Category Archives: Yoga

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

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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

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.

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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.

Yoga Break for Writers: 6 Easy Stretches to Relieve Overworked Arms

Writers produce by sitting at a desk all day, writing, reading, squinting, and leaning our neck towards the screen. Sitting all day like this can give us tight hips, tense shoulders, and neck irritation. Here are some Yoga poses that I do at my desk to loosen and stretch myself. If you do these poses about once an hour or once every two-to-three hours, you’ll find that your body is not so tense and stiff, which enables you to sit longer and write more.

Anyone who sits at a desk all day performing repetitive motions with their arms can do these easy exercises.

 Relieve Overworked Arms

Position #1: Sit at the edge of your chair, lift your arms over your head, effectively stretching the inside100_2792 of the shoulder. Clasp your fingers together, lift your arms straight up. Keep your shoulders down and back. Lift up out of your waist. Engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Extend through the palms, and deepen your breath. Remain in this pose breathing deeply for at least five slow, deep breaths. Slowly release and put hands back on knees.

Position #2: Sit at the edge of your chair, stretch your arms out in front of you parallel to the floor. They should be at shoulder100_2794 level. Put your right hand on your left shoulder. Using your left hand, press the right elbow. This  movement stretches the top of the shoulders. Don’t push the arm into your face. Keep arms level with shoulder. Keep back straight and sit erect, but not stiff. Release slowly.

Position #3: Push back from the desk, but remain seated near the edge of your chair. Open legs wide with your feet planted on the100_2795 floor. Take a deep breath and exhale, hinge at the hips, placing your palms or fingertips on the floor. Keep your head a long extension of your spine. Breathe deeply.

Sit straight up, shoulders down and back, chest out & open, with hands on each knee, and breathe deeply.

Position #4:  Turn towards your desk. Straighten your arms and lay your palms on the top of the desk.100_2798 Push your chair out, but stay seated in it. Legs are wide apart, feet on the floor. Your head will be slightly lower than your shoulders. Shoulders are extended. Back is not arched or curved, keep it straight, long, and lean. This movement stretches out your stiff spine. You are also opening the hips and shoulders.

Position #5: Move your chair out of the way. Put your hands on top of the desk. Stand back and do the same movement as100_2799 Position 4, but this time you are standing. Hinge at the hips, stick your tailbone out, and your stance is the width of your hips. Spread your fingers out wide. Deepen your breathing. You’ll feel a stretch in your armpits and shoulders, similar to when you are in downward facing dog.

Position #6: Sitting in your chair, bend your arms so that your hands are in front of you. Close your arms with the elbows and100_2800 palms toward each other. Cross your right arm over your left arm, and put your left hand in your right hand. Take a couple of deep breaths and relax into the pose. Don’t force it. You should feel a good stretch in your shoulders. Take deep, slow breaths. You will feel a good stretch between the shoulder blades. Breathe. Pull the elbows down. Now start over, but this time cross your left arm over your right arm. This move is called seated Eagle.

*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 Pose Series: Triangle Pose

100_2755by Trina Love Abram

My favorite Yoga pose is Triangle or Trikonasana. The root word trikona, means “three angle or triangle” and asana means posture in Sanskrit.

Benefits of Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose simultaneously energizes and relaxes you, alleviating stress. It is an elegantly powerful pose that works the abdominal external oblique muscles, effectively lengthening and shaving them. Triangle also strengthens your back, opens your chest and your hip joints, strengthens and lengthens your inner thigh muscles, strengthens your calves, helps to reduce love handles, and engages the abdominal muscles to aid in digestion. The twisting and extending that is involved also massages the spinal nerves. In Triangle, you feel balanced, energized, and focused. You are stable, secure, and powerful.

Prevent Injuries

For Triangle Pose to be effective, you MUST do the pose correctly. You must concern yourself with proper alignment and placement of your limbs. The line of the torso from the side of your waist to the armpit must be flat, and not rounded, toward the ceiling. It is the contraction of the abdominal external oblique muscles that work to strengthen and tone your sides.

Do not stand with your legs too close or too far apart:

The foundation of this pose is your stance. Your legs are the base and must be properly positioned and far enough apart to support you. Stand in the middle of your mat, and extend your arms to the side. Step your legs apart so that your stance is as wide as or wider than the length of your arms from your shoulders to the tips of your fingers. If one or both of your knees want to bend, then your stance is too wide.

Do not lean forward:

Do not lean forward. The objective of the pose is not that you reach the mat with your hand or fingers. Open your chest towards the ceiling. The arm that is extended towards the ceiling should be in line with your ear. Stick your pelvis and hips forward. I repeat, do not lean forward in this pose.

Getting Into Triangle

*I advise you to first practice Triangle up against the wall. Leave your top hand on your hip, your lower hand on your shin. Bend at the hips instead of at the waist. This gives you the proper alignment of your hips pressed forward, your shoulder rotated up, and your chest open and lifted to the ceiling along with your head and your gaze. The wall acts as a buffer.

  1. Lift your arms to shoulder height into a T position.100_2757
  2. Lift your chest and torso up, keeping your shoulders down and back.
  3. Step your feet straight out to each side so that your toes are parallel with the tips of your fingers. It is essential that your stance is far enough apart to support you. This is your base.
  4. Turn both of your feet forward, so that they are parallel to one another and pointed directly to the front, as your torso should be.
  5. Lift and spread your toes wide, and then place them back on the mat.
  6. Leaving the left foot pointed straight ahead, turn your your right foot out to the right 90 degrees.
  7. Extend your torso to the right, and then continue to bend to the right from your hip until your right arm is comfortable100_2758 either above your knee, on your shin, on your ankle, or on the mat. Simultaneously, lift your left arm straight to the ceiling. Imagine that your arms are making a vertical T (in line with the tops of your shoulders). Listen to your body. If as far as your body says it can do down is you placing your hand on your thigh, then don’t go further than that. As you practice the pose, your hamstrings will loosen up, and you will be able to go down farther.
  8. Press your hips forward, tuck your tailbone under, and rotate your left shoulder towards the ceiling. Do not stick your butt or tailbone out to achieve the position. You are defeating the purpose.
  9. Turn your chest up towards the ceiling, effectively opening the chest and providing more flexibility in the oblique muscles.
  10. Keep your gaze straight ahead or gaze softly towards your left thumb.
  11. Inhale and exhale, and feel your rib cage expand and contract. As the weight of the rib cage shifts during breathing, you are100_2756 challenged to maintain the pose in its proper form. Triangle also benefits your posture because the dynamics of the position challenge your balance and your coordination.
  12. Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up, strongly pressing the back (left) heel into the floor and pulling the right arm downward. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time on the left side.

Counter Poses

wide legged forward bendI emphasize balance in your Yoga practice, which means that when you bend in one direction, you mustwlfb02 follow with a pose that bends in the opposite direction. If you work your right side, you must balance by also working your left side. In Triangle pose, you are bending from side to side. I suggest Wide Leg Forward Bend followed by a Wide Legged Backbend.

 

What You Will Feel

 You will feel:

  • Your oblique (side) muscles lengthen as you extend
  • Your thighs and calf muscles working to keep you steady
  • Your hamstring muscles stretch, if your stance is wide enough
  • The shoulder of your arm that is extended rotate in the socket allowing you to open your chest towards the ceiling
  • Your glute muscles working as you press your hips forward

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

Namaste,
Trina

 www.leisurelivingblog.com

*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 Abram