Sweet Sierra in Images

I've been reliving the magic of the Sweet Sierra Yoga Retreat through photos my wonderful friend Klare Nichols captured, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorites here. If you couldn't make it to this retreat, maybe these will entice you to join in next time around! 

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Opening Circle, setting intentions for our weekend together and setting the tone as one of authenticity, presence for one another... as well as a whole lot of silliness and laughter. Look at all these sweet listening faces! 

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For our first yoga class, I taught a slow flow as we settled into our bodies after a day of travel, then moved into partner thai massage. Physical touch is so often taboo in our culture, and we wanted to start the retreat by creating a space where we could reach out and connect. PLUS, it feels amazing! 

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Our first retreat dinner was vegan tacos! These had so many ridiculously yummy ingredients... taco spiced lentils, quinoa, roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes and corn, cilantro jalapeno lime slaw, and the coup de grace: cashew chipotle sauce. This was probably the favorite food item of the whole weekend. Luckily we made way more of it than necessary and got to use it to top everything all weekend long. The recipe was based on one from My California Roots, which you can find here.

We finished off the night with dark chocolate cinnamon hot cocoa and some stargazing! We were even lucky enough to watch a few meteors from the Orionid meteor shower streak across the sky. 

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Our first outdoor practice of the retreat! Beanies and socks were necessary at first but Breath of Joy, sun salutations and some handstand playtime had everyone sweating soon enough.

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Beautiful open hearts in Wild Thing.

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Happy yogis!

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A very cozy savasana in layers of blankets, and some sweet adjustments from Jules.

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Post-yoga smoothie bowl deliciousness. These fruit filled bowls were so tasty! Bananas for creaminess, berries, cacao nibs, cashew cream, almond butter, coconut flakes, and freshly baked granola by my friend and Sweet Sierra helping hand Ana. We walked back into a warm and toasty cinnamon smelling cabin, so good!

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Next we took off on a hike. Mount Ely is a steep climb up smooth granite slopes, rewarding you at the top with gorgeous views in each direction. We took in Shaver Lakes blue hues...

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the Sierras steep peaks

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And the wonderful company!

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We held a meditation at the top of the mountain, taking in the hawks spiraling overhead, the soft breeze, beautiful horizons, and the warm sunshine on our skin... our meditation eventually evolved into a little AcroYoga playtime!

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Jules taught a much needed restorative flow class that night when we returned to the cabin, and I assisted - contributing lots of massages after such a full day!  

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Our second retreat-family dinner! This ridiculously yummy vegan Asian-style grain bowl was awesome, we topped quinoa with teriyaki marinated tofu, roasted kabocha squash and broccoli, cashews, micro greens, kimchi, fresh mint, cilantro and basil, and a tahini-miso sauce. I loved sitting around the table with all of our participants, and appreciated the way they spoke and listened to each other with such respect, curiosity and presence. No cell phones out at this table! 

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Jules led the final yoga class of the retreat on the back deck, beneath pines and redwoods. A warmer morning meant a slow hip opening practice to restore and rejuvenate after a Saturday full of action!

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Giving a shoulder opening adjustment to Monique

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Brett back bending in the sunshine.  

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Closing out the class and the weekend with my beautiful co-teacher Jules. What a wonderful experience to create this weekend together, and how incredible to have each of our retreat participants arrive so fully to fill it the way that they did. Bowing my head in that moment felt like real, deep, visceral gratitude. 

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Then we ate breakfast wraps, played with some more AcroYoga, took a dip in the lake, and said good-byes filled with lots of hugs! Love this group of people... and can't wait for our next retreat. 

Go with the Flow

Let me take you to the ocean with a flowy, wave inspired Vinyasa yoga class. Sometimes all our bodies need is a little freedom to move however we want. Let this class be an invitation for your mind to release control and allow your body to give the directions. Nothing more free than the sea!

Stretch your side body, activate your core, and open your hips during an hour and thirty minute practice. 

Caffeinated Morning Yoga Flow 

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Need something to energize your morning, even more than a cup of coffee?! Awaken your whole system with this quick flow, to have you feeling ready to take on the world. I highly recommend flowing to a playlist of a few of your favorite songs.
Start in Tadasana - with your eyes closed feel your feet rooted, chest wide, core strong, and lift from the top of your head
Keep your eyes closed and begin to move. Roll through your neck, shoulders, hips. Move your arms overhead, stretch your sides. Free your body to move without judgement, anything that feels good is right here!
Come back to stillness in your Tadasana. 
Begin to practice The Breath of Joy (use an alternate pranayama practice if you have high blood pressure, any head or eye injuries): 
Keep your knees soft as you move. As you inhale to around 1/3 your full breath capacity, through your nose, sweep your arms straight out from your shoulders in front of you, palms up. 
With another inhale (no exhale yet!)  to 2/3 of your lung capacity, sweep your arms out to either side, making a big T out of your body.
Without exhaling, take a third sip of air in through your nose to your full breath capacity as you reach your arms up alongside your ears, straight up to the sky.
Finally an exhale! With a 'ha' sound, let all the air out of your mouth. Your arms and torso swing down towards the ground, folding over your legs, knees bent, arms free flowing. 
Start slow at first, allowing your body to become accustomed to the movement, then speed up as you feel comfortable. Allow yourself to flow with the rhythm. Repeat a few times, no more than 10 total.
Return to standing still, in Tadasanda, and feel the sensations of the Breath of Joy!
Once your breathing has slowed, start to move through 3 rounds of Sun Salutation A, slowly and freely. Build up your chatarungus and deepen your backbends with each round, maybe take a few rounds of Cat and Cow before you move into Downward Dog. Hold your DD for 3 breaths, pedal through your feet, move your hips left and right.
Flow through Sun Salutation B! Hold your chair pose for three breaths to activate your muscles; weight in your heels, tailbone tucked and core engaged. Flowing with a breath per movement, Vinyasa moves into DD, into Warrior 1, and back again, each side. Take as many rounds as you'd like, until your body is warm, engaged, strong. 
Step your right foot forward to a low lunge - Anjanyasana - as you inhale, then shift back into your left shin, lenghtening your right leg, lifting your right toes to increase the extension of the hamstring - runner's lunge - as you exhale. Flow back and forth with your breath between the two poses for 6 breaths. 
On an inhale land in your lunge, hold for 3 breaths. Keep hips square, spine long. Pull back to runner's lunge, hold for 3 breaths, same cues! 
Coming back into your lunge, reach your right hand back behind you, following with your gaze. Bend your back knee, either stay there, or capture the ankle with the hand. Open up into a gentle backbend, hip and quad opening. 
Release, sweep right arm forward to frame your right foot. Lift the back knee, rotate toes open to the left side of your mat, keeping your weight on the right leg in a gentle lunge. Moving with your breath, take your weight over to the left side lunge. Flow back and forth slowly. Maybe moving deeper into Skandasana, maybe lifting the arms out to either side to power up the legs. 
Pause at center, and turn your toes out. Lift your torso straight up and bend your knees deeply, keeping shins straight up and down, reaching arms out to either side. As you inhale, lift your arms straight up overhead as you press through your heels and slowly straighten your legs, exhale back into the squat with arms reaching side to side. Flow for 3 slow breaths, then hold at the bottom of your squat for 3 additional breaths.
Lengthen your legs, turn your toes in, hinge from your hips into a Wide Legged Forward Fold. Take the arms behind the back and interlace your fingers, press your palms together, and allow your hands to float towards the ground.
Move hands to frame your right foot, step back, flow through a Vinyasa or two!
Take the full flow on your left side: Lunge to Runner flow, Lunge hold, Runner hold, capture your back foot, side to side in Skandasana, Goddess Squats, WLFF. 
Vinayasa into a DD, move into plank and hold your plank pose for 3 to 6 breaths! Add an extra challenge if you like, by hovering one foot at a time.
Lift back to DD, into Child's Pose.
From Child's Pose, set up for a headstand. Press into your elbows and power up your shoulders. Engage your core as you lift your hips up towards the sky. Walk your toes in towards your face until your hips are as high over your head as possible. IF your toes can float off the ground, either bend your knees in towards your belly and hold the stacked pose for a few breaths before opening up into a full headstand, OR for a challege, keep your legs straight and lift them straight up towards the sky. Don't hop, skip or jump. If your toes don't float off the ground, work on strengthening your core by lifting one set of toes at a time. Hold your Shirshasana/Headstand for 3 to 6 breaths. When you come down, come back into childs pose for the same number of breaths.
Roll onto your back, or from DD jump your feet through your hands.
Take a bridge pose, if you're feeling open enough maybe a wheel pose. 
Hug your knees into your chest.
Take a nice easy supine twist on your back, knees to one side, gaze to the other. Hold for 3 breaths then switch.
Rest in Savasana... 
And arise rejuvenated, vital, ALIVE! 
 

Yoga for Rock Climbers

I'm launching a new yoga class at Sanctuary Rock Gym tonight, and I can't wait to share the benefits of yoga for rock climbers! Yoga can help climbers reach those super high-knee foot holds, stem across greater distances (see image below if you don't believe me... hehe), improve their balance on slab, prevent injury by loosening up tight shoulders, strengthen deep core muscles, and develop a deeper connection with their breath while on the wall. Plus I just love combining two of my favorite activities! Find below a quick sequence to help loosen your shoulders before you hop on the wall, and come out to practice with me on Wednesdays, 7 p.m. at Sanctuary for a full sequence specifically created for climbers. 

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Shoulder Opening Yoga Flow for Climbers

Begin in a comfortable seat on the floor. Take a few deep breaths in and out through the nose, letting your eyes drift closed if that feels right to you. 

When you're ready, inhale and open the eyes, sweeping your arms up overhead.

Interlace your fingers, turn your palms to the sky, and press your palms upward, let your shoulders slide up towards your ears. Take three slow breaths, and on each exhale, glide your shoulders down,

Keep your hands as they are, but move your arms until they are straight out in front of you -palms are still facing out. Tuck your chin to your chest, round your shoulders forward, curve your upper back, and enjoy the space you're creating underneath your shoulder blades! Three breaths here as well... keep those breaths slow and deep!

Sit up straight, keep your hands interlaced, palms are facing you. Use your left hand to pull your right fingers towards your right elbow. Switch, right hand pulls left fingers towards left arm.

Release the hands, but keep your arms reaching forward. Flex your right palm away from you. Use your left hand to draw right fingers up and back towards your shoulder. Switch, drawing the left fingers back, and loving the left forearm stretch! 

Release your hands, and sweep your arms behind your back. Interlace the fingers once again, maybe trying out how it feels to have the other thumb on top this time! Press your palms together, roll your shoulders open, then squeeeeze your elbows towards each other behind your back. Hold for FIVE breaths! This is such a simple and powerful pose for opening up those climber shoulders and pecs. 

Keeping the hands together behind you, bend your elbows. Bring both hands, palms together, just above your right hip. Dip your right ear towards your right shoulder. Play around with rolling your head a little further forward or back. Seek out the places where you encounter the most tension, and challenge yourself to stay there, softening into the breath, until the tightness releases.  

Then switch sides, hands above the left hip, left ear towards left shoulder. 

Release, come back to center with the head, hands come to rest on your knees. Take a few deep breaths... Then gear up, 'cause it's time to get on the wall! 

With love and gratitude,

Casie