Yoga and Shoulder Pain…it doesn’t have to be August 22, 2012
4 Ways to Increase Your Balance: Part 4 November 8, 2011
So, how has it been going? Have you been working Step 1: feet, Step 2: thighs, and Step 3: core? If you’ve been putting in the time you may already notice a difference in your balance. You’ve also proven that you’re willing to commit to a process. Building balance requires a consistent effort, and a belief that your balance will improve. Which brings us to step 4: the brain.
Our thoughts are powerful…..what we think usually becomes our truth. So, if you keep thinking you can’t balance I almost guarantee that you won’t. On the other hand if you believe balance comes easily….than eventually it will. Why are the most simple concepts so hard to accept? The next time you practice balance repeat to yourself; “I have great balance and it gets better each time I practice.”
One final tip for balance…..find your Drishti. This is the yoga term for gazing point. Find something at eye-level, or even slightly above the eyes. Look at the item and then slowly begin to let you focus drift past the item…..almost as if you where in a trance. Soften the breath and face….. quite the brain. Try to hold your balancing pose; such as Tree Pose for 1-3 full rounds of breath before coming out of the pose. Exit the pose as mindful as you entered the pose. This will help to cultivate a catalog of balance that will be easier, and easier to call upon when needed.
During the month of November I will share some poses that will let you put your efforts into action. Keep working, keep believing, and it will all come together for you.
4 Ways To Increase Your Balance: Part 3 October 27, 2011
If you’ve been practicing Wall Sit from Part 2 of 4 Ways to Increase Your Balance I feel confident that you’ve found your thighs. The burn means your waking up those muscles, and making them stronger. Now let us take that energy to the core. Building a strong core is the 3rd step for increasing your ability to balance. A strong core will also help to minimize lower back pain. Often when we think of building strength in the core we find ourselves on the floor performing those dreaded sit-ups…….it can be a challenge for most people to even get to the floor. So, grab a stable chair and we are going to work that tummy from a seated position. Let’s get to work!
Core Exercise: Seated Crunch
4 Ways To Increase Your Balance: Part 2 October 22, 2011
Before we move to step 2……I must ask how are your feet? Have you been working on that towel scrunch? Remember building balance is much like building a home……you need to have a strong foundation to build upon. As you continue to gain strength, as well as mobility in your feet you’ll find that performing balance will become more accessible with each attempt. Let’s continue with our journey.
The next key to finding and maintaining balance is leg strength. In our modern world of convenience we spend most of our time sitting. Wether it be at home, at work, in the car, or any other mode of transportation….. we sit! There are also escalators, elevators, and moving sidewalks that enable us to move from one space to the next without every taking a step. As we as age, we use our muscles less and less. The muscles begin to decrease in size and weaken. Our lifestyle helps that process begin faster. But once again, with awareness and effort we can take steps to improve our wellness.
To improve your leg strength I will share with you an effective, yet simple exercise. You’ll need a wall, and possibly a yoga block, or a ball. A basketball, or soccer ball will work fine. Let’s get to work!
Leg Exercise: Wall Sit
Before you begin this exercise make sure that you’re wearing clothes that give you comfort and mobility. Come to a place on your wall where there are no obstacles that will hinder your efforts. Begin by standing with your back towards the wall. Allow your back body to make full contact with the wall. Step one leg, and then the other leg a full leg distances from the wall. Feet and toes are facing forward. Your torso is full supported by the wall, while your legs are extended in front of you hips distance a part.
With awareness begin to bend your knees. Your torso will begin to slide down the wall. As you bend the knees ensure they are facing forward…..not rolling in or out. An excellent way to bring awareness to the knees is to line them up with your second toe of each foot. Also stack the knees above the ankles. If there is any strain on the knees sit higher in the pose. With your shoulders, upper and lower back firm against the wall attempt to curl your tailbone forward to lengthen the lower back. Draw the belly to the spine to support the back even more. Bring your hands to heart center with the palms sealed.
Once you have found stability in this pose try to hold it for 1-3 full rounds of breath……slow inhale of 4 counts, pause, slow exhale of 4 counts, pause, repeat. Begin with 3-5 sets of Wall Sit. As your strength improves begin to sit deeper trying to make a 90 degree angle with the legs……ankle and knee align, as well as the knee and hip. Increase your sets, as well as rounds of breathe. Maybe your rounds of breath count increase from 4 to 6. If you want to challenge yourself more place a block, or ball between your thighs and squeeze your inner thighs towards one another while still being mindful of the feet and knees facing forward.
Each time you come to your practice begin to bring awareness more to the breath and less to the energy you may be feeling in your lower body. This is a grand opportunity to find grace in a place of discomfort. If you practice Wall Sit on a consistent basis you will increase you lower body strength, which will move you one step closer to your overall goal of improved balance.
Keep up the good work and check back soon for Part 3!
4 Ways To Increase Your Balance: Part 1 October 14, 2011
Make The Steps You Take More Meaningful September 27, 2011
With Fall truly upon us what a wonderful time to get outside to indulge in nature’s cooler, crisp days. A walk around the park, your neighborhood, or a local lake sounds like a perfect escape at anytime of the day. Typically when people go for walks there is usually some combination of a music player, a friend to talk to, and possibly a cute doggie tagging along on their leash. This sounds like a pleasant arrangement….getting exercise, taking in the tunes, spending time with that special someone, while having your furry little buddy tagging along by your side.
However, what if you could take those 20-30 minutes and make them even more meaningful for yourself? How is this possible you might ask? Well, it’s known as walking meditation. Yes, you can meditate as you walk. In fact, such a meditation can be possible for almost anyone at anytime. It’s not necessary to have a sacred space, or a special time…you just need to bring awareness to every step you take. It is truly that simple.
During a walking meditation you have to maintain some awareness to what’s happening around you, but the goal is to move most of your awareness inward towards the actions of your body. First begin with your steps. Feel the action of the foot and ankle. Slowly move your awareness up your body towards the calves, knees, thighs, pelvis, torso, arms, shoulder, neck, head and breathe. Notice how the body moves forward; working in opposition with every extension of the legs, swing of the arms, and sway of the torso.
Then take notice of your gait, or length of steps. Are they even, or are they different? The goal is to be aware, not critical. After body awareness has been established see if you can notice any sensations happening. Maybe an article of clothing brushing against your skin, or a cool breeze working in unison with the sweat developing on your brow. Also, notice how you’re feeling. Once again, not being critical just simply taking notice. During times when I’m feeling tension, or stress with each step I repeat to myself slowly; “All things have a beginning, and an ending. Everything is, and will be alright.”
Lastly, take in the happenings around you. What do you see, hear, smell, or touch? How does that make you feel more connected to your surroundings? How does that make you feel more connected to yourself? Remember any form of walking is wonderful for your body, but a walking meditation is a simple way to unplug from the worries of the world as you take a little time to do something meaningful for yourself simply by taking each of your steps with awareness.
For more information on this topic visit: http://www.wildmind.org/walking/overview
September is Yoga Month September 6, 2011
We have flipped our calendars once again to find September, and thoughts of Autumn’s colorful leafs, cooler nights and pumpkin patches may come to mind. But did you know it’s also Yoga Month? During the month of September many studios participate in a national observance to inspire a healthy lifestyle through Yoga.
If you always wanted to take a class, try a specific studio, or maybe even try a new style of yoga this is the month to seek your adventure. Many studios will be offering free classes, and on September 30 you can take part in a global community practice known as, The Time for Yoga.
Want to learn more? Click this link: www.yogamonth.org/
Yeah For Yoga Apps August 8, 2011
I’ve stated earlier that I’m a paper and pencil loving girl. I take my notebook with recycled paper with me everywhere jotting down little ideas as they pop up in my mind. No matter how much I love my spiral bound paper… the reality is we live in a high-tech world that is always evolving with new ideas to keep us clicking and upgrading.
So, yes even I get excited with technology ever once in a while too. For example…Yoga Apps…what a great idea! I love to use them as a resource for myself, classes, and my blog. Here are a few that you might want to check out for yourself.
Yoga Deck version 1.2.2: This application shares 70 poses that are broken into categories such a standing, seated, back bends, etc. Each pose is wonderfully illustrated and named in English, as well as Sanskrit. If tapped, the Sanskrit words become audible, so that proper pronunciation my be obtained. There are instructions to perform each pose, along with benefits gained from practicing the pose. This app is affordable at $2.99.
Yoga Journal iPractice: This application offers 15 yoga sequences that can be practiced anywhere. Select practice based on your mood, needs or interest. Each sequence is accompanied with music, along with instruction from a certified yoga instructor. Can you say yoga teacher in your pocket? That’s just what this app offers at the cost of $2.99. What a bargain!
Yoga MINDBODY: Truly practice yoga anywhere. This application helps you find yoga studios/classes no matter where you are in the country. Yes, it’s a Yoga GPS. Find out class times, class descriptions and locations of any studio. I plan on putting this app to use on my next vacation, but it can also be a great resource in your home town to help locate a new studio, or discover new class offerings. At the cost of FREE there isn’t any reason not to upload it to your phone.
As I come across new apps that I enjoy I will continue to share them on my blog. If there are any yoga apps you’re currently loving I would love to hear about them…please feel free to share!
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.
(Photo created by bayswater.ca)
Yoga Momma Needs A Yoga Bag July 27, 2011
As a mother of two children under 10 I’m constantly running them from event to event. Wether it’s for their minds, or their bodies they always have a bag to keep their necessary contents together. As for me I keep my necessary contents for Yoga everywhere. The back of my car holds blocks with a mat….the television stand is where I toss my eye pillow and elastic band….the hall closet stores towels just incase I need to dab the sweat off after my practice….any drawer I can find will hold CDs for my yoga listening….lastly, if my water bottle can’t be found, usually it is located with one of my children. And yes, they have their own, but I guess water taste better out of mine. So, it got me thinking….this yoga momma needs a yoga bag!
I made a trip to Target to replace my well-worn and well-used yoga mat. While I was browsing through the selections my eyes fell upon the bag I just admitted to myself that I needed. It was just hanging there all alone….the last one. The perfect one for me! I absolutely love this bag, and it holds all of my yoga props. As well as, items I might need for teaching classes, or my personal self. I highly recommend that if a yoga practice is becoming a part of your weekly life that you get a bag to keep all your items together. It will give you a sense of organization, a sense of preparedness, and a sense that your practice is an important part of your life. Not just a hobby that you scatter throughout your car trunk, television stand, and hall closet.
Contents in my Gaiam Yoga Bag:
Yoga CD…get your groove on
Candle…set the mood
Gaiam Yoga Mat (actually stores under bag…really cool)
Two Yoga Blocks (they’re in there behind CD :))…modify when you need it
Elastic Band by Body Sport…increase your flexibility and strength
Towel…slippery when sweaty
Water Bottle…stay hydrated
Eye Pillow…relax, let go, unwind
Kashi Bar…refuel after your practice
Want more information? Visit: www.Gaiam.com/Yoga
(I make no profit from you visiting this sight…just sharing ideas.)