The best takeaway wisdom from teaching and practicing for me this past year was that if a student understands who he or she is it is going to make the job of cue-ing into an asana more efficient and lead to greater possibility that the student will actually benefit from what is being done. This is easier in a one-one setting, but I still try to empower students so they can figure out how to navigate themselves. This, to me, is a great skill to have off the mat as well, facing so many choices in our day. We can get a bit lost in tasks, stresses and relationships which distract us from the quiet inner guidance. You need to be able to figure some stuff out from the inside and thus heal, recover, rebalance.
Effectively, if you look at Yoga as a tool box for life management, it is “a process of deepening self-awareness which is inclusive of the body – a restoration of full awareness, a ‘remembering’ and rediscovery of our true, enduring self, that is at the same time a constant process of healing. The mental and physical obstacles we face are rooted in our limited self-awareness – i.e. preoccupation with the demands of the ego- which in turn lulls us into self-forgetfulness. The result is inefficient and even self-defeating patterns of movement accompanied by tension, pain, and even injury- whether simply physical, or moral and spiritual injury….Thus ‘yoga’ in the tantric sense, is ‘therapy’ – an ongoing process of self-healing- a healing of our awareness or understanding ” – Doug Keller
So next time you go to a class, don’t just listen to the Teacher and follow blindly. Interpret the directions based on who you are…
Therapeutic effects of yoga include enhanced immune system functioning
“stress has a negative impact on the immune system and prolonged exposure increases susceptibility to disease and leads to physical and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Practicing yoga and meditation as a means to manage and relieve both acute and chronic stress helps individuals overcome other co-morbidities associated with diseases and leads to increased quality of life” STUDY
The immune system is a miracle to me. In case you are wondering what that is, “the immune system is a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease” (SOURCE) Restorative yoga poses are highly effective at reducing stress and therefore in creating a healthy immune system. The supported poses decrease the chasing aspect which is sometimes present when students “stretch” because these asanas (poses) are done with the strategic support and placement of yoga props which thus nurtures the body and induces the “relaxation response” while reducing the “stress response”. Together, these two effects protect and help to strengthen the immune system. Once your system is compromised, the practice changes, so the best tip is to be preventive with your health. I meet students who specifically do not do this type of practice yet will readily agree they are not able to relax. The number one reason they give to avoid the practice is they think it will be too easy. HMMMM. It’s definitely not the same as jumping around, but it is also quite challenging in its own way. Perhaps your misconceptions are keeping you from optimum health!!
yoga for better posture
yoga can be used as therapy for the forward head posture; as you can see (and maybe this is you or someone you know) the dropped head can create strain that radiates throughout the body, not just the torso. We have become a society of rounded shoulders, whether as an emotional bracing mechanism or as a result of driving, sitting at a computer, hunching up against the cold weather…
Some symptoms of forward head posture include:
- Forward head position.
- Rounded shoulders.
- Chronic pain (neck, shoulders, upper, lower and middle back)
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
- Teeth clenching.
- Pinched nerves
“Forward head posture leads to long term muscle strain, disc herniations, arthritis and pinched nerves”. There is also a kind of dual thing going on in yoga classes (some) where we as teachers, want you to feel like you are “perfect as you are” however, big however, if you take this forward head posture with you into asana, it is NOT beneficial to you. In many ways, a therapeutic application of yoga can undo this posture so that, going forward (not with the head, but in practice!) you can actually benefit from what you are “doing”. I have seen many students change their postural setpoint but it does take patience and persistence, and also, private yoga lessons do wonders.
Check out previous helpful tips come to class, schedule a private
viparita karani is one of the more simple restorative yoga postures:
Some of the benefits of this restorative posture include:
- regulation of blood flow,
- alleviation of menstrual cramps,
- relieves swollen ankles
- relieves varicose veins
- helps the reproductive organs in both males and females (increase of circulation in pelvic floor)
- improves digestion
- relieves tired legs and feet
- stretches the back of the neck, the front torso, and the back legs
- relieves problems in the eyes and ears
- relieves mild backache
- provides migraine and headache relief
- helps keep you young and vital
- calms anxiety
- relieves symptoms of mild depression and insomnia
In a past post, I included a short video using the 3 Minute eggs, as I had them with me when I was traveling and I always include restorative yoga postures in my yoga life. This is a really go-to one cause it can be spruced up or simplified… Depending on who you are in your body structure, and what you have as props, there are many ways to set up for this. In looking at the above list, the thing is, if you are menstruating, better not use a bolster, just lay flat, if you have serious restrictions in your hamstrings, be cautious. Be your own GPS. This is a really great pose if you have only 10 minutes. To make it really restful, cover your eyes.
“Healing is not just a physical process, but a process of consciousness” ~ Doug Keller
The body knows how to heal itself. I gashed my thumb the other day and am just amazed at how in just two days, the skin is growing back. We tend to think of using yoga for healing in terms of the injured or sick but that is not always the case. I think an important understanding is that we can have general good health but still merit from a yoga practice that strengthens and supports the immune system, the rest and digest mechanisms, and recognize that managing stress plays a huge part in keeping our minds and bodies fit, resilient and efficient.
Taking our body for granted is a big mistake. Too much activity and not enough rest can interrupt the proper functioning of our inner body/mind and overload it so that it may impede recovery time. If you start to consider balancing out your practice so that there are different components – strength, flexibility and stillness, you are helping to prevent illness, helping to facilitate the miraculous movements that our bodies do silently in 24 hours.
Join me for class to explore a balanced practice, try my breathing for balance exercise or see me for a personalized exploration of healing body, mind, spirit
Yoga backbends: the cobra, or bhujangasana, is one of the basic prone backbends in yoga. The spine extends in its entirety, from base of spine to base of neck. As well, there is a strong working action of the serratus posterior superior (under the armpits) which helps the chest expand, and works synergistically with the erector spinae group. The front core of the body has to help, providing support for the lumbar area. Additionally although you don’t want to push too much with the arms, any tightness in the biceps and triceps will affect the height the pose. The fingers, when used with interest, can also help access additional information in the shoulders, neck, chest and mid back.
The legs are far but passive in this pose, even though many students leave them behind in order to force height in the pose. This also leads, can lead, to disc compression which is not good. The legs should really be kept in alignment, especially for the SI joints. The glutes and hamstrings are working in this pose, especially to maintain adduction and internal rotation. If your legs externally rotate, you may have weakness in the medial hamstrings, which can cause the gluteus maximus to harden and overwork.
The baby below, makes the pose look simple and supple, which is what we hope for in this backbend, that there is a sense of extension throughout the entire spine. One tip is to move into it on the exhale rather than the inhale. I have tried this and it gives the pose lightness. Never throw your head back.
yoga breathing: try my YOGA MIND cd
“Breathing, the process of taking air into and expelling it from the lungs, is caused by a three-dimensional changing of shape in the thoracic and abdominal cavities” ~ Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy
Yoga breathing is three dimensional. Does this sound like you or does your breath feel stuck, shallow, short, or are you not even aware of your breathing at all? I created the YOGA MIND cd with all of you in mind (no pun intended). You are busy, have limited time, you may get to a yoga class but not really get in depth instruction. You want to practice though, and find it easier with guidance. The cd is available for you on ITUNES so that you can put it directly on your ipod or phone. Perfect calming for those moments in the dentist office, before a meeting, after your home yoga practice, or with your significant other.
If you think all breathing practices are the same, click here and stay tuned for my workshops in 2014. You can also take private yoga lessons with me
creating your own rope wall:
below is an awesome rope wall – not all studios have them, not all studios want them. When you understand the traction you get, not to mention the assistance with alignment…sigh…
I live in an apartment and as you can see (and imagine) I have an extensive yoga prop collection. I do not over decorate, preferring to have wall space for practice. I would love to have a yoga rope wall set up, however, it is not feasible.
Creating your own rope wall can be done using a door knob. You first have to get it out of your head that it isn’t perfect, but it is totally awesome as a simulation. The next thing you need to get is a 10 foot yoga strap with a D-ring buckle.
Check out my yogatherapyproplove store on Amazon for all the utensils of the trade. Before you tie the belt fold it in half. Then cover the door jam with the belt and take each long end around each of the door knobs and underneath. After that, you can fasten the ends. It may slip but that is ok, just fiddle with it. In this photo I left about a two foot loop. I then lay on my back and crossed my ankles, resting them in the loop for about two minutes per side – you switch the cross of the ankles mid way. There are a number of poses that can be done with this set-up. If you are in Jersey City or Hoboken, you can contact me for a private yoga lesson and we will set you up. Enjoy!
Tree Pose Variations:
This is one of several poses I really like. I think the standing poses where each leg is doing something different are really informative, especially in terms of the adductors and abductors and in my experience, can have therapeutic applications for the hip
In sanskrit, the pose is Vrksasa (vrik-SHAHS-anna)
Here is how to move into it
Tadasana is your first pose. Keep the left leg firm without locking the knee and bend your right knee. Reach down with your right hand and clasp your right ankle or just let the foot go where it can. You then draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh; if possible, press the right heel into the inner left groin, toes pointing toward the floor. The center of your pelvis should be directly over the left foot, although it is easy to sway this should not be the place you hang out in. Make sure the pelvis is in a neutral position, with the top rim parallel to the floor, and adjust so that your side waist lengthen equally. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Firmly press the right foot sole against the inner thigh and resist with the outer left leg. The gaze is soft and at a fixed point in front of you on the floor about 4 or 5 feet away. There are many different ways to prop this pose depending on who you are. Contact me if you would like private yoga lesson to make it accessible to you
tree pose variations
There are three common ways to use the arms:
-hands in prayer pose at heart level
-hands in prayer pose above the head
-arms open and reaching up
Restorative yoga pose of the day: Today we included in our restorative segment a posture that is called Viparita Karani or legs up the wall. There are many variations of the pose, I did teach the simplest variation today; the bolsters are very round and large, making it almost impossible for some of the smaller framed students to approach. Also, this may have been the first time for some of the students, so I kept it simple, although we did add some variations while we were in it. You can actually see how unique each person is by how bent or straight their legs, and how much space from the wall they needed.
Definition: “The name comes from the Sanskrit words viparita meaning “inverted” or “reversed”, and karani meaning “doing” or “making” and asana (आसन; āsana) meaning “posture” or “seat” “
Our restorative yoga pose of the day was a passive, supported variation of the Shoulderstand that is said to have the following benefits:
- Digestive problems
- High and low blood pressure
- Mild depression
- Respiratory ailments
- Urinary disorders
- Varicose veins
- Menstrual cramps
- Premenstrual syndrome
Restorative yoga poses in the Yapana® system are called “being” poses. They are held with the support of strategically place yoga props. Instead of chasing a pose, you can allow your body to receive the stretch, as well as the calming effects on the mind. This particular class, as I am subbing for a vinyasa teacher, I do an active component first, but by the end of class fit in restoratives and savasana so it is a fully balanced class