Friday, December 30, 2011

What is Yoga Nidra?

"...and they all settled in for a long winter's nap".

Yoga Nidra is yogic sleep.  This is one of my favorite meditations to lead (and participate in!).  My favorite reference book for yoga nidra is the adaptation by Swami Satyananda Saraswati .  In my own words, yoga nidra is a guided meditation that leads a person into a state of deep relaxation, where there exists a state of receptivity that cannot normally be accessed.  From this place comes clarity of intention.

The new year is a wonderful time for yoga nidra.  It involves formulating a resolve (or intention), something you'd like to manifest in your life in the coming weeks and months.  Then comes the guided meditation, where you are led through a tour of your body - the big toe, second toe, third, etc..  This may seem boring and monotonous, but what unfolds is a deeper state of consciousness.  The mind turns inward.  Outer distractions fall away.

Toward the end of the meditation, you are asked to silently state your resolve.  This allows it to embed itself into your consciousness.  Not a lot of work required here.  The results can be quite profound. 

Many yoga studios are offering yoga nidra meditations these days. If you are unable to attend a session, a cd is the next best thing.  Here are a couple that I recommend:  Relax into Greatness with Rod Stryker, and Drops of Nectar with Shiva Rea.

Wishing you a blissful, winter's sleep.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What is vinyasa?

The word "vinyasa" means "to place in a special way".  In vinyasa yoga, the asanas (poses) are sequenced in such a way to produce a desired effect within the body and the mind.  For example, the class may have a theme of opening the heart, or creating movement in the hips.  Another way to explain vinyasa yoga is to say that it is a form of yoga where the breath moves in alignment with the body.

Shiva assisting a student in Standing Anahatasana.

Prana Flow Yoga is a style of vinyasa yoga created by Shiva Rea. Shiva Rea's web-site defines it as an "energetic, creative, full-spectrum approach to embodying the flow of yoga". More on Shiva's definition of Prana Flow can be found here.

I would describe this style of yoga as creating a shift in consciousness within the body. In our modern world, it becomes a habit to dis-associate the mind from the body, creating a myriad of problems from insomnia to heart disease, among others. When we become fully engaged with the innate intelligence that our body possesses through this flowing movement, the distractions of the mind become less and less. It's as if the body is teaching the mind how to be at peace. Borrowing another quote from Shiva, Prana Flow is "a way to ride the waves of breath, change and life rhythms, living, loving, serving life in all forms".

I teach this type of class every Monday at 9am at Excite in Highland Village. Other yoga classes there include Hatha Yoga and Yin Yoga. Find out more about the yoga schedule at Excite here..

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Restorative Yoga in a Stressful World

“I will let my body flow like water over the gentle cushions.”  Sappho
Feeling stressed, over-worked, and fatigued? Restorative Yoga might be able to help.
Restorative Yoga is a practice that uses a variety of props to completely support the body in gentle, restful positions. It is a healing practice that gives students the opportunity to linger quietly in well-supported poses.  After effects?  You feel calm, peaceful and balanced!
I am a Relax and Renew Yoga Teacher, trained by Judith Lasater.  Much of the information from this post comes from my studies with her.
We live in a stressful world, and it can take a toll on the body and the mind.  According to Judith, we are stressed because of our thoughts about the future and as a result of our samskaras (ingrained patterns) from our past.   All of these thoughts that continually swirl around in our heads leave a residue.  Restorative Yoga helps to clear that away.
Judith points out that most people have a misguided notion about what relaxation really means.  We think we are resting when we sit down in front of the t.v. or when we are reading a book.  In reality, we are “avoiding” rest because, as Judith says, we are “addicted to distraction.”  Our hobbies and other leisure activities, while they are nourishing to our souls, are not the equivalent of rest.
This is where Restorative Yoga can help. It is a technique that actually manipulates the nervous system, inducing the “relaxation response”, a term coined by Herbert Benson, M.D. : "The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress... and the opposite of the fight or flight response."
There are scientific studies that prove that Restorative Yoga has positive effects on the nervous system.  It does take time.  It is recommended that a person spend at least 20 minutes in most restorative poses, because it takes at least that long for the body to relax.  Beyond that, the parasympathetic nervous system can begin to take over, quieting and soothing the mind and body, bringing about true rest.
The photos in this post were taken in my home and were a part of my research project for my certification in Restorative Yoga with Judith Lasater.  They show an example of a restorative pose called Side-lying  Savasana.  I really snuggled the participant in with this pose.  This was her first experience with Restorative Yoga, and I wanted it to be a good one.  She felt so pampered with the eye pillow in her palm and the cover over her eyes.  She loved this pose so much that one night she ended up sleeping there all night! 
Pre-pose set-up


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Science of Yoga - Body and Mind

The Science of Yoga
by Susan Reeves

I've recently read two great articles about the benefits of yoga, both physically and mentally (links to the articles are at the end of this post).  I've been practicing yoga for almost 14 years now, and I find what the articles say to be true. 

When I first began my practice, I noticed an almost immediate improvement in my flexibility.  At the time, I was a new mom, chasing a toddler around and spending lots of time on the floor, playing with her.  Whereas before, I could not sit cross-legged because of a knee injury, after a few classes of vinyasa I was able to sit easily in that position.  I also noticed that even though my weight did not change, my clothes began to fit looser.   As my child grew, my physical strength was growing, so that picking her up was not putting as much of a strain on my shoulders and back as it used to. 

Throughout the past several years, I've become particularly aware of how I feel internally when I have a regular asana and meditation practice.  I experience my day with a peaceful clarity. When stressful events pop up, I'm able to take a step back and evaluate how to calmly respond.  I still appreciate the physical benefits of my practice, but I have a deeper sense of gratitude now for the mental and emotional balance yoga brings.

The Science of Yoga article gives evidence from recent scientific studies about how yoga can affect the levels of cortisol in the body.   Practicing yoga can also increase levels of "feel-good" brain chemicals and boosts immune function.  Yoga can also reduce inflammation in the body, one of the main causes of disease.  Read more about The Science of Yoga here.

I love the way Stephen Cope, psychotherapist, author and director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, explains the relationship between body and brain in the article:  “yogis came to believe that the mind and body are linked in every way, and indeed, that the mind is just a subtle form of the body, and the body a gross form of mind.” What we do for the one benefits the other. Read more about The Psychology of Yoga here.

Susan Reeves, MA,  E-RYT 500, teaches yoga in Highland Village, Flower Mound, and Lewisville areas of Texas.  She is also the co-founder of Yoga Bridge, a non-profit that offers free services to cancer patients/survivors.  Visit her web-site at .

Friday, September 30, 2011

For Yoga Beginners...

I'm seeing some newbies in a few of my classes these days.  I LOVE teaching beginners!!  Here are a few sites that I recommend for basic yoga poses (asanas) and sequences.  There's also a site for those interested in beginning a meditation practice. 

From the Yoga Basics web-site:
Asana is defined as "posture;" its literal meaning is "seat." Originally, the asanas served as stable postures for prolonged meditation. More than just stretching, asanas open the energy channels, chakras and psychic centers of the body.  Read more here.

Other recommended sites:

See my links page for even more.

I'm Susan Reeves, E-RYT 500. I offer yoga classes in Highland Village, Flower Mound, and Lewisville areas. Please sign up in the right-hand column for e-mail updates on yoga articles, current classes and workshops.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

M. D. Anderson Receives 4.5 Million Grant, Largest Ever for Study of Yoga and Cancer

Recently I was visiting M.D. Anderson hospital and could not help but notice how accessible yoga was to the population there - both for patients and for their caregivers.  I hope to study this more so that I can offer support to people going through cancer treatments. 

M. D. Anderson News Release 04/12/10
"In an ongoing effort to scientifically validate the age-old belief that mind-body interventions have a beneficial impact on the health of patients, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has been awarded more than $4.5 million to study the efficacy of incorporating yoga into the treatment program of women with breast cancer.
The grant, the largest ever awarded by the National Cancer Institute for the study of yoga in cancer, will allow researchers to conduct a Phase III clinical trial in women with breast cancer to determine the improvement in physical function and quality-of-life during and after radiation treatment. It will also investigate if such stress reduction programs result in economic and/or work productivity benefit.  Read more here."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Malas for Charity in September

For the week of September 7-14, Yoga Jewelry by Moondog Treasures is donating 54% of all sales of mala bracelets to charity in honor of  the Global Mala and in memory of several dear friends.  The Global Mala is an incredible yoga event that will be going on across the world on the weekend of September 24th and 25th. Click on the picture below to see more malas (for women and men) from my store or to purchase a mala bracelet.
I've gone to California many times to study yoga with my teacher, Shiva Rea, the coordinator of this event.  It is very close to my heart.

A Meditation by Erich Schiffmann

Here is an excerpt of a guided meditation that I read recently as part of my Meditation Series.  Its author is Erich Schiffmann, a wonderful teacher in Venice Beach, CA.

"...Now, become more and more grounded. Spend a few moments here. Feel where you are touching the floor or cushion, and consciously allow the weight of your body to sink downward more into the floor. Become rooted, gently planted. Continue reading here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ayurveda for the summer

Here's an article from the Shakti Online website about a topic I've been discussing in class:
Looking to keep cool and comfortable?  Here are some quick tips from The Ayurveda Institute for summer well-being. . . Continue reading here...