By Sheena Yoga

Resting Fish Pose, A Mini Vacation

Supta Matsyasana
Supta Matsyasana, Resting Fish Pose will help you to stay calm and grounded during the holidays.

I’m going to share a pose with you that I absolutely can’t live without. If I could only gift you with one pose for Christmas, this would be it! It’s like a mini vacation that you can take any time you have a few minutes and a couple of props. This truly is the gift that keeps on giving and you can share it with as many people as you like! I’ve personally whipped this out a few times over the holidays and thanked the yoga Gods for it!

Supta (resting) Matsyasana (fish pose) is a restorative version of the classic yoga pose inspired by Matsya, the fish who was the first avatar of Lord Vishnu. A version of the story recalls that one day, Matsya was swimming through the primordial ocean when he overheard Lord Shiva teaching yoga to his wife, Parvati on an island.

Intrigued, Matsya arched upward out of the water to listen in and his body took the shape of Matsyasana, enabling him to float on the water while he absorbed the teachings of yoga. His interest was so steadfast and sincere, Lord Shiva granted him the form of a human so that he might continue his studies on land and teach them to mankind.

This is how Matsya transformed into a great sage named Matsyendra, who then sat on the island in a twisted position during Lord Shiva’s epic yoga lesson. This new pose helped Matsyendra to turn away from distractions, uniting his front (conscious mind) and back (unconscious mind) to allow for total immersion in yoga. His new pose later came to be known as Ardha Matsyendrasana, which translates to Half Lord of the Fishes Pose.

Matsyendra completed his studies successfully and became the world’s first yoga teacher. It all began with Matsyasana, a heart-opening yoga pose that calms the nerves while energizing the circulatory system, a great way to prep for the teachings of yoga.

While the full expression of Matsyasana has been known to literally allow a person to float on ocean water just as it did for Matsya the fish, it’s also quite advanced and hardly accessible to the average person. Since our goal here is not to float on water, we can modify the pose to suit our own needs and abilities. A much easier way to modify the pose is with a change in foot position and the addition of yoga props.

In full Matsyasana, the legs are in Padmasana, Lotus Pose, which can be straining on the knees. This is the famous pretzel leg position that many people cringe at. Modify by placing the soles of the feet together in the Bhadrasana, Gracious Pose (aka, Baddha Konasana, Bound Angle Pose) foot position as pictured below. Gracious Pose is one of the few positions that can be held safely for extended periods of time.

bhadrasana
Bhadrasana (Gracious Pose) seated on a yoga bolster. Use Bhadrasana foot position instead of Padmasana to modify Matsyasana.

In our modified version of Matsyasana, we will also recruit the support of a bolster under the upper back, and a block or folded blanket under the head. This removes all the effort from the pose and reduces the risk of neck injury. Anyone can achieve a wonderful level of restoration in Supta Matsyasana with help from the right props, making this otherwise advanced pose an indispensable go-to for beginners through to advanced practitioners, particularly when stressed or exhausted.

You may also be interested to know that both Matsyasana and Bhadrasana have much older documentation than most yoga poses, first recorded as far back as the 1600s. They have both been widely regarded as highly valuable poses for no less than four or five hundred years, whereas contemporary yoga poses like Downward Facing Dog and Triangle weren’t introduced until the 20th century.

Bhadrasana is listed as one of the top four most important yoga poses in the 15th century CE yoga text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which credits Matsyendra and other sages for passing down the yoga vidyas (yogic knowledge).1 It was used as a meditation pose and held for extended periods of time. Both Bhadrasana and Matsyasana are among the few poses later named in an encyclopedic 17th century yoga text called the Gheranda Samhita, which listed them among the 32 yoga poses which are “useful to mortals.”

Together, these two tried-and-true poses combine forces for a modified version of Supta Matsyasana – just in time for a mid-holiday recharge! Try it tonight and let go of this year’s stresses while your heart is opened to new possibilities for 2017 and beyond.

YOU WILL NEED:

bolsterblocksblanket

INSTRUCTIONS:

supta-matsyasana

  1. Place a block or folded blanket behind a bolster.
  2. Lay your upper back over the bolster, resting your head on the block or pillow. Your bum stays on the floor. If a bolster is too big, use a rolled blanket or a yoga block instead. If the block digs into your back, cushion it with a folded blanket.
  3. Open your arms out to the sides with your palms facing up. Your underarms should be hooked around the back edge of the bolster.
  4. Bring the soles of the feet together, opening your knees to the sides. If you are unable to relax your knees down without straining the lower back or hips, place a block under each knee for support.
  5. Rest here, breathing fully and slowly for as long as you feel comfortable in this position, anywhere from 1-10 minutes. The pose should feel very calming. If there is any discomfort at all, try adjusting the props until you can totally relax.
  6. To come out, bring the knees together and place your feet on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind the neck and head, then curl up a little. From here, you might try rolling off the side of the bolster or sitting all the way up.
  7. Neutralize your spine in Apanasana (aka Pavanmuktasana), laying on your back as you hug the knees into your chest.

Enjoy as often as needed and have a very happy holiday season, with love from Bella and me!

bellasuckhasana bellasuckha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. “Matsyendra, Goraksha, and others knew Hatha Vidya, and by their favor Yogi Swatmarama also learnt it from them.” 1.4, Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Swatmarama,

The Next Phase of Sheena Yoga…

photo source unknown
photo source unknown

Last night’s full moon was full of interesting surprises for me. Leading up to the full moon, I attended a psychic development class led by Angel Rogers, a psychic medium, co-owner, and head teacher at the spiritual academy of The Home of Om here in Calgary, Alberta.

I’ve been teaching regular yoga classes at this school 3x/week for over a year now, and about halfway in, I started attending Angel’s psychic development classes as well, sporadically at first and then every week or so.

Last week’s class was another breakthrough in a series of growth spurts for me as I was visited by Grandmother Moon at a most auspicious time. Hopefully her message to me will also be an inspiration to you, especially those of you passing through dark times right now.

We practiced a divination formula Angel laid out for us called, “I see, I hear, What does spirit want me to know?” She assigned an exercise that involved gazing at a video of ambient music set to shifting psychedelic colors and shapes (from YouTube). We were asked to press pause when we felt it was time, and turn the screenshot into a message for another student.

Messages poured out of me, something that until now has been mostly an internal process that I overthink before it ever has a chance to be given a voice. What most amazed me was the message that came through for myself.

Our final exercise was to choose a number between 1 and 16, then receive a message for ourselves one at a time based on the corresponding video from a numbered playlist. This time we intuited a different way, and tuned into “I feel.” Angel warned that it’s usually best not to go the “I feel” route when reading for others because most people find it tricky to empathize without absorbing the energy and emotion of others. Feeling for ourselves however, is a very healthy and important process.

I chose the number 13, and instead of the usual acid trip of brilliant dancing colors to interpret, there was only a big, full moon slowly peaking out from the bottom of the screen and then rising up into the black night sky. We were given the option to voice our feelings out loud, and I took the opportunity to share openly.

“It’s a new dawn.” I began to speak as an ember within me lit up. “I’m excited about the next phase. I feel like I’ve just been surviving, and I’m ready to start living again. I’ve been waiting and it’s finally on the horizon. It’s time for me to shine,” I heard myself say.

“Very good,” Angel’s voice chimed from the shadows in the back of the room. “What does this tell you about yourself?”

“I’m luminous. I remind people of where they come from and why they’re here.” I replied, feeling my inner light growing brighter by the minute now.

“Where do you remind them of?” Angel wisely prodded.

“LIGHT!” I exclaimed. “I’m a reflection of God’s light.”

“And why are YOU here?” She asked.

“To share that light,” I answered, still mesmerized by the glowing image of the moon gliding across the the black TV screen. Then I noticed all the darkness around it and added, “..and to experience the darkness too, because it’s beautiful.”

Angel smiled and added reassuringly, “The moon can’t shine without the darkness.”

Tuning into my own true feelings stirred something in me that has been dormant for months after slogging through an economic recession that threw my family’s business into a tailspin, cost me my job, and changed all my plans. Somehow, seeing that quiet moon calmly soaring through the night reminded me that life is unequivocally beautiful.

I saw and felt in my bones that the dark night holds the space for our luminous moon as she dances through the sky on her epic journey through the cycle of creation. A deep peace settled over me, coupled with a renewed zest for life. It was the feeling of walking in full faith that God is good, and an sense of wholeness from the acceptance of darkness as a part of the overall harmony that sustains life.

I’ve been posting most of the information about my “Easy Yoga for Lightworkers” classes on Meetup.com, and anyone sifting through those classes will soon notice a pattern that follows the cycles of the moon. It’s been an integral part of our practice together.

Having long revered and danced with the moon, it’s been an honor and blessing to enjoy such a powerful visitation from her at this time, especially as I transition into a new phase in my life. Last week, I announced that my classes at The Home of Om are coming to an end. My parents have just bought a house in another province, and the whole family are moving along with them! It’s a positive move, but also a sad good-bye.

My students have become very dear to me, and offering these classes by donation has given me a chance to help people in my own unique way. Warren and Angel were kind enough to collaborate on this to make it possible, and working with them has restored my faith in the goodness of strangers. They are now good friends to me, as I have worked alongside them and witnessed their enduring generosity and integrity.

It has been my sacred space – my baby! I’ve believed in this ongoing project from day 1, and it has been a source of great fulfillment for me. It’s hard to walk away from a beautiful thing like this after nurturing it with so much love.

Last night, the moon turned full, bringing in the usual wave of chaos, penetrating insight, and intensity. There were some overlapping classes scheduled at The Home of Om, and we were just barely able to squeeze everyone into my yoga class after moving to a smaller room. I led a yoga class that was supposed to deliver a full moon meditation at the end, but instead I took everyone through an elaborate chakra yoga themed class – not at all what they came for. I totally blanked on the full moon thing until this morning when I woke up and face-palmed myself.

In the end, everyone pulled together and my students seemed very happy with the meditation that came through in place of the one they had signed up for. Everyone embraced me and I felt nothing but love and appreciation coming my way. One of my returning students gifted me with a beautiful work of art, and others expressed their regret at my leaving soon.

Nature comes full cycle, and nothing is perfect, yet everything is ultimately in perfect harmony. The moon is a reminder that through it all, there is life – beautiful, precious, tender, pulsating life; warts n’ all. Yoga reminds us to accept what comes our way in life with grace, and to recenter our awareness in the deepest part of ourselves that remains eternally well.

The next phase of Sheena Yoga is a continuation of my mission to put people back in touch with this place, even as I struggle sometimes to do so for myself. I’m going to share more of my own journey with you in the form of blog posts and YouTube videos.

The first videos I’m working on are inspired by my teaching experience this past year with “Easy Yoga for Lightworkers.” The focus will be on making yoga accessible for beginners and people with limited range of motion, as well as introducing people to meditation and spirituality.

There are still SIX classes left at the school before I set off into the great unknown.

I am forever grateful to the brave, trusting souls who showed up and built these classes into a supportive community of friends and yogis. I hope you’ll join me for the next chapter of my story, which is unfolding right now! It’s exciting for me and I feel blessed by the Universe as I take this next step.

May all the love of the Sun, Moon, and Stars touch your heart and remind you where you come from.

Peace and Blessings, my friends 🙂

– Sheena

YOGA PLAYLIST #1: Sacred Sounds

Hero Pose on Beach

  Without You – CMA

  Perception – nExow

  We Are The Same In The Dark – Nyanara

  Until I Find You (Soular Order Remix) – Izzard

   Grounded – Mixomnia

Will She – Nyanara

   Shattered – Koda

   You – Killigrew

   Here Comes The Sun – Phaeleh ft. Soundmouse

   Pangaea – Gobbly

Time Passes – Cresce

  Ashes & Dust – Escape By Night

  Falling Through The Sky (ft. Margo Elena) – Jacoo & AidanS

The preceding songs were originally put together in this order by DJMixomnia on YouTube. The mix is called “Sacred Sounds” and you can stream the whole playlist HERE

   4 – Heart ChaKra ACTIVATION. Element: AIR 

   SPACE AMBIENCE: Chilled Music – Andulairah

HOW TO BUILD THE PERFECT YOGA POSE – Part 2, The Mind

Welcome to Part 2 of “How to Build the Perfect Yoga Pose.”

In Part 1, we covered how to build the perfect yoga pose on a physical level. This month, we will delve deeper into the mind and learn my 5-Step formula for building the perfect yoga pose on a mental level.

In The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, yoga is defined as follows:

“Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.

Then pure awareness can abide in its very nature.” 1

By cultivating a yogic state of mind, we facilitate the journey inward towards our true nature. From here, it is possible to hear the voice of spirit and be guided from within. This inner guidance system is attuned to the energy of harmony, peace, and happiness. Contrary to what many Westerners mistakenly believe, yoga is not a series of exotic poses. It is a state of being that results from a calm, relaxed mind. If any exercise is approached with the intention to tap into this peaceful state of mind, it is transformed into a yoga pose. In this sense, anything that is done with mindfulness is a yoga pose.

Let’s dive in and see how it’s done.

 

THE 5-STEP YOGA POSE FORMULA: FOR THE MIND

1. Be at ease and enjoy yourself.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali state that a yoga pose should be pleasant and easy.2 If you think enlightenment can be found by touching your forehead to your knees, you’re in for a rude awakening. This is the mindset that results in injury and ultimately, more suffering. A yoga pose is perfected when it unfolds in its own time and is enjoyed for its own sake, not to meet a particular goal. Release any attachment you may have to reaching a destination and just enjoy the journey.

Eg., “Reach toward your toes as far as you comfortably can and melt into it.”

2. Turn your awareness inward.

Notice how you feel. Practice listening deeply to your body and thoughts. Withdrawing your senses and turning your attention inward is the fifth limb of yoga, pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). As you hold the pose, remember to breathe and be with the pose in the present moment. Listen to your body and be in constant dialogue with the signals it is relaying. Be in dynamic conversation with your body as you fine tune the pose in this beautiful stillness you’ve created. 

Eg., “Notice how you feel. Are your shoulders tensing up? Release them. Are you holding your breath? Allow the breath to flow and deepen.”

3. Concentrate

After turning your awareness inward, you may notice distracting thoughts creeping in, making it difficult to deepen your awareness any further. To help with stilling the mind, it is essential to practice Dharana (pointed concentration), the seventh limb of yoga. The object of focus can be thought of as a rope that guides you more deeply into yourself. If your mind wonders, you can always come back to your focal point. Traditionally, objects of focus have included mantras, deities, breathing techniques, and spiritual concepts. In yoga poses, the objects of focus are generally to do with the breath and the alignment of the body.

Eg., “As distractions arise, allow them to pass as you return to your breath.”

 

3. Find your balance.

Bring harmony to the yin/yang components of the pose by energizing the active muscles (the prime movers) and softening the more passive muscles (antagonist muscles). Balance your will to succeed with a willingness to surrender. There will always be some effort involved in a yoga pose but it must be balanced by a relaxed state of mind that is open and receptive to what the body, the heart, and the song of your spirit have to offer.

Eg., “As you bend forward into a forward fold, energize your feet, kneecaps, and thighs while relaxing the backs of the legs. If you experience any pain or discomfort, back off.”

4. Connect the dots.

Integrate all the elements, draw everything in, bring it all together and you will have a magnificent yoga pose. This is the binding element that bridges mind, body, and spirit. Envision yourself in the pose – steady, graceful, and at peace. Fully embody the essence of the pose. Eric Schiffman expressed it beautifully when he said to “fill out the shape of what you now are.”

Eg., “In mountain pose, the feet are grounding into the earth and a sense of effortless stability is felt. In simply standing tall, we embody the majestic spirit of the mountains.”

 

 

That sums up the mental aspects of a yoga pose. As you learn to harness the mind and let go of thoughts, you will gain a deep understanding of your true nature.

Next time, we’ll explore the spiritual dynamics of yoga poses and learn how to use the spiritual aspect of a yoga pose to supercharge your conductivity to grace. Many people begin a yoga practice to recieve its physical and mental health benefits, then become hooked on the practice after spontaneously experiencing the spiritual benefits. This is thanks to all the generous, caring yoga teachers who “sneak vitamins into the ice cream” as my teacher, Eoin Finn happily confesses to doing.

The spirit world is a vast field of divine intelligence that is flowing through all beings at all times. You could also call it inner knowing, heart intelligence, or wisdom. In the illusory material world, we often block this flow because it appears to defy logic when viewed through our limited human perception. When we are receptive to this stream, we allow it to inform our thoughts, words, and actions. From here, everything we do becomes a meditative art form. Everything we do becomes yoga.

 

 

 

Until next time, Peace & Blessings.

 
1 From The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Verse 1.2 – 1.3, translated by Chip Hartranft, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, A New Translation with Commentary (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc, 2003).
2 From The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Verse 2.46

5 STEPS TO BUILD THE PERFECT YOGA POSE

HOW TO BUILD THE PERFECT YOGA POSE – Part 1, The Body

This is a four part series of five-step instructions for creating the perfect yoga pose on every level; Part 1 – the body, Part 2 – the mind, Part 3 – the spirit, and Part 4 – integration.  Each level is broken down into five core principles, or “steps” to achieving harmony on that level within the pose. At the end, we’ll tie it all together in an integrated summary – the ultimate 5-Steps to building the perfect pose on every level.

The body is a great place to start because it is the easiest thing to focus on for most people, especially in the beginning. Once you have reigned in the body, it will cooperate with you more and you will have an easier time quieting your mind and connecting to your spirit. In fact, yoga poses were invented for this express purpose in the first place.

 

THE 5-STEP YOGA POSE FORMULA: FOR THE BODY

1. Breathe life into the pose.
Be conscious of the breath as you move into, hold, and release a pose. Be aware of the breath and return to it every time you think of it. Let it be your guide, informing the pace and intensity of your practice. Any time your breathing becomes labored, slow down or rest in a restorative pose.

E.g., “Inhale, stand tall as you ground through the feet. Exhale, dive down into a forward fold.”

2. Ground down.
A pose is only as strong as its foundation. In grounding down, we grow roots into the earth and draw on the power of Mother Nature to support us. We lay a solid foundation from the ground up. From here, we can build the pose. You must always ground down in order to build up.

E.g., ”Stand evenly, pressing all four corners of the feet and the tips of the toes into the floor.”

3. Float up.
As you ground down through whatever part of your body is in contact with the ground, you gain lift and lightness through the rest of the body. Feel this lightness lifting you. In standing poses, the top of the head floats up toward the ceiling. Backbends and twists invite us to open the heart and expand ourselves in all directions as we maintain space in between each vertebrae of the spine. Forward folds and Savasana allow us to surrender while maintaining length and room for energy to flow.

E.g., “As you continue to ground down through the feet in Mountain Pose, feel the arches of the feet lifting and the crown of the head floating up toward the ceiling.”

4. Complete the circuit of energy.
Gather all the components, integrate, and add the finishing touches. Make sure you’re activating all the lines of energy. Fill out the shape of the posture and become that shape more fully. With practice, you will master what Dr. Ray Long calls a “bandha,” or lock. Traditionally, specific bandhas are done at the root, abdomen, and throat to more effectively channel prana, the life force. Dr. Long suggests that a bandha can happen when the whole body awakens and unifies, resulting in a graceful, beautiful yoga pose. It could be thought of as a whole-body bandha. [1]

E.g., “In Tree Pose, ground down through the standing foot as the crown of the head floats up. Actively press your other foot into the inner thigh of the standing leg and vice versa. Press evenly through all four corners of each foot to activate pada bandha in the feet. Activate your Mula Bandha at the perineum and notice the extra lift and firming of the whole torso.”

5. Hold, breathe, and adjust as needed.
Continue to hold and breathe. Now you can begin to fine tune the pose, making the minor adjustments that seem so small yet can make such a big difference. As you relax into the pose, make sure your breathing is easy and steady, your facial expression is peaceful, and you are in optimal alignment. It might be that rotating the chest, lifting through the heart, or moving a hip slightly forward could trigger a moment of pure bliss for you.

E.g., “Still in tree pose, keep both hips facing forward and send the bent knee backward.”

 

So there it is, the magical formula. I’m sure there are as many formulas that would work just as well or better. As my teacher, Eoin Finn so aptly stated,

“In the end, we’re only just swapping recipes.”

As you uncover more and more layers to yourself, you will peel the veils of consciousness away until you have uncovered the pure spirit of your inner being. This time, we were introduced to the 5-Step formula for our bodies to experience the perfect yoga pose on a physical level. Next time, we will explore bringing mental awareness and balance to every yoga pose. In the third issue of this series, we will weave in the spiritual aspect of the pose. In the fourth and final issues, we’ll sum everything up and look at the big picture.

Once we practice bringing everything together, mastery of the pose and of the self is the natural, poetic result.

Peace Blessings,

xo

 

 

 

1. Dr. Ray Long has his own perfect yoga pose formula, which he calls the Bandha Yoga Codex. It inspired me to try coming up with my own perfect recipe.

A Yogi’s Prayer

This beautiful prayer will help you to stay centred in love consciousness, with the intention of spreading that love to the whole world, thereby empowering all beings and helping to liberate the world from fear, illusion and suffering.

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Source:<Structural Yoga Therapy: Adapting to the Individual

Symptoms of Inner Peace

Along your yoga journey, you will find yourself being transformed in many ways. In Western society, we tend to focus on the physical transformations that are made possible with yoga asana (postures), yet inner transformation through meditation is the ultimate goal of a yoga practice. Read more

If You Love A Flower

osho flower

Be You, Be Relaxed.

“Tension is what you think you should be. Relaxation is what you are.” – Chinese proverb

source unknown

B.K.S. Iyengar Explains: Why All The Props?

“For years I was teaching without using any support, but realized later that these classical asana cannot be done by one and all. Read more