Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.


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Nursing Mothers Yoga Routine

Yoga Routine for Nursing Mothers:

This is a yoga routine for nursing mothers that I wrote for Shop Bu Ru. A fabulous on-line experience for mothers looking to stay fun and fashionable after having the little ones. If you have never seen the site, it is worth checking out!

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For nursing mothers, the key elements needed in a healthy morning routine are a short gratitude mediation (see Making a Gratitude List) followed by a short yoga asana routine. With this specific routine, designed exclusively for nursing mothers, we focus on the breath while simultaneously relaxing and stretching potential problem areas for the nursing body, i.e the arms, shoulders, chest, and spine. It is always best to seek guidance from a professional teacher before beginning any yoga practice as every body is different and has different needs. If you are comfortable with self-practice then please enjoy the following sequence.

Before beginning the yoga sequence, be sure to sit for 2-3 minuets with your gratitude list and cultivate a real sense of love for your life and responsibilities. Know that by allowing yourself the time to reflect on these blessings followed by this 10 minuet routine… you are really creating more love within you and thus a more loving space for all those around you, including your baby. Know that by taking this sacred 10-15 minutes from your morning that you are really enhancing every moment in the rest of your day.

Start the practice sitting with the legs crossed in what ever way is comfortable for you. By sitting with the legs crossed we increase the circulation in our abdomen and torso. For nursing mothers, this is excellent as it improves the quantity of blood being flushed through the upper body, aiding digestion and the breast feeding system as a whole. Calm the mind and straighten the spine.

With the tail bone rooted down, breathing through the nose inhale the right arm up and on the exhale take a nice stretch to the left. This is a wonderful way to open up the side body, creating space for more energy in this important region of nursing mothers bodies! Keep the right hip down and open the heart to the sky. Bring the gaze up to the right fingers and breathe deeply and go deeper with each exhale. Take a few deep breaths here. Then inhale back to center.

Switch sides. Breathing through the nose inhale the left arm up and on the exhale take a nice stretch to the right. Keep the left hip down, open the heart to the sky and bring the gaze up to the left fingers. Breathe deeply and go deeper with each exhale. Take a few deep breaths here. Then inhale back to center.

Come up and over the knees and into Balasana (child’s pose). The knees are wide and the toes touch. Straighten the spine and out stretch the arms  in front of you bringing the center of the forehead to the mat. Feel the pelvis sinking back onto the heels while the arms stay out stretched. Avoid hugging the shoulders to the ears. Breath deeply.

While in child pose, bring the hands together behind the back; interlock the fingers and raise the hands up, trying to bring the hands directly above the shoulders. Only go as far as is comfortable. This is a beautiful stretch into the shoulders, especially needed for nursing mothers. Additionally it opens up the chest area, another positive element for mothers. Take a few deep breaths here. Release the arms back down.

Push up onto all fours and then step back into high plank. Firm the arms with the wrists directly beneath the shoulders. Engage the core and keep the back straight and the body in one line. Avoid sagging the hips or lifting them up. Relax the muscles in the face. If this is too much, come onto the knees. Take a few deep breaths in high plank, feeling the strength in both the arms, the legs, and the core. Pull the belly button back to the spine.

Bring your left hand to the center of the mat and bring your right arm up, the right hand directly above the shoulder, the left hand directly beneath the left shoulder. Firm the legs, firm the core, breath deeply through the nose. Take a couple of breaths here, exhale the right arm to the center of the mat, and repeat on the left side of the body. After a few breaths return to high plank.

Stay in high plank for a couple of breaths, then exhale coming down halfway, bending from the elbows. Now inhale coming back up to high   plank and repeat moving up and down taking a few ½ push ups. Creating arm strength and energizing the core is very important for moms who are constantly carrying an ever growing baby! Then exhale all the way down  and inhale coming up into upward facing dog.

Upward facing dog is an incredible heart opener! Press the tops of the feet firmly into the mat with engaged legs, lift the pelvis off of the mat engaging the core, and bring the gaze to the upper corner of the room with out crunching into the cervical spine. The spine is in a nice long curved line with no kinks. Bring the shoulders down from the ears but keep the torso extending forward and up, breath deeply and enjoy the incredible power in this posture!

Release into either downward facing dog or high plank and find yourself back into child’s pose, gently massaging the lower back.

From child’s pose come back to sitting and then come down onto your back, grabbing a hold of the legs, by grabbing opposite elbows with opposite hands, give yourself a big hug, compressing into the chest thoroughly. Compressing the chest allows for any stuck or stubborn clinging stresses to release themselves. A way of purifying and detoxifying the body upon release…

Next, Halasana (plow pose). Lay on your back and bring the legs up into the air. Begin lifting the pelvis and allow the toes to find the floor behind your head. Bring the fingertips to the base of the spine, pointing towards the ceiling. This pose is idle for nursing mothers as the stretch through the back is heavenly and the compression of the chin on the chest breaks through energy blockages to allow fresh energy to flow through the chest. To release bring the arms down to your sides and come down slowly, one vertebrae at a time. Really engage the core as you come down.

A natural counter posture for plow pose is bridge. Bend the knees bringing them directly above the ankles, hip width apart. The hands are down at the sides palms down. On the inhale, begin to lift from the sacrum first, coming up one vertebrae at a time until your spine is lifted as high as is comfortable. If you like, interlock your fingers underneath you and enjoy deep full breathing through the nose! This posture is again, so yummy for nursing moms. The stretch through the spine works wonder as it purifies the entire body. On an exhale, slowly come down.

After releasing from bridge pose, once again curl yourself up into at tight ball, compressing the body, and gently roll around on the base of the spine giving yourself a nice free massage. This is great for nursing moms because, who doesn’t’t like free massages!?

From the ball position, release and lift yourself up, engaging the core, and come into Navasana (boat pose). In boat pose the abdomen is really activated, pulling the belly to the spine. Keep the back straight and lifted, with the heart open and the shoulders down and away from the ears. The neck is long and the gaze is at the big toes. Relax the expression on the face, perhaps a small smile, and breathe deeply through the nose. Stay as long as you can! Then release, coming into a seated position.

 
 

From the seated position, we are ready for our final spinal twisting– a big opportunity to release all stresses from the body and fully activate the entire spine. This particular posture really massages the internal organs and works through the chest– so yummy! Bring the right heel to the left rear end and bring the left leg up and over the right knee. Bring your left wrist to the base of the spine, acting as your “kick-stand” for the posture. Inhale the right arm up taking a nice full body stretch on the right side before taking the twist. Exhale bringing the right arm over the left knee, connecting the right elbow over the knee. Bring the gaze behind you. Use the traction between the knee and elbow to take you deeper into the twist. On each inhale find more length in the spine and on the exhale, more depth. ENJOY. Then switch sides.

Come back to your initial comfortable seated position. Bring the hands to heart center with the thumbs pressing against the chest. Close the eyes and bring a small smile to the face as you set an intention to walk through the rest of the day with GRATITUDE. To walk with a straight spine, to breath deeply, and to smile at strangers. Bring your thumbs up to the center of the forehead and bow forward thanking yourself for the time to honor yourself. You are now ready to face the day like a Zen princess.

*** Please visit Taozi Tree Yoga on Facebook for details on Taozi’s travels, teaching schedule, and more inspiration!***

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A Gratitude Meditation for the Holidays

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Thanksgiving! Gratititude, shmatitude. To what extent do we really feel gratitude during the holidays? Do we feel it deep down in our bones? If not, then its time to get serious about cultivating this incredible emotion… and in order for this to happen, it’s going to take some ACTION! 🙂

As the holiday season arrives, schedules fill up and life gets pretty crazy. Things to do, people to see, cakes to cook and presents to wrap. While the list of “things we have to do” piles up it becomes easy to forget what the season is really about. We often get lost of the hustle and bustle of the season and forget that the best present we can give to the people around us is to actually be present in each moment.

In order to stay present/become present, it is more important than ever to stay on top of our own personal care in order to be the best people we can possibly be.

By doing a quick gratitude meditation in the morning we can ensure we will face the day like Zen angels.

Studies show that people feel the happiest when they are experiencing an internal sense of Gratitude.

Happy US=happy THEM.

 We are going to generate this sense of gratitude for the blessings in our life by creating a gratitude list. By having the gratitude list ready made at your bedside, alter, or breakfast nook, it will serve as a morning reminder, every day, to take the time to be quiet and to reflect on the day ahead while getting filled up with yummy gratitude!

Directions:

Think of 5-10 people, things, life-situations that you are grateful for. We are taking a look at the people and things in our lives that we experience every day and we are going to reflect on how special they are (even if they drive us crazy sometimes…we are focusing on the positives!)

Write down the thing/person you are grateful for.

I am grateful for my amazing family.

Next,  think of a way to SHARE the gratitude with your loved ones through an ACTION. Then create a positive affirmation.

I am grateful for my amazing family…I will take show this to them today by taking care of them care of them with love and a gentle smile. I will do my best to be of service to them and to make them feel good about themselves.

By thinking about this in the morning and then going out into the day… when someone or some situation in your family pops up and you need to be there… you will view this as a pleasant surprise and deal with it with gratitude and love…

Next:

Get a piece of blank white paper and some markers, crayons, colored pencils, whatever you like! Write out your top 6-7 things and decorate the list, making it a fun beautiful thing that you can use for you morning meditations for the rest of the season.

When you get up in the morning, save your self at least 3-5 minuets to sit quietly and to reflect on these things before the day starts. Just try it and see if it makes a difference!

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*** Please visit Taozi Tree Yoga on Facebook for details on Taozi’s travels, teaching schedule, and more inspiration!***


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Stop “Should-ing” yourself.

china

I knew I had a problem last week when I “should-ed” myself at least a dozen times.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda…We carry enough on our backs to be adding unnecessary self criticisms and complaints about what we “should” be doing differently. This is a short piece on how we can let go of the constant self judgments and transform them into positive growth. 🙂

I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this.  Sometimes, when I am not performing at my optimal level, I get caught up in negative thought cycles which although seem harmless, are detrimental to my own well being as well as those around me.

Especially as  yogis/yoginis we “should” know better. AH! Damn. I “should-ed” again…

As yoga practitioners and teachers, we might be a little more sensitive to the thoughts that role around in our heads…or the actions that accompany them. They are no different then anyone else’s (crazy thoughts and actions).  However we may just more aware of them when they are “bad” things because we, while on a spiritual path to Samadhi, “should” know better… Oops! Again.

I “should” not think this.

I “should” not drink that.

I “should” not go there.

I “should” not eat those.

I “should” not buy them.

Positive sunshine rays “should” shoot out of my eyeballs.

Blah, blah, blah…

Time to get over it people because no one likes someone who “shoulds” all over themselves.

Fellow yogis, we are human and life happens to us, within us, around us, just like every body else.

Also our emotions and feelings will constantly change depending on a number of variables. Hormones, diet, exercise… It’s not always going to be pretty!

As teachers we may find this difficult as others are looking up to us as “spiritual gurus” (I suppress a chuckle here). It is the highest form of a compliment and yet… we may all too often berate ourselves when we feel we “should” behave, act, perform, or feel a certain way just because we are under a lens.

I will never forget one of my first real life yoga teachers. I totally looked up to her in my early twenties and could not believe how “cool” she was. Peaceful, beautiful, and so centered! I unknowingly put her on a pedestal. One day I got news of a total scandal she had been involved in. It was awful and I was shocked. How could she have? I then felt incredible sympathy for her and saw for the first time that she was human. Guess what, we all are. And we all grow the same way… through learning from our mistakes and thus discovering what doesn’t suit us.

When yogis make a consistent effort (practice abhyasa) in working with the yamas and the niyamas… the path will naturally get narrower and we will naturally and easily be guided to where we are supposed to be in our practice.

When we think something, drink something, go somewhere, eat something, or buy something that feels wrong to us… we need to recognize it, make a mental note that “hey, this isn’t working” and decide what actions can be taken to change. ACTION. Not simply a statement of “should”. A serious look needs to be taken at how the behavior, thought, or action is affecting us and  then what actions can be taken to change it. There is always something that can be done. We can commit to putting the energy into the action and then, we move on. Let go. Letting go is practicing vairagya, which is the complimenting principal to abhyasa/consistent practice.

Instead of “should-ing” ourselves we can practice gentle smriti. According to the sutras:

Smriti is cultivating a constant mindfulness of treading the path, and of remembering the steps along the way. This memory is not a negative mental obsession, but rather, a gentle, though persistent awareness of the goal of life, of faith in your journey, and of your decision to commit your energy to the process.

When we falter while trying to break old habits that no longer suit us, and it’s likely we will,  we just keep trying. Consistent practice guarantees results!  “Should-ing” all over the place is messy and it accomplishes nothing.

*http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-11922.htm


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A parable on Santosha: “It is what it is.”

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The literal translation of the second niyama is contentment. I believe that an applicable way of explaining Santosha is simply,  that it is having trust in a guiding supreme universal force, whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, or the ocean breeze. Santosha is about believing in every moment that all is exactly as it should be. This reminds me of a beautiful parable of a Chinese farmer…

“It is what it is”

A man named Sei Weng owned a beautiful mare which was praised far and wide. One day this beautiful horse disappeared. The people of his village offered sympathy to Sei Weng for his great misfortune. Sei Weng said simply, “That’s the way it is.”

A few days later the lost mare returned, followed by a beautiful wild stallion. The village congratulated Sei Weng for his good fortune. He said, “That’s the way it is.”

Some time after, Sei Weng’s only son, while riding the stallion, fell off and broke his leg. The village people once again expressed their sympathy at Sei Weng’s misfortune. Sei Weng again said, “That’s the way it is.”

Soon thereafter, war broke out and all the young men of the village except Sei Weng’s lame son were drafted and were killed in battle. The village people were amazed at Sei Weng’s good luck. His son was the only young man left alive in the village. But Sei Weng kept his same attitude: despite all the turmoil, gains and losses, he gave the same reply, “That’s the way it is.”

Obviously, the meaning of this story is that everything happens for a reason and things can’t be defined as “good” or “bad”.  Life contentment is found by not attaching oneself to these external circumstances, as hard as it may be.

When things feel up in the air… return to the breath, the moment… and know that you are being supported by your higher power always.