Tag Archives: balance

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

revolved janu crop

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

Five Spring Clean Decluttering Tips

photo (86) (1)1. Start small.

If Decluttering seems overwhelming start small..  Pick one drawer, on basket, one pile, or one room.  Break it down to something that is achievable.  Even a small corner of opened space will create new energy in your home and your life.

2.  Look for paper clutter.

Paper clutter comes in many forms.  Junk mail, catalogs, newspapers, magazines, even books.  Be ruthless with the paper clutter.  Ask yourself if that piece of mail is necessary and if it is file it away in an appropriate place. Go through your filing system quarterly or at least yearly to eliminate things that no longer need to be saved.  Can you archive anything online instead? Books you don’t read?  Donate them to your library.

3.  Give away gifts you don’t want

This is a tough one for people.  Almost everyone has been given gifts that they don’t want or need.  Out of guilt we hold on to them.  That guilt can way us down tremendously.  Give yourself the permission to let go of old gifts.  Give them away to someone else.  Shed the guilt.  You won’t hurt your aunt’s feelings.  And if you do, she will get over it.

4.  Ask yourself, “Is it sacred to me?”

One point of point decluttering is to only have things around you that you find meaningful and sacred.  By eliminating the unnecessary and the never used, you can reveal the things that do hold importance to you.  And most of them won’t be things. Clear out to create a sacred space.

5.  Let go of “just in case”

Keeping things for just in case scenarios is very tempting. We have the fear that the minute we get rid of something will be the minute we need that thing.  In actuality this is rarely ever the case. Let it go and make space for the new.  Don’t reinforce to yourself that there is a lack or scarcity in the world that you need to be prepared for.  Instead, grow your social connections, your family and friend time.  These are the resources that will really matter.

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

Needle Me This: My First Acupuncture

I have finally taken the plunge and had my first acupuncture treatment. It has always intrigued me and yet I have never felt reason to go until now.

I am nearly three months out from having broken my big toe rather viciously by dropping the base of our patio umbrella on my foot. Subsequently I got married, failed my UK driving test, and started teaching a lot more.  What’s the connection?

Healing takes time.  Healing takes energy.

The failed test means I now cycle…everywhere.  The wedding?  A subtle case of bridezilla.  The teaching?  Amazing but exhausting.  The broken toe?  Really inconvenient.  To top it off it is winter In Cambridge.  Cold, wet, and dark.

I think I have been scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to my energy and there has been little to none left for my healing foot. Meanwhile doctors and nurses offered little more support than pain pills and bandages.

So I ordered a S.A.D. lamp and a bottle of multivitamins.  I love sitting in the glow of my SAD lamp but always feel a twinge of sadness when I turn it off and the world goes grey again.

I needed something more.

I went to acupuncture, yesterday with Michael Balshaw in Ely. Not only does he stick needles in people but is also a certified Iyengar teacher. I felt confident this guy had it figured out.

There were a few different phases to my procedure.  Some superficial needles in my ankles and wrists set off my stomach grumbling and churning nearly instantaneously.  I had some deeper needles in my back and glutes.  I finished with needles in my legs and foot.  The final needles felt “interesting”  in a good way.  It definitely is not a painful procedure and it actually all felt quite good.

I felt energized after the session.  A couple of hours later I was quite drowsy.  And then perked back up and felt really good.  I felt like my mind was working more quickly, my focus was improved, and I even felt my senses were heightened.

I had a good night’s sleep and today I feel relaxed.

Next acupuncture session is next Friday and I am really looking forward to it.

Complementary health seems to me a way to take the whole person in to account. It is a way to nurture, as the body is dynamic and changes over time.  We have to support our body’s own ability to heal. For healing as for life, there has to be a flow of energy.

Yoga Home Practice Makes Progress: Press Handstand

In February of this year I posted a blog about having a yoga home practice.  I had made a yoga corner in my house, which is still relatively uncluttered.  I set off to working on things I love.  Well, that mostly entailed handstands.  I set the goal back in February to be able to do a press handstand.  Below are the videos of my progress.

I was thinking about what the changes were in order to be able to facilitate press handstands.  I just read this great blog post by YogaDork on the serratus anterior in chatturanga.  Find the whole article here.  The serratus anterior muscle attaches the ribs and and the scapula.  When you engage this muscle you can keep the shoulder blades from winging up or out.  You can actually feel a wrapping sensation around the sides of the ribs and the strength in the shoulder girdle.  When you couple this with the triceps wrapping out around the upper arms you get a a very stable foundation.  Kick in the deep inner core muscles and you are away.

Also, if you don’t have one already, try the Yogitoes uStrap.  This strap has a little  bit of stretch but it gives enough support that you can find the engagement of the serratus and triceps.  Really useful little tool. With its help I learned the crow to handstand transition, which I think is a useful first step for pressing to handstand.

I think the key to these kinds of poses is practice, practice, practice and a bit of faith.  You can’t necessarily predict the point where you will be able to go from not being able to do something to actually doing it.  Massive change is often the result of many little micro changes that you hardly even perceive, spread out over time.  I pressed my hands into the floor quite a lot to not go anywhere. Earlier in the year I blogged the growth of an amaryllis plant.  I recounted that there were weeks of staring at dirt before anything happened.  Then there were weeks of plant growth before a spectacular bloom.

Get to know your serratus anterior, and have some fun!

Tutorial on Yoga’s Crow (Bakasana) and Crane

Crow is one of my favorite poses.   This pose is a foundational arm balance pose.  When you get this one, many other arm balances and even handstand start to fall in to place.

Just below is an absolutely awesome video on the physics of crow and crane pose. This video does a good job of talking about the center of mass and the bone stacking of the forearms (elbows over wrists).  Other things to keep in mind are:

Hands shoulder distance apart, fingers spread and the space between the index and middle finger aims forward.

Tailbone scoops under and there is a round to the spine.

If the kness are on the outside of the arms they need to squeeze in toward the the triceps and the arms need to press out toward the legs as well.  (opposition)

Don’t forget your bandhas!

The video below, I shot a few months ago after my blog post “yoga home practice makes progress”.  It is a  step in the goal I had set for myself, to do a handstand press, the crow to handstand transition. When coming into handstand from crow you need to find the crane position.

Crane Preparation

In crane, the arms straighten.  In order to achieve this:

Take the hips higher.

Place the knees into the armpits.

Hands as they are in crow.

Think bandhas and center of mass.

Almost there with the handstand press, hope to post a video shortly!

Remember to have fun!

Being Content with Burning Desire: Santosha and Tapas in Life

Photo courtesy Rene Carrillo

Lately I have been coming back to my study of yoga to fuel my yoga teaching with something more than asana and ujjayi (to this day I still can’t spell this word).  I am incorporating more varied types of pranayama to see their varied effects.  I am also interjecting the thoughts of the Yamas and Niyamas into class to see how they mingle through the flow. I admit that it does sound like I am doing a bit of an experiment.  But really, I think large concepts, or even simple ones,  are best to be offered for contemplation rather than preached.

This week, I have been ruminating on santosha and tapas.  These are two practices to be observed according to Patanjali’s eight-fold path.  Check out a cool depiction of it here by Alison Hinks.  Santosha, simply put, is contentment.  It is the non-striving, non-pushing, non-pulling, “it is what it is”- ness.  It is living with what you have, finding the simple things pleasurable, loving the one your with mentality.  Not always easy, but I can see the freedom in it.

Tapas, on the other hand, translates to “heat”.  It is the fire that burns inside each one of us.  It is the higher purpose, the spiritual desire, the deep zeal and zest we have for life, for yoga, for making the world and ourselves better.  It is the feeling of alive-ness.

Santosha…tapas.  Tapas…santosha.

I think for my entire adult life I have been swinging from one branch of this tree to another.  In western culture we are raised to desire and acquire.  And whether through nature or nurture, I have deep longings  and things that make me come alive, just like most of us.  I also find it ever so liberating to take the given situation and be content with it.  Not just accept it but genuinely find some simple joy in it.  To be content means your are in the present moment, neither looking forward nor back, and that is in fact the only moment in which anything actually happens. It is the here and now.

Perhaps it is impossible to achieve our desires without being contentedly lost in the present moment. The best athletes and artists are in “the zone” during peak performance.  And we all stand in amazement.  Their zone, their flow, is the present moment.  It is really being in it, so much so that time falls away, breath becomes deep and smooth, and the heart beats to a new rhythm.  Malcolm Gladwell talks about this phenomenon in his book, “Blink”.

The thing that makes you come alive will be the vehicle for contentment, not because it leads you to your destination but because it allows you to be lost in the present moment, and one experiences content in the present.  Conversely, being content, being present, will allow you to passionately create, work, live, and breathe.  And in this way I think these two ideas, santosha and tapas, are a positive feedback loop.

As for yoga…Iyengar has a lovely quote, “yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured, and endure what cannot be cured.” Yoga stokes the fire, and it also teaches us to sit, to find the comfortable seat in any situation.