mov/ed
esther m palmer

What energizes you?

What "grounds" you? I invite you to consider these questions throughout this week's mini moves practice --or walking through your day! You might have a concrete concept or sense of what feeling energized or "grounded" is like for you, and it's just as likely that you have a sort of fuzzy definition for either or both feeling --especially if these aren't words you use regularly in your interactions with others. That's ok! You can let your experiences be your guide, whether or not the words hold any meaning for you.
Enjoy!
 
Listen to "Mini Moves - Standing Connections"
 

What’s in the Mini Moves episode of moved to heal?

I offer a quick standing sequence of sunbreaths and warrior 1. It might be an energizing or "grounding" practice, depending on your preferences and where you're at today. If you want a bit more for your practice today, you might precede this practice with the Mini Moves from Dec 6th. I hope you'll use it however it suits you!
 

The forms + movements offered in this episode

  • Sunbreaths
  • Forward Lunge stance (aka Warrior 1) with fold and lift
  • Standing arm hug (or Eagle arms)
  • Standing pause

Some forms may be pictured in my yoga forms library.

While you listen to the episode, you can do or not do any of the practices, and in whatever manner or degree you choose.

 
Be moving, be true, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit luan de oliveira silva, found on unsplash

All the sides

In this Mini Moves episode of Moved to Heal, I put together some hands and knees movements that emphasize the side body (really, the whole torso) and move towards a seated or standing finish so that you can move on to the next thing from the transition that you prefer.
 
Listen to "Mini Moves - Side Body Moves"
 

The movements offered in this episode

  • Cat / cow
  • Thread the needle
  • Side plank
  • Child's form
  • Downward Dog
  • Seated or standing pause

Some forms may be pictured in my yoga forms library.

While you listen to the episode, you can do or not do any of the practices, and in whatever manner or degree you choose.

 
Be moving, be true, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit lingesh r., found on unsplash

Reconnect

Stillness is powerful. And extended stillness can stick around in our bodies in ways that aren't always comfortable. Sometimes, even a short movement practice can go a long way to "shake off" any stickiness that builds up from sitting, sleeping, or otherwise being still in one form for a long time. Enjoy!
 
Listen to "Mini Moves - Sun Salute Wake Up"
 

What’s in the Mini Moves episode of moved to heal?

In this Mini Moves episode of Moved to Heal, I offer movements that build from hands and knees to standing, and might be a good way to "get going" in the morning or whenever. I hope you'll use it however it suits you!
 

The forms + movements offered in this episode

  • Cat/cow (seated or hands + knees)
  • Birddog (hands + knees alternate limb balance)
  • Downdog / plank
  • Sun salute series with high lunge twist

Some forms may be pictured in my yoga forms library.

While you listen to the episode, you can do or not do any of the practices, and in whatever manner or degree you choose.

 
Be moving, be true, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit krystle van der salm, found on unsplash

Warming up your center...

....is so good for us! I think. I'm speaking purely from my own experience, so take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt. If you also like to ease into your body, warming up hips, core, and shoulders, whether to move into your day or into a fuller movement practice, I hope this practice is useful to you!
 
Listen to "Mini Moves - Seated Core Warm Up"
 

What’s in the Mini Moves episode of moved to heal?

I offer movements that build up to a lunge-based hip stretch. It's a short but well-rounded little practice, one that I might find useful after sitting for a long time. I hope you'll use it however it suits you!
 

The forms + movements offered in this episode

  • Seated spine warm up: side bend, cat, cow, twist, and fold
  • Seated core balance (boat) with a twist
  • Roll down to reclining
  • Bridge rolls with option to hold bridge
  • Return to seated to finish

Some forms may be pictured in my yoga forms library.

While you listen to the episode, you can do or not do any of the practices, and in whatever manner or degree you choose.

 
Be moving, be true, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit keyur nandaniya, found on unsplash

Just a little bit goes a long way

It's super easy to skip doing a movement practice because of time --or the expectation that every practice needs to be long or "full". So. not. the. case! Just move when you need it. Enjoy!
 
Listen to "Mini Moves - Lunge Hip Stretch"
 

What’s in the Mini Moves episode of moved to heal?

I offer movements that build up to a lunge-based hip stretch. It's a short but well-rounded little practice, one that I might find useful after sitting for a long time. I hope you'll use it however it suits you!
 

The forms + movements offered in this episode

  • Sunbreaths
  • Chair / squat + stand
  • Runner's lunge (aka low lunge)
  • Table top on hands and feet (aka reverse table top where the arms are behind you)
  • Seated fold
  • Seated or reclining rest

Some forms may be pictured in my yoga forms library.

While you listen to the episode, you can do or not do any of the practices, and in whatever manner or degree you choose.

 
Be moving, be true, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit katie hafner, found on unsplash

Just breathe, just move

Sunbreaths are my go to when I just want to feel the rhythm of breathing in my movement. They can be used for lots of different things, so of course please let them be for you what you need! Enjoy!
 
Listen to "Mini Moves - Sunbreath Variations"
 

What’s in the Mini Moves episode of moved to heal?

I offer a practice of sunbreaths, linking breath with movement where the movement is of the arms, torso, or arms and legs together. The simple (defined as being two part rather than multi-part!) and repetitive movements could have an energizing or calming effect (or something else!) depending on the day and how you're feeling when you start.
 

The forms + movements offered in this episode

  • Sunbreaths
  • Chair breaths (aka Squat + Stand)
  • Forward lunge stance (aka Warrior 1)
  • Simple stance (aka Tadasana)

Some forms may be pictured in my yoga forms library.

While you listen to the episode, you can do or not do any of the practices, and in whatever manner or degree you choose.

 
Be moving, be true, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit rosie kerr, found on unsplash

Challenge can be ok

Most of the practices I offer (including this one!) encourage you to do as you need and at a pace that works for you. I'm also offering the option of working with a challenge: lengthening your breath just a bit beyond normal. This takes some focus effort and some physical effort. And maybe that's challenging for you, and maybe it's not -- something else about this practice could be where you encounter challenge! If that's ok with you, then it's ok. And if it's not, then you can change up what you're doing until you're where you want to be for that moment.

I hope it's fruitful!
 
Listen to "Mini Moves - Choosing Challenge"
 

What’s in the Mini Moves episode of moved to heal?

I offer up a practice you can use to embrace a challenge of using a long or full breath throughout the practice. You can also just breathe normally and move as you need!

 

The forms + movements offered in this episode

  • 1:1 Breathing, with the option to lengthen your breath slightly
  • Seated spine movements
  • Downdog, hold 3-5 breaths
  • Plank, hold 3-5 breaths
  • Child's

Some forms may be pictured in my yoga forms library.

While you listen to the episode, you can do or not do any of the practices, and in whatever manner or degree you choose.

 
Be moving, be true, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit guzman barquin, found on unsplash

New on Moved to Heal!

We're all at different stages of our healing journey, so I decided to begin including some "regular" mov/ed yoga practices in addition to the trauma-sensitive yoga ones on the podcast.

The new "Mini Moves" episodes follow the same style of teaching I use in my general population classes that I teach online and in local studios. From move to move, there's a little bit more direction (let's do this, then this) than in TSY, though still with the invitation to make it your own and do as you choose.

Future episodes that offer practices in the trauma-sensitive yoga style will be labeled "TSY practice".

I invite you to give a quick listen to both kinds without expectation or judgment and see which feels better to you.

Enjoy!

 
Listen to "Mini Moves - Getting Comfy to Let Go of Tension"

 

What’s in the Mini Moves episode of Moved to Heal?

I invite you to get comfortable in these forms + movements and let go of a little unwanted tension -- or whatever they yield for you!

  • Reclining, bringing attention to breathing
  • Hip bridge, roll up, roll down
  • Bicycles
  • Roll up to sit
  • Arm reach and release

Some of the forms may be pictured in my yoga forms library.

While you listen to the episode, you can do or not do any of the practices, and in whatever manner or degree you choose.

 
Be moving, be true, be you
esther
 
 

photo credit jr korpa, found on unsplash

Today I watched a very dear friend squeeze all of her belongings into every last corner of her new (used) car and drive off to her "new" (continuing) life in a new house in a new state, with new friends waiting to be made. It wasn't easy in the slightest (but I'm still posting a cute little Ganesha for her!). Usually I am the one to do the leaving, and with all the promise of new beginnings, it is much easier than being the leavee. I have to continue on here where everything is the same... but different. No more calling her up at the last minute to go grab dinner at the local bar, no more riding the subway together when we happen to be coming home at the same time, no more seeing good and bad dance shows together, no more cat-sitting for her, no more lots of things. This kind of change, where one element of my stability is removed, scares me because its ripple effect seems out of my control, which is, for me, hugely ungrounding. (As long as I'm the creator of change, I'm happy.)

But then I remember that this change doesn't have to shake me up so. I am so unbelievably proud of my friend and so happy for her, that as I focus on that, the hole in my life is filled with love. And the adjustments I'm gonna end up making, those are opportunities to see things as they are, to stay with the present moment, because who knows what will come of any given moment if I let it ride out unimpeded by attachments to how things once were? There is nothing to be gained from lamenting change, and much to be experienced in riding the waves.

Yoga teaches us to remain unattached to the results (both achieved and hoped for) of our practice, because in the experience of the practice, in the commitment to what is - and not to what you want to have be - there is a true sense of peace. The same is true of your daily living. It's a practice, a process, and it demands presence. So much so, that there is no room left for wallowing --in any emotion. Which is not to say that you can't experience emotions across the spectrum. I still cried as I waved goodbye to my friend, but as I start my first day without her as the closest neighbor I've ever had, my eyes are drying up and I'm treating this day just like she's treating hers: as an adventure in living honestly and with all the presence I can muster!

Have yourself a week filled with presence, and one day I'll share some tips on learning how to practice non-attachment.

Until then (and always), hari om, om tat sat. Esther

Sutra 1.12: abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah. "Identification with the fluctuations of mind is stopped by practice and non-attachment."

Today, one of my students seemed surprised to learn that I, like she, am working through knee and back pain.

Yes, even yoga teachers walk around with aches and pains. We are pretty darn human 😉

Why is it that being human causes us physical pain? Why are we sooo susceptible to habits that hurt us? And I'm not even talking about the obvious stuff like drugs, alcohol, and mindless eating. I'm talking about how by sitting too low in my chair, my wrists are strained as I type this and even though I'm in pain, I still haven't gotten up to get something to make myself sit higher.....

Ok, I got a cushion, and yes, being propped up higher in relationship to the keyboard is better for my wrists. I really hated getting up, though. Why is that? I knew the solution was five feet away (half the battle) and yet I wanted to plow through the pain and then have it magically disappear without my having to do anything. Really it's a little bit more complicated than that (ain't it always?): adding the cushion to my seat means my feet don't comfortably reach the floor, so then I prop my feet up on my chair legs, which creates tension in my hip flexors and strain in my feet. Arrrrgh! All we're talking about here is me sitting at my desk writing this blog, and it's full of whining and butting and nothing being perfect.

No wonder I have back pain, knee pain, and wrist pain.

So, what can I do to address these oh-so-large problems of mine?

  1. Stop whining.
  2. Make the changes.
  3. Allow myself a little whining (hopefully not out loud)
  4. Observe what I am doing and how it's effecting me, and change it if the effect is anything other than awesome

Easy. Right?

Yes and no. Here's what I need to do all that stuff above:

  1. A genuine motivation to change (pain in arm, check)
  2. The decision to change (writing a blog post, that's pretty decisive)
  3. Adequate knowledge to effect change (knowing from my Alexander Technique studies that I needed to change the relationship of wrist to keyboard by lifting my whole torso higher up)
  4. HELP making change happen (teachers!)

This isn't the first time I've touted the benefits of the Alexander Technique (AT), an approach that is suspiciously difficult to describe generically, but here's a nutshell for my purposes: AT teaches you to let your body move with the greatest efficiency possible (or not move, in the case of maintaining a position).

AT is not a quick fix, it is not, for most, easy to learn, and it is a lifelong practice. I've been studying it for over three years and I feel like I've only just started to "get" it. Maybe. But the grand thing is that in that "maybe," there have been enormous changes in my body and how I walk, sit, and move in general. Many of my chronic pains are now manageable -- meaning not that I can handle the pain, but that I can manage how I use my body to prevent or reduce pain, or, at the very least, ease muscle + joint pain away with movement and rest once it creeps back in. AT isn't solely responsible for this --yoga tools are a big part of it, too. But more often than not, what I learn from AT informs my practice of yoga, rather than the other way around (unless it is to notice overlapping intentions and effects).

That's what I told my student today. It's in the lifelong, daily maintenance practices from AT knowledge and yoga tools that I keep my pain-inducing habits at bay and no longer walk around frustrated by my back pain. I know what to do now, whether or not I get up off my lazy bum to do it. Awareness is the first step. Knowledge is the second. Action must always accompany it or nothing will change. (But please allow for change to also happen slowly over time as needed! Demanding too much of oneself is a fast track to overwhelm.)

I would love for you to take action now by 1). noticing how you're sitting or standing as you read this (can you feel anything holding or tightening that doesn't need to be?), and 2). letting me know what questions you have about the Alexander Technique and yoga in the comments below.

And if you want those questions answered through your own experiences, you should check out the workshop that my AT teacher (Amira Glaser) and I have put together on applying the Alexander Technique to your yoga practice. It's gonna be one pretty fabulous September afternoon (Saturday the 8th) of learning, experiencing, and discussing said learning + experiencing. You'll walk away with a whole new take on asana!

Until then, hari om tat sat, my friends!

We're hearing a good deal about meditation these days as science begins to confirm its benefits as measurable. I love metrics, but that's not why I look forward to my daily meditation practice. Contrary to my early assumptions about what one does during meditation -try with great effort not to think- the practice is one that we do as a process, an experience, and the possibility of "failure" simply does not accompany it. As someone who's intimidated by trying new things for initial fear of getting them "wrong," I ended up being smitten with meditation as soon as someone pointed out to me that it offers no chance of that.

Meditation helps me to leave my perfectionist attitudes aside and sit without apology, without care or caution, without any hope of getting it right or wrong. No wonder I feel calm with it!

But what does meditation actually do for you, ya know, physiologically? Oh, I'm so glad you asked. See there's this cool effect called the relaxation response that Harvard scientist Herbert Benson identified (and coined) in the 1970s. The relaxation response is the physiological state in which the sympathetic nervous system - you know, the one responsible for "fight or flight" and that is on "slow drip" in most of us in the modern world - is turned off, while the parasympathetic nervous system - yep, that's the "rest and digest" one - is kicked in to high gear. This means that in your body an amazing process of healing and restoration is under way.

And this wildly awesome relaxation response is surprisingly simple to elicit! Here's what you do (in a nutshell): focus on a neutral or positive sound, image, or action (such as a mantra, prayer, or specific word or phrase; a yantra, internal light, or visual image of significance; or repetitive activity such as walking, running, or swimming). The focus does not need to be unbroken to stimulate the response, meaning that if you remain detached from thoughts that come up during your attempt to focus and gently return your focus to the chosen object of concentration, your relaxation response will continue undisturbed. How cool is that?!

And that basic process of repetitive focus without attaching? That's meditation.

More recent studies have shown that the effects of meditation (and the relaxation response) have a cumulative and lasting effect, meaning that the more you do it, the better, but even just dabbling in it will also do you good. Pretty wicked, huh? (heh, i love dated slang).

This also means that your efforts reap benefits immediately, whether you have been meditating for 5 years or only 5 minutes. This technique doesn't discriminate against newbies! I love that!

Yes, my friends, meditation loves you back from day one.

Here's a simple mediation you can try at home.

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair or against a wall with your spine supported upright (use pillows, sit on a folded blanket or two, whatever you need to feel comfortable and supported in your seat)
  2. Place each hand under the opposite armpit (this might seem a bit weird, but trust me there's science behind it!)
  3. Close your eyes and become aware of your breath (without trying to change or judge it). Keep focused on the sensations of your breathing. 10-20 breaths (no need to count, just a guestimate).
  4. When your breath feels balanced (or sorta kinda) and quieter than when you started, bring your hands down to your thighs, letting them rest comfortably palms up.
  5. Imagine a glow of light at the base of your spine. As you inhale, travel the light up your spine into the middle of your brain. As you exhale, travel it back down to the base. (If it is difficult to "see" a light inside, that's ok, just think it anyway - visualizing takes time to learn!) Continue like this until you feel in your brain a clearness or see a glow (optical radiance) or just feel very calm. Then let your focus just naturally rest in the middle of the brain with that feeling. If such a feeling never comes, or you feel something different, try not to fret, and trust that everything is as it should be. You can stay with the visualization technique (the light) as long as you like.
  6. When thoughts bubble up, say silently to yourself "mang" (long "a", almost like an "uh" sound) letting it resonate like a gong sound. Repeat "mang" as often as you need to clear away thoughts.
  7. To come back, bring your palms together, tip your chin to your chest, and slowly open your eyes to focus on a point. Gradually let your surroundings come back in to focus. If you feel lightheaded, do a chair pose or similar to re-ground your awareness in your physical body.

My advice? Try it out now!

5 minutes, that's it. (If you've got the time, feel free to sit with it for as long as is comfortable!)

Silence your digital noise makers, put up the busy sign, make space around you, and read through the above instructions a few times. Then give the technique a try with the script set aside. If you miss something, no big deal. Let go of getting it right.

Step two? Grab a friend so you can be fearless together.

And then let me know how it went! Or if you have another approach to meditation, do share! How do you bring it into your life? I can't wait to hear! See you in the comments 🙂

I'm a little obsessive in nature. If something captures my interest (and it doesn't hurt if it's something that can be followed via a course of study), I will pour nearly all of my energy and attention into it. I've never had hobbies, just life-consuming obsessions that I try to parlay into full-time studentry and/or jobs. Hence my love of the Alexander Technique.

How I understand the Alexander Technique is as a tool for creating balance in the body, but not one that you exercise for an hour every day and then leave be. Well, maybe in the beginning you do, you certainly can, but really it's meant to be in practice all the time, so that you can undo "unnatural" or harmful patterns of how you use your own body to move or carry yourself (sitting, standing, etc) throughout the day, making way for your body to move at its most efficient, with an awareness of the whole system. I don't want to get in to it too deeply, but just offer it as an example of a manner of learning and living that is in practice, in play, at all times, that seems to come through "just" the physical body.

I think this is particularly challenging for many people, especially those not entirely obsessed with their own moving body, because it seems like one manner of doing and not an array of approaches that is applicable to the many areas of one's life. Being a body person (major geek), I love spending all day paying attention to what my body is doing, and I do believe the physical body (which has as part of it the energetic and mental bodies, too!) and one's use of it is applicable to ANY area of life. That said, I get that it can help to parse out physical, energetic, and mental as separate if connected bodies. Which means you might want different ways to work with each of them. And this is where I really begin to appreciate the study and practice of yoga.

Yoga is oneness.

Now, I'll bet you're asking yourself, what does that even mean?

I'm still defining it as a ya-know-it-when-you-feel-it kinda thing, because I don't have the proper words for it. But the yogis way back when were a bit more systematic than I am. They got obsessed and then they went and built a system of tools that ANYONE can put to use to find that oneness (even if we don't all describe it or experience it in the same way).

Lucky for us, the collection of tools addresses practicing yoga with all of our bodies (all of our one body), offering physical postures (asana, most of these being perhaps quite a bit more recently developed, but equally relevant), breathing practices (pranayama), meditation techniques, and rules/guides/suggestions (the yamas/niyamas, among others found in yoga philosophy) for living peacefully and gracefully with others and within any environment. Et voila, you can practice your yoga via physical, energetic, mental, and social bodies!

By covering all angles (is that all of them? you tell me), more of us will find it more accessible to make this yoga practice infuse every moment of your living. (This is not to make every moment about work, but rather a balance of effort, ease, and joy.)

Of course, yoga just as a lifelong practice, it is also a lifelong study, meaning it does and should take some time to learn these tools (and there is no such thing as perfecting them, only practice). No one should dive in to the whole kit and caboodle at once -- start where you are most comfortable. For some that means asana, for others contemplation and inward reflection, for others new codes by which to carry out daily actions.

But remember that if you're stuck in one body, you might try getting un-stuck through a different one. If you can't solve a problem in your head, get on your mat. If your body can't take another sun salutation, think it through rather than doing it. If your emotions are running wild, breathe slowly and pause without thinking (for just a brief moment or sit in meditation for longer).

Whatever you're doing, however you approach it, remember to breathe and practice moving towards balance, in everything.

Speaking of which, I've been sitting at this computer a while and need to get moving again!

Till next time, om shanti, om tat sat.

mov/ed

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