Yoga for Backache

posture is key to alleviate backache

balance posture can help backache

Lower Backache

Many people complain of backache despite no structural issues.  The figure above, for example, as a stick figure, has no lower back problems, and excellent posture, which either means it does lots of yoga or is just an illustration. Whether you have poor biomechanics and posture during the day, sit, stand or drive a lot, or are just very active, accumulated stress and tension can accumulate in the lower back and cause a feeling of dullness and tightness. Some of the muscle groups involved include tight hip flexors, tight hamstrings, inflamed Si joint, mid back rigidity. Note that each person is unique and may need to explore their own back issues, and sometimes a practitioner needs complete rest rather than any type of movement. Yoga is not a magic pill. It is a practice. 

Restorative Yoga for Backache

Some of the key ingredients to a healthy back might include balancing your active yoga practice with:

  • Traction
  • Mobility
  • Stability
  • Flexibility

or a combination of all of these to eliminate the compression. Healthy postural habits must also be learned otherwise the ease you gain will be easily lost when you go back to daily living. Use your yoga practice to learn new skills and tools.

lower backache and pain relief

lower back pain relief

The emotions and backache

Emotional overload and stress can also create discomfort in the lower back, because the mind is in the body! We also need:

What a Restorative Class Can Do 

Restorative yoga involves a series of prop-supported asanas held for prolonged periods. This may facilitate the transition from lower back discomfort to comfort and well-being. Come explore this themed class and reap the benefits!

Savasana For Low Back

Savasana For A Tired Lower Back 

As I write this, it is the middle of Thanksgiving weekend. Many of us spent time in the car travelling to visit friends and family. Some spent long hours doing Black Friday shopping. I personally did not, but we went on a long hike, to be in the outdoors. It was uphill but worth the view. Hikers may want to practice viparita karani, or after a sequence of other poses, this variation is quite nice too. In any event, some of these circumstances breed lower back fatigue, leg fatigue and low grade back ache, and you might wonder what you can do using some simple yoga techniques to alleviate discomfort. 

savasana for hikers

Savasana is For Hikers Too

What is Savasana?

The classic meaning of savasana is corpse pose, or relaxation

. Not sleep, but deep relaxation. It is not always practiced the same way. If you have a stiff lower back, you might want to use props to practice savasana since lying flat on the floor may pull your back via tight hamstrings.

Propping in Savasana

how to practice savasana

Savasana for a tired back

What I propose for today is using a bolster, or a few stacked blankets to help weight the top of the thighs down so that the legs and lower back release into gravity. Fighting the physicality of a pose helps the nervous system to calm down, and once this takes place, a calmer breath and the possibility for relaxation can then occur.

You might even consider setting up for Pranayama using the bolster to open the chest, and then segway into a 15 minute relaxation practice. Remember that yoga sequences need to make sense; there are times when you might want the bolster under your knees, or some other variation. Tune into yourself, book a private yoga lesson, or come to class

yoga prop tutorial

Yoga Prop tutorial 101: The Blanket

Blankets are a staple yoga prop, and very useful for a restorative practice. While in many forms of yoga classes blankets are used during savasana, as a warm layer, there are other uses of them. 

how to use a blanket as a yoga prop

Foundation: The single fold

One of the things blankets do is soften the hardness of the floor, which allows the muscle fibers to relax. You can use a stack of blankets or just one. The height you choose will depend on the asana, the intention of use, and how much you want to bring the floor closer to you.

Finding The Right Height

I often see students using way too much height under the head, or not enough, and the result is not an improvement of the posture. You want to be able to release tension in a restorative practice, to support you body in any number of poses from backbends, chest openers, forward bends, twists, and simple seated poses.

Two simple uses of Blankets

How you fold blankets is an important factor in using them as effective yoga props. You can roll or fold them, stack them up, or use combinations. They can be substituted for bolsters. Folding them well means having clean edges so they retain their shape. Remember that a yoga prop is there to support you and provide feedback. If they are falling apart this cannot happen.

SINGLE FOLD: FOUNDATION: Starting with the short ends of the blanket, it gets folded in half, then folded again twice. Smooth all edges. As seen in above photo

how to use the blanket as a yoga prop

Yoga Blanket folding step 1

DOUBLE FOLDED: Starting with the foundation fold one side into the middle, follow by the other side. Smooth all edges. As seen in above photo

how can I create a home yoga practicee

yoga blanket as bolster

The finished product, seen above, smooth edges can be used with another one together to make a nice bolster. Enjoy different ways to use yoga props in class today 

Or book a private!

 

Why restorative yoga?

Best benefits of restorative yoga:

Restorative yoga offers the practitioner an opportunity to explore different aspects and benefits of practice that are often overshadowed by more dynamic styles.

A restorative yoga practice frequently relies on the use of props, prolonged holding in safely aligned asana sequences, meditation, pranayama and relaxation. Excellent for active physical recovery, balance, stress management,a restorative yoga class can explore different safe alignment skills through therapeutic themes.

Let’s take a look at Child’s pose (balasana)

benefits of restorative yoga?

Active childs pose

This is often called a resting pose, and can certainly be that. The variation in the above photo is dynamic, and often used as a preparation for downward facing dog. The props are used to wake up the spine and the shoulders as well as encourage conscious breathing into the back body. In a vinyasa, holding the pose for 5 or 10 breaths can offer the practitioner a break from the activity of the practice. However, many students cannot actually ‘let go’ in the pose, whether due to stiffness or pain or just inability to perform it safely. So…is it really restorative?

Now take a look below. Here, props are used to bring the pose to the person, encourage release, and the arms are taken out of the equation. There is no pulling, but the arms lines, shoulders, hips and spine are safely letting go of tension.

I encourage you to uncover some of the benefits! Restorative Yoga Classes can be booked privately or check my Calendar  

strategic yoga prop placement

restorative child’s pose

Defuse Anxiety

how to diffuse anxiety through yoga practice

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
to diffuse anxiety

Defuse Anxiety With Yoga Practice

Are you anxious or irritable? Do you feel emotionally vulnerable or prone to mild depression? If you are nodding here, then you may want to read on. 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)

In this variation of setu bandha sarvangasana, the supported expansion of the chest helps to stabilize the chest and calm anxiety. It is a backbend, and because the heart is above the head, it is also considered a mild inversion.

Benefits

This is a pose that helps you rest, and quiet the brain. It can also help to relieve diarrhea, and stabilize the thyroid and parathyroid, as it engages the chin lock. The open chest helps you to access a relaxed breathing pattern. It can therefore be practiced prior to a formal pranayama practice or as a restorative pose at the end of an active session.

How to practice

Set up a bolster on the floor, not a mat, at a right angle to a wall, in such a way that when you stretch out over it, the top edge of the bolster is at your lower rib area and your feet touch the wall. Place an upright yoga block against the wall for your feet in line with the center of the bolster. Sit on the edge of the bolster, close to the wall. Secure a strap on the top thighs to help the abdomen staff soft, and compact the hips. Curve your torso back over the bolster so the shoulders and back of the head are on the floor ( you can always have a thin blanket under these areas). Allow the soles of the feet to touch the wall.

Roll the shoulders back and down and the upper arms out, palms up. Breathe smoothly. When the breathing is quick and choppy, it is a sign of alert and anxiety. When the breath is calm, mind quiet, thoughts quiet, these feelings can be diffused, and peace can set in.

To come out, bend the knees, feet to floor, beside bolster. Remove the strap, and let the lower back settle. Tip: Not a wise posture if you have a herniated disk.

Group yoga classes

Group Yoga Classes in September:

group restorative yoga classes

group restorative yoga classes

This season I’m kicking the restorative yoga classes up a notch, through the use of weekly themes and focuses on different categories of asanas. 

This is primarily because I notice a prevalence of folks who either come expecting to just lay out on a bolster and sleep, or are already burnt out and tired that they should really be coming more often (preventative measures) rather than 1&1/2 hours of “curative”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good, but discipline (tapas) pays off, especially with restorative yoga, since we do not always cultivate the softer forms of practice (meditation, relaxation, pranayama). 

Also, holding any pose for any length of time is either not helpful (if you do not have the alignment or trajectory of the pose in the first instance), or helpful if you are really in tune with proper prop placement and so on. Comfort is really learned too!

Many of you come to group yoga classes when you are already tired; have lower back pain, stiff shoulders, and tight hips. We will address all these issues in weekly themes during our yoga classes where you can learn sequences and alignment skills to complement your busy life and your active yoga practices. The sequences will progress as you learn them…right?! so come to class – or just book me privately.

The first week of the month will be devoted to supine standing poses, which are great to alleviate tension in the whole body. The second will be devoted to backbends and twists, to improve posture, circulation, the third to forward bends and light inversions, which have great benefits for immunity and overall calmness, and the fourth to peaceful practices and pranayama.

Look forward to seeing you in class, 

Rana

meditation for your muscles

meditation blog at ranawaxman.com

meditation

Meditation: For the mind and also for the muscles

Today I want to talk about using meditation for your muscles. I am preparing for my restorative yoga class, and came across an interesting article this week which focused on tight muscles and why not to actively stretch them. You can read it by clicking here; where the author says insightful things like “We have been conditioned to think of the tightness itself as the problem, thus the automatic tendency to try to stretch. But in reality, sometimes tightness is a result of the problem. In those situations, stretching is not the answer–at best it gets you nowhere, and at worst, it aggravates the problem. So the key to correcting the issue is figuring out why a muscle is tight. It might even clue you in to a problem you didn’t know you had….TIP: Not all tight muscles need to be or should be stretched;  sometimes the real problem is weakness not tightness. This needs to be considered when inflexibility persists despite consistent attempts at stretching.”

Why meditation for your muscles?

Where meditation comes in is that once your mind is calm, you get the space necessary to allow yourself to to move away fro “automatic tendency” and more towards a balanced and thoughtful approach that could include rest, postural changes or other modifications that are actually at the root of your tightness. So let’s allow our meditation to inform our muscles! See you on the mat or meditation cushion! Check out my Yoga Mind Cd for portable peace :-)

meditation ~ Rana Waxman Yoga Yoga Therapy

Breathing and the Art of Relaxation

Rana Waxman yoga

The Modern Yogini in Savasana

Breathing and the Art of Relaxation: The photo itself is full of life and energy. There is a vibrant stillness and you can almost hear the sound of the babbling brook. Your breathing is naturally going to reflect the slower pace that your eyes are taking in. If you live a stressful, city life, the concrete and hustle and bustle, sirens, cars and general noise probably affect your breath tempo and quality in quite the opposite way.

It doesn’t have to be this way if you learn how to consciously relax, how to consciously monitor and pace your breathing. That is what the art of pranayama is about. Using techniques that can effect changes to heart rate, digestion, cellular function. To disengage the mind through your breath can induce a more calm feeling throughout. You certainly will have a harder time clenching your jaw or stiffening your shoulders when you are using relaxed, and conscious breathing. This will signal the nervous system that you are safe, in ‘control’, calm and prepared.

In the restorative yoga class I often teach passive chest openers to soften the restrictions in this area, in the shoulders, and upper back. Tight muscles often reflect in a tight and short breath. There are certainly some easy and fulfilling set ups with props that can do the trick, so if you want to learn, book a private or come to class

breathing for relaxation

breathing for relaxation

 

 

Yoga For Fatigue

Yoga for Fatigue

yoga for fatigue

yoga for fatigue

Do you suffer from being tired, not getting enough rest, or just having low energy?  Here are a few reasons to do yoga for fatigue and improved energy so that you can deal with the challenges of being tired mentally, physically, emotionally.

First of all, it helps to identify whether you are mentally, physically, emotionally tired, but have energy, or, either of these with no energy. This should help you somewhat with a basic idea of how to use your yoga practice for fatigue.

Yoga can be a good way to tone and invigorate your adrenals, but if your adrenals are shot due to being overly tired or stressed, you should think of pacifying your nervous system. You can do this with forward bends, or downward dog, and use some head support if you are mentally tired.

A balanced practice can massage and stimulate your adrenal glands; backbends tend to squeeze them and rid them of stale blood, twists will rinse them with freshly oxygenated blood.

What I enjoy about restorative yoga is that it can certainly open your body but without the brain having to do so much work. Navigating alignment is work, its still you doing something. Apart from legs up the wall, which is a go-to pose, I like Matseyasana when I have been working at my desk and my neck and shoulders are congested. It can be a little stimulating, because the heart and chest open, but this affords a nice opportunity to breathe too.

create the life of your dreams

Come to class or book a private yoga lesson for more tips

yoga for fatigue

yoga for fatigue

Supported Pranayama Practice

Supported Pranayama Practice

Supported Pranayama Practice can be used as an alternative to classical Savasana, and has many benefits, especially when the right props are used

Using props to support the torso in Savasana has many benefits:

  1. Especially with beginner students who tend to fall asleep during relaxation, this variation keeps students more alert than in classical Savasana
  2. Due to the elevation of the torso, it reduces nasal congestion
  3. The props help to support the shoulders and neck as well as open the chest
  4. The strategic placement of yoga props will aid students in feeling the alignment of their back ribs and the different components of breathing
  5. The support will help to roll the tops of the shoulder blades back, whereas many people suffer from the postural imbalances of rounding shoulders and forward head
  6. Improves breath awareness and helps to teach proper breathing patterns
  7. Is a lovely alternative to seated mindfulness, as the student can relax the lower body.

 How to use props in supported pranayama practice

supported reclining pose for pranayama

supported reclining pose for pranayama

In the photo above, please note that we used what we had at hand. In lieu of an eye bag, we used the student’s soft sweatshirt. We also had one yoga mat, 4 of the 3 Minute Eggs and one standard bolster. For my favorite yoga props, click here. You can make substitutions or additions as needed. I will give you the directions for what is pictured.

  1. Position your bolster parallel to the mat with 2 eggs underneath the top end.
  2. Recline over the bolster, keeping the small of your back against the bottom end of your bolster.
  3. Allow your arms to rest, here we used the eggs to alleviate the pull and meet the students needs.
  4. Allow your legs to stretch out , and separate, and relax.
  5. Breathe