Tag Archives: practice

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:

postpartum 1

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 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.

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!

Yoga Gizmos, Gadgets, and Gear

YoFoMat

I got an email the other day for a product called the YoFoMat.  And I have to say I am rather intrigued!!  I am tempted to order one of these origami, travel anywhere, eco mats.  It folds away to the size of a book (or ipad box apparently) so you can carry it in your purse or bag.

Does anyone have one of these things? It’s being sold by a company called Khataland. I can’t tell if it is clever and functional or if it is a home shopping network disaster.  Needless to say, I must have one.  It appeals to me because I cycle everywhere and find that it is too cumbersome to travel with my yoga mat and my usually crammed full Osprey flapjill messenger bag. But then again I just can’t tell if it is a good mat with all gimmicks aside.

Moving on into the realm of the techy.  A rather interesting iPhone/iPad app was brought to my attention.  Michael Gannon, the self branded ‘Yoga Dealer’ has come out with the first ever Ashtanga app.  Now this I have tried and tested, and I do approve! There are beginner and advanced options with useful pictures, info, and direction.

Michael Gannon Ashtanga App

Lastly, I am a sucker for anything made by Yogitoes.  I am obsessed with the uStrap.  It looks like they are coming out with a new Skidless towel. The brand is called Prism with Brock Cahill as the poster yogi. It is made from recycled polyester and represents the glow of the chakras!  I think it looks great.  And I love the Walle esque ad campaign.

Brock Cahill for Yogitoes Prism Skidless

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.

Is it Ok to Dip Toe in Different Yoga Pools?

Photo courtesy Salim Fadhley via Flickr

One of the first things people ask you when they find out you do yoga is what style you practice or teach.  I have always found this question to have a long answer.  In reality, there are few styles of yoga I haven’t practiced.  And over the course of time I have shifted in and out of certain styles/methods/and practices.  Can a style or a method be effective if it is only dabbled in?  Or does each style require that you practice it and only it every day for the method to work?

I started with Bikram.  I gained flexibility, focus, and health from this yoga. It is a very specific discipline and after a couple of years I wanted to branch out.  So I tried most everything, or at least what Yogaworks in LA had to offer.  I found vinyasa flow, Iyengar, yin, restorative, and anusara. And since then, Jivamukti, ashtanga, and hot yoga.  And to some of these disciplines I have committed a fair amount of time, mainly vinyasa flow.  And now, more and more, I find myself wanting to blend the styles.  I want to take from all these forms and make a kind of yoga fusion.  Perhaps that is what is so attractive about vinyasa flow.  It is a living style that is being influenced by teachers today. And in fact yin/yang yoga is growing more popular, a blend of vinyasa and yin, deep stretches.

Methods work.  They especially work when followed with discipline.  But since freeing myself of yoga discipleship, it’s hard to go back.   I would like to believe there is room to explore yoga in a broad sense and learn from many different kinds of teachers.  The intensity of what a teacher has to offer is correlative to the integrity they have for their discipline.  Perhaps a fusion of styles can be its own niche, and the blend becomes its own new thing. Or maybe instead of blending the styles together you practice different styles simultaneously.

I say, for the sake of self-expression and personal growth, yoga is to be embraced.  If the style feels right, if it builds you up and softens your edges, then its a good thing.  Branch out, build up, and be blissful.

Yin Yoga Home Practice

Paul Grilley’s Yin Yoga book is a quick read and a lovely tool.  Having taken yin classes in the past, I picked up the book just the other day because I felt my more yang practice could use some balance.    So I have made yin part of my home/self practice.  And it is really easy to do because you hold the poses longer. It is challenging in the sense that you don’t necessarily feel like you are ‘doing’ anything. It is a quieter practice.

Simply put, most yoga is yang and deals with the muscles and tendons (energetically masculine).  Yin yoga stretches the ligaments and the fascia (energetically feminine).  Ligaments being much harder to stretch take time to access.  I find you have to hold the pose long enough for the muscles to switch off and then the pose really starts to deepen.  I feel as though in just two days I have gained flexibility and freedom in my hip joints.

It has been a really great addition to my home practice.  And felt I had to share!  here is a little video clip of Paul Grilley teaching some of the hip series and more on the theory of yin.

Namaste!