Balance in Your Home Yoga Practice

Easy Pose

Easy Pose

 

Balance In Your Home Yoga Practice
by Trina
 

We tend to do more of what we like and less of what we don’t like. This practice also bleeds over into our home exercise practices, but we must learn to balance even when our instructor isn’t around to remind us or to choreograph our routine. 

Yoga teaches that balance is extremely vital to the practice and our bodies. When we inhale, our exhale should be the length of our inhale. When we work our right side, we must work the left side. Every muscle that we contract, we must lengthen or stretch. In Yoga, each pose has a counter pose to create the necessary balance. 

I want to emphasize the importance of balance in your home routine, specifically when you work your abdominal (abs) muscles. Everyone wants great abs, so people tend to do extensive abdominal exercises, especially at home, where people are enamored with sit ups and crunches. But as you strengthen your abs, you must also stretch out the ab muscle that you worked AND strengthen and loosen your lower back. The abs and the lower back work together to provide strength and stability and to support vital organs and stabilize the skeleton. 

Have you ever seen those body builders whose arms are so huge and thick that their shoulders round over? That is an example of imbalance. We are inclined to develop the muscles and body parts that we can see, the front of our body, often neglecting what we don’t see, the back of our body. 

In your home practice, I encourage you to do more than crunches and sit ups. Try some of the poses listed below that not only work your abs, but they also work your Core. When you work your abs, include poses that loosen, stretch, and strengthen your lower back too. Essentially, you want to make sure that when you work or contract a muscle, you also lengthen and stretch it, for example, after Bridge Pose (contracting the back and stretching the abs) do Plow Pose (stretching the back and contracting the abs). 

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose

 

       *After Bridge Pose, do Plow Pose 

Plow Pose

Plow Pose

 

Camel Pose prepares the body for more difficult Backbend Poses. It makes the lower back flexible, while limbering the shoulders and opening the chest. Child’s Pose is an excellent counter pose to Camel

Locust Pose

Locust Pose

 

 Locust Pose strengthens the lower back muscles, while opening the chest, and encouraging good breathing. A good counter pose to Locust is to lie on your back and hug your knees to your chest. 

 Bow Pose  induces flexibility in the spine, tones the abdominal muscles, and also helps to relieve backaches. Child’s Pose is a good counter pose. 

Balancing Poses, such as Tree Pose and Chair Pose, also strengthen your abs and your lower back. 

Upward Facing Dog

Upward Facing Dog

 

The Sun Salutations series contracts the abs when you are in forward bends, such as Standing Forward Bend, and it lengthens the abs in back bends, such as Upward Facing Dog

Here are Core Poses that loosen, stretch, and strengthen your Core muscles

Full Boat Pose
The Hundred
Dolphin
Plank
Bridge Pose

Staff Pose
Dolphin Plank Pose
Upward Plank Pose 

Resources:
The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown
The Yoga Journal
About.com
Althea Lawton-Thompson of Aerobics Yoga & More 

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. Make sure that you have adequate instructions about how to do these poses before you do them. Leisure Living, it’s contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries. 

© 2009 KaTrina Love

Some Like It Hot: The Benefits of Hot Yoga

tiffanycampbellBy Tiffany Campbell
Yoga Instructor

 

“I don’t like to sweat” is the response from those who shun the idea of Hot Yoga. However, the benefits of hot yoga far out weight the concerns. Hot yoga increases muscle flexibility, repairs muscles, stimulates weight loss, and helps the heart work more efficiently. The heat is a wonderful form of therapy and has been since man created fire.

Sweat it Out
First and foremost sweating is good for the body. Your skin is one of your largest organs and sweating is one of the best ways to relieve toxins, which can be harmful and create problems within the body systems. Also, the body was designed to sweat. We have been so condition to the air conditioning that we eliminate one of our primary functions needed for not just healthy skin but also a healthy body and mind.

What’s hot?
Hot yoga is a form of yoga more formally known as Bikram Yoga after founder Bikram Choundrey. It is also one of the most popular forms of yoga. It is defined by 2 breathing techniques and 26 postures practiced in a room heated between 95-100 degrees in order to warm the body up from the inside out.

Why heat?
Heat is a great form of therapy. Even with today’s technology you will see in most major gyms a sauna, Jacuzzi, and steam rooms. There are hot patches you can place on your body that stay in place to offer direct heat to certain areas. It is no accident that where there is heat there is an opportunity to heal the body.

Our bodies maintain a certain heat level, which is regulated by the nervous system. In hot yoga we heat the body from the inside out and in turn increase our metabolic activity. When we are heated our body responds by increasing circulation. The heat is then transferred from each cell to the fluid between cells and delivered to the surface as sweat. This is called heat loss evaporation and is the body’s key to regulating internal heat.

How we benefit from this process is wonderful because the heat-loss process stimulates and cleanses on many levels. This passive form of exercise, sweating to cool the body down, strengthens the body’s systems. The increase in blood flow strengthens the heart allowing it to work more efficiently and when that happens you lower your blood pressure.

Hot Yoga detoxifies the body and offers other benefits. With increase in circulation the body’s vital organs and glands get to move toxins, including fat-soluble toxins, out more quickly for elimination. The heat stimulates fat loss by releasing these fat-soluble toxins. Your white blood cells production is increased which boosts your immune system. Heat also speeds up the healing of connective tissue injuries and increases your flexibility.

Heat Precautions
I have heard other yogis say they do not like the heat because of the possibility of severe dehydration. However, this concern arises because many of our students don’t properly hydrate for none heated classes. It is imperative that you keep the body hydrated for any form of exercise. However, if at anytime you feel overheated or dehydrated simply kneel down on the mat and drink some water. Attendees should never feel pressure to continue if overwhelmed. I say all the time in class that yoga is not a competition.

Let it Burn
Bikram and Hot yoga
The burn: 636 calories per hour
Same as: An hour of jogging

If you are interested in Hot Yoga join me @ Sweet Water Wellness Center every Thursday @ 6:15pm. You can find us online at www.sweetwaterwellness.com or email ilovemytemple@gmail.com

Celebrate the Journey as well as the Prize

Today is the last day to make the 50K word count for National Novel Writers’ Month. It’s been a fun, challenging experience. The results of this month’s challenge, whether you made the word count or not, are a success. I’ve learned not to measure my success based on a specific result; instead, I look at the journey that occurred between the decision to begin and the ending point. Did I learn something? Am I a better person because of the experience? Did I conquer a fear? What did I gain or loose?

I did make my NaNoWriMo word count, but that’s not the success that I am celebrating. The NaNoWriMo challenge and word count was a catalyst for me to accomplish something that I convinced myself that I couldn’t do. In preparation for the challenge, I studied, read books, and interacted with others embarking on the challenge. I’ve been an accomplished, established, and succesful technical writer for over 15 years, yet my dream has always been to write a novel. For years I’ve started dozens of novels and never finished them. I’ve berated and browbeat myself until I decided that maybe I was not meant to write novels.

During my journey to situate myself for the impending month of November when I would attempt to write 50K words in 30 days, my preliminary preparation uncovered impractical processes, lack of discipline, lack of consistency, and other unproductive habits that I recorded in my writing blog. The process of the NaNoWrMo challenge helped me to learn and adopt processes that work, discipline that produces, and consistency to finish. I had trouble completing previous novels because I was attempting to write a perfect first draft. Because my attention span is short, I need to write in my novel daily to get the idea out in a first draft ASAP. These lessons are invaluable, and even had I not completed the word count, I’d still feel successful because I’ve learned the basics of what I need to move forward with writing novels. They are lessons that I can build on it. Now I can put away those books about how to finish a novel and concentrate on rewriting, structure, and other mechanics of writing a good novel.

Sometimes we don’t reach our intended goals, but we should not judge ourselves or accomplishments based on if we make it to the finish line or not. The journey and the process are to our intended goals are invaluable, yet often overlooked. There are times when we must recognize that what we learn as a result of the journey is the prize and making it to the finish line is an added bonus.

Image Credit: Mike Waters from www.joyfultoons.com

Yoga Break 4 Writers: Got Distracted? Refocus and Center

Did you get distracted? Hit a mental brick wall? Lost your train of thought? Ate too much Thanksgiving Turkey? No problem. Yoga’s balancing poses help you to focus, center, and be aware. When I get distracted or lose my train of thought, I do Tree Pose. It takes a lot of focus and concentration to complete Tree Pose, so after you’ve gotten in the pose, use that focus to finish writing.

You can use the desk to balance you, if necessary. Tree Pose is good for refocusing and centering your mind. When you are writing/working, there are often distractions or your mind might start to wander. Just stand up and do Tree Pose, making sure that you tailbone is tucked in, your shoulders are down & back, your abdominal muscles are engaged, and your gaze is focused on a non-moving object.

Stand up straight in proper posture, which means that all parts of your body are engaged. You are the trunk of the tree, strong and powerful. Tucking your tailbone in, tightening your buttocks, pressing your shoulders down and back, and raising your knees helps you to balance better. You can place your foot at your ankle, below your knee on your shin, or above your knee on your thigh. Just do not place your foot on your knee. After you get your foot positioned, turn your knee outward, which means that your inner thigh is turned straight ahead and your knee is pointing to the side. Lift your neck and head.

Concentrate, inhale through your nose, and bring your palms together in prayer position at heart level. Balance. When you feel balanced, you can raise your palms above your head. You can stop here or you can keep going and widen your arms above your head. Now, you are the tree branches and leaves, soaring, steady, and strong. As you inhale, imagine yourself breathing in light, energy, positivity, and power.

When you are ready to exit Tree Pose, bring your hands into prayer position, exhale, and bring your hands down to prayer position at heart level. As you exhale, expel all toxins, frustrations, mental blocks, and self-deprecating thoughts. Place your foot back on the floor, and raise the other leg.

Namaste and Happy Writing,
Trina

*Disclaimer: As with any exercise regimen, consult your doctor or physician before you start. The Leisure Living Blog, its contributors, or listed resources are not responsible for any injuries.

© 2009 KaTrina Love
www.leisurelivingblog.com

Yoga Break 4 Writers: Give Your Neck a Break

Leaning towards the computer screen, consistently looking down as we type on a laptop, and tensing up as we type can all cause neck pain. Here are some poses we can do right at our desk, frequently during the hour to keep our necks limber and reduce neck strain.

Deep, Calming Breathing

Still your mind and think only about your breathing. You want to stretch, awaken, and alleviate stress and the pain. Breathe in and out through your nose (not your mouth). Take a deep breath in: slowly fill the chest with air, imagining that you are pulling in joy, love, peace, and light. Deeply and completely exhale the breath: you will actually use your abdominal muscles to push the breath out, imagining that you are expelling all toxins, stress, and tension. Keep taking those breaths until you feel yourself relax.

Neck Rolls

After about three to five minutes, add head movements to your breathing:

When you inhale, lift your face to the ceiling, and when you are ready to exhale, slowly put your chin to chest. Do this movement 3 times each way for a total of 6. Don’t rush.

 

On your last exhale, with your chin to your chest,  roll your head around until your right ear is above your red shoulders (make sure your shoulders are down and not hunched up near your ear). You will feel a stretch in your neck and as your neck is stretching, extend your left hand out to your side with your fingers tinted on the mat. Take a couple of deep breaths, and then roll your head to the left side, so that your left ear is over your left shoulder. Note: As you roll your head from side to side, roll it in the front of your body with your chin to your chest. This movement is an exhale. You can alternate back and forth from each side.

When you are ready, do an entire slow neck roll, matching your breathing to your movement. Inhale when your face and head are up and exhale when your face and head are down.

Yoga Break 4 Writers: Get Energized Right at Your Computer

I’ve been here writing for a while now. The last time I got up and moved around was three hours ago. I know…not good. I need to wake up and get some energy, but I don’t want to get fidgety. Here are some exercises that I do to awaken the muscles in my spine and get blood flowing through my body.

 Position #1 is a simple, seated Twist: Plant your feet on the floor. Sit up straight, lengthening your spine and opening your chest.100_2801 Put your left hand on your right knee. Inhale, lifting your chest and rib cage, while your right hand holds on to the back of your chair, exhale as you turn to the right as far as you can and attempt to look over your right shoulder. Keep your shoulders down and back. You want to remain erect. Remember to breath. Do the same thing on the other side. Not only does this move help your shoulders, but it also massages your internal organs, helping digestion, and it massages and stretches your spine. With each exhale, deepen the twist.

Position #2: Put your hands in prayer position at heart level. Inhale through your nose and raise your arms above your head, lifting your face to the ceiling. Open your arms wide to the ceiling, effectively pressing your chest and rib cage out. Press your palms back into prayer position, exhale through your nose, and bring your palms back down to heart level with your chin to your chest. This is an energizing move. The speed is dictated by your breath. When your face is up towards the ceiling or in motion towards the ceiling, Inhale. When your face is in a down motion or your chin is to your chest, Exhale. Repeat this motion up to ten times, inhaling through your nose when your face is to the ceiling and exhaling through your nose when your chin is to your chest.

100_2802

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 Position #3 is a Sun Salutation series: You can do Sun Salutations on your knees or standing. The important thing is to match your breathing to each position. A previous post has specific instructions for each pose.

Turn Your Faith Cup Up

ChristianCartoon07Everyday we meet or talk to people who are experiencing immeasurable trials and tribulations during this leveled economy. We  encourage each other, but if we don’t have faith, the words disappear in the air.

Faith is believing in what you cannot see. I am a big advocate of positive thinking, speaking, and actions, but even to me things occasionally look bleak.

My faith has increased though. I know that obstacles come before blessings. God is preparing me for something big and beautiful. I let God know that I have faith in Him, His plan, and His promises. Christians are not impermeable to problems; instead, we are equipped to deal with problems because we believe in Him, and we know how to use the tools He’s given us. The worse things get, the more I praise God and remind Him that I have faith that He is my provider, leader, comforter, alpha, and omega.

It’s not easy. Sometimes I do see with my eyes instead of with my Spirit, but the more I pray, the less I use my eyes. But as my faith rises, I can see the abundance of grace and favor that God overtly and surreptitiously bestows on me each day. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things, and look for God’s grace and blessings in everything. I know now how I took a lot of things, including God, for granted. I don’t think that my tribulations are punishment; instead, I know that trials grow me and make me more aware. Through these trials, I’ve become more creative in solving problems, making money, and dealing with issues. I’ve had to adopt a different frame of mind  and levy the resources that are available to me. In this, I’ve discovered new interests and abilities that I had no idea were inside of me. I like to think of this time as a Renaissance.

The cartoon above from Mark at www.joyfultoons.com inspired this post because I realized that especially during this time, I must turn my cup up and fill it up with faith. I take it one day at a time.

Many blessings,

Trina