Monday, October 18, 2010

NEW Delightflo Video Podcast Series!

Delightflo is proud to launch the first episode of the new yoga video podcast series! Stay tuned for more episodes with a variety of interesting themes, further explored in written form for your reading pleasure and to better inform your practice. Take advantage of the free excerpt, and enjoy your purchase of the full 75 minute practice at an affordable price of $10. Upon payment you will receive a link, which you should bookmark, granting you unlimited access to streaming of this episode. 
Episode 1: Showing Up
Free excerpt below. To purchase the full episode, click here.

This Delightflo Podcast is intended to assist you in improving your health and overall well being, however, the information presented herein is offered only as-is for informational and educational purposes and is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a medical professional. Use your own discretion when performing any postures. Work at your own level and explore your own limits. 

I often get asked: how often should I practice yoga? I also hear a lot of shame for not practicing “enough”. There is certainly great benefit to regular practice, several times a week. And I commend anyone who wants and is willing to dive into a regular practice! However, besides the frequency of practice, I believe there is value in expanding the notion of “showing up” on the mat, which when applied can give the yoga student more potent benefits from practicing, however often they commit to practicing.

Sometimes it helps to define what something is by identifying what it is not. Showing up is the opposite of checking out. For various reasons, many of us become habituated at checking out when it comes to witnessing, sensing, feeling, enjoying, connecting and working with the body. It can be paying attention to a specific area of the body, or feeling a particular kind of sensation…when all of sudden we find our concentration vanishes, or our spirit flees the scene. Through the yoga tools of breath, movement, well-aligned poses, turning inwards and quieting the mind, we can learn about our habits of checking out, and allow them to crumble. Then we can begin to actually start showing up when we practice—and this enhances our ability to have more delightflo experiences with our bodies on and off the mat!

Tool: In order to achieve and maintain the skill of showing up, I’ve found it tremendously helpful to do my yoga practice with a relaxed jaw. I love the analogy that the neck is the bridge between the mind’s intellect and body’s intuitive intelligence—this makes sense as to why it helps us show up. When we check out, our mind and body stop talking to each other; on the other hand, when we relax the jaw, we allow for better mind-body communication and hence more of a chance to show up fully.

Let me tempt you with more of physiological underpinnings of working with a relaxed jaw. When there is tightening and pressure in the jaw, which many of us experience, the nerve in our jaw known as the trigeminal nerve gets compressed. It is one of the most powerful nerves in the whole body. It not only allows us to feel sensation in our jaw, tongue, sinus, palate, eyes, teeth, and lips, it also accounts for 40% of the brain’s processing! Also, the trigeminal nerve is connected to the facial, hypoglossal, and vagus nerve—affecting most of all of the rest of the nervous system, including the autonomic nervous system which allows us to “down-regulate”, or relax deeply and take care of necessary functions such as digestion.  All of this to say that, when we build up stress in our jaw, our senses are diminished, our brain isn’t processing information at full potential, and we aren’t in a relaxed enough state for our bodies to do the things it needs to maintain health. And, good information for anyone wanting to enhance sexual pleasure, or to help prepare for easier vaginal birthing: the hypoglossal nerve (one of those connected to the trigeminal in the jaw) ends in the pudendal nerve which innervates the genitals in both sexes. Are you convinced about what you gain from relaxing your jaw yet?

The most instantaneous way to relax the jaw is to separate the lower row teeth from upper and take a deep breath to soften the space in the jaw joint. Feel how much tension is being stored in the joint and notice how the longer you keep your teeth separate, the tension begins to dissolve. Deeper work on this could include externally massaging with fingertips in the jaw joint while your teeth are separated, or even internally. At an introductory training to Cranial Sacral Therapy, with the knowledgeable and fabulous Ellen Heed, I participated in at Chichester Yoga in August, I learned a protocol where the pinky finger is placed in the mouth, at the farthest upper corner of the mouth, in a little groove just fit for the pinky, and after about 2 minutes of noticing what’s going on in the spot, gentle pressure in the direction of the ear can be applied as the pterygoid muscles around the nerve begin to soften. Try it before bed if you’re so inclined!

So, instead of stressing yourself out about how often you practice, explore the ways you can show up while you do practice, starting with relaxing the jaw. I won’t promise that showing up is going to make practice less challenging, or that you’ll automatically feel great. The goal isn’t immediate satisfaction, but rather taking sustainable steps in the direction we most desire to go. I speak from experience when I say that when I stepped away from my habits of checking out and towards showing up, I received some of the most precious gifts of my yoga path yet. And it is those gifts that actually motivate me to practice regularly and frequently.

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