Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tadpole and Salamander Bolsters Help Bodyworkers Stay Healthy

Tadpoles and Salamanders Support Craniosacral Practitioners Tadpoles and Salamanders Support Craniosacral Practitioners

Tadpoles and Salamanders Support Craniosacral Practitioners

New Yoga Bolster Embraced by Craniosacral Community!

I love creating and sharing items that are helpful in therapuetic yoga settings, restorative yoga classes and regular yoga studios too. Recently I discovered that some of the newer items I've been making for yogis are super useful for therapists of all stripes that lay hands on their patients for extended periods. These therapists include craniosacral, chiropractic, osteopaths, reiki practitioners and others. It is exciting to me to have something that these therapists find aids them in their work.


How I Learned About Cushions and Craniosacral Therapy: A Big Misundertanding

Now it seems so simple, but at the time it sort of boggled my mind. In early 2014 I started getting orders for Tadpole and Salamander yoga bolsters from an unlikely source: Turtleback Craniosacral Therapy near Saratoga NY. One time when Margery the owner/director of Turtleback Craniosacral Education was placing an order I asked her how she was using the cushions and she told me that they were used to support the arms in therapy sessions. For some reason I assumed that they were for the clients arms and imagined that having raised arms made the treatment recipient more comfortable. I even started telling people about this!

I Learned How The Bolsters are Really Used for Craniosacral Therapy Just In Time!

In early June of 2014 I was scheduled to be an exhibitor at the Symposium for Yoga Therapy and Research. I was very excited about meeting a lot of people who care deeply about the proper use of props and who are working at the cutting edge of yoga and healing. I also thought it would be instructive if I could tell them exactly how the Tadpoles and Salamanders were being used in Craniosacral Therapy, so I emailed Margery and asked her if she could make a fuller explanation that I could share with other therapists.

The Real Story: Proper Use of Tadpole and Salamander Bolsters for Craniosacral Therapist Support
Here is what Margery wrote me back:

Hi Ray—

As craniosacral therapists, we make light touch contacts and often stay in one position for several minutes or even more.  Therefore, correct ergonomics are critical.  We use all shapes and sizes of pillows to support our arms so we can sit in as comfortable a position as possible, shoulders relaxed, spine aligned.

My sister, Ellen Mossman, who lives in the Bay Area, CA, but often teaches with me, is a yoga teacher, too.  She discovered the Bheka Tadpoles and found they provide the perfect arm support for craniosacral practice.  She talked about them in class, so I ordered a couple from you to try, and the rest is history. :-)  Now almost all our students are using them, too, or they will be soon.

They’re especially good for working around the face.  We put one tadpole on either side of the client’s head and can rest our raised forearms on the cushions, keeping the touch light without strain. 

I’ve been playing with the salamander at the side of the table in the same way.  It’s been fun figuring out how to use them creatively.

I don’t know how helpful this will be for attendees at a Yoga Therapy Conference, but there are plenty of bodyworkers who teach yoga.  

Have a great time at the conference and thanks for getting the order out so promptly.

Be well,



Margery Chessare, LMT, BCST, RCST, PLLC

Turtle Back Craniosacral Education

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy


The Definitive Word on Tadpoles and Salamanders for Craniosacral Support: Thank You Margery

Wow! What a great explanation and a nice story. Since then I have learned from Margery that she likes three things in particular about the Tadpoles and Salamanders: their size, shape and the materials they are made with.
The sizes and shapes make them versatile in fitting where she needs them.

TadpoleVersatileBodyWorkBolsters SalamandercraniosacralPillow  

Excellent Materials for Outstanding Bodywork Support Products

As to the materials, the shells of the Tadpoles and Salamanders are either flocked polyester, which cleans easily but has a deliciously soft hand feel or cotton canvas dyed with AZO free dyes which has a rugged natural feel. The solid colors (eggplant on the Tadpoles shown above) are all polyester and the India Print is cotton (used on the Salamander shown above). They are all stuffed with organic buckwheat hulls which mold to your body. So Tadpoles and Salamanders are comfortable against your skin and really embrace and support you when you sink into them.


Yoga Supply Becomes Bodywork Supply

I am delighted my bolsters are a wonderful aid to therapists as they perform their important healing work. Since learning about this I have been listening for and I have been told about various ways the Tadpoles, Salamanders and other of my props are being used. I will try to document uses here and on the Yoga Life Style web site. If you have anything you would like to share please comment below or write me at ray at

For further usage information on Tadpoles, Salamanders and wholesale and retail purchase information click here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand with Chairs Using the Bheka Turtle

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand with Chairs Using the Bheka Turtle

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand with Chairs

Bheka Turtle Makes Neck Free Headstand More Relaxed Than Ever!

Sometimes unlikely combinations create something that is more than the sum of their parts. The Bheka Turtle was originally created as a meditation cushion and a chair cover for restorative and therapuetic poses. While it is wonderful for those things, I discovered it makes a very comfortable nest for your shoulders when doing chair assisted headstands as is often taught in Iyengar studios. Having the neck free makes the practice safe for people with cervical vertebrae issues and using the Turtle really relieves any pressure on the shoulders by spreading it as much as possible Into the deep cushion.

Neck Free, Pain Free Completely Relaxed Headstand Using Chairs and Bheka Turtles

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand : The Setup
All you need for this set up is two sturdy chairs and two Bheka Turtles. If you do not have any Turtles you can use blankets or folded over layers of yoga mats for cushioning but you will have much more pressure on your shoulders than with the Turtles. Notice the non-slip feet on the chairs. If you don't have that you can put them on yoga mats. I like the stability of these chairs facing forward but with folding chairs you may prefer to have them facing each other. Keep them near the wall so your feet can reach the wall for maximum relaxation.


Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand:
Getting Started

Once you have the chairs set up you just need to insert your head and bend your knees. I call this the Ostrich pose and it is great for hiding from your yoga teacher. You won't be lingering here for long though. Press weight into the hands, tighten the abs and roll up into headstand.

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand:
Doing it Right

Rolling up into the pose means just that. First bring your knees to your elbows and rest there for a few breaths, getting used to the inversion and feeling whatever comes up for you. When you feel comfortable raise the knees to above your hips but keep your knees bent. Your feet may find the wall here and that is OK. Again relax, breathe and sense into the pose. Finally, straighten the legs for the full posture with the legs away from the wall. You can do split leg variations from here if you like. In the next step you will find the most relaxing way of doing this beneficial inversion.



Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand:
Relax Completely

To find total relaxation let your feet rest against the wall, so balance is less of a concern. Then release your arms and just hang. Ahhh....

The organic buckwheat hull stuffing in your Bheka Turtles provides just the right amount of firm yet gentle support letting you maintain this posture as long as you like.

Neck Free, Pain Free Headstand: Go Down and Come Up Slowly

When you are ready to come down, bring the hands back to the chair so you can engage your abs and slowly lower down the way you went up. First bring the feet away from the wall, then bend the knees, then bring the knees to your elbows and then slowly lower the feet to the floor. Stop. Stay in this position, the Ostrich pose, for a few breathes. The longer you are inverted the more slowly you should come up. Once you sense that the blood has truly stabilized then feel free to stand up. If you cannot tell what's happening with your blood pressure just count 12 breaths before coming fully up. If you have any questions or suggestions please post them below.

For further usage information on Bheka Turtles and wholesale and retail purchase information click here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mysore Yoga Strap Beginning Moves Video!

I never posted a You Tube video before but I've never had one about a great item like this that I wanted to share before!  As you will see the Mysore Yoga Strap is great for inversions, supported postures and just plain fun!  I plan to create intermediate and advanced videos for your viewing pleasure as well!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

True Confession: " I Am a Horrible Yoga Teacher."

It was an "AHA" moment. Suddenly I got it. Something that had been going on for years came into consciousness with the sharp boom of truth and I was/am embarrassed. I share about it here hoping to save others from this shameful fate.

 The evening began normally enough. My lightly attended class was even lighter than usual with only one student. I love when that happens. The attendee gets my full attention and often shares more than I would hear in a fuller class. On this night Sam complained of stomach problems likely brought on by some terribly stressful circumstances in his life. After some discussion as to his interest in addressing this yogically, I set about teaching breathing and digestive exercises that can be helpful in such circumstances and soon realized that though Sam had been taking class with me for a couple of years he still didn't have the first clue about belly breathing. What?! No belly breahting!?! How could this be?!?!

 The most basic, primary thing taught to all beginning yoga students. The relaxing foundation on which all other yoga relaxation and correct pranayam rests and my student who I had seen over 50 times didn't know about it. Fie! I have been remiss.

 I set about correcting this problem by teaching what I know about this, but the situation was even worse than I thought! Before getting to how deep the problem went I want to digress with a short review of belly breathing and its importance to proper relaxation. I do this to inform the uninitiated reader, to remind the knowledgeable and to begin to make amends for my egregious error during more than 15 years of teaching.

One of the earliest lessons and something I do whenever I have new students who come for more than a week or two to my mixed class, is to lie down place hands on either side of the navel and feel the expansion and contraction of the belly on inhalation and exhalation.
Sometimes they have trouble feeling it since their stomachs are so tight and it takes time to allow themselves to relax the belly. This might take weeks of attempts for some students. I explain that belly breathing is natural breathing. We are all born belly breathers. Baby's belly breathe. As we tense up, put on our emotional armor and become acculturated (or take Pilates) we learn to tighten the belly on inhalation. Unlearning this takes time, focused attention and desire. It is something I did when I was a tween some 40 plus years ago and since then I have become a 100% belly breather. Not just in yoga class, I belly breathe all day, all night and even when I sleep. I switched back to natural breath and never  looked back. Unfortunately, I forgot that my students weren't doing this and that I needed to emphasize it to help them to experience it.  Big whoops!

OK so this is belly breath is natural breathing. We all did it as baby's and like so many things from infancy we have learned to do it differently. But why is it so important to relaxation? There are two main reasons that I know of. One is that relaxed abdominal breathing is less work than tightening the stomach or drawing it in to make the chest larger. The other is that working the belly is a way of holding tension. Fully relaxing the stomach requires softening the abdomen and this naturally leads to, you guessed it, belly breathe. This bears repeating. When the belly is relaxed the abdomen becomes soft and naturally expands on inhalation. It is a marker of relaxation. Like many things in yoga we modify what we do with the body and our minds take the hint. So softening the abdomen and letting the belly expand on inhalation makes it easier to relax. Cool huh?

Even though I had taught this to Sam years ago, I haven't been reminding him about it enough that it sunk in. Now here's where it gets worse. I checked with Sandy, a student who has been taking with me for 15 years. You can see how my teaching has informed the way she does her postures and I'm proud of my connection with her. I have created a special series of pranayam and guided relaxations for her and she has heard my explanation of belly breathing dozens of times as new people joined our class over the years and you know what? She is not belly breathing throughout our yoga class nor did she realize she ought to be. Oy vey. There are lots of other Yiddish words, mostly of self denigration that I think of here but won't share (email me if you must know them).

 Beating myself up about this isn't helping anyone,however. (except perhaps the random Yiddish lover) Clearly I have to reemphasize breathing and specifically belly breathing in my classes. While I have been reminding my students to keep breathing slowly and deeply and through the nose as much as possible I've been leaving out the important expansion of the abdomen on inhalation and contraction on exhalation in those reminders. OM forgive me.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Holiday Open House at Yoga Life Style

Your Are Invited -->

Holiday Open House at Yoga Life Style

Door Prizes, Discounts, Hot Mulled Cider and Good Cheer!HolidayOpenHouseYogaLifeStyleBlog
I'm excited to be having a Holiday Celebration and Sale. We're tidying up and finding all kinds of unique items to share that we only have one or two of and haven't had a chance to put online and things we have a lot of that we can put on deep discount. For yoga lover's it will be a fascinating mix of resources and for friends of yoga lover's the vegan treats and convivial atmosphere will be a pleasure to take in. Below are more details and a link to a printable PDF for spreading the word. I hope to see you there. Peace and Love, Ray


Yoga Life Style's Holiday Open House will be a time to relax, shop and have some Hot Mulled Cider and Vegan Treats, plus...

The first 100 visitors will recieve door prizes worth between $5.00 and $15.00.

All Items in our Inventory will be on sale from 20-50% OFF.

Lots of items not shown on the web will be offered for sale.

There will be demonstrations of the Mysore Yoga Strap, Back Bender, Tadpoles, Cosmic Crabs and More....

Please spread the word.
PDF version of this flyer for download and printing!

I Look Forward to Seeing You!