Happy 2015! What an optimal day to set resolutions, or better yet, intentions. Failed resolutions are, unfortunately, part of a huge stockpile of baggage we store in our minds. In my experience intentions are best announced privately and daily as part of a meditation practice. Bringing prayer and thanksgiving into the equation can be a powerful addition to our own willpower. When we invoke the Divine for support and guidance, we become more receptive to the web of messages both within our heart and around our environment. Taking time before sleep to review our day and acknowledge progress -not perfection – is crucial to staying on target. And be forewarned that the target will morph into something more expansive than our limited mind can conjure when we invite God to participate in creating our life vision. I recommend choosing an inspirational book of daily readings to keep you on track and gently nudge you when redirection is needed. A paragraph, a prayer, observation of the breath and an open heart are the ingredients necessary when sitting quietly for a handful of minutes. Check out “The Little Book of Pink “- Affirmations and Quotations for Healing and High Vibrations by Rena Reese. Start and end the day this way for the next few weeks at least. The results will be more than you can ever imagine!
View this example of the fluid motion that promotes more serenity and joy for you in my Yoga Dance classes. This short video shows the initial floorwork in the practice. The dance evolves to standing movement which is energizing and expressive, then finishes with deep stretching and meditation.
Go to “Class Descriptions” on my website to learn more. Yoga Dance is offered in Bethesda and Gaithersburg this fall. Please see “Weekly Classes” to get info on day, time and location.
Are you are a wounded weekend warrior? If you are recovering from whiplash,suffering from a shoulder strain, a hamstring tear and more, these tips below can help you get the most out of your yoga class.
1. Back and Spinal Problems
Avoid seated forward bends if student cannot bend from hip joints.
Use blocks, chair or hands at walls in standing forward bends.
Better yet do “forward bends” in supine position-hamstring or hip openers.
Avoid extreme back bends if students over arch lower back or neck. Open chest, shoulders and hip flexors.
2. Neck Injuries
Avoid upside-down poses-shoulderstand, plow, (never turn head to side) headstand if you have whiplash, thoracic outlet syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative arthritis in neck or scoliosis.
3. Hamstring Tears
Avoid forward bends, instead do hamstring strengtheners like bridge pose until tear is healed.
4. Shoulder Injuries
Avoid lifting arms above head repetitively.
Keep shoulders and head in back plane of body.
Avoid reverse prayer pose and cow-face pose arms.
Avoid, modify or limit number of low push-up poses.
5. Sacroiliac Strains
Be careful doing seated seated forward bends and/or with twists to avoid pulling the ligaments between hip bone and sacrum, especially if you are highly flexible.
Practice turning pelvis slightly in the direction of twists.
6. Knee Injuries
Avoid external rotation with flexion and/or forward bend such as lotus or double pigeon.
Avoid extreme flexion of knee such as hero pose and squats.
Do not hyper-extend knees or drift knees to inside of feet in standing poses.
7. Ankle Injuries
Avoid over stretching top of ankles in hero pose or supine hero pose.
Keep ankles in neutral position in lotus and double pigeon pose.
Avoid sickling feet.
8. Wrist Injuries
Avoid putting too much weight on wrists.
Avoid rolling to the outside edge of hands.
Use a small wedge under wrists in downward dog pose.
Strengthen hands by pressing finger pads down into mat.
Happy Healing Now!
Release muscular tension by following along with me in this 8 minute video!
1. Commit to less stress by changing your patterns and shift the stressful environment. Make a few check-in times during the day or at the moment of stress. Find an outlet such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, a hot bath, aromatherapy, reading or knitting. Seek a support network of friends.
2. Shift awareness of the stressful situation early on. It usually works best when you catch it early. Know the contrast! Open up to new belief systems and perceptions. Send yourself an encouraging email.
3. Shift your breathing pattern. For instance, elongate your exhale, breath in through the nose-out through the mouth, or pause in between the breaths. Try it while driving in your car. Feel the contrast!
4. Do a body scan to become aware of areas that feel tense or heavy. Notice how agitation or depression are affecting your appetite. Drink a glass of water to get more grounded or eat a healthy snack in quiet.
5. Restore emotional balance by being “in the moment”. Do not try to control the past or the future because it doesn’t work! Instead give yourself 10 minutes in the morning to visualize yourself as peaceful during the day’s upcoming activities.
Did you know that women are four times more likely to suffer from scoliosis (curvature of the spine) than men? Most often it is manifested as a deviation of the thoracic section, at the rib cage area, to the right side with compensation to the left side at the lumbar, lower back area. Sometimes, however, the spine is not in a lateral S-curve, but a full C-curve to the right from thoracic through lumbar area.
How can yoga help? Awareness is key and using breath and imagery is very effective too. During your practice, picture sending the breath or prana to the side of the torso which is less prominent. Also, focus on creating more fullness and space within on this side while practicing all yoga postures. Regarding twists, emphasize turning towards the side of the thoracic spine which is most developed muscularly thereby rotating the non-dominant side to fullness and the spine to center. Limit or avoid twists to the weaker side.
Your body wants to find equanimity and a well-rounded yoga practice moving with breath and awareness will release its innate wisdom. Balance and freedom from the discomfort scoliosis can create is yours with a simple commitment to these self-care tools!
Did you know that the muscles on the torso’s left side tend to be “tighter” than the right side? Why is that, you ask? Since our left side houses more material like the heart, for example, there is less space and more density. And even more fascinating is the fact that if the left side of the chest and left shoulder are particularly restricted, it is very likely that there is limitation at the right side of the neck at the hairline.
Hmm… Yes, such is the information that accumulates in my mind.And it is the mind that will provide answers for more body balance. Not our analytical mind that intellectualizes problems in search of a solution, instead it is our powers of observation – sensing and feeling – which will guide us to more symmetry. The body wants to move freely and without pain. Effortless effort. Moving with skillful awareness, grace in motion.
Yoga means “union”. The joining of opposites or complimentary contrasts. So rather than worrying about the difference between you and your other half, celebrate it knowing All is One when it comes to yoga.
Create a Throne in your Home
Have you lost your tiara? I lost my crown sometime between birthing my first and second child. It probably fell into the recycling bin, crushed amid jars of Gerber’s baby food. But more importantly, I lost my allegiance to myself, giving up the territory of my personal care while navigating the unruly land of motherhood. Raising well-adjusted children is one of life’s great rewards, but in the process my inner resources can get woefully depleted. Fortunately this “damsel in distress” has been rescued by some unexpected knights in shining armor in the form of wonderful yoga teachers who guide me along the road back to myself.
Do you feel deprived of a throne? Or, at least, a place in your home where you can seek and find your true majesty on a daily basis? Simply making an altar of sorts and committing to rituals of renewal will take you away from life’s whirlwind into the home of your heart. The ancient tools of yoga plus a few of your own invention are all that is needed to remember your essential goodness and worthiness.
Begin the process by creating a sacred space in your home. This space can be small and secluded of a corner of your kitchen where a display of objects, a candle, inspirational books or a writing journal nudge you into a benevolent frame of mind. Music and movement, breath work and visualization are effective tools to rediscover your inner goddess.
Try the following steps as your take your seat of honor:
- Warm up your body by following the sequence offered in my “Rise and Shine” October 2010 post.
- Sit with regal grace. Clear your mind by observing your natural breathing pattern for two minutes. Slowly shift into a 4-4-6 count rhythm. With focused ease breathe in for four, pause for four counts, and then exhale for six counts. As the rhythm becomes comfortable, exchange counting numbers with a simple mantra –a repeated word which represents your sam kalpa – a spiritual quality you wish to embody such as gratitude, courage or acceptance. Continue this breath awareness exercise for a couple of minutes.
- Relax , get comfy and enjoy your well-earned “me” time knowing that when the Queen is in a benevolent mood, her world will reflect goodness and graciousness in return.
In my next blog, learn key exercises to find and keep your CORE STRENGTH.
You have a core and it wants to be strong for you every day, all day long!
Lisa Johnson RYT E-200 RYT 500 is a Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor.
Sick of sit-ups? Try to “float your boat” by practicing Paripurna Navasana instead. Otherwise known as full-boat pose, the asana strengthens the abdominals and hip flexor muscles, providing a tried and true alternative to pumping out gym-style crunches.
One of yoga’s vast vocabulary of core conditioners, full-boat pose improves your ability to keep your trunk stable while moving your limbs in a variety of positions.
This functional strength benefits all kinds of daily activities from opening a heavy door to playing tennis. Most importantly, finding your right angle to a tight core is key to preventing back pain and optimizing physical performance in all your endeavors. Include Paripurna Navasana regularly in a well-rounded yoga practice or fitness regime. Soon you will “float your boat” with a steady calm and resilient power. These qualities will overflow into the way you navigate along the river of life. It’s called taking your yoga off the mat! Namaste.
“Float Your Boat” Levels 1, 2, 3
- Sit up with your feet and hips anchored to the ground. Link your ankles and knees together.
- Inhale lift your chest and roll your shoulders back. Float your head in line with your spine.
- Exhale tighten the low abdominals and waistline in and up. Slide the shoulder blades down and towards each other. Hinge back to a 90 degree angle between your trunk and thighs.
- Relax your gaze and hold the pose for 5 slow breaths.
- Vary the pose by twisting the torso 45 degrees to the side and holding for 5 breaths. - Level 1 with Spinal Twist
- Increase difficulty: lift one or both lower legs parallel to floor- Level 2
- Challenge your strength and flexibility by stretching both legs fully to create a right angle between your legs and torso – Level 3