Category Archives: The Practice of Yoga

Yoga Helps Post-Baby Body and Mind

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Postpartum yoga in Santa Monica

It seems there has never been a time with so much attention drawn to the Post-baby body. Celebrities and royals are having babies and the whole world is watching, and talking. And the dialogue is shaping up to encompass the complexity of this topic.  There is a balance to be struck here where we consider the gestalt of new motherhood, rather than looking at women as just a body.

A new mother has just transitioned from pregnant woman to mother.  This transformation is mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Her hormones  make a huge shift in the moments after birth and her body rapidly begins a post-birth process. There is bleeding, discomfort, healing, sleep deprivation, and a new baby…all before you leave the hospital! And every new mom wonders if her body will ever be the same. All the while, she takes an emotional and mental roller coaster as she and baby go through the ‘4th trimester’.

Things are always changing, nothing is ever stuck in a moment for long.  Your newborn on day one looks a lot different to your newborn at month one. The same goes for the post-baby body and mind. The uterus has to shrink back to its normal size, the pelvis has to recover from birth, stitches need to heel, fluid sweat or peed out, and so on…not too mention your hormones need to regulate.

There need not be a rush to get back in shape or even to feel ‘normal’ right away.  Rather, motherhood is a new experience that ultimately will change the way we think and feel. In the first days and weeks the body needs rest and maybe some light walking. Easing back in and taking a slow and progressive approach toward rebuilding strength is the way to go.

At about 6 to 8 weeks postpartum the body is truly ready to start a regular yoga practice. The core strength that was once there won’t be and so the whole practice feels new.  If you compare yourself to your pre-baby self or even your pregnant self, you are apt to feel frustrated and overwhelmed.  Instead, relish in feeling your body move again in ways it couldn’t during pregnancy. You can enjoy lying on your stomach, lying on your back, doing twists, and deeper backbends. And the good news is your body will morph once again!  And that feeling of building strength is very empowering and motivating.

At 6 weeks post I felt like a truck had hit me.  But by month 3 I nearly felt like my old self.  Each month that goes by I feel more and more ‘in’ my body. Ultimately, yoga keeps me feeling good and feeling good is the open window back toward post-baby normalcy and health.  Yoga tightens the body and pulls things back in to the mid-line. That squishy, floaty, wobbly new mommy feeling goes away. Who knows, maybe some day soon I will be stronger than I was before I got pregnant. The saying goes, ‘9 months to put it on, 9 months to take it off.’

I utilized my post-baby journey to create a series of yoga classes starting at 6 weeks postpartum. I filmed one class each consecutive week until I had a total of 6 classes.  I teamed with nutrition expert, Lisa K. Beach to make our course, ‘Enviable Post-Baby Body and Mind’.  In these classes you will gain the tools to use yoga and food to get your ‘feel good’ feeling back, gain energy, slim down, and tone the body. You can find it here:

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2 Pregnancy Friendly Yoga Poses to Make You Feel Better Right Now

If you are interested in my course ‘Enviable Pregnancy’ with Lisa K. beach Ph.D., check it out here herhealthyglow.com/nyp and for a limited time get it for just $19 with coupon code summersale

Triangletriangle cropThis classic yoga pose is a great way to strengthen the muscles that support your loosening joints in pregnancy. It also allows you to create space in your torso and length in your spine. The added bonus during pregnancy: triangle strengthens the abdominal muscles that hug the sides of your torso and aid in supporting your ever growing baby bump.
Some keys for getting into the pose:
Have a block handy. Step your feet apart about three feet. Rotate your right hip open from the socket so your foot and knee move 90 degrees. Line up your front heel with your back arch and turn your back toes in slightly. Set your block to the outside of your right ankle. Press your feet firmly to the ground while you activate the muscles in your legs like you are hugging the muscles to the bones. You should see your quadricep lift. This is great for stabilizing loosening joints during pregnancy.
Reach your right arm in the direction of your toes while pulling your right hip crease back and pressing firmly through your big toe mound. Your hips will tilt. Think about lengthening the bottom side of your waist until both sides of your waist are long and straight. Take your hand down to your block or shin. Reach up through the left arm and then spiral your ribs open as if you were going to lean your upper
body against a wall. Feel how the muscles of the sides of your stomach now embrace your heavy belly. Feel the length of your spine as energy running out all the way through the crown of your head. Take 5 breaths here.
To come out of your pose, inhale, pressing again firmly through your foot and resisting the floor as you come to stand. Square off the feet and take the other side.

Revolved head to knee pose

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This seated stretching pose is an open twist allowing you to again find much needed length and space in your torso.
Some keys for getting into it:
Come to a seat and take your legs apart about 90 degrees. Make sure you are sitting up on your sit bones. If it is uncomfortable or you feel like tight hamstrings are pulling your tailbone under you, sit on the edge of a blanket or pillow. Make sure your toes and knees face up towards the ceiling and flex your toes towards you. Draw the left foot in to the groin. Heavy both sit bones, there can be a tendency here to rock the weight to one side. Stay grounded as you sit up tall and revolve your torso away from your extended leg, an open twist. You can extend your right arm along your leg towards your foot.
Inhale, reaching your left arm up and over in the direction of the extended leg. Keep your left sit bone heavy. Think of lengthening the torso rather than trying to come down towards the leg. Once again,
revolve your torso open towards the ceiling rather than the floor. Take 5 deep breaths. Inhale to release and switch sides.

Nutrition and Yoga for Pregnancy and New Women’s Health Series Launch

I have teamed with Lisa K. Beach, Ph.D. to create a series of Women’s health courses blending nutrition and yoga.  Our first course for pregnancy has just been completed.  Our next course will be geared toward postpartum health and fitness.  We are really excited to be launching this program, called ‘Glow’.  I Will be posting more about this exciting series soon. Find our first course hereImage

Yoga Meets the Ocean, again, with the Ocean Yoga Board.

As soon as we started seeing SUP (stand up paddle boarding) become all the rage in America, we saw SUP yoga.  There is something about bringing  yoga to the ocean that makes sense to people, that speaks to the yearning to have more connection with the earth. One of my first surf lessons was taught by a yoga instructor who communicated all I needed to know in terms of yoga poses.  Paddling out in Bhujangasana, popping up through upward facing dog, and landing in chair pose. So I suppose it makes perfect sense to bring our salutations to the sun and our warrior poses to a floating board on the sea.

SUP has its origins in Hawaii.  Legendary surfer Laird Hamilton has been revolutionizing the surf world in Hawaii for years.  I remember his invention of the foil board, which allowed him to actually float above the surface of the water.  Without the friction he could go faster.

Well, he has been busy inventing again and this time teaming up with yoga’s hottest couple, Dice Iida Klein and Briohny Smyth.  Looks like they are introducing the Ocean yoga Board through Laird’s FreeMotion Fitness. See there press kit here.

I want this board.

This picture is from Yoga with Briohny on Facebook.

Of course I can’t do this pose off of said board, but being able to one day do it on the ocean?  Sounds like motivation to me.

Right now I am bringing my pregnant self to the ocean for some yoga and inversion fun.

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Once baby yogi is out in the next week, I am going to be out looking for an Ocean Yoga Board. If anyone gets some experience with one, I would love to hear about it.

“The Cure for anything is salt water. Sweat, tears, or the sea.”

– Isak Dinesen

Have You Been Backbending in your Practice?

Back bends seem to be really polarizing in class.  Some people love them and drop back with ease while others feel scared, rigid, and closed in when attempting back bends.  I think there is an element of working through fear in our back bends. It requires an openness in the front of the body that we often avoid in daily life.  We have to work through feelings of fear as we fully expose the front of the body or take the head back.

When I haven’t been practicing deeper back bends for a while I forget how amazing it can feel afterwards.  I can feel a brightness in my mood and length through my whole spine. I did some deeper back bends this week, with a lot of focus on lengthening the spine, and am reminded just how integral a part of the practice they are.

I found this video as well which has some inspiring poses in it. The ever-underwear clad and terrific  Briohny Smyth shows us how it’s done.  She reminds us to create length in the lumbar spine, use core engagement, and find space for our back bend in the middle/upper back. If you are afraid of back bends, maybe try them at home in your smalls 😉

How Making Things Easier Has Made Life Harder

  “Stira Sukham Asanam”.  The pose is steady and comfortable. These few words from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali have been a large influencing factor in how yoga asana is experienced.  As a student and as a teacher we seek to find the balance of effort and ease in a pose, the balance of strength and softness.  Asana specifically means the seat, or seated postures, so the asanas as a whole can be thought of as a way to prepare for sitting in meditation.  I liked the way one teacher explained asana as to, “sit in the seat of the self”.

Being able to sit comfortably for meditation requires a certain steadiness in the body and openness in the hips.  When the body can sit in this way the spine naturally aligns and the ability to breathe deeply is enhanced.  The head gets to rest comfortably over the neck and spine.  The mind can feel clear and alive.

But for all of our efforts in the west to make sitting in chairs comfortable, we have totally lost the plot.  We haven’t made sitting comfortable, we have weakened the very muscles needed to support the body in order to sit.  We have stiffened the muscles and joints.  And thanks to computers (which I happen to be sitting in front of as I type), our heads are  craning forward and the neck is uncomfortable, the shoulders sloping, the chest collapsing.  ouch!

The "easy chair"

The easier we make sitting, the harder it actually becomes.

I think this phenomenon translates into many areas.  I recently read a great book called, “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.  He investigates the ultra runners who can run 100 mile races over trails and mountains.  His interest began with a simple question, “why does my foot hurt?”  he was experiencing, like so many people, countless injuries from running.  His intrigue led him to find tribes of people who run with hardly any injuries, and hardly any shoes.

His argument, which is highly compelling, is that running injuries began with the invention of the running shoe in the 70’s (thank you, Nike).  The over cushioned heel allows for a heel strike as you run, a completely new concept for running. Before that, the natural way to run would be a mid to forefoot strike.

Nike Shox Turmoil

If the name doesn’t just say it all.  This is the  over cushioned super heel of the Nike running shoe. It quite possibly spurned a whole generation of running injuries by teaching us all to heel strike. Not only that but these shoes weaken the muscles and the structures of the foot so that over time your foot has lost the ability to do what it was designed to do.  Run.

Stira Sukham Asanam.

The pose is firm and comfortable.  Not just comfortable.  A feeling of ease comes from strength and foundation.  It doesn’t really work the other way around.

When we experience discomfort we strengthen and grow.  That is how the body works.  We have to challenge the muscles, tissues, and bones to some extent to build their strength.  The mind has to be challenged to stay sharp as we age.

This was going around facebook earlier in the week and it really rings true:

I will leave you with a video for fun.  Cell phones: The prime example of making life “easier” gone wrong. Communication at your fingertips…blessing or curse?

Namaste!

Intentions are Set: Helping Students Learn to Fly

It has taken me a little while to set some 2012 resolutions.  But then it struck me in my first week back teaching.  I want to help my students learn to fly, at least in the yoga sense.

Why?  Because it feels so good.  It is empowering when you start to do things you didn’t know how to do or even more, didn’t think you could.

I want to help people get that up lifted feeling.

A dash of physics, a little practice (ok, a lot of practice), and the ability to pick yourself up when you fall.

Need a little inspiration?  Check out this Equinox video of LA yogini, Briohny Smyth.  Holy moly, I hope you like underwear.

“Yoga is the resolution of opposition” -Maty Ezraty

Opposition including Roots and Rebounds Yoga is made up of opposition. To lengthen something you must pull it in two directions. In our asanas we focus on rooting down into the floor through our hands and feet and then rebounding away in the other direction creating length and strength. There is also an opposing muscular action in the arms during arm balancing poses. We look for muscular counter actions to stabilize us and give us a locked in feeling. While the upper arms externally rotate away from the ears the forearms are rolling inwards. This helps give us a strong downdog and handstand. Another opposite is the balance of apana and prana in the body. Apana is a downward energy and prana is an upward energy. We must have these in equal measure to feel both grounded and light.

Bone stacking When we use bone stacking in our favor, the muscles don’t have to do all the work. We can be supported by the alignment of our bones and joints. In some of our arm balances we will look at this bone stacking as a fulcrum whereby we look to shift our center of mass.

Shifting your center of mass The center of mass is somewhere around your hips and pelvis. In all the arm balances, inversions, and jumping we are really working with shifting this center of mass (your hips, pelvis, ‘tail’), until we find a point of balance. This leads me to…

Dude where’s my core?Yes, the ever elusive core. The “core” consists of deep abdominal muscles (the transverse abdominals), the obliques (the sides of waist), rectus abdominals (your 6 pack abs), and the pelvic floor. If we think of the core not only as our midsection but also the trunk of the body than we can include muscle groups here like the lats, traps, serratus anterior and so on. The core is our power center. If we use opposition, roots and rebounds, stack the bones, and shift the center of mass, then our last stabilizing factor for flight is to use the core. In yoga this is often called using the bandhas (inner body locks), engaging the deep abdominals in the low belly and lifting the pelvic floor. These bandhas also play a role in creating prana in the body, that upward flow of energy. All of these things lead to lift-off.

“Yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory” – Pattabhi Jois

How to Keep Calm and Carry on Doing Yoga over the Holidays

Holidays are wonderful; some time off of work, maybe a trip or vacation, lots of family, and lots of food.  It also means you could quite possibly find yourself out of your regular routine or away from your yoga studio, and all when you need yoga more than ever.

Here are some ways to bring the yoga to you when you can’t get to class

1. Online video classes:

with Yogaglo or YogaVibes Hundreds of great classes at your fingertips!

2.  DVD’s:

Yoga Journal  has many great DVD’s for home practice and therapeutics with teachers like Annie Carpenter, Natasha Rizopoulos, and Jason Crandell.

Gaiam also has an array of great videos including Seane Corn’s Detox Flow and Kathryn Budig’s Aim True (newly released!)

3. Podcasts

There are loads of audio and video podcasts on iTunes these days.  Yoga Journal and Core Power Yoga are just a couple that you will find.  Here is a a YogaJournal podcast featuring Kathryn Budig on building core strength:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEnp8sgi4F0

4.  Roll out your mat and flow your own way! Home practice can also be a good opportunity for unedited creativity.

So these holidays, Keep calm and do yoga even if you can’t get to class.

Let it Go: Why Savasana is So Hard, and Steve Jobs was So Right

Photo Courtesy Rene Carrillo

Dead body pose. Corpse pose.  Savasana.

For some of us this seems to come so easy.  Lie there and be still.  Relax.  Release.  Give over to the moment. Ahh

But for so many, this pose is hard. I don’t want to close my eyes.  Why Am I laying here?  This is a waste of time.  My face itches.  I am hungry.  Are my shoulders in the right place? I wish the teacher would stop talking.  I’m bored.

We resist change and transformation because something has to die in order to give birth to the new.  We must ‘die’ in the moment of savasana to let the new being take shape. I think the fear is that if I let go of what I think I am, what I think I know, then who am I?

Letting go is one of the lessons that we get from death.  We realize that we actually have so little control after all.  Not one person in the history of the world has escaped it yet, and none of us ever will.  So how does one take this lesson of dead body pose and turn it into something less morbid and depressing?

I recently re-watched Steve jobs’ Stanford speech, posted through TED on “How to live before you die”.  Well, he certainly did. Watch the video below for his full speech, even more prophetic now he has passed. In a nutshell:  Trust your gut.  Follow your heart.  Be led off the well worn path…and trust that the dots will connect in the future. Never settle, and do what you love.  Lastly, ask yourself each day, “if today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And if the answer is no too many days in a row,  you have to change what you are doing.

When you live with the knowledge of your own death,  you have nothing to lose.

So die to the moment.  Give yourself to savasana.  Let go of what does not serve you.  And wake up to the new you, the best you every day.

I was cycling home today and I saw a girl on a bike nearly run over an older couple.  She yelled at them because she had a green light and they were in the road when they shouldn’t be.  The man told her she was going too fast.  And she got angry with them. Here is a perfect example of where needing to be right is just so wrong.  When did our humanity become prostrate to being right? Let it go.

Let it go. Let something die in order for something else to take shape. Give yourself the five minutes you get in savasana. And live before you die.