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Monthly Inspiration: October 2015

Slow Down / Balasana

By Erica Velasquez

October has arrived, with its crisp cool air and changing colors. As the leaves fall from the trees, I notice that I too feel a gentle release. The summer has been hot and bright, yielding a radiant energy. But as the autumn approaches, everything seems to slow, our energy turning inwards. After months of busy scheduling and constant movement, I welcome this change of pace. I can sit and reflect on what has been accomplished, and appreciate the harvest that has manifested. It is also a time of pause, and I focus more deeply on the art of relaxation and slowing down. Restorative yoga begins to feature more prominently in my practice, and I have come to really value the calming effect that these poses help to instill.

Here is a very simple restorative practice that I really enjoy:

Settle into a comfortable balasana (child's pose). You may use blankets under your legs, and a bolster beneath your chest if it feels more protective and restful. You can also place a sand bag on your lower back, which can encourage a deeper surrender into the pose. Take time to fully relax. Breathe slowly and deeply. Once you are relaxed and your prana (breath) is flowing with ease, you can begin to practice visualization. Start by painting a beautiful scene in your mind. Imagine the sensations that accompany that scene—a breeze on your face, or warmth of sun on your skin. Hear any sounds in your imagination—the wind, a gentle music, or waves in the distance.

Stay in this relaxation for a while, maintaining a calm and steady breath. Before you move out of the pose, take time to notice how your body feels different, and if the patterns of your mind have shifted. Has there been ease in any physical pain? Have worries receded to appear more manageable? Perhaps the mind feels clearer and a new idea has sparked? Enjoy and appreciate the time you have taken for this restorative practice, and come out of the relaxation slowly and mindfully. Continue to breathe deeply, naturally, and at ease.

We often spend so much time focusing on our active asana practice, that we can tend to neglect the importance of pranayama and restoration. This fall, I encourage you to consciously continue your practice off the mat, each and every day. Slow down and make the most of the illusion that is 'more time' in this season. Walk through a vineyard or an apple orchard, and walk slowly. Examine every step, each stride, and each scent you smell. Eat more slowly, and be selective of the foods you eat. Be slow to speak, and mindful of words. I have found that the most beautiful experiences can occur when I slow down, and I hope that you experience the same.

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