“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.”
On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.
Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind.
That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it seemed to me that is was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.
I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that this perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.
If you can take just a few minutes for yourself to calm your body, your feelings, and your perceptions … Joy becomes possible. The joy of true quiet becomes a daily healing food.
-from Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh
“As the pace of our lives continues to be accelerated by a host of forces seemingly beyond our control, more and more of us are finding ourselves drawn to engage in meditation, in this radical act of being, this radical act of love, astonishing as that may seem given the materialistic “can do” speed-obsessed, progress-obsessed, celebrity-and-other-peoples-lives obsessed orientation of our culture. We are moving in the direction of meditative awareness for many reasons, not the least of which may be “to maintain our sanity, or recover our perspective and sense of meaning, or simply to deal with the outrageous stress and insecurity of this age. By stopping and intentionally falling awake to how things are in this moment, purposefully, without succumbing to reaction or judgment and by working wisely with such occurrences, with a healthy dose of self-compassion when we do succumb, and by our willingness to take up residency for a time in the present moment in spite of all our plans and activities aimed at getting somewhere else, completing a project or pursuing desired objects or goals, we discover that such an act is both immensely, discouragingly, difficult and yet utterly simple, profound, hugely possible after all, and restorative of mind and body, soul and spirit.”
“The most important thing to keep in mind when practicing meditation lying down is that it is about falling awake… There are many virtues to meditating lying down… We can surrender completely to the embrace of gravity, and let go into the floor or mat or bed and let it do the work… In practicing dropping into the embrace of gravity itself, we are more motivated and more willing to drop unconditionally into now, to bring a radical and open- hearted acceptance to whatever we find is going on in our minds and our bodies and our lives in any moment or on any given day, in a word, to be and let go.”
Proper digestion is integral to balanced holistic health and is at the heart of our body’s energetic regulation. When it is all working correctly, throughout the day our digestive system is ingesting food, secreting fluids, breaking down and digesting fiber, absorbing nutrients and defecating waste. When the system is not working optimally we harbor toxins and waste which can cause a constellation of maladies like bloating, nausea, sluggishness, or general discomfort. At worst, i an over-taxed or improperly functioning digestive system can lead to serious illness or disease.
Obviously a conscious diet and good hydration are the first steps in maintaining a healthy functioning system. But as the holidays quickly approach and the parties and meals become more abundant and celebratory our digestive systems can use more help in keeping up with increased demand.
Restorative Yoga is a tailored, supported, restful practice that awakens our parasympathetic nervous system and assists with physical as well as mental digestion. When we drop into this mind/body state that reigns over meditation and elimination, we allow our innate functions to simply happen on their own. Not only does the practice aid in the physical digestion of toxins and waste products from our bodies, it assists in the digesting of thoughts, images, and incessant chatter that cloud our minds as well.
The Holidays are a great time to give yourself the gift of Restorative Yoga.
Following is a suggested Restorative Yoga practice specifically sequenced and designed to assist in good digestion for optimal functioning of body, mind, and breath. Try one pose or all of them. And take 3-10 minutes in the poses for the best benefit. Leave me a comment below to let me know how it goes for you.
Wishing you true Joy for the upcOMing holidays! XOXO Melanie
Hero Pose (Virasana)
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Cat / Cow
Knees To Chest Pose (Apanasana)
Reclined Pigeon (Sucirandhrasana)
Extended Leg Pose (Paschimottasana)
Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Reclined / Supported Cobblers Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Reclined / Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Reclined Twist (Jathara Parivartasana)
Supported Seated Meditation
Restorative Yoga is a cooling practice that soothes and quiets the nervous system and can restore hormonal balance. It is a practice of moderate versions of classical yoga poses predominantly done on the floor, supported by props such as bolsters, blocks, straps, and the wall. The poses are held from 3 – 10 minutes while maintaining an awareness of easy breathing. The support of the props allows the body to stay in the intelligent forms of the poses for longer durations in order to receive the therapeutic benefits of the poses without spending precious energy to hold them. Often, eye coverings are used to encourage a deeper relaxation experience.
Stress is the body’s auto, physiological reaction to circumstances that require change. The stress response is referred to as the fight-or-flight response. Healthy stress is vital as it is the response mechanism that activates in emergencies and was critical to the survival of primitive humankind, our ancestors.
The modern world is ceaselessly fast paced, complicated, and stressful. Human instinctual nature does not differentiate between modern mental stress (brought about by family-care, finances, constant media bombardment, etc.) with the ancient stress of survival in the wild or the useful stress elicited in emergency situations.
Constant mental anxiety and worry flood the body with adrenaline and stress hormones. Adrenaline is vital for us to keep up with active lifestyles. But without breaks for rejuvenation, our adrenaline production never shuts down causing the adrenal glands to ‘blow out’ due to overwork. The result is a stress induced state of fatigue that can become chronic and can lead to a compromised immune system.
Common warning signals that your nervous and hormonal systems may be in need of restoration are constant fatigue, workouts being a drag instead of uplifting, and increased susceptibility to bugs and illnesses. If any of this this sounds familiar you, try Restorative Yoga.
The best medicine to combat stress is to consistently practice awakening the opposite response in the body/mind eco-system — the relaxation response. Regular practice and elicitation of the relaxation response has been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. In fact, to the extent that any disease is caused or made worse by stress, the relaxation response can help.
The practice and components of Restorative Yoga make it a perfect method for deep, therapeutic relaxation, for medicinal or preventative purposes. Supported yoga poses allow for our muscles to let go of deep unconscious holding and bring us to a state of well deserved ease. A focus on easy breathing helps to redirect our awareness to the present moment without distraction, which is utterly calming. The poses and props can and should be customized and adjusted for each individual to achieve maximum release and relaxation which yields healthy restoration of the body, mind, and breath.
Disclaimer: Obviously consult with your healthcare provider as your main source of guidance in health and wellness.
This time last year I had one of those pivotal moments where I hit a wall and was faced with the reality of my life and the choices that lay before me. Things were going relatively well. A third teacher-training group was about to graduate from my Yoga Birds program and the studio was chugging along offering valuable services to the community. I had a nice house, great husband, awesome dogs, and loving family all around me.
My practices of daily asana and meditation were steady, life at home was good…but something was missing or just not right with me. I prayed and I meditated and finally realized that I was not where I wanted to be or doing what I truly wanted to be doing.
It was one of those God-moments when I realized in full force the finite nature of my time on earth, the importance and impact of every choice I make, and the preciousness of every moment that has been given to me.
I started making plans to close my beloved little yoga studio and to get back into film acting which I had left in 2008 when I moved to Fairhope from New Orleans. So, in case you were wondering, that’s where I have been all year…. In acting classes in New Orleans. More on that later…
I have not abandoned yoga. Or, more accurately, yoga has not abandoned me. I have taken a massive break and rest from daily vigorous asana (poses) practice. It was not intentional and happened naturally as I stopped teaching so much. I am still a firm believer and advocate that asana yoga teachers should be practicing what they are asking of their students. I asked a lot of my students ergo I spent a lot of time on the mat in my own personal practice doing sun salutations and warrior poses, etc.
This break from the physical yoga for me has been utterly healing and informative…which is essentially what our practices should be about. So yes, my chaturanga and my pinca mayurasana probably SUCK right about now, but really…. I don’t care. And this is cOMpletely LIBERATING for me!
What I do practice regularly is Restorative Yoga. Apparently my nervous system needs a daily re-set to truth, consciousness, and joy. My husband Burke who is a brilliant wordsmith dubbed Restorative Yoga a practice of ‘pillows and gravity’. It is absolute heaven and gives back to me ten-fold in the currency of connection to Spirit, relaxed groundedness, breath awareness, clarity, patience, kindness, happiness, contentment, and vibrant energy. All it asks of me is to stop, become still, and hang out there for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. And BTW… it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.
In these past several months I have explored different neighborhoods –literal and figurative. I miss my friends and family and community of yogis in Alabama and further east. I have made some incredible new friends in the acting and film and fitness communities of New Orleans. Life is a constant paradox. But it is certainly wonderful.
I am ready to start teaching again with a fresh new perspective on how yoga can support day to day life and courageous choices that foster the manifestation of the sparkling, healthy, vibrant lives that are our birthright.
Next month I will be in Fairhope at Prana Health and Wellness Sunday, November 24th. Becky Ardrey and I are co-hosting an open house and discussion about the collaborative 2014 Yoga Birds Teacher Training being held at Prana. Stay tuned for more details about the open house and about the training.
Also in the works in New Orleans is a yoga class in conjunction with the indoor cycling classes (called RIDE) I have been teaching at Romney Pilates Center on Magazine Street. More details TBA.
On Sunday morning, November 17th I am presenting a Restorative Yoga Session at the Mahabhuta Yoga Festival. I can’t wait to immerse in yoga for the whole weekend with so many friends and teachers! I hope that you can join me there for my class or to attend some of the fantastic classes of other teachers with me.
That’s all I have for now. Please be in touch with a comment below or drop me a line or a ‘like’ on my personal profiles at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. And if you’re interested, check out my new acting website at www.melaniebuffett.com. Hope to see y’all soon in a festive and joyful place!
Much Love and Peace,
Asana: pose, posture, seat
Ahimsa: to do no harm
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A PAIN IN MY ASS
Since the beginning of my 6-week teaching sabbatical I have also taken an intentional break from my regular asana practice of Sun Salutations and classical poses. This is the longest uninterrupted rest from asana I have taken in 17 years of practice. Interestingly, one of the results is that I am pain-free in some of my chronic areas of aggravation… specifically in my hamstring attachment area. Basically, that nagging long-suffered ‘pain in my ass’ has evaporated. This state leaves me simultaneously euphoric and frightened. My asana practice has been my savior, foundation, therapist, refuge, friend, entertainment, release, adventure, and source of livelihood. But apparently it has been the source of a little suffering as well.
For the past month and a half my daily yoga practice has consisted solely of a couple of restorative poses a day, including my longtime fave of hanging upside down between two chairs (see photo). This break from my regular practice of vigorous asana has enlightened me to the fact that it’s time to re-pattern it so that I can maintain this blissful pain-free state that has happened.
PATTERN AND RE-PATTERN
Re-patterning does not necessarily mean taking on a whole new practice or ditching cherished poses and sequences. I miss and love practicing Sun Salutations. I believe in their healing power. They provide me with focus, concentration, courage, and empowerment like nothing else. And I LOVE TO SWEAT. I do not want to give them up. What to do???
I’m in the process of breaking down the Sun Salutations. Essentially I am re-configuring actions, alignment, and habits of practice tailored to and nurturing of MY body’s story. The intention for practice is ahimsa (causing no harm to myself or others) while still honoring the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Hatha tradition from where the sequence comes. For me this means approaching practice with courageous honesty and self/body-directed wisdom. It means making changes and proceeding with care. In every moment we must recognize if we are causing suffering, to ourselves or others and adjust accordingly.
Awareness of a pain in the ass the first step. What we do with that is the interesting next step. I will keep you posted on my progress.
Peace & Love,
Upcoming Sun Salutations Workshop Saturday June 29, 1-5pm, at USA Rec Center in Mobile, Alabama.
Early bird rate $60 ends June 15th.
REGISTER ONLINE NOW
I continue to receive messages from folks looking for my public teaching class schedule. For the record, I joyfully report that I am on a teaching ‘Sabbatical’ and spending some quality time in my home away from home, New Orleans.
It feels a little bit strange to not be teaching a regularly scheduled public yoga class. It is the first time in nearly seven years that I have taken more than a week off from doing it.
This break has been utterly restorative. It is giving me fresh perspective on my reasons and intentions for practicing and teaching yoga. In a nutshell it is that yoga provides a relief from suffering.
Until there is no suffering, I will continue practicing and teaching yoga to the best of my abilities, in the context of perpetually evolving life.
I am still meeting with private clients and working with folks in therapeutic and restorative applications of yoga. I really enjoy working one on one. sharing yoga in this format, I feel like I am really helping people identify with good practice techniques for relief from the individualistic physical pains that we all suffer. This teaching break has also been a great opportunity and time for me to re-commit to my studentship and finish the Therapeutic Anatomy training with Leslie Kaminoff.
Combining my love of the Classical Ashtanga Primary Series with training in therapeutic yoga (which, believe it or not really can integrate well), this Summer I am excited to present a workshop at The University of South Alabama Recreation Center in Mobile. And then there’s the retreat to Jamaica in September. All of the info for these events is on the website. One thing not yet posted on the website is a Fall one-day retreat at Camp Beckwith, Saturday October 26. Be sure to save the date for that.
I am enjoying being more active on Twitter (@yogabirds), Facebook, Instagram (@melaniebuffett), and sometimes Vine. If you’re on any of those platforms. I’d love to connect and keep in touch while I explore life outside of Fairhope and the yoga studio for a while.
Wishing you all the best Summer ever. And of course PEACE LOVE & YOGA!
P.S. If you liked this post, please leave me a comment! I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you’re there, we can keep in touch on Social Media too!