We have all heard the phrase, pain is the best teacher. And we all nod and agree… and then ignore the pain as we continue to do what we want to do. Then the pain finally yells so loudly that you fall off your horse (ahem… arms) and simply cannot get back up. And then while we are down we figure we may as well listen since we can’t really go anywhere. We all do this to varying degrees and sometimes its the right thing to do and others not so much.
My latest pain and series of events has led me to examine pelvic placement. Specifically finding a neutral pelvis. A position where you allow your lower back to curve the ways its meant to, but also support and strengthen your front body in an efficient manner.
I have spent time with the anatomy text book, seen the videos of exaggerated posterior versus anterior tilts, and understand the over usage of unnecessary muscles. But unfortunately as it is for me, if the hips and lower back is where you tend to hold tension its hard to disengage, and change muscle engagement patterns.
Constructive Rest position is a great place to start finding a neutral pelvic position, and explore different places you hold your tension. Start by lying down on a firm surface with your knees bent; a thick yoga mat, or a couple of smooth even blankets on the floor is perfect.
If you have ever taken a pilates class this will be familiar, place the palm of your hand under your lower back. You should find that there naturally is space between your back and the floor for your hand to slip under. Keeping your hips on the floor, experiment with increasing the space there and flattening your back on your palms. After a few tries bring your arms out on either side of you and stay in that spot that your body naturally falls into. Neither arched not flat, but curved just right. Take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose.
Then bring your palms to the front of your hips and stay for 20-30 mins. You can bring a pillow or cushion between your knees and hold your thighs together with a strap. Add a firm blanket under your head if you need neck support.
Try to stay still and breathe naturally. If you tend to normally arch or tuck your pelvis this will feel weird, and after a few minutes you WILL want to “fix” your self into correct alignment. Trust yourself that you found the right alignment and allow yourself to get heavy and sink into the floor. Obviously if anything hurts or the sensations are keeping you from relaxing readjust and come back to your breath.
After you have been there for a while, you will find parts of your body releasing that your didn’t even know you were holding up. And don’t be surprised if you find your self in a flood of emotion. The neutral pelvic position helps release the psoas muscle, which is linked to emotions and the way we hold ourselves. Its probably the one your yoga teacher is referring to when he or she says “your emotions are stored in your hips”.
When you come out of the pose, try finding that same position while standing. Exaggerate the forward and backward tilts of the hips and pelvis a few times and come to stand in neutral. You will probably find yourself standing with a bit more ease, and a sense of grounding without heaviness.
You can read more about the psoas muscle, constructive rest here.
And my new fave site as I try to fix more aches and pains.
Thank you Ali for the inspired title of this post.
a little food therapy: beet lasagna
Fall is here. Its getting chilly, I have had my first cold, and of course I now want to eat warm cooked foods. In the beginning of every season I feel little off balance and it takes me a couple of weeks to get back into the groove. Its kind of no surprise here this time - ayurvedically speaking the cooler windier weather of fall is characterized by the wind element, Vata, which can dominate in our body as well at this time.
And perhaps its the barrage of fall advertising, but I find myself drawn to anything yellow, orange, red and gold this time of year. And I will give into it when it comes to food, since brightly colored vegetables contains higher amount of anti-oxidants and other nutrients necessary to protect our bodies.
Sweet, salt and sour tastes are recommended in ayurveda to balance Vata. Which brings us to beets. Red beets or table beets are plenty in fall, rich in color and are a great way to add sweetness naturally to your food. And in addition to their antioxidant properties they are also anti-inflammatory and detoxifying.
This beet lasagna isn’t a strictly ayurvedic recipe, or vegan one for that matter. But if you are looking for something satisfying for the mind and body, or simply a way to eat what’s in season this is great.
8-10 whole wheat (or gluten free) lasagna noodles
6-8 large tomatoes diced or jar of organic crushed tomatoes
5-6 cloves of garlic crushed
1 small onion chopped
2 large beets . One sliced thinly and the other chopped.
2 large zucchini sliced thin
4-5 Babybella mushrooms thinly sliced
A handful of chopped basil
1 cup of Ricotta cheese
A handful of shredded Parmesan cheese
Crushed pepper flakes
Fresh or dried oregano
A couple of tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Beet and Tomato Sauce:
Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over a low flame. Add in the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper. Once the garlic starts cooking add in the chopped onions. Cook till soft on a medium flame and then add in the tomatoes, half the basil, salt to taste, and some water. Bring to a simmer. Add in the chopped beets. Bring to a simmer. Take it of the flame and pureé the sauce with a hand held blender till you get a consistency you like. You can also play with the tomato to beet ratio in the sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Assemble the lasagna in a large oven pan. Grease the pan with a little olive oil and a few tablespoons of sauce. Start with a layer of noodles on the bottom, adding on top a layer of sliced beets, zucchini, mushrooms and ricotta, topped off with sauce. Continue to layer noodles and other ingredients finally topping off with some sauce and shredded parmesan. Pop it in the oven for 30-40 mins periodically checking on it. Serve with fresh basil on top.
You can find a guide to other great fall vegetables here at http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-1509/Fall-Vata-Farmers-Market-Guide.html
I hope you yogis enjoyed the class last week from Elizabeth Sullivan. She has a great blog you can follow here. Recognize the all-star restorative pose? I find myself doing Viparita Karani often when I’m trying to downgrade and relax.
I last left you with a restorative sequence based on balancing the Muladhara chakra.
Also known as the first chakra or root chakra, this energetic center is located at the very base of the spine. It is symbolized by a lotus with four petals and the color of deep red. Because of its location, this chakra is said to relate to the sexual reproductive organs, the adrenal medulla, and therefore the flight-or-fight response. Elaborating from here, we can say Muladhara plays into our sense of sexuality and stability, but also our primitive instincts and our need for stability.
This chakra is also the base from which the 3 main psychic channels, nadis, ida, pingala and sushumna, emerge. For our purposes think of it as the yin and yang, the female and male sides of anyone’s personality.
When out of balance, the fight-or-flight response is activated at inapplicable times, resulting in overeating, hoarding, weight problems, gastrointestinal irritability, sciatica, and more. An imbalance is reflected mentally by being ungrounded — resulting in nervousness, anxiety, and indecision. Not having a secure sense of self, attaching your self-worth to net worth and placing too much importance on material goods are all signs of a Muladhara imbalance.
Muladhara chakra is fed by getting involved in life. If you are not grounded in the the family you came from then create new families of friends, animals, or organizations to balance this chakra and make it stronger. Pay attention in your daily life to what connections feed your spirit. Give the gift of your presence to those around you often, show up for important social events that tie you to the people that give you love. Establish healthy routines to feel stable and grounded. You want to establish “stability” – not predictability. Nature is also helpful in grounding the sense of self, in reconnecting with the earth and the large scope of life around you.
Here’s the writing I found that to me spoke to the Muladhara chakra. If the word “prayed” disrupts you at all, simply replace with it the work “asked.”
I prayed for change, so I changed my mind. I prayed for guidance and learned to trust myself. I prayed for happiness and realized I am not my ego. I prayed for peace and learned to accept others unconditionally. I prayed for abundance and realized my doubt kept it out. I prayed for wealth and realized it is in my health. I prayed for a miracle and realized my life is a miracle. I prayed for a soul mate and realized I am the one. I prayed for love and realized I am the one. I prayed for gratitude and realized its always knocking, but I have to be open and ready to allow it in.
The latest restorative sequence we worked on was geared toward balancing the 7th chakra, or Sahasrara chakra.
This chakra is the apex, top most and most subtle of all chakras. It is located above the crown of the head. It is symbolized by 1000 petals which are arranged in 20 layers each with 50 petals.
Sahasrara chakra relates to pure consciousness, and it is from this chakra that all the other chakras emanate. This chakra is fed by unconditional love, compassion and peace. When energy is not flowing freely from this chakra there are problems with feeling you are making a difference in the world, realizing your dharma or life purpose, and relating to a more connected sense of spirituality or the divine.
I offer you this popular and inspirational writing I have adapted from Marianne Williamson. This piece helped me relate to my Sahasrara chakra and I invite you to read it before a meditation.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of this Universe. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of Spirit that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”