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19.2.17

Are you experiencing lower back pain from your practice?


I stumbled upon a great Yoga article in regards to back pain (linked below). It piqued my interest because I have been having lower back pain for a month or so now. I had assumed it was due to my new practice, combined with carrying around my daughter, who has gotten heavier. Anything new to your body is bound to cause stress. Not always a bad thing, as it can be the body adjusting. While it really may be just that, this article highlights the implications of twisty poses that do more harm than good, when not done properly. And I, for one, am taking heed.

Not every person is susceptible to this, but it's good knowledge to arm yourself with regardless. (You are susceptible if you do not have a strong core). Your back is NOT something to be trifled with. If you've ever had back pain, specifically the spinal area, it is probably some of the most excruciating pain to live with. Protect your back at all costs! It may not hurt you in the now, but if you don't, it very well might when you're older. Thankfully, to date, I have a strong core and back (although I've been exercising and weight lifting for a long time to achieve this). However, I've experienced some heavy duty back pain with both my pregnancies, and let me tell you, it's really rough. It's very frustrating, and the pain is wholly depressing. It is not something that you can live with happily. We take for granted now, when we're healthy, young and strong, how easy it is to move, sit, stand .. etc. You lose all that when your back hurts. It's really an alienating, depressing, sad existence. I don't want to live like that in my older years, I want my back as healthy as possible.


The article, Yoga Anatomy: Prevent Low Back Pain in Twists, is from YogaJournal.com, a resource that I've been recently fancying for all things Yoga! Enjoy! For the immense benefit of your future self, please be kind to your back!

Today's Yoga Pose: Big Toe Pose / Padangusthasana 
This is a nice, relieving stretch for your lower back. Almost identical to Forward Fold or Forward Standing Bend (Uttanasana), however you're holding your big toe instead of hanging your arms loose. Legs straight and close together, feet planted into your mat, bent at the hips with your head down towards the floor, facing behind you. Keep your core and hips engaged (sit bones high), but otherwise this is a relaxed pose. Grip your big toes firmly with your thumb and index finger, and press your toes down. Inhale to release slightly, and exhale to go deeper (ONLY as comfortable).

Today's Yoga for Thought
"As I began to love myself, I freed myself from anything that was no good for my health - food, people, things, situations, and anything the drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude 'healthy egoism'. Today I know it is 'love of oneself'". ~ Charlie Chaplin

Peace, friends 💙

Yoga is Fundamentally Dynamic, Not Static

Yoga is actually very dynamic. Due to the stretching and static nature of the Yoga poses, you might think it's just effortless and simple, no-brainer, stationary poses. However (unless you're doing the cool down poses) it's quite the opposite!



When in a balance pose, you are using ALL your body. You are working multiple muscles. In a lunge you are involving not just your legs (thighs, calves, quads), but also your back, feet, shoulders, arms. And if you are doing a high lunge (Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana - what a mouthful!), your hands are even involved. I don't mean involved like you're just using them, but you are actively using them.

Let me explain. In a lunge; 'Anjaneyasana', it is so much more than just squatting down and remaining static in that position. Clearly you are utilizing your leg muscles. But you're not just 'posing' in a lunge. You keep this pose highly active. To start (once in the lunge), for your legs portion, you are 'pulling' your thighs towards each other, and 'pulling' your ankles towards one another. You are not actually moving in any direction, you are simply doing what is referred to as isometric exercises. Next, your feet are solidly planted into the ground. Stretch your toes and dig into your mat, for your solid foundation (Note: this is important to do with all balance poses, excluding inverted poses). Now, your torso is solid. Your abs are engaged, always. Keeping your form solid and strong. Your back is long and solid, with your shoulders back and chest out. Lastly, your arms are stretched out, reeeeeaaaching out. You are actively stretching your arms in front, over head, or behind you. Feel the tension. Every muscle is engaged. There's nothing simple about it (well, except how easy it is to do). When doing a high lunge, your hands will be planted into the ground. Stretch out your fingers and dig them gently into your mat.

See what I mean? It's very dynamic! Who knew right?!

Here are some more examples.

The unassuming Mountain (Tadasana) Pose: This is a simple pose, but it's still active! Your core is solid, abs are always engaged. This is what keeps you solid and steady, like a mountain. Your back is strong  thanks to your abs engagement, but your shoulders are still being actively used -> down and back with your chest out. Your arms are stretched with your biceps, forearms, and triceps engaged! Your legs are not as actively engaged in this pose, but your feet are. Alike I explained above, your feet are your anchor point. Keep them secure and flexed into the mat. One optional addition to this you can do, is to keep your glutes engaged. Just tighten your glutes for that extra foundation and strength benefit. Tightening your glutes also assists in keeping your pelvis pulled 'in'. If you bring your hands to heart center in prayer, you can hold and push your hands together, isometrically keep them firmly in place.


Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) or Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana): In both of these poses, your feet are firmly planted, your standing leg is solid and engaged, and your arms and hands are stretched, reaching out beyond your body! Your hovering leg is also reaching! Your leg is strong, the glutes tight and engaged, and your toes pointing out and stretched. You are lengthening your entire body. From the point of your index finger to the point of your big toe. As always, your shoulders are back and down (away from your ears) and your abs are engaged, keeping your foundation solid. In Half Moon, your chest is lifted and facing out towards the side you are twisted towards. 

Tree pose (Vrikshasana): Same as above with your standing leg and foot planted, hands at heart center, shoulders back and down. However, your lifted leg is slightly pushing into your standing leg. Your thigh and your foot are gently pushing towards each other. Core is engaged, keeping your foundation solid. (Notice, I use the word 'solid' a lot. It makes sense. You are keeping your body solid and fierce. This is how you balance and create strength).

  

That's a lot of work going on, am I right?! However, it's relatively simple for anyone to do. It may sound intimidating, all this effort, but it's actually not that difficult. What it is, quite simply, is being mindful. This is wholly what Yoga is in it's essence. Being mindful and aware of every fibre of your being! This is what helps you achieve serendipity and balance in this hectic life. And soul connection. 

The key to your success is practice. You keep trying, you keep learning, and you reap the benefits for body and mind.

Yoga For Thought 
 "Love is how it feels to recognize our essential unity. Awakening to oneness is the experience of Big Love. Knowing you are one with all, you find yourself in love with all." ~ Timothy Freke

Peace Friends 💚

16.2.17

Life Stress and Yoga


Yesterday was an awful day. Big itty bitty was in trouble at school. Hubby and I fought about it. And I was upset. So upset that I couldn't function like my every day self. Very basic functioning. I didn't do a practice yesterday. My heart and body were not in it. I just couldn't drag myself to the mat yesterday. I could barely drag myself off the couch. The dramatic stress response has since passed, and today I did my practice. I wasn't too sure about doing it today either. I was still pee-oed! But I wasn't curl-up-in-a-ball and fade out the world type stressed. I felt ready. I got my mat, and I got to business.

At first, I was just sort of going through the motions. Don't get me wrong, I was making my best attempt. I was doing my deep breaths. 'Pranayama', as it's called in Yoga. Then at about 20 minutes in I started to feel the difference. The change. Pranayama is very powerful. I really don't know the technicalities of it, but the different kinds of breathing throughout your practice make all the difference. The deep belly and diaphragm breaths in at the start, the slow and maintained breaths throughout, and the heavy Yoga mouth breaths out as the end (releasing all your tension). It works a little bit of magic. Concentrated breathing is very powerful. It brings you back to center*.

When I did body building, it was an easy task for me to get into it when I was upset. It provided that emphatic release. PIck up heavy thing. Put down heavy thing. Pound chest. Roar! I got out my pent up aggression that way sometimes. I felt strong and powerful by the end of it, and the original anger, usually diminished though not eradicated, was satiated for a bit.

Yoga is a different ballgame. You don't 'attack' it. You can't throw your mat down, jump into childs pose, and fist pump the floor. That's just not the energy expanded with Yoga. We calmly go to our mat, and begin softly, building up the practice to the fire of what we're comfortable with. (Not a fire like a 200 lb squat, more like glowing embers). We don't start with fire. Hence it's a bit harder to get to the mat when you're stressed, upset, mad, or sad. For this reason, yesterday it was a challenge to get to my mat.

But, I got there today. You just have to listen to your body. This is the other premise of the Asana's. Your body tells you what it needs. What it's capable of. You listen to it. You give in to it. You appreciate it. You go to your mat when you are able to do these things. If you're too stressed to be in the here and now for your practice, wait it out. It's alright. Your body is telling you what it needs. You'll get back to the mat. Just be in the moment exactly how you are. Trust that your body is telling you.

Today's Asana: Happy Baby / Ananda BalasanaI
Let's de-stress with this pose today! I just love the name of this one. How fun, right?! With this pose, you lay on your back. Comfortably. Fold your knees to your chest and wrap your arms around your legs. Then you can gently rock side to side. For some fun (or at least I think it's fun 😁) and if you're able, stretch your legs out (like you're forming a V shape). Hold your feet or calves with your hands and rock side to side. I'd say the purpose for this pose is fairly explicit in the name. It's a calming pose for the end of your practice, and its essence is being happy. 

Like this happy baby! Teeheehee




Yoga For Thought
"It isn't life that weighs us down, it's the way we carry it" - Elizabeth Potier

*Center: God center, spiritual center, heart center, soul, grounded, focused. It means to be back in touch with your body, releasing earthly tensions, and feeling peace and clarity.

Peace Friends 💜

4.2.17

Transcendental


Yoga is such a curious thing! I finished my aerial practice today, and I feel so lovely. Just, happy. And I want more! Yoga, that is. I could get up right now and have another practice! How is it that Yoga is so wonderful like that? Today was a bit of a rough day (little itty bitty did not want to sleep last night!). I hoped that a Yoga sesh tonight would wake me up spiritually, and ground me down intellectually. Before we started, the teacher asked us to think on what we wanted to get out of our practice today. I thought of 'relaxation'. Well, a workout, always a workout haha, and relaxation. To come down nicely from a stressful day. To step out of that stress and into peace. And here I am, a couple hours later, and I feel so wonderful! Just plain ol' happy. In immense love with my baby girl, playing with my pups, and finally relaxing with tea, a book, and a nicely scented candle. Does it get any better?! I don't know, or I do 'know' but I just find it so incredible, how Yoga achieves this amazing feat, of making you feel so utterly gooooood. All your parts good. Soul and body in sync. Like all is right with the world. And I'm so happy to be where I am in it. And how blessed I am to have all this wonder around me to cherish. Transcendental.

Oh and what a lovely teacher! After class I ended up speaking with her for a bit. She gave me some profound insight on my children, and on the pain I've been experiencing from exercise. She really took interest in me, that was nice. Like I've said already, you meet some really splendid people in this business called Yoga, it's so worth it to get out there and do it! Don't be afraid!

Today I learned that it's called a 'practice' because it is never complete. You are always learning in Yoga. Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! That's alright then. 😍

Yoga For Thought 
“It is not arrogant or egotistical to feel good inside. You had nothing to do with it. It’s simply the honest response to clearly perceived Reality.”  ~ Erich Schiffman

Today's Focus  Pose
Upward Facing Dog - 'Up-Dog'. Lay face down on your mat (this often times will come after chatarunga). Bring your palms to the mat beside you, pushing down into the mat, fingers spread. This is your foundation. Then lift your chest up and out until your arms are straight, at your sides. Rounding out your chest with your chin lifted, a nice good stretch in your chest and abdominals. If able, lift your thighs and knees off the floor, with your feet facing down and your weight resting on them and the lower half of your shins.