Dears, here is my first recorded class. It is cued for using one blanket, but those of you that take restorative yoga class regularly will find you remember how to add your bolster if you have one. You may want to fast forward through the first 1 minute.
I have begun seeing clients online, for private Feldenkrais® and Restorative Yoga and Reiki as well, using ZOOM. This has actually gone very well. Payment is sliding scale $60 - $80 per hour. If you would like to do this, you may schedule by email.
It can be so difficult to set aside the mounting to do list that is ever present in our own homes. Finding a few minutes to lower your stress level is incredibly effective. Even 1 minute.
Here is a VERY short practice.
I recommend putting your phone on do not disturb, and setting a timer, so you don’t worry about when to rise. This can be so helpful in really giving yourself permission to rest.
1. Find a chair (if it has no padding, pad with a towel.)
2. Lie on your side, as close to the chair as possible
3. Roll to bring your legs up.
If your chair is too tall for comfort, use a wall instead, and put your legs up! Be mindful to avoid stretching.
What else can you do to increase your comfort level?
Play restful music you find enjoyable.
Cover your eyes, if this is helpful.
Listen to a guided meditation (free on Insight Timer, or youtube).
The benefits of putting your legs up are myriad, including support for the immune system, lymph system. This pose, legs up on chair, or at the wall, is a balancing posture that can help regulate imbalance. If you have any concern about whether this pose is right for you, please consult a trusted health care provider. If you find you are not comfortable in this pose, there are myriad variations, and I'm happy to consult with you.
When I taught high school, students would share their fears. Sometimes these were large fears—about being accepted; other times they were fears of tripping when going up to receive their diploma, or failing a test.
Sometimes the fear of failing was so strong, that the student would play this scenario over and over in their mind. This replaying was in fact a form of rehearsing failure, because our minds do not know the difference between imagination and reality.
Imagining—especially if you do it very well—is a way of practicing. To imagine well is to incorporate sensory information.
Instead of rehearsing the fear, I would ask students to imagine the scene, and imagine success. Try it:
You are walking up the podium to receive your diploma. What does the auditorium smell like? How do your feet feel on the ground, and how hard is the earth? Do your footfalls make a sound? What do you see? Notice how the fluorescent lights in the gym turn everyone slightly greenish, and the echo of the voices around you reverberate due to the high ceilings, and lack of sound proofing. How fast is your heart pounding, and how do you manage the feelings of anxiety, pride, and excitement that come and go with the speed of your thoughts? Do you grasp your hands together, and are your palms cold, or sweaty? Feel your feet, notice how you hold up your gown and step each step confidently, head level. Feel your balance. See the principal holding your diploma. Feel it in your hands. Take the steps down from the podium easily. Notice your posture, your sense of well-being.
This is a way of rehearsing success.
I would then have the students work backwards, looking at every choice they made that got them to the point of graduation. Because part of the successful outcome is the choices they made that supported them along the way.
Using sensory imagination in movement is well documented and studied. In sports, this method has been used to improve outcomes; for musicians, to improve skill and performance. As a yoga teacher, I use sensory imagination to guide somatic movements and meditation, to help students feel themselves more completely. In the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education®, we use imagination to sense movement, change habits, and create improvement. In fact, using the imagination can change the brain. And,
...we can use sensory imagination to clarify choices and consequences.
Beyond improving action, imagining is a powerful tool for discerning whether an outcome is right for you. Sometimes it is difficult to know what you must do, rather than what others think you should do. My friend, Holly, used to say “what can you live with?” And so I’d imagine how I would feel having made first one decision and then the other. Almost always, I would instantly know which one I needed to do, and what I couldn’t or didn’t want to live with.
So, imagine yourself having completed something that you want to do. Brainstorm everything about the outcome: the weather externally and internally; what you hear, feel, see, smell, know. Add to this, a process I was reminded of by Bina Venkataraman, (author of The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age) look back as though from this place of success and answer the following questions:
What steps did you take do to get here?
What did you let go of, and what did you add to your life?
How did you say no to things you didn’t have time for?
Now that you know what it feels like to have succeeded, is this path/outcome right for you?
Was the outcome worthwhile?
Thank you so much for spending the afternoon with me. I am so curious how you found the work, and what you discovered about yourselves. These recordings can be used to help you revisit the work we did, and help to improve your self-use. I did not record the check-ins. Enjoy!
Please read the HOW-TO before you do a lesson at home.
1. If you experience any pain during any movement, stop. It usually means you are not organized in a way that is working for you. Instead, imagine, work smaller, or check with your doctor.
2. Explore in a gentle curious way. You are expanding your sense of self, your ability to access parts of yourself.
3. Avoid goals. In this work, being involved in the process is more important than achieving a goal. The process of moving slowly, with attention, is how your brain learns to rewire and reorganize movement for efficiency and strength.
If you make a fist, holding it maybe just a moment, and then relax your fist, it takes a little while to soften, and to settle. Even then, your hand may not be totally without work. Many of us are walking around in a fist, and we don't know! And even if/when we do know, we might not be sure how to address it.
The more I teach Restorative Yoga, and the more I work with clients, the more I am aware that we all are working far too hard. I don't mean your job, although, perhaps that is also true. Instead, I mean muscular work.
I am continually learning this truth: before I can change any behaviors that turn me into a fist, it is necessary to learn how to soften, to do nothing but yield and breath, to be available to myself, to be available for breathing. I must take the time I need to begin to let myself un-ball, unwrap, unwind. And I must practice doing it, so that it becomes more possible to be that way more often in my day-to-day.
Most of us are working twice as hard to be in gravity as we need to be, because we simply have no other way to accommodate gravity than to fight it. We have only what we know how to do, and what we have developed out of habit. But, you know, it is very hard to be ready to move, or to walk, or to run, when the body (you) are already tense. Being tense is like a state of continually flinching, being ready to run, always in fight or flight at some level.
That tenseness is sometimes called high-tone, high muscular tone: like with sound, low tone would be soft, and high tone would be hard. We usually think of tone as a positive--strong = toned--but in this case, it means ON. If you are ON, like a light, how much brighter can you become? If your hand is in a fist, it isn't immediately available to do anything else. Many of us are walking around so tense, we aren't aware of how "on" we are. No wonder we are tired. We've lost the off button. A well-toned muscle needs to be able to be on and off, so that when it is needed, it can be turned on, and when it isn’t needed, you are not spending our resources keeping a light on for no reason.
And we need to be able to tell when the lights are on, and when the lights are off.
This is where Restorative Yoga and the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education are such powerful practices for me, and for my students.
This work of taking the time to do this practice of softening is deeply profound. It is a practice of being embodied (and learning to be embodied) mindfully, gently, without agenda, judgment, fear. It is a practice of being in the moment without being in a story we were told about ourselves, or a story we have been telling ourselves. It is about creating through our breath, through our inquisitiveness care for ourselves, our own experience of what it means to be. BE.
Curious? Go to heatherdanso.com.
I’d like to share three things with you.
I am very fortunate to be able to stop everything.
So, I did. And I practiced finding quiet. Listening to the underneath, the thoughts and emotions that are so easy to set aside in daily life, to quash, or to ignore. When ignored, emotions can become stuck, can sour. I was feeling so out of sorts, grumpy, and had not painted since January, but for a few sketches. It was like a little girl inside me was stamping her foot: "STOP" she said. And eventually I listened.
Movement is one of the ways to work with emotion, not to deepen and exaggerate it, or to dwell in the stories that emerge, but simply to see it, and experience it in the body.
In yoga, we often talk about meeting ourselves on the mat as we are, with acceptance for our bodies as they are. Sometimes, it feels like we say that, but then we push to meet some goal, to change ourselves. Yet, if we really do see and accept ourselves as we are, then change becomes a possibility. It entirely depends on us to actually do the first step: really to accept and witness ourselves as we are. Otherwise, our actions are in conflict with our needs.
Its like we've been driving down a road, but we got lost. How do you go anywhere from a place of being lost? You can try, but where will you wind up? Yet, given a map, if you know your location, then step by step you can move towards your intention. Sometimes, we pretend we aren't lost, or we know we are lost, and keep going anyway. That's part of the process too.
Both Restorative Yoga and Feldenkrais are opportunities to create an inner map to our relationship with stillness, with our bodies, with pain, with comfort. They are ways to have a deep conversation rooted in compassion and honesty. For me, these can be ways to meditate with and in the body in a way that honors my whole self, that teaches me to meet myself with neutrality and create ease.
This is why I practice, this is why I teach.
Errol Flynn, the movie star from the 30s and beyond, was trained to fence, and while his lifestyle might not teach us much about yoga, learning to reach effectively, from the spine, using the ribs, well that's a skill many yogis don't know they are missing.
Watch the shape of Flynn as he dances up the stairs--Warrior Two anyone? What makes his stance powerful, and his thrust powerful, is his connection to the earth, the way he utilizes gravity to push up through his bones, his pelvis, into the spine, and directs the energy out the tip of his sword. He is not static, and yet, he can be still. He is at ease, and that ease results in quickness.
What if we were so easy and soft through the ribs that they became a true transmitter for the force generated by our legs, hips, spine? How would that change the way we reach out to the world, grounded in our own sense of self?
How does the very physical act of being both stable, and instantly movable, change our way of relating with others?
For me, to be truly connected to the earth, to be able to be at ease within--physically, and able to reach effectively out while not being pulled off balance: that is to be truly aligned with my inner intuition.
Yoga, union, is to be really one with myself, body-mind-spirit. Doing the subtle practices of Feldenkrais lessons, one-to-one, or on my own, or in class, have taught me the places that I didn't know I was not inhabiting. This has effected my yoga practice, the way I dance, and surprisingly, the way I communicate with others.
Explore the Thoracic Spine, and see how it impacts everything--as above, so below... Tuesday 7-8pm
Drop in 15-20 sliding scale.
A Brief Exploration of the relationship between our eyes and neck, based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais. Sense the relationship between the way you use your head in turning, the way you move your eyes. This is very personal, and although we all have a connection, how you move your head is dependent on your work, your development, even on culture. This exploration will help you sense your patterns, and possibly free you just a little bit. Enjoy.
Closed Captioned for ease of use and accessibility.
Please be mindful to only work in comfort. Pain does not cause gain in this way of working and sensing yourself. Pain is useful in knowing when to stop, and what some of your habits are. If you experience pain, back off, breathe. Do less.
Heather Danso wears many hats. As an artist, she playfully explores work in Acrylic, printing, and multimedia, creating portraits and abstracts that explore expression, playfulness, identity, and the possible. Her CV is here.
She is also a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Method® Practitioner, yoga teacher, Awareness Through Movement® teacher.