YouYoga

YOGA THAT LETS YOU BE YOU

Sunday Inspiration 5 August 7, 2011

“Succeeding in one thing at a time and getting big in it is more important than struggling success in many things.”

Ralph C. Smedley

 

Be Mindful Of Your Knees Please August 6, 2011

The largest joint in our body is the knee.  This hinge joint connects the thigh to the lower leg allowing for flexion and extension.  The knee is the junction point of many ligaments and tendons to keep the bones, and muscles connected.  It also contains shock absorbers known as the meniscus which prevent bones from rubbing on one another. However, if the knee is forcefully rotated or bent it can be cracked or torn (en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Knee).  The knees play a large role in our mobility, and it’s important that we be mindful of their role in our yoga practice.   

5 Ways to be Mindful of the Knees during Your Practice:

1.  Align your knee with the ankle in leg bending poses.  If you’re in Chair Pose think of pushing your sitting bones behind you, as you fold from the hips drawing your knees over the ankles.  Look down, if you see the top of your leg instead of your toes continue to push the sitting bones back.  A mirror is a wonderful tool to check for knee over ankle alignment.

2.  Track your knee in the same direction of your toes.  In Warrior II the front leg works towards a 90 degree angle while the back leg extends with feet turned in about 45 degrees.  Often the front knee will roll inward, or outward depending on your flexibility in the hips.  Simply correct this alignment by tracking your knee the direction your toes are pointing.  As you get more comfortable with this task, begin to track the knee with the second toe for even better alignment. 

3.  Slighty bend the knees in straight leg poses.  While working towards Forward Fold  it’s more important to focus on lifting your sitting bones, so the stretch may be felt more in the belly of your hamstring not the back of your knee.  Remember there aren’t any knee opening poses in yoga!  While you’re working towards straight legs in your practice, know that it’s perfectly fine to have a slight bend in the knees.  Your knees and hamstrings will be grateful for your kindness. 

4.  Lift the knee caps in standing poses.  This simply means draw your thigh muscles up as if you were sucking them into the bones of your leg.  This action will help to build strength and stabilization overtime, and practice.  Mountain pose is the easiest pose to practice this action.  Eventually with awareness you can begin to incorporate lifting your knee caps in all poses where the leg is extended.  You can also try Mountain Pose lying down with your feet against the wall.  As you press your feet into the wall feeling yourself grounded, begin to lift the thigh muscles drawing them up and into your thigh bones.  Take a moment and notice any sensations you may experience. 

5. The knees face up with the toes in seated poses.  Often times in seated poses such as Staff Pose, where your legs extended straight out in front of you, it’s common to allow the knees and toes to roll out losing all awareness.  Remember, in seated poses the legs can be just as active as they are in standing poses.  So, face your toes up along with your knees.  Engage the muscle of the thighs and feel a line of energy radiating from the crown of your head through the heels of your feet.  Practicing such alignment cues without bearing weight will be easier, and will give your body the opportunity to practice awareness.  In time, these actions will translate more easily into your standing poses.

The next time you roll out your mat for your practice take these tips with you.  Be playful and curious….just explore what your body’s abilities are today.  Take pride in knowing that with your knowledge you’ll be protecting your knees, as well as building healthy habits for yourself, along with your yoga practice for years to come.

Namaste

(Photo created by bayswater.ca)

 

Connecting With Self On… And Off The Mat August 3, 2011

Have you ever been in a yoga class where the instructor invites you to draw your energy inward?  To let go of all external things, focusing on yourself, and becoming more aware of how you feel in the present moment.  In a class setting with lights low, quiet music playing, and your eyes closed it seems almost like such an invite is possible.  With time and practice the invite becomes easier and easier to accept.  In fact, as a student and teacher this is the part of class that I enjoy the most.

For me, it’s a time when I can truly unplug from the world with its demands and responsibilities.  As an instructor I enjoy the energy that is created from a group engaging in the same goal.  It becomes a tangible moment of serenity.  Why is it that once the lights come on, the music stops and our eyes open it becomes a foreign concept to put ourselves first?  We rush back to our social labels of spouse, parent, business owner, teacher, etc……..forgetting that we’re at the core of these descriptive words.

Often times we’ll mask feelings, or thoughts trying to keep the good face forward.  Don’t miss understand, I agree that there is a time when such actions are necessary.  However, I become concerned that we can move through each day never truly connecting to our true emotions, or our true selves.  Is this how we want to spend our lives?  I would think not, or at least I would hope not. 

So, how can we incorporate more of our true selves into our daily lives? I don’t think drastic measures need to be taken, but rather carving out small moments of time to draw our energy inward. For example, instead of rushing out of bed in the morning take the time to acknowledge the breath.  Rest the hands on the stomach.  Enjoy the rising and falling action of the belly while being filled with gratitude to meet a new day. 

Take a walk and leave the Ipod behind.  While walking take in the sounds of nature.  We might find as we listen to our enviroment,  we’ll also notice more of the beauty that surrounds us each day.  Try walking into the local coffee shop, instead of rushing through the pick up window.  Lets indulge ourselves a bit, and enjoy every moment of our special treat.  These are some ideas that just might allow us the opportunity to reconnect with self.  In doing so we’ll become more aware of how we feel each present moment….bringing our yoga practice into our daily lives.

How else could we create time for self?  I would love to share in your ideas.

 

Tadasana: Mountain Pose August 2, 2011

Often times in our practice I think we’re drawn to the full expression of an asana, or pose.  For instance, while practicing Vkrsasana: Tree Pose we don’t attain a strong foundation with balance before we try, with all of our might, to pull the heel of our foot to our groin.  In doing so, we look more like a Weeping Willow, rather than a sturdy Oak.  Taking this approach to a pose can help reinforce internal thoughts like: I have poor balance.  This statement may be currently true. 

However, we need to come to a place where our practice helps to create supportive thoughts, rather than our thoughts determining the outcome of our practice.  For instance, in Tree Pose if we allow the toes to rest on the ground while the heel of the foot rest on the inside of the standing leg we can begin to seek balance.  Once we find that balance we can begin to work on other aspects of the pose.  With this mindful, self-acceptance approach eventually supportive thoughts will arise like: My balance is improving. 

This got me thinking…finding ease in a pose is truly a matter of understanding the foundation of each pose.  Then with an open heart and a quite mind we meet ourselves where we’re at in the pose.  Being playful and being curious every step of the way.  It also got me thinking that Tadasana: Mountain Pose truly is the foundation of all asana.  As simple as it may appear, it takes quite a bit of awareness to align the body properly.  It takes even more awareness to seek that  alignment in each pose.

So, this month we honor Mountain Pose.  It’s a pose attainable for all, as well as a pose that truly can be practiced anywhere at anytime.  Try it standing, sitting or even lying down with feet grounded at the wall.  Feel your inward strength radiating out.  Have faith knowing that with a strong foundation, as well as proper alignment all poses are possible within your bodies unique form of expression.

In the weeks to follow I will share the benefits, the anatomy and the modifications for Tadasana.  Join me in my practice of Mountain Pose this month, and let’s feel grounded and stronger together.

Namaste

(Photo created by Esteem Fitness)

 

Ginger-Peach Smoothie August 1, 2011

There is nothing better than the simple satisfaction that comes from putting yummy goodness into a blender…pressing puree…and then enjoying a frothy, healthy, fulfilling smoothie.  With the invention of the smoothie there is no reason not to have time for a good start to your day.  This month’s featured smoothie is the Ginger-Peach Smoothie from Weight Watchers.  Ginger has many health benefits, as do Peaches. 

Ginger can help stimulate digestion, relieve nausea, and sooth cold symptoms to name a few. Peaches are a powerful anticarcinogenic.  Which simply means it’s believed to fight some cancers since it contains high level of antioxidants.  They are also believed to help with digestion due to their high water and dietary fiber content.  The nice thing about peaches is they can be found year round in your grocery store freezer section.  Always seek frozen fruits that have no added sugar.

Let’s get to the YUM!  You will need the following ingredients:

1-2 pieces of crystallized ginger (can be found at your local health food store.)

2 tbsp of agave nectar

1 cup of unsweetened, sliced, frozen peaches

1 banana

1/3 cup of nonfat, plain, Greek yogurt

3 tbsp of orange juice

1/2 cup of water

handful of ice cubes

Combine all ingredients into blender.  Puree until smooth.  Depending on level of hunger could yield 1-2 servings. 

Enjoy!