Itsy Bitsy Yoga, Really Big Connections

 I’m a do-it-yourself gal, and a create it yourself kinda gal, at that. For me, that’s never meant buying the how-to guide or going to endless classes. Maybe that’s why I started a home yoga practice as early as I did and why I still believe that what you do in your own home is the foundation for yoga seeping into your life. I’ll always take primary, historical sources over popular or modern reprises and personal experience is my highest authority. In our ever more standardized world, experience that grows authentically from quiet inwardness, genuine desire and spontaneous connection is an endangered species. So I’m an unlikely and wholly enthusiastic endorser of Helen Garabedian’s second book on yoga for the underage and underfoot crowd.

Garabedian’s thorough education, passion and deep experience shine through her writing and organization of this really useful manual on yoga for you and your toddler. She has credentials as an Infant and Early Childhood Developmental Movement Specialist – who knew!? – and clearly has a  passion for investigating, facilitating and revelling in the mind-body connection with children. She’s a certified yoga instructor, Reiki Master, Infant Massage Instructor, Pregnancy Yoga Teacher and Brain Gym graduate, all certified.

My earliest yoga memory is mimicking my mother while she does yoga with the television. Mom is in what I’d now call “Down Dog” and I crawl through and then put my hands and feet on the floor and wiggle around until a bug catches my interest. I figured that when I had children they’d learn yoga by immersion. What Garabedian has taught me is that it really makes sense to talk to toddlers in their terms and to tailor asana for their bodies and experience.

She grounds this specialized treatment of mainly asana in a practical understanding of yogic principles and a research based treatment of the benefits of yoga for toddlers. After all, what’s the best way to enlightenment? Never loose it. If children come to us consumed by presence and moment-to-moment immersion in awareness, maybe one of our greatest gifts is to learn to work with and nurture this into reflexive awareness, rather than the time honored method of suppressing it so that as adolescents they seem to rediscover it for the first time in history.

The book is organized so that you can easily tailor your practice time to your goals. Along the way, you’ll inevitably learn about movement development  in toddlers and may be enticed to learn about learning and bonding. This one was a revelation to me, even for teaching grown ups: “I am able to understand and respond to a sentence like, “Touch your toes.” But it may be hard for me to respond to a sentence like, “Reach down and touch your toes.” It seems so simple to make it simple … but it takes thought, planning and consideration. Garabedian helps with that.

She renames some poses and others are taken from natural movement. Renaming Trikonasana (Triangle) “Falling Star” turned me off at first, but it makes sense for the same reason. One of the benefits of renaming is to adjust adult expectations. Not only does Falling Star paint a picture that Triangle will not for the toddler, but it helps the grownups leave behind our expectations of form and perfection. And that’s pretty yogic right there.

Garabedian specifically points out how the various poses and movements benefit you and your toddler, gives clear, concise instruction for showing your toddler and easy suggestions for integrating affection and presence. What better way to lead ourselves into meditative presence and practice than to share moments of awareness and embodiment with those we love.

Inspiration, Instruction and Ideas for Daily Practice: Awaken in Every Moment



Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now

weekly newsletter: inspiration and tips for including bliss in your day, every day



  “Why do you run towards that which you have never taken a step away from?” ~Dogen




New yoga class times – different locations!

Sunday evening at YogaNow! 6pm, stay after for Sangha, chanting and mediatiom  (Sangha suggested donation of $10)

Starting 5/17: Saturday Morning Mixed Level class at YogaNow! 7:30

Starting 5/19: M-W-F Morning Mixed Level classes at Ripple Effect 7:00 

Starting 5/30: Friday Slow Restorative at YogaNow! 4:15


Send me your yoga class wish list!

I’m adding classes and locations starting in late May. I already have some newly scheduled classes listed above, but I want to know about your dream class: time, place and format. Be as general or specific as you want!


off the mat: 

Office Yoga:  Once an hour stop for a moment of breath. Remember the heart opening exercise from last week, roll your shoulders onto your back, relax your eyes, temples, jaw, tongue and neck. Find a rhythm and depth in your breath, expanding your belly, chest and shoulders, releasing in the reverse order, and observing the pause at the top and bottom. Return to work with increased clarity and vigor! 


A New Earth:Chapter 7 “Finding Who You Truly Are”

Gnothi Seauton: Know Thyself


 Eckhart Tolle’s newest book is called A New EarthI have been asked to host one of the discussion groups for his ongoing web class in conjunction with Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. You can find my official site at with articles and comments. You can write your own article and respond to others on this website as well as join the live discussions held Tuesdays on (you do have to be a member… it’s free to sign up). I’m leading discussion this coming Tuesday, April the 8th at 10am MDT and then again Tuesday , April the 22nd and 29th 5pm MDT. 

Of course you can always check in on yogaeveryday. for my reflections on reading and daily practice or for class and practice guides.


Asana of the week: or in this case, lots of ’em!


Surya Namaskar:  Begin in mountain, standing with your hands folded, thumbs touching your heart. Exhale, drop hands, Inhale circle overhead, perhaps lifting your heart for a gentle standing backbend. Exhale, dive forward into a forward fold, knees bent so your belly rests on your thighs. Inhale, extend your head away from your tailbone, rolling shoulders onto your back looking forward. Exhale, step back with your right foot into a lunge (drop your right knee for more ease in the pose). Inhale, lengthen the rib cage away from the pelvis. Exhale, step the left leg back to plank, top of a pushup. Drop your sternum between your shoulder girdles, bringing your shoulderblades together on your back (again, drop knees for more ease). Inhale length, bringing belly toward spine, exhale down to knees – chest – chin (inchworm).Inhale, roll your shoulderblades up and onto your back, pressing  your low belly and tops of feet into ground, raise your head and shoulders away from the ground for cobra. Exhale, pressing into the thumb sides of your hands & rolling your toes under, lift the hips back and up, turning your sitting bones to the sky for downward facing dog. Take five, luxurious breaths and on your fifth exhalation, bring the right foot forward between your hands for a lunge on the other side. Inhale lengthen your tailbone away from your head. Exhale step left foot forward next to right for a forward fold. Inhale, circling the arms up and out come up with a flat back (belly toward spine!) to upward hands, looking up, open heart. Exhale hands back down midline to your heart. Stay here until your breath normalizes, repeat, starting with left foot back, ending with left foot up.




forward fold

flat back







forward fold




Try 20 minutes of sun salutations in the morning and see how supple and energized you feel!


Pranayama of the week:

 Begin with three part yogic breath (above). At the end of an exhalation bring your imagination to your tailbone. Now, imagine on your inbreath that you can drink your breath up your spine from tailbone to skull. Feel the breath on your soft pallette at the back and top of your throat, pulling it upward, sipping the breath up your internal core. Exhale, feel it drain back downward. Feel an energizing connection between your soft palette and pelvic floor. Try for a minute, increasing if you want, any time you want relaxation, connection, awareness.            

My mission is to inspire and support you in your daily yoga practice. Relax! Remember, It’s all yoga: you’re always breathing. Sometimes you even know it! For questions, comments, to find out more about practices or ideas mentioned here or how you can get more yoga into your week, call me, Christine Stump, at 505-506-0136 or email me at Namaste.


Restore by Release

Take ten minutes tonight and try one or two of these poses. All are restorative, meaning you support yourself in a position facilitating physical release and you surrender to the pose over time, usually about five minutes. Prepare your surroundings with candles, music, scent. Use a folded hand towel for an eye pillow. Focus on your breath. Begin by allowing the belly to expand in every direction, opening the abdomen to allow room for your organs as your diaphragm pulls downward. After a few minutes of focusing on your belly, imagine your breath beginning just in front of your sacrum, inhaling the breath rises along a channel in front of your spine until it swirls in your head. Exhale, the breath flows down the same channel, exiting in front of your sacrum.

Supported Balasana (Child’s Pose): sit with your feet folded under your buttocks, knees wide. With a bolster or blankets folded in front of you for support, hinge your torso forward and lie your belly and chest on the support, arms alongside. Turn your head to one side. Feel your body move as you breathe.

Supported Bridge: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor hip width apart. Raise your pelvis up, having support (bolster, stack of blankets, block) handy to place under your sacrum or pelvis. Allow your torso to slant gently toward your shoulders on the ground. Arms angle down from shoulders to hands open to the sky.

Setu Baddha Konasana (Bound angle pose): Sitting upright, perhaps with hips elevated on a blanket, place the soles of the feet together in cobbler or butterfly pose (this was a favorite of mine when I was a little girl… I remember doing it with my Mother). Arrange the bolster, blankets or pillows behind you so that you can recline your torso with your arms opening down from the shoulders, palms releasing upwards. If your knees are above the ground, support them with blocks or soft blankets.

Vitparita Karani (Legs up the wall): Place a bolster or a stack of three folded blankets 6-8 inches away from the wall. Sit on one end with a shoulder toward the wall, facing away from the stack. Place opposite hand on floor and rolling down to your back swing your legs up parallel to the wall. Your tailbone will sink into the space between the support and the wall. You may keep your legs up or open them out to a great “V” or place the soles of the feet together in cobbler or butterfly. Arms angle gently down, again, from the shoulders, hands realeasing toward the sky.

Finish in Savasana, or Corpse pose, on your back, legs apart, feet flopping out, arms out a bit to the side of the hips again, hands open to the sky, eyes closed. Keep returning to breath. Breathe. Breathe. Let breath breathe you. Namaste.

counterpose to camel

Our Noon class had as its pinnacle Ustrasana, or Camel pose. It’s such a vulnerable position, baring our underbelly and heart, making an offering of ourselves. We led up to it through Sun Salutations and the Warrior series, a very traditional class.

Our counterpose throughout was Balasana – Child’s pose. Sometimes very active – elbows and armpits raised, pressing down through the thumb side of the hand, the hips descending toward the heels – sometimes quite passive, surrendering and releasing.

Counterposes neutralize the effects of the preceeding pose, usually the effects on the spine. Thus, counterpose to backbends – forward folds. To twists, the other side. And, of course :), visa versa.

Given the courage required to bare your center in Ustrasana, Balasana is a natural returning to center, curling in, effecting singularity, a seedlike position, ready to spring forth, trekking on a journey of the soul.

Fall & yoga

Breath a Sigh - LEPCD18 Cover

Breath a Sigh – LEPCD18 Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Sunday 6 October 2013): In this post I mention “3 part breath” which is a staple of many practices. I no longer teach breath this way, opting for a more observational approach, which I find more consistent with well-being, anatomy and the Sutras. For a really great story about the difference see this video from Leslie Kaminoff’s anatomy course website. The bulk of this post is about kapalabhati, so it remains in tact. Do you teach “3 part breath”?  Why or why not? Comment and join the conversation.

So, the actual asana. Haven’t written so much about that lately. I once took a workshop with Richard Freeman (yes, if you’re a regular you’ve heard this before in which he said all of yoga could happen for us in Mountain, or Staff pose. The rest is just to distract, wear out, and discipline the […]

Not that there’s not a lot to love on the mat. It is the cause of hand and leg bending after all, which is a joy unto itself. And the more open our bodies become, the more freedom I notice we each find in our lives. And there really is something good about finally finding yourself in that pose you never thought you’d do. It may be monkey mind, but it’s a good monkey!

So with the blazing yellow of the trees just beginning to trace the New Mexico landscape, I’ve added some pranayama to my teaching. In addition to our usual friendly yogic three part breath attention, we’ve added Alternate Nostril Breathing, and depending on the day & class Skull Shining Breath beforehand.

Skull shining breath is a fast, exhale focused belly pumping breath, really excellent at creating heat, clarity & focus. If you make a diamond by joinging your thumbs and forefingers, then place it on your abdomen by putting your thumbs in your navel, you’ve framed the portion of your belly you want to be engaged. It’s the transvere abdominus, and you pump breath out in short bursts, allowing the breath to flow back in passively before pumping it out again. A slow set is one per second, fast 2 per. What keeps this from being pathological hyperventillation? Well, I actually tested myself on 300 rounds of Skull Shining Breath (Sanskrit: Kapalabhati) on our capnography at work. I maintained a constant 32-35 mm Hg with good waveforms. Translation: it’s the CO2 retained by not exhaling fully that makes you pass out with hyperventillation. By focusing on deeply generated full exhalations, you maintain a balance of offloaded toxins and invited nourishments.

Start with three rounds of ten, the first at a pace of one per second. Go faster or increase your pace only as you feel comfortable and confident.

This is a great waker upper in the middle of the night, and heat generator for winter camping, among many other things.

Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing, takes this fired up breath and balances it by directing it in & out of each nostril, well, alternately.  We know from experience and scads of research on EMDR as well as cross patterning that stimulating the halves of the body alternately assists the nervous system in sorting information. Alternate nostril breathing is also really great for allergies, at least in my case.

Take your right hand and bend in the first and second finger. Place the thumb against the right nostril and inhale smoothly, slowly (say, to a count of four if that’s comfortable) through the left. Close off the left with the ring & pinkie (both nostrils are compressed right now) for  a retention of comfortable length (you might try one equal to the count for the inbreath). Release the right nostril and exhale – smoothly and slowly for the same count as the inhale – through the right nostril, and observe a rest, or kumbacha of the outbreath, at the bottom, allowing your spirit to reside in the emptiness, for a comfortable period of time, again you might try another count equal to the inbreath.

Then inhale right nostril, compress it (the left is still compressed from before, so both are closed at the top); practice a comfortable, non-straining retention at the fullness again, release the left nostril and exhale smoothly, yes, for the same count, resting in emptiness at the end of your outbreath.

This was one round and it won’t take as long to do as it does to read about. Do about four rounds to start and add as you become familiar and comfortable.

We’ve also been doing more twists and sided poses, compressing the organs and flooding them with luscious nutrient and oxygen filled blood and prana upon the release.

Does your practice change with the fall? Do you consciously plan this? Is it something you intuitively and naturally fall into?

Whatever you’re doing, make it yoga… and breathe, open, find the metaphor, embrace your meaning.

Writing works! Yoga works!

Thank you wordpress, thank you blog, thank you bloggers, thank you readers, thank you words, thank you May Sarton’s Journals, thank you keyboard, internet and computer!

Returning to the mat I had a few more wanderings between Sun Salutation repetitions, but  (in the words of the lovely Moonmaid 🙂 Rhythm, persisence, patience…. and a practice is born and passes away. It was a bit like a laxative, I think I was yoginstapated.

So, here’s what I practiced today, just the sequence.

Sun Salutations (with wanderings, 20)

Khalabhati (3 x 100) & Uddiyana Bhanda (3 x 10)

Chi Kung arm floppy twists (100)

Virabhadrasana II to Parsvokonasana (both sides)

Trikonasana to wide legged forward bend arms behind the back to Triko on the other side back to wide legged fwd bend

[this was my favorite part:] Virabhadrasana I to Virabhadrasana III to Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana to Parivrtta Trikonasana to Anjalanasana to Tadasana (& then of course the other side)

vinyasa down to Down Dog, Dog splits, Dog split twist, leg through to Pigeon Prep, pigeon, Pigeon back bend (& then the other side)

Bridge w/ block under sacrum, then without

Shoulderstand for 75 breaths



Tada! Savasana surrounded by doggies

The head is clearer, the heart is stronger and more vulnerable. I feel my body again.  The dogs are napping 🙂 and I am hungry, so I guess it’s off to get ready for work for the week. Maybe I’ll have time to have my boots shined and grab a Mocha on the way. Leave me a note and tell me about your practice today! Namaste.

(The Universal Divine in my Particular Nature Sees, respects and responds to the same in Yours. And I get out of its way! )