Superhuman Healthcare – CranioSacral Therapy

This Independence Day I found new freedom in my body. I was blessed with an amazing gift of a CranioSacral treatment. It rocked my world, to say the least…

It’s been ten years since my last CranioSacral treatment. I can remember feeling very relaxed but was unaware of the subtle effects.

My awareness of my body is very different now. Meditation has played a big role in that. During this treatment I had a much better understanding and appreciation of the internal effects.

What is CranioSacral Therapy?

CranioSacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on treatment of the whole body. This method uses light, still touch to guide the body and nervous system into balance.

Sheila Hennessey is a licensed massage therapist and CranioSacral specialist. She provides treatments in Parker and sees private clients. She is a registered therapist with the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America. From their website:

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapists understand how an optimally functioning healthy nervous system performs.  We are trained for years on how to use acute perception skills to perceive subtle physiological changes.  We also are aware of the energetic map that underlies one’s basic health and symptomology.  We believe that health is never lost no matter what the ailment.

What happened?

To say it was very relaxing would be an understatement. My nervous system had been on overdrive for months, from moving amidst a series of life challenges.

As the stress-induced body armor melted from the heat of the Bio-Mat I entered a parasympathetic state. This allowed my body to begin the healing process. With Sheila’s expert touch and gentle guidance the layers of tension began to dissolve.

A few highlights from this session:

  • Subtle shifts and tingling sensations in my body.
  • The healing effect on my neck.
  • Sweating and detoxifying.

Afterwards I felt very light and balanced. My alignment and posture improved a great deal. I felt calmer and more comfortable in my whole being. I enjoyed this enhanced state for days on end.

I recommend this therapy to anyone who practices yoga and meditation. Not only is it phenomenal for relieving the effects of prolonged stress, it does wonders for the central axis of the spine. This gentle process can also help expedite the development of the mind-body connection.

If you are considering CranioSacral treatment, I highly recommend you contact Sheila.

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Sensory Deprivation Tanks – Pratyahara for Modern Day Life

Superhuman Healthcare – Herniated Disks

Self Teacher Study – Personal Yoga Training Chart

A Personal Yoga practice gives you the freedom to practice anytime, anywhere. Practicing at home sounds easy enough but it can take years to cultivate your own intuitive, organic practice.

Needless to say, it can be challenging to self-direct your own practice. Having too many choices can feel overwhelming. Without a clear road map you might start avoiding your mat altogether.

When I feel overwhelmed I get organized. I keep a wire-bound notebook on my desk at all times.

I love making lists. All kinds. Grocery lists, “To Do” lists, long-term goal lists, project lists, etc. I love the satisfaction of crossing things off and throwing lists away. I keep the best lists.

Six months ago I started developing my first Personal Yoga training chart (feel free to expand upon it). This organizational tool played an essential role in my recovery from a herniated disk.

Create your own Personal Yoga Training Chart

Step 1: Free Writing

Start by free writing a page of notes. Write continuously until you fill the page. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. Write about your goals. Write about any challenges you might be having with your home practice. It’s okay to go off topic, just keep writing.

Step 2: Movement Vocabulary

On a fresh sheet of paper make a list (!) of exercises. Think about your movement vocabulary. Which exercises will help you reach your goals? What do you enjoy doing?

[The key word here is: Enjoy. One pitfall to avoid is too much structure. Too many have-to’s. Not enough want-to’s.]

How do you want to move?

The level of challenge is up to you. You could include one or two exercises that you don’t necessarily enjoy but would be good for you. For the most part include exercises that you genuinely enjoy.

Step 3: Training Chart

On a third sheet of paper make a chart. On the left side of the page list all of the dates for the next month. Across the top of the page create columns for each exercise that you listed in Step 2.

The number of exercises is up to you. I recommend anywhere from 3-12. Your personal practice can be as simple or as challenging as you want to be. The idea is to pick exercises that you can see yourself doing on a day-to-day basis.

Tracking your daily progress is very satisfying. And a training chart provides you with a record of your efforts over time.

Off Days

Gaps in your training schedule are okay! It’s bound to happen at some point. Life gets busy or takes an unexpected turn. Be kind to yourself on your off days. Trust that you’ll get back on track as soon as possible.

Could you use a little help with with your budding home practice? I’d love to hear about your goals. Book a free no-obligation consultation today.

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Personal Yoga Benefits

Sensory Deprivation Tanks – Pratyahara for Modern Day Life

Finally!

I’ve wanted to try a sensory deprivation tank for years. It’s been on my bucket list after hearing friends swear by them.

As luck would have it, Parker is home to the largest float spa in Colorado. I was delighted to find a Groupon deal for a 90 minute session at the Astral Float Spa.

…invented by John Lilly back in 1954, it is a lightless, soundproof tank inside which subjects float in salt water at skin temperature. The tanks are now also used for meditation and relaxation and in alternative medicine. The best thing you can do for your mind, body and soul. The only environment like it is in space or back in the womb. – Astral Float Spa

DEETS

  • The interior of the tank is about 4′ wide by 8′ long.
  • The water is approximately 10″ deep.
  • Each tank contains 800 pounds of dissolved medical grade Epsom salt.
  • The high salt content gives the water a soft and silky consistency.

So why would anyone do this? Modern day living has many people feeling desperate for relief. Our senses are bombarded constantly. The need to unplug is strong but few of us are able to get off-grid.

Sensory deprivation tanks can be an oasis for an over-stimulated nervous system. Modern day yogis can use them for practicing pratayahara, (sensory withdrawal) the fifth limb of Patanjali’s eight-fold path. According to Yogapedia:

Pratyahara is considered important in yoga because it forms a bridge between the external focus of the previous limbs of yoga and the internal focus of the subsequent limbs, which move the practitioner into concentration, meditation and, eventually, to the goal of samadhi (union with the Divine).

Fear Factor

To be honest I was a little apprehensive. Mild claustrophobia and concerns of being too cold crossed my mind. I wasn’t about to let fear stop me so I worked through my reservations.

This may sound morbid, but we all die eventually. I figured that a 90 minute savasana was a good way to practice for the big event. That’s what “Corpse Pose” is for anyway.

My fears dissolved the moment I stepped into the tank. The darkness was inviting and the water temperature was comfortable. The parts of my body that were exposed to the air were surprisingly warm.

Effortless Floating

The high concentration of Epsom salt made my body super-buoyant. I positioned myself in the center of the tank and moved into stillness. The only sensory input was from occasional contact with the walls or a random droplet of condensation.

I focused on my breathing and started to relax. Knots of tension began to unravel. First my sacrum, then my right femur, left shoulder, fingertips…

As the layers of modern day body armor began to melt a wave of sadness rose up my back (the storehouse of past memories). Much like the effect of healing bodywork, floating helped me release some grief.

Once the daily headlines and life soundtrack ran their course, past memories of floating began to surface. These dreamlike images of swimming or soaking all shared a similar feeling of freedom. I drifted farther into a state of bliss when all of a sudden…

BLAM

With uncanny precision, a single water droplet exploded between my eyebrows. Chinese Water Torture on my third eye. A current of awareness traveled up my forehead and the crown of my head began to pulsate.

After an hour of stillness I wanted to move again. I discovered that when I secured my heels against the floor I could slide back and forth, creating wave patterns with my spine. My joints cracked open as my hair floated around me like long strands of seaweed.

Aftermath

Afterwards I felt hypersensitive, similar to the effects of a two hour yoga practice. I felt disoriented, vulnerable, and eager to retreat from the world. I wasn’t so sure about the whole operating a motor vehicle thing, but I drove myself home.

If you ever want to try a sensory deprivation tank, my advice would be to arrange for someone to pick you up. Also be sure to go when the weather is warm. Best to avoid going into the cold with open pores or a wet head. Stay healthy!

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Self Teacher Study – Freedom Yoga Immersion Part II

Freedom Yoga Immersion Part II

This is the second half of my review of Erich Schiffmann’s Freedom Yoga Immersion. As inspiring as this online course was I did see a few red flags along the way. To be honest, I almost stopped watching at Day 4. But I pushed through and remembered to use what works and leave the rest. Here’s what I left behind and what I’ll take into the future…

#1: Watching Television. At one point a student asked if it was possible to practice “being online” while watching television. Schiffmann said yes, but I do not recommend watching television.

#2: The All One/One Love lectures had a heavy New Age-propaganda spin to them. I detected elements of “idiot compassion” (a phrase coined by Chogyam Trungpa) and the psychological warfare tactics described by KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov.

#3: The Milarepa Necklace. Schiffmann was seemingly unaware of the implications of wearing an image of this Tibetan yogi and sorcerer. This is not to be taken lightly. Not from anyone, not even an eccentric long-haired hippy.

#4: Food/Vegetarianism. I do not recommend attempting to replace food with love. Love is an emotion. You have to eat to survive. What you choose to eat has a direct impact on your physical and mental health.

#5: Free Will. Schiffmann believes that the best use of free will is to not use it. When it comes to spiritual practices it’s very easy to get lost in the “follow the leader” mentality. Handing over your free will to whatever you believe might be your intuitive connection to the Divine… well, that requires a high level of discernment, training and self-cultivation.

The Slow Path is Best

Learning how to engage with your intuition takes time. Traditionally, a guru and an aspirant would test one another over ten years before entering into a formal student-teacher relationship. I would suggest taking this same approach with your intuition. We’re talking about unraveling a lifetime of habituated thought patterns in order to understand who you are. And that’s just the beginning!

By all means, connect with your intuition through your body. Practice letting go in savasana (a preparation for dying). Get comfortable with feeling open, expansive and unguarded. Practice listening to your inner guidance in this relaxed state. Ask for guidance that is in alignment with your highest good. Connect with your desire to know.

Something’s going on here, … , 

Little Dharma Sessions

Coming back to what worked. I’m so grateful to have been able to take this training for free. The two parts that were most helpful were Schiffmann’s encouragement to:

  1. Write more. I so appreciated the recommendation to jot down my on-the-mat inspirations, and to continue writing articles. He called these practices “good little dharma sessions.”
  2. Do my yoga with people. This idea challenges and inspires me so much that I’m thinking about offering a class that includes a free-form practice component. To explore my own take on Freedom Yoga.

I highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in developing their own yoga practice.

Self Teacher Study – Freedom Yoga Immersion

Self Teacher Study Freedom Yoga Immersion

I just completed Erich Schiffmann’s Freedom Yoga Immersion on Yoga Anytime. This online platform is “a community of yogis dedicated to the global sharing of the teachings of yoga.”

Erich Schiffmann is an American yoga master who has been called one of the innovators of modern day yoga. When this series came out in 2015 he had been teaching for 42 years and practicing for 48 years. His primary teachers include Krishnamurti, Desikachar, and Iyengar. Schiffmann is one of my yoga teacher’s teachers and his book “Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness” is a personal favorite.

I’ve never studied with Schiffmann so you can imagine my excitement when I saw a coupon code on his Facebook page for a 30 day free trial of Yoga Anytime. I jumped at the opportunity and signed up for his five day immersion. It took me three weeks to complete the seventeen hour course.

The immersion was divided into philosophy discussions, guided meditation and asana practices, as well as Schiffmann’s signature Freedom Yoga practice. I skipped the silent Freedom Yoga sections and just observed the first couple of asana practices (videos are not my favorite learning style for asana).

Whenever you’re starting with a new teacher it’s always best to keep an open mind. If the “cup” of our minds is full it can be difficult to absorb new teachings. And when it comes to learning yoga use what works and leave the rest. So let’s start with what worked…

My favorite part was the guided meditations. Schiffmann is an expert meditation teacher. He understands that meditation is the main practice of yoga, and that meditation is what promotes and facilitates the realization of what yoga is about. Some of the meditations were absolutely delicious. I enjoyed his directions to “snuggle” parts of my body into the mat and to “squeegee myself clean” when doing body scans.

Schiffmann emphasizes the idea that yoga is a lifestyle – that it is so much more than “metaphysical P.E.” (love this!) Regarding the asana portion, I appreciated his preference for the “simple stuff.” He describes the asana practice as being very easy although the mindset is very advanced. The sequences are effective at opening the channels (nadis) in a gentle way that is suitable for all levels.

I enjoyed his stories about his yoga journey. He described a turning point of when he felt like he was always doing someone else’s yoga. After years of disciplined practice he said that his yoga felt like a dud. It was only when he learned how to channel lines of energy through his body that he became empowered with his own practice. This marked the beginning of Freedom Yoga.

Goof Off with Purpose

Schiffmann is an advocate of learning how to channel our own practices. He recommends beginning with systems of your choice. The discipline of learning established systems is important as it helps to “get you in the game,” but being dependent on a teacher is kind of a drag. Once you’re trained the practice begins to teach you and that’s when it becomes fun again. Otherwise it can feel like you’re stifling yourself. As you dive deep and allow free form movement to occur eventually it will flower as an intuitive practice.

Getting Online

The main technique (discipline) of Freedom Yoga is listening. Schiffmann describes this process as “getting online” or cultivating an intuitive connection with the infinite. He recommends beginning just by getting curious and presenting the question:

Something’s going on here , … ,

Stay tuned for Freedom Yoga Immersion Part II.

Body as Clay

Body as Clay

Imagine holding a ball of clay. It’s damp to the touch, cool, heavy for its size. Press your fingers into the surface. They leave a slight indentation. Press again and again. The outer layer begins to soften from the warmth of your palms. The surface glides with the motion of your fingers. Your hands grow tired but you keep working. The middle layer softens but the inner core remains solid. You dig in to reach the center, pulling the ball into new shapes. The clay is pliable, ready to be molded.

It’s the same with warming up our bodies in yoga, where we start with gentle poses before diving into more dynamic ones. With class sequencing the basic rule is to warm up for five minutes in an hour-long class. A personal practice allows for much more flexibility and the freedom to decide how long you want to warm up on any given day. Which is, in my humble opinion, absolutely essential.

A proper warm up is a very personal process. 

Most adults have developed some level of compression in their bodies, either from an active or an inactive lifestyle, or simply from the continuous gravitational pull of the planet. Yoga helps to realign our bodies into a state of balanced, expanded strength.

Think about your normal routine: which “postures” do you spend most of your time in? Sitting, standing, sleeping, and any number of repetitive movements all create imprints on your body-memory. Stress patterns (physical and emotional) are another factor, as well the effects of diet and lifestyle. Sam the carpenter would do well to warm up in a way that is very different than Susie the weekend-warrior-waterskiier. While Sam might need to warm up for forty five minutes, Susie’s ready to dive in at the ten minute mark. No matter what our level of experience may be we all have our own unique learning curve.

One other thing about the importance of warming up – consistency is KEY. Even five minutes a day is going to make a huge difference. What doesn’t amount to much is dabbling here and there. It’s like the clay ball analogy; if you stop working the ball loses its malleability. Starting over is okay, but when you decide to gain some traction you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make.

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Neo Yogis

Neo YogisSo I’ve had this idea lately. It’s still developing, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the “McYoga” epidemic and how the neo yogis can survive it.

Consumerism and materialism have done a number on watering yoga down. The evolutionary force of yoga is being overshadowed by the superficial results. The many recent innovations are wonderful but at this point it’s yesterday’s news. You wouldn’t know that from looking at a copy of Yoga Journal. Speaking of which, I flipped through one recently and didn’t find a single thing of interest in it.

Not even one.

I see gifted teachers falling into step with the politically correct monoculture (hey, everyone has bills to pay). The teachers who have stayed true to the call are widely dispersed. Some of them stay well underneath the radar. I can understand why.

The yoga market is a slippery slope.

On the flip side the iron is hot right now. Yoga has become a household word and people are ready to dive in. But they don’t necessarily know which pitfalls to avoid. These are revolutionary times and there have been some recent explosions in the yoga world.

It’s easy to get disillusioned and cynical but I do believe that within the widespread interest lies a seed of greater possibility. We are experiencing a resurgence of ancient wisdom in a technological era. It’s a blessing to be alive in this information age. We are part of a shift in the collective consciousness and people are waking up.

The potential for personal evolution is mind blowing and it’s all the more reason to meditate. But we have to shed the extraneous distractions and resist segregating ourselves.

Let go of the petty story lines.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you eat meat.

The greatest style is no style.

Enough with the New Age elevator music.

You’re not your fucking lululemons.

Let yoga be the discipline of freedom that it IS.