip width. Press down through your feet to connect with Earth energy. Stabilize your core, by tucking your pelvis slightly to encourage your tail bone down. Lift up and out of the waist on an inhale raising both arms overhead. Exhale pressing palms together. Breathe in and breathe out, staying steady, focused, and strong. Aim for a round of 3-5 whole body breaths while in this steadying pose. 

*Adding in breath retention (Antara Kumbhaka) after the inhale helps keep the lungs healthy and resilient. Try holding the inhale breath for 1-3 seconds in an effort to expand and encourage gas exchange within the upper, middle and lower lobes of the lungs, then exhale. 

Stay Safe: Mountain pose emphasizes the importance of alignment. Invite the breath in as you mindfully scan the body. Feet are pressing into the Earth, ankles and knees are soft not rigid, and the pelvis is secure to support the spine and hips. Roll the shoulders back and down, and level the chin parallel to the floor. Mountain pose can be practiced with arms raised on the inhale, and the arms lowered on the exhale. Pressing palms together at the center of the heart is another safe option.

Benefits: Mountain pose enhances flexibility, assists in good posture, stengthens the lower body and stretches the upper body. This is a pose of confidence and presence, feel the emotional steadiness while embodying the beauty of a solid mountain range.


Warrior 2 'Virabhadrasana'
Stamina and Strength:
From Mountain pose, place hands on the hips. Step back with one leg and rotate toes out to firmly press outer aspect of foot down. Draw an imaginary line from the front heel to the middle of the back foot to help stay rooted. Align the front knee to the ankle and open hips to the side. Extend the arms horizontally and lengthen out from the center. Focus your gaze towards the front hand, keep arms level. Breathe in and out for 3-5 rounds or longer to build endurance. To release, press into the front foot and step the back foot forward, then switch sides. When complete, return to Mountain pose for a few breaths to bring the body back to center. 

Stay Safe: If hamstrings are tight and front leg needs to build strength, minimize your stance to feel more in control. While adjusting alignment, breathe in to lengthen the front leg and breathe out to bend into the knee. Keep the breath moving whithin the pose. Hands can remain on the hips, with gaze focused on a stabilizing object if working with balance. 

Benefits: This pose strengthens and stretches the lower body (hips, groin, legs, and ankles), while opening and expanding through the upper body (chest/lungs, shoulders, and arms). 

The bravest warriors have humble, open hearts. 

My hope is that as we head towards the New Moon on April 22, 2020 there will be a collective sense of renewal, hope and insight. We must keep strong, stay responsible in our actions, patient, cautious, and sensible when making decisions. New Moon time is reflective of introspection, insight and staying clear about intentions and pursuits. This date of April 22 also celebrates Earth Day. Now, more than ever it is time to make efforts to support environmental protection. Our lives depend on it.

More to come....
Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Spring has Sprung


Spring is a favorite season, bringing hope, growth, and a reminder that the Earth is alive, rested, and renewed to carry us into Summer. This season of Spring can offer creative inspiration for starting new projects, learning new ways of doing things, taking steps to plant seeds for the future. It is also our transition into longer days as the light returns.



In the months of Winter leading up to Spring, I plant an Amaryllis bulb to call attention to the process of care, patience, and impermanence. As the days pass, the bulb keeps growing. It encourages me on dark days, excites me when the first pop of color appears, and motivates me to keep on going.


These days there is a lot (!) to take in and life can become overwhelming. Finding time to slow down, and take a pause to turn inward, can help re-establish new patterns that build strength, resilience and steadiness when times are uneasy or uncomfortable. Let's face it, most of life is filled with uncomfortable situations, but the in between moments of beauty, the unfolding, and the potential of the unknown remains a constant inspiration.

Life is a process of beautiful moments unfolding. 



Free guided meditations on Insight Timer *new 'Relax & Renew' Winter into Spring meditation to support our seasonal change of Winter into Spring and our current life transitions is available NOW.

Slow Flow Yoga at Joy Yoga in Melrose, MA is on hold until further notice.

Reiki II training at Borealis Yoga in Medford, MA is in the process of being rescheduled.

I have posted a few short videos on YouTube under Michelle Heron Yoga if you need some inspiration to move, breathe, and meditate. I have some special guests that will bring a smile and a laugh to your days.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Nadi Shodhana Pranayam

"Nadi denotes a tubular organ which carries prana or energy through our body. Shodhana means purifying. Nadi Shodhana is purifying the blood vessels and nerves so that they function effectively. The effect of Nadi Shodhana develop strength of will power, determination, and stability. Further, it helps control the senses and leads towards self knowledge."
Geeta Iyengar

To practice alternate nostril breathing, sit in a comfortable position with your pelvis or your feet grounded.

Uplift through your spine, relax the muscles of your face, and settle into a natural flow of inhale followed by exhale. 

Place your left hand on your thigh or knee, and bring your right hand up toward your nose.

Breathe in and breathe out, exhaling completely. Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. 

Close your left nostril while lifting your right thumb, and exhale through your right nostril. 

Inhale again through your right nostril, close right and exhale left.

Inhale left, close left and exhale right. 

Inhale right, close right, and exhale left

Repeat this process until you feel complete, finishing by exhaling through the left nostril, then release your right hand down, breathe easefully and naturally through both nostrils. 

Notice how you feel in body, heart and mind. 


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Halfway to Spring!

"Let us nurture the spirit of renewal and embrace the light of the lengthening days."
Celtic prayer
In the Northern Hemisphere, we are halfway to Spring! In the Southern Hemisphere, it's harvest time!
No matter where you live, the Earth is getting ready for change. If we look close, we can sense the shifting of the seasons even though they have yet to arrive.

Living with this awareness, month to month, week to week, and moment to moment awakens the seasons of the day.

Change is inevitable and growing happens whether we welcome it or resist it.

Find the beauty on the unraveling and inspiration where you can get it.

Here are some ways to move, breathe and meditate with me in the next few weeks!


Slow Flow Yoga
Wednesday evenings
730p-845p
Melrose, MA
(No Class 2/19)



"The human body is only as flexible as the time and energy we give it." 
Daniel Lacroix


Small Group Reiki Share
Sunday 2/23, 2020
3p-430p
Winchester, MA


This offering is open to Reiki practitioners of any level, where we gather together to connect, grow, and exchange Reiki. This is an offering for those who practice Reiki, and a way to say thank you for learning and sharing your gifts. A special thank you to Christine Tresselt for facilitating the space for this wonderful free event! Please RSVP via email (heronyoga@gmail.com) if you plan to attend!


Reiki I Training
Saturday 3/7 & Sunday 3/8, 2020
12n-330p
Medford, MA


I teach Reiki as a form of meditation and a practice of self care. Reiki is positive intention sent through the hands. It is a safe, gentle, and non-invasive method of bringing in balance to restore the body's physical and emotional well being. Meditation is a re-charging of your here and now. Self care is a necessity of health and wellness. Learning resources and tools to reduce stress, rest, relax, and develop a sense of calm within mind and body benefits you and others. Choosing to bring Reiki into your life, also brings Reiki into the lives of those you love. If you have practiced Reiki with me, please share this offering to those who may be interested in learning this wonderful art of holding, caring, and supporting. 

FREE Guided Meditations



I have written, recorded and published guided meditations on Insight Timer, which is a free application that offers many audio courses and meditations from all over the world! My dear friend and multi-talented artist, Michele Morgan has recorded, mixed, and edited these offerings for me so we can share them with all of you! This is a definite labor of love and knowing we are helping people relax is the driving force behind all of it. My aim is to record a new meditation every few months as our schedules allow, and continue sharing a healthy and peaceful way of living with others. If you listen and enjoy these meditations, please follow, share, leave a message, or give a rating on Insight Timer. 

With gratitude and appreciation,
Michelle

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Emotion=Energy in Motion


Observing and noticing is part of a mindful movement and meditation practice. Acknowledging emotions or feelings as a non-judgmental inquiry of what is happening to us and in us moment to moment is an element that can inspire or inhibit this process.

Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor." I believe emotions are energy in motion, and emotions are meant to move through us, not linger, stagnate or obstruct. There are some theories that suggest illness and disease occur from unreleased emotions that are held hostage in our bodies. Deb Shapiro wrote a book called, 'Your Body Speaks Your Mind', and it is filled with interesting ideas of where specific emotional imbalances cause symptoms in our bodies. These symptoms are the language of the body, a way that our body attempts to communicate with our mind. Our bodies are amazing. When we are truly sad, we cry. This is a great release, and eventually the body will allow a deep breath to occur with a long slow exhale. This brings the body/mind back into balance and helps restore homeostasis. When we are sad, grieving, or angry the emotion can get locked into our tissues, muscle and bones if it is too painful to confront. There is no good or bad assimilation here, it is just a way of coping. Awareness and being ready to address these imbalances takes time, patience and courage.

Our personal energy is our life force, or our ability to do work. The subtle 'life force energy' is the primary energy that sustains us, it is our source, inner guidance, and the innate intelligence of the body. This energy of life is an animating force that flows through and around every living creature. In other cultures there is a word for this life force energy that moves through us. It is known as 'qi' in China, 'ki' in Japan, 'gi' in Korea, 'khi' in Vietnam, 'sekham' in Egypt, 'pneuma' in Greece, and 'prana' in India. Supporting this vital energy is a process of caring and supporting the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our body.

Life force energy is meant to flow freely within our system. Emotions can influence the flow of our life force, just like physical issues of pain, injury or trauma. When there is disturbance in the body (heavy emotions, physical discomfort), our life force energy becomes sluggish, or deficient.

Finding space to feel into difficult emotions, but not become them is a process I continue to focus on.

I am a work in progress, I am human, I make mistakes, and I feel all of it. It takes me on a bumpy ride some days, and it's easier to ignore, push away, turn inward, and not face the feelings that need to be processed. Timing is important too, as we all have responsibilities of work, school or caregiving, but in my exprience these feelings don't go away until the effort is made to release them. Happiness, excitement and passion are emotions I would like to have stay with me all the time, but the reality is I wouldn't have persepctive without sadness, anger, or frustration. Moving is the key, so all the heavier emotions that weigh you down don't find residence in your body.

Letting go is an overused phrase and a bit cliche, but necessary to do. We are all unique and carry our emotions, responses and reactions to life differently. A practice of moving, breathing and meditating has been helpful for me to accomplish this release of emotions that can cause 'dis-ease' in the body. I share ideas, images and thoughts as a way to write and work through what is on my mind. When I'm feeling stuck in my body, I share to help others and hope that a small part of living my yoga has a deeper impact on the world around me.

Exploring 'Sirsasana' or headstand is a wonderful way to quickly change your perception, mindset, and move energy in the body. I am inspired by watching my kids move their bodies in interesting ways that help them to release stagnant energy, or relax to refuel their deficient energy.
Going upside down immediately shifts the internal physical workings of our body. Gravity helps to return venous blood to the heart. Mentally, this pose increases concentration, enhances the sensory faculties, and increases circulation to the upper body. Headstand balances the endocrine system by stimulating the pituitary gland (the master gland), assisting to secrete hormones within the other glands that lie along the length of the spine to the brain. This pose strengthens the shoulders and arms, improves digestion, and promotes lymphatic drainage. Headstand is an inversion, which stimulates the vestibular system of the body. Arising in the inner ear, this system is responsible for processing and sensing change in the position, direction or movement of the head.

Contraindications include high or low blood pressure, pregnancy (greater than 4 months), glaucoma, detached retina, or any eye problems. This pose is not recommended for anyone with head, neck or upper spine injuries, or any recent neurological diagnosis that prohibits increased intracranial pressure. Staying safe with your body, listening to how you feel, being guided by your breath, transitioning slowly, and meeting yourself where you are in the present moment will help you work through difficulties or challenges that may arise.


Fold a padded mat in half, start in table pose (hands and knees), clasp the hands around the back of the head. Place the crown of the head on the mat, with the head firmly pressed against the clasped hands, gently tuck your chin. Curl the toes under and engage your feet and legs. Line up your elbows with your shoulders, the weight is evenly balanced in both arms, forearms and shoulders. STAY here for a while, connect to breath and feel the benefits in this transition pose. 



Once you feel strong in the previous pose, shift the weight into your lower body and lift the knees. Raise the hips up so that the body forms an inverted "V". Keep pushing down into the elbows and forearms. Extend the legs and feel the stretch in the backs of the legs and spine. BREATHE here in dolphin pose. This is a wonderful preparatory pose to headstand, as it will strengthen the arms and shoulders and enable you to hold the position correctly for longer periods. Feel free to shift in and out of these first and second prep poses for a few practice sessions.



Slowly begin to walk the feet towards your face. As the feet come closer to the head, feel the back straightening until the hips are over head: aligning the spine, neck, and head. Bend the knees and lift the feet off the floor, practice one leg at a time if you are working with balance. Try not to jump the feet away from the floor, utilize the strength of your legs and abdominal core- stay steady, focused and strong. At least 90% of the weight is on the elbows. 



Using a wall or home support is a great prop so you don't flop! Keep in mind, the wall is a safety net. It is not a replacement for doing the work of the previous prep poses. Holding the knees in a flexed position, hug them in close to the mid line of your body. You may press the feet into the wall to feel out the weight within your upper body. Keep weight in the aligned elbows, forearms and shoulders. This pose is known as half headstand, staying in this pose comfortably for at least 30 seconds is important before proceeding further. 



If you are ready to rise, slowly straighten the knees, bringing the feet toward the ceiling. Extend through the soles of the feet, point the toes toward the floor to strengthen through the heels and keep the back body supported. In this picture, you will see breath filling up my rib cage, as I exhale my pelvis tucks under slightly keeping the abdominal muscles engaged, so not to over arch the back. Keep the weight on the elbows, and try to hold for at least 30 seconds, increasing slowly for a goal of 1 minute or more. Before you are too tired, come out of the pose by first bending the knees, then the hips. Hold half headstand for a few seconds to help shift the body as it transitions. Bring the feet to the floor and then drop your hips back onto your heels. Relax in child's pose and enjoy the benefits of headstand. 


Once you have mastered the basic headstand you can add in variations. Creating space to play adds a lighthearted quality to the essence of this pose, remembering how it felt to go upside as a kid.  Some options are externally rotating the knee and hip, placing the foot on the top of the opposite thigh, or opening the legs in a letter "V". You can alternatively lower one leg towards the floor, keeping it engaged and hovering while the opposite leg stays lifted. Exploring the transitions of this pose add depth and dimension, the options are up to you! 


In his book, 'Light On Yoga', B.K.S Iyengar calls 'Sirsasana' the 'king of yoga postures' because of its magical effects on the intellect, body, and spirit. "Regular and precise practice of sirsasana develops the body, stimulates the mind and widens the horizons of the spirit. One becomes balanced and self reliant in pain and pleasure, loss and gain, shame and fame and defeat and victory." (Light on Yoga-p. 179-193)

Image taken from the 1830 manuscript, Joga Pradipika.

'Sirsansana' is a relatively new name for the original Sanskrit 'Salamba Shirshasana'. Salamba means "supported", and Sirsa means "head", and Asana means "posture" or "seat".

Headstand is a physically challenging pose, utilizing strength in the upper arms and abdominal core. It can feel exhilarating, increasing one's confidence and excitement in achieving such a dramatic pose. Competition and success are emphasized in our culture. Slow down and take the time to set up new postures in stages. Perhaps staying in the 'prep' poses for a few practice sessions to build endurance before overextending yourself in a pose that you aren't ready for. Don't underestimate the power of 'balasana', (child's pose) and 'adho mukha svanasana' (downward facing dog), inversions to get your energy in motion.

If this pose is new for you, and not a regular posture in your practice, these notes and pictures are not to be replaced by proper instruction by a professional guide. It is best to have a trained person assisting if it is your first attempt at "sirsasana'. 

Sometimes going upside down is the only thing that makes you feel right side up! 

Have fun exploring movement in your body. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Welcome 2020!

"Always remember you matter, you're important and you are loved,
and you bring to the world things no one else can."
Charlie Mackesy

I'm not one for New Year's intentions or resolutions, but the Reiki affirmations will do. Just for today, everyday, one breath at a time. 

Just for today,
I will not worry
I will not be angry
I will do my work honestly
I will be grateful
I will be kind to all living things.

New Year's day sunrise

Our winter session starts January 8, 2020. 
Wednesday 730p-845p
195 Green St. 
Melrose, MA
(No class on February 19)

See you on the mat for our first Slow Flow of the year!

Until then, here are a few ways to ease into our New Year.

Find a quiet space, inside or outside.
Stand tall and ground your feet.
Feel strength rise up in your spine as you inhale your arms up.
Reach through your fingers, soften your shoulders.
Exhale your arms down by your side.
Enjoy a few rounds of standing sun breath.
Now think about what movements would feel good in your body.
Trust your inner wisdom to guide you.
Anchor to your breath.
Close your eyes and let love lead. 

Hands together or over heart center.
Pause and feel the shift of energy in your body, heart and mind.


Thank you for another year of moving, breathing and meditating. For those who I met through Reiki this past year, I hope the practice is serving you well.

I look forward to seeing you in 2020.

Sending you ALL joy, peace, hope, and love this New Year!
Shine On!

Warmly,
Michelle

P.S. The quote above was taken from 'The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse', written by Charlie Mackesy. 

It is one of the kindest and sweetest books I have read in a long while.