6 Easy Yoga Poses that you can easily do in bed

These days if you give me the option between:

(a) a long lie; or

(b) a long luxurious yoga practice;

I am going to choose (a) every single time.

Once upon a time, when my son (who is now 10) was about 18 months old, I would set my alarm for 5.30 am every morning. I wanted  to make sure that I had completed a full vinyasa flow yoga practice with umpteen complex sun salutations, standing poses, twists, forward bends, backbends and inversions, pranayama and meditation before he woke up. The whole practice would take at least 90 minutes.  It seemed imperative at the time to spend at least 5 minutes in headstand.

Now with 2 children to get to school on the during the week mornings and many classes of my own to teach early on weekend days my yoga practice has become shorter and (possibly) more efficient. I shake my head at the indulgence of headstands these days.

If you are a parent and you have a hectic life like mine, here is my top tip for getting your yoga on while you have some time.

Do your yoga practice in bed.

Advantages:

Your bed is comfy and there are no small people, pieces of lego or food crumbs in it (hopefully).

The mattress is thicker than your yoga mat and you have pillows and blankets at the ready as yoga props.

Getting out of bed is when the crazy starts to happen – arguments, elaborate breakfast smoothie requests, notes to be completed and returned with money to school etc.

Enjoy the moment with some gentle and very effective yoga poses. This sequence would

1. Supta Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

This is an amazing reclining/supine hip opening pose that quickly rejuvenates you by encouraging the hip and groin areas as well as opening up the chest.

Sit on your bed with a couple of pillows behind you. Bring the soles of your feet together and slowly lean back into the pillows. You can also put pillows/cushions under your knees. Let your arms rest at your sides or overhead if that feels comfortable, palms upwards. Relax and let gravity pull your thighs down towards the comfy support of your mattress.

Stay in this pose for about five minutes.

Sit comfortably on your bed. Interlace your fingers, pams away from you and stretch your arms out in front.

Inhale: life your arms to the ceiling and expand your ribcage, chest and upper back. Exhale and place your hands behind your head. Bring your elbows out to the sides opening your chest.

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2. Side Bends Seated

Side bends stretch out your ribs helping you to breathe more freely and stretch the side muscles from the neck down to the pelvis, opening up the chest and upper back. Fabulous for realigning the spine after a night’s sleep and for toning the waist.

Sit comfortably making sure that both of your sit bones are pressing into the mattress. Inhale deeply feeling the ribs open like venetian blinds, Exhale and lift up to bend to the right. Bring your right hand down, palm to the bed and walk your fingers out. Hold the stretch for 3 breaths, inhale and come back to centre. When you are sitting upright again, exhale and repeat on the left side. Repeat two to three times each side.

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A slightly more intense version of the same side bend can be found in Parighasana (Gate Pose) shown here and described here

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3. Cat-Cow (Marjariasana in Sanskrit)

A  great spine revitalizing sequence and a good centring yoga exercise both for preventing and relieving back pain as well as activating abdominal muscles and stimulating the digestive system.

In a quadriped (four point kneeling) position soften your elbows, inhale. As you exhale, move your tailbone towards your pubic bone, pubic bone to belly button rounding the lower back. Let your eye gaze go to your knees.

Cat

Inhale. Move your ribs and chest forward to lengthen your spine and lift your eye gaze to look forward and slightly up.

Cow pose

Exhale. Repeat.

4. Bennitasana/Semi-Prone Shoulder and Chest Stretch

I always wake up feeling like my left collar bone has been smooshed into my neck. This is my without fail go to morning yoga pose.

Lie on your  belly and stretch one arm out to the side at shoulder height.

Keep the hand open with the palm facing down  and the whole of the straight arm pressing down into the floor. Bend the opposite elbow while drawing the hand inward toward your trunk.

Push into the opposite hand and begin to roll open to the side of the extended arm. You can also step the top foot up and over the bottom leg to intensify the stretch.

This is a good place to stay—pushing into the opposite hand to intensify the stretch or you can reach the opposite arm up and behind you, letting it hang as you allow gravity to open up your chest shoulder  or tucking the finger of that hands under your ribs. Hold for 3-5 minutes to soften the connective tissues/fascia in the chest and shoulder to improve mobility of the shoulder and arm.  –

 

Chest opener

5. Bridge Pose pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Bridge pose strengthens your glutes/butt and upper hamstrings and stretches the fronts of the thighs. This in turn helps to take the load off your lower back which can get thrown about a bit while you toss and turn in your bed at night.

Lie on your back. Bend your knees and keep the soles of your feet on the bed, heels digging down. Flatten your lower back by pressing your belly down into the mattress.  You will feel your tailbone start to rise off the mattress as you do this. Press into your heels and lift your hips off the bed drawing your tailbone to your pubic bone, pubic bone to belly button as you curl up to your shoulder blades. Hold this pose for as long as feels good. Lower down slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae until your hips are back on the bed. Repeat 3-5 times slowly and luxuriously.

Bridge

6.  Supine Spinal Twist – Supta Matsyendrasana Variation

This asana opens your chest and hips and very gently opens your spine while encouraging your abdominal muscles to engage.

Lie on your back with your knnes bent to your chest. Stretch your arms out to the side at right angles to your body.

Join both knees together and bring them to the right side of your body. Turn your head to the left. Hold as long as you can. Then fire up the left side of your belly to bring your knees to centre and then over to the left hand side of your body. Turn your head to the right.

It can feel really nice to put a pillow under your knees as you drop them to the side and to slowly bring your knees closer to the armpit in the twist.

Supine Twist

By now you will be ready for your breakfast and a wonderful day 🙂

Namaste.

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CREDIT:

The inspiration for this post came by way of an email from the lovely people at Casper Sleep. . They claim to make awesome mattresses that aren’t just for sleeping but so supportive that they can be used for yoga (and probably mat pilates). Although this is not a mattress that is available yet in Australia, it is one that I would like to try out. Night time yoga and then sinking into savasana on a mattress which one reviewer describes as like ‘sleeping on a cloud’ sounds luxurious and decadent.

They asked me if I would help them with their newest project “Bed-time Yoga Poses”. They are going to collect their favourite poses and sequences assemble a post for their blog (http://blog.caspersleep.com/) in due course.

Not all those who wander are lost

You’ve taken the long way around the houses

a friend of my father said to me about 25 years ago.

At that time I had left the legal profession to go teach law at University. I didn’t realise, as I slowly started to enjoy life again, that it was teaching I loved – not law.

Now it has been two years since I walked away. This was the post that I wrote about walking away.

I have reached a destination of sorts.

If you want to join me on the path, you will be most welcome to share my sandwiches.

Core Factory - Yoga and Pilates www.corefactory.com.au www.facebook.com/TheCoreFactory twitter.com/CoreFactoryYoga

Core Factory – Yoga and Pilates
http://www.corefactory.com.au
http://www.facebook.com/TheCoreFactory
twitter.com/CoreFactoryYoga

Losing My Bottle in Backbends

Mostly I like to think of myself as strong and fearless.

Sometimes I am and sometimes I am shit scared.

This week I looked a fear in the face and

Iyengar drops back into Urdhva Dhanurasana

 

ran away from it.

My nemesis in yoga is upward bow or wheel pose – the sanskrit name is Urdhva Dhanurasana.

The entry level in wheel pose is to push up from a bridge pose, which looks something like this:

Both bridge pose and wheel pose rely on two main things – leg strength and butt strength. Rodney Yee counsels that you should not attempt wheel pose unless you can support it with strong glutes and deliciously open hip flexors.

I am rather partial to Rodney Yee so I have given heed to his advice.

For a long LONG time I would go no higher in Wheel Pose than the version above.

Anything higher than that would crunch into my lower back and cause me a huge amount of discomfort.

I learned to deal with my ego.

The ego used to encourage me (with Gollum like whispers) to try to drop back into wheel from standing. A bit like this…

I can’t of course because that is crazy yoga voodoo.

Haha.

What I have done, day by day is to push up from bridge pose into this position.

Yoga Pose Weekly - Bow Pose

 

 

This week, quite by accident, I found myself in a position where I was in a deep back bend against the wall on blocks. It looked a bit like this

It felt good.

It actually felt awesome.

‘Walk your hands up the wall’ my teacher suggested lightly.

I did.

‘Now walk them back down the wall to your blocks’.

I sort of did until I was about an inch of the way away from the blocks. The block stared up at me. I growled back at it. There we were, immovable object meets immobile yogi.

The block won.

Later I wondered why I find it so hard to trust my own judgment.

I guess it is a common problem.

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Post-script: If you fancy conquering your own better judgment there is a useful blog tutorial by Annie at Supportive Yoga here here

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Photo credit above: Chauncey Harrison ‘The Elegant Klutz’

Such Beautiful Shit

About this time last year it seemed to me that I had a future full of possibilities.

In between then and now a number of things have happened which I rather wish had not.

The other night I was reading the Minx a bedtime story – this one:

The last time I read her this story was over two years ago. Before I left the law, before people who I thought were friends turned on me.  Before so many things.

And somewhere between the little baby’s trip to the park and waving good night to his parents in the mirror I could feel tears welling up.

One of my yoga students this weekend pulled up mention of my legal background. “You are a lawyer?” she asked in surprise. “I was a lawyer” I corrected as softly as I could.  There is no space in a yoga studio for left-over anger after all.

As I helped my class through their personal challenges – the lady who couldn’t push the floor away to bring herself to a seated position from savasana, someone else who has shed a husband and a house and is heading towards her new life – I realised that there is not none of us who gets to middle age without harm.

And with that I chose my closing guided meditation in the same way that I chose a bedtime story for my children. With an eye towards taking them on a journey.

You talk such beautiful shit” my friend and personal Pilates trainer Stacey tells me after one such journey at the end of one of my classes.

 I smile and ask the class members: “What do you remember from the journey I took you on?
Each of them remember something different. One finds herself floating on a boat, out at sea. Another is in a warm room in her grandmother’s house, reading books. Our imaginations can take us to places we never dreamed of going, we just have to let them free to roam.

When I have finished teaching a class I stand outside watching Sydney winter shadows slice through the suburbs, I realise while doing so that freedom, while costly and painful to achieve, is priceless.

Winter 2012 – Sunrise over Queenscliff, Manly, Australia by John Calderwood

More of the same but entirely different

Harry Potter Lego Train Set - a test for even the most dedicated optimist

One of the things that disappoints and hurts my heart most in life is encountering unethical people.

What do I mean by unethical?

Unethical people who use what they have and say what they have to get what they want. In the online world these people make themselves immediately apparent to me. The written word gives away so much more because the words that a writer chooses reflect his or her soul. A black soul resides in unkind words.

In the face to face world of living breathing human beings it is easy to be distracted. Words combined with beautiful smiles combined with tears can occasionally throw me off course as to someone’s true intentions. There are people who have caused so  much destruction in my life that if I ever see them in the flesh I will excuse myself go to the bathroom, urinate in a cup, come back and dump the contents over their beautiful heads.

Alan Pinkus Wedges

Someone told me this week that being Scottish I come from a cynical race of people. I disagree entirely -despite the fact that 70% of the time people prove to be self serving, self satisfied and barely evolved from tantrum throwing toddlers I still love and expect the best from them.

Why do I continue to want to believe the best despite experience so often proving otherwise?

Mainly I continue to write and engage and meet new people and fall in love with their souls and their minds is because I do believe that most of people are capable of reaching a state of self-understanding and development that transcends the id.

Optimism or ….?

Shoe Save Statistics as per usual

Shoe Save 80 – Alan Pinkus Wedge Sandals

Number of Days Left in Which to Save Shoes: 19

Number of Pairs of Shoes Left to Save: 25

 

The world is full of pregnant women & legal yogis

If you have never been pregnant  (nor wanted to get pregnant) the title of this post will mean nothing to you.

However, if you are concurrently convex of abdomen, you may have noticed that there are many other women in the same state.  Big bellies round the corner of supermarket aisles at least 15 seconds before the owner.  A slight movement catches the corner of your eye in the bus queue – a woman just short of your blind spot has started rubbing her belly meditatively, either following the internal kicks and punches inside or perhaps reassuring the now sleeping small person-to-be inside.  These sights will be reassuring or gut wrenchingly painful depending on your personal viewpoint.

Ex-smokers will tell you the same thing – as soon as you give up smoking suddenly there are smokers EVERYWHERE. Walking in front of you on the pavement, flicking their ash out of the windows of their cars,  huddled together for warm outside shopping centre sliding doors.

Human beings are pack animals, we like the company of others. More than that we like the company of others who like the same things that we do.

Imagine my delight to come across Law in the Moment – a blog written by a trial lawyer who also happens to love Neil Young and is a yogi.

One post that particularly struck a chord is entitled Treachery as a Gift.  By nature I am a fighter and cannot understand why you would help someone else avoid bad karma by allowing them to literally get away with personally attacking you, bad mouthing you and doing their utmost to ruin your reputation.

But then I have learned a lot of things about myself this month including the fact that while I still cannot sing, I can do a pretty gutsy rendition of this song (if I close my eyes).

Sometimes you just have to let other people carry on down their own paths in life, wish them well and hope that they will find peace.

Are you a lover or a fighter? Do you carry a grudge to the death or can you forgive and move on?

 

 

Anatomy of a Sea Change – from Law & Shoes to Yoga & Shoes

In the Australian vernacular a sea change occurs when when city dwellers head towards the ocean and coastal towns to start a new life. This all sounds quite idyllic surely?  Except that the real definition of sea change is a bit less dreamy and soft – not surprisingly as the phrase first appeared in The Tempest:

ARIEL [sings]:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell

"Full Fathom Five" Jackson Pollock 1947

Making life changes is never easy.  People will doubt your motivation and your integrity.  You will receive a lot of knowing smiles and comments that ‘you will be back’ mark their words.

Somehow by doing what you want with your life you are diminishing theirs.  Strange that.

Anyway, here it is folks. I am finally aligning my physical, spiritual and mental life.

Bakasana आसन Crane Pose - Photograph Copyright Neelesh Kale Photography Sydney 2011 for Tiaki Education

Arm balances are not about strength or about force but about balance, belief and bubble filling.

Yeah, I could land flat on my face but at the moment the absolute focus required to leave the past behind and move towards an unknowable future makes me feel intensely, undeniably alive.

Parsva Bakasana - Photograph Copyright Neelesh Kale 2011 for Tiaki Education

Now the trick will be to stay calm while the last of the wild winds of change blow around me. I feel fairly powerless to avoid being buffetted around, battered and bruised. But hopefully, with time I can be like the little bird in this story

Ṭiṭṭibhāsana टिट्टिभासन Firefly Pose - Photograph copyright Neelesh Kale 2011 for Tiaki Education

Finally here is a column that I was asked to write for the Alternative Law Journal (reproduced with the kind consent of the publishers below). These are pretty much are my last (written) words on the subject of my sea change. If you want to hear more, you’ll just have to come along to one of my yoga classes.

Writes of passage

Before I became a lawyer I used to love writing. There are a bundle of little bound notebooks of various sizes sitting in packing boxes in the garage as I write this. In each are sketches, photographs, slippery bits of paper with random words taped or stapled in place — a poem here, an overheard conversation on the train scribbled there. At the time I wrote these things I had no idea what to do with it all.

After I became a lawyer, I did a lot of writing. I wrote long, complicated letters of demand. I wrote statements of claim, briefs for barristers, affidavits for witnesses. Now and again I would write the odd legal article or paper for a partner whom I worked for. I co-wrote a couple of legal textbooks — a few articles on my own. While I slept, words snaked round my dreams with villainous intent. With so much of my waking and sleeping time taken up writing and thinking about writing, I no longer loved it.

When I moved to Australia, I was taught yoga by a barrister. For the first time in my life I managed to quieten the words that jostled around in my head at 3 am, at 4 am, at 5 am. I became obsessed with my yoga practice as antidote to the busyness in my life. Being a lawyer, however, I not only wanted to practice yoga, I wanted to read about it. Research it. The first blog that I ever read was a daily yoga practice journal called Days In My Lives written by a doctor starting out on his Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga journey .

Dr OKRGR’s intense and sometimes punitive Mysore yoga practice gripped me. If he fell on his head trying to drop back into Urdvha Danurasana, I could literally feel his shock, pain and frustration. I was impressed and moved that someone would choose to share so much of themself so publicly and openly.

Not long after I started reading Days in My Lives, I became pregnant with my son, lost my job and a bit of my sanity for a while. After my son was born, any reading and writing that I did was minimal. For a while I enjoyed sending little home-made cards with handwritten episodes of my life with The Child Who Would Not Sleep to family and friends at home, with pictures. Like scrapbooking, the little home-made card is a fuzzy, feel good stick to beat yourself around the head with. After a while I realised that my son was not keen on his mum having a hobby that didn’t involve swings and slides. Then I found myself back writing legal things before too long and so I stopped writing again.

If it had not been for Twitter, the writing hiatus might have been permanent. Something about writing in short, sharp bursts of conversation and listening to debates and discussion bubble up over everything from the best cup of coffee in Sydney to how to best wake up the rather foul smelling person who has just fallen asleep on you on the train inspired me.

It took one random question on Twitter from a blogging mum of four to get me to move from writing 140 characters to 500 and more. ‘Why don’t you blog?’ Brenda Gaddi (aka @mummytime on Twitter) asked me. I couldn’t think of a reason not to blog and so I did. The only thing that I could think of to write about, however, was my shoe obsession. Nothing else about me was remotely interesting. I had a look around to see if there were any other lawyers blogging about shoes and couldn’t find any. I named the blog ‘Law and Shoes’.

I published my first blog post for Law and Shoes on 4 September 2009. It was two lines long; I managed to get a grand total of 12 distinct reader hits and two reader comments. One was my own. I was smitten.

Law and Shoes has taken the place of my notebooks in the garage. I can use it to write about things that I have been thinking about and talking about for years. Or, I use it to take the place of my handwritten cards home and post copious pictures of my children getting up to no good. Best of all, I can catalogue my shoes and find ways to check them regularly to ensure that my husband isn’t chucking them out.

It started out as a blog about a lawyer’s shoe collection but through time it has become my journal — my opportunity for self-study and observance. When I blog, I simultaneously learn a lot about myself — that I can figure out how to use a blogging platform, create content, manipulate photos; that people enjoy what I write and that I can make people laugh. The blog has also become a medium for me to find blogs written by other people who have an even more deranged approach to footwear than I do. We enjoy each other’s company even though we have never met.

No-one out there is ever going to put me forward for a Blawg award. This is probably just as well because now my personal writing and teaching yoga is more important to me than the law ever was.

However, for those of you lawyers who do want to write about law whether in combination with fashion, fiction, book or film reviews here are a selection of my lawyers’ blogs for inspiration.

Blogs by Lawyers about the Law relating to Fashion

Fashionist at Law (Olswang’s) 

Law of Fashion (Charles Colman Law PLLC)

Blogs by Lawyers who love fashion

Corporette Fashion and Lifestyle Blog for Female Lawyers 

Law Fashionista

Lucky Cinderella

Siouxsie Law

Soshoemi 

Amicae Curiae

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Have you undergone a sea change? If so, was it a positive experience or not? If you had the chance to do it all again what (if anything) would you do differently?

Day 56 of the Shoe Challenge – Let’s All Fall Off the Wall

Have you noticed how children are so resilient and yet so fragile? So fearless and yet so timid? They can do the craziest things on play equipment and yet collapse in a heap if the wind blows the wrong way.

Last Monday the Minx and I headed off for our regular Monday jaunt to Tiaki Pilates & Yoga for a ballet class. In my mind’s eye, I can see how ridiculous it is for a middle-aged woman to be doing grandepliés and rond de jambes. Notwithstanding this, for an hour I can pretend that I am the child that I never was. The one that was surefooted and very seldom fell over. The one that could do handstands and the splits.  All of these things require an absence of fear.

En route to the class, the Minx and I were walking behind a young woman with a boy around 3 years old. He was trotting along some low walls ahead of us, none of them were over two feet off the ground.  I could feel rather than see the Minx making buttons* next to me.  She clambered up onto the wall, refused my steadying hand and took off at speed after the aforesaid boy. For a split second it looked like she was going to overtake him until she disappeared off the right hand side of the wall with a surprised squawk.  There was a moment’s stunned silence and then a terrible wail.  With fear in my heart I lifted up her dress (the Minx will only wear dresses) to see angry red scrapes running the length of her inner leg from calf to groin.  All I could do was to cuddle her, squeeze ice cold water on her wounds, kiss her better and hope for the best.

Later that evening I copped it from my husband.  “You should feel terrible about that” he said,  “You are a responsible adult, why didn’t you stop her?”

I did feel  terrible and there is no easy answer to his question.

All I can say is that for years I didn’t try to do things out of fear and I do not wish that fear on my daughter.  That is why I did not stop her. Better to have fallen off a wall than be too scared to get on it in the first place.

I have a residual memory, for example, of banging the back of my head falling over backwards a lot as a child. For that reason I still avoid doing unsupported standing back drops into Urdhva Dhanurasana.

The few times that I have tried dropping back without help I have landed on my head. Every time I fall and hurt myself I feel stupid and struggle with my own sense of frustration, my fear and anger at not being able to achieve a particular goal. So I gave up drop backs and started pushing up into backbends from the floor instead.

Someone once said that “Yoga is the process of the impossible becoming possible”.  For my children the world is full of seemingly impossible things to try and to accomplish like walking, jumping, talking and reading.  They are fearless and full of fight to face up against the world – as long as you don’t ask them to leave their foul smelling comfort items behind while they are doing so.

The Noisy Boy has Robe.

Robe is a black satin dressing gown that I wore when I was seven months pregnant with him to try to look alluring.  He requisitioned it at the age of six months and it has been his constant companion since then. The Minx has Doggie (aka Dogdog).

When my children have their comfort items they are invincible.  I have no comfort items. Being an adult is hard. No wonder so many people smoke. But life is about trying new things, stepping out of your comfort zone, feeling the fear and doing it any way.

The shoes of the day are low heeled, almost flat but I wobble when I wear them as the kitten heel is centrally placed.  Every time I wear them I get cross and frustrated -why can’t I walk in inch high shoes? I scream internally. The more that I scream, the less that I accomplish.

So in honour of my kids and their fearlessness and for this post I climbed a wall in the back garden which is FIVE FEET HIGH to bring you a picture of the shoes of the day. Shoes that  frustrate me and anguish me and thwart me on the flat ground.

As the director John Hughes once said:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.

Now,  who wants to catch hold of my waist while I have another go at a back drop? It’s only bending a different way after all.

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* Making buttons is a Scottish/Northern Irish expression for anxious, excited or fidgeting in anticipation.