Do you warm up?

Yoga is no different from other forms of exercise in that you should be sufficiently warm before beginning strenuous postures within a sequence of exercises.

However, with this said, yoga often focuses on different aspects then simply increasing heart rate and breaking a sweat. The breath in yoga is very important and if done with awareness can heat the body from the inside out.

Ujjayi breath is preformed through the nose with the mouth gently closed. The back of the throat is slightly constricted narrowing the passage for the air and bringing an audible sound to your breath.

This sound can be a guide throughout your practice letting you know when you can go deeper or back off in a stretch. Also it is important to practice yoga or any stretching in a warm room. The temperature will help to soften and allow your fascia and tissue to stretch and open.

Keep in mind that most of the heat will come from within and only aided by the external temperature. If you still find that the beginning stretches are too strenuous then do a few minutes of your own exercises that you know will warm you up before you start. Yoga is all about finding what is right and true for you, be honest with yourself and take things one day at a time.

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Rolling to the Right After Savasana

I have often heard the question “why do we roll to the right after savasana?” When I’ve asked the question I’ve received several answers.These are the theories Ive come across:

1. Rolling to the right side of the body is rolling away from the heart (less pressure and weight on the rested and open heart).

2. When rolling to the right the left nostril, which is the yin side remains more open thus balancing yin and yang after a yang practice (It should be noted: to activate the sinus reflex by rolling to one side or the other, you may need to stretch the lower arm out, over your head, and use it as a pillow)

3. The right side of the brain is more meditative. The left side is more active.

4. We roll to the right because the sympathetic (active response) nervous system is primarily associated with the right side of the body, and the parasympathetic (relaxation response) nervous system is primarily associated with the left. Rolling to the right activates the meridians on the sympathetic side, creating more wakefulness and linking back to the active world. Rolling to the left would activate the parasympathetic meridians and keep one just a bit too dreamy and sleepy, in theory.

There was also something I heard once about acidity in the stomach but it wasnt fully explained.

Another related point is that pregnant women are advised to roll and rest on their left side (for circulation reasons?)

I welcome any ideas or further theories!

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Bending the knees in Uttanasana

It is important for some people to bend their knees during Uttanasana if their lower back is higher then their sacrum. If this is happening they will probably be feeling the stretch primarily in their low back and not in their hamstrings where this stretch is designed to open.

By bending their knees they are able to gain more mobility in their pelvis, as the hamstrings are able to relax, and the pelvis can tip forward. They also ensure that the muscles of the lower back, such as the Quadratus Lumborum and the deeper Spinal muscles do not get over stretched.

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Natarajasana

Light on Yoga by Iyengar has some great tips for this posture in his book that may be helpful. Also you could explore drawing your legs in toward the mid line of your body thus balancing out your pelvis. Once your pelvis is balance there will be more space for your shoulder to move as it will not be pulled back as far. This should give you more space to level your clavicles and open your upper chest. Practice this pelvic opening and strengthening on the floor first where you are fully supported. The leg that is in front and bent, draw your toes back toward your shin and isometrically pull your leg back towards your body and in towards your mid line. Do a similar action with your back straight leg. Curl your toes under lift your upper inner thigh toward the ceiling and isometrically drag your leg towards your pelvis and in towards your mid line. Take a few deep breaths here then explore opening with your exhale and creating length in your legs and pulling in towards your mid line with your inhale. Breath into your lower back to create space there and from this new space open your upper chest woking towards balancing your shoulders.

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Salabhasana

According to Light on Yoga you do use the strength of your buttocks muscles in order to lift your legs. This is also recommended in a few other books as well. However with this said yoga has changed and been adapted for our Western culture that does not have the same lifestyle habits as those in India where yoga originated. If your buttocks contracts slightly as you lift your legs and there is no compression on your lower back then I would say great. If there is pain then what is probably happening is your large stronger buttocks muscles are taking over from the deeper back muscles such as the erector spinae and the quadratus lumborum. Ideally you have a balance during the posture where the deeper gluteus minimus and the larger maximus to a certain degree are engaged as well as the back muscles previously mentioned. May of us tend to solely use the buttocks muscles in the this posture and never develop the full potential and strength of the lower back.

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Salabhasana

According to Light on Yoga you do use the strength of your buttocks muscles in order to lift your legs. This is also recommended in a few other books as well. However with this said yoga has changed and been adapted for our Western culture that does not have the same lifestyle habits as those in India where yoga originated. If your buttocks contracts slightly as you lift your legs and there is no compression on your lower back then I would say great. If there is pain then what is probably happening is your large stronger buttocks muscles are taking over from the deeper back muscles such as the erector spinae and the quadratus lumborum. Ideally you have a balance during the posture where the deeper gluteus minimus and the larger maximus to a certain degree are engaged as well as the back muscles previously mentioned. May of us tend to solely use the buttocks muscles in the this posture and never develop the full potential and strength of the lower back.

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Natarajasana

Light on Yoga by Iyengar has some great tips for this posture in his book that may be helpful. Also you could explore drawing your legs in toward the mid line of your body thus balancing out your pelvis. Once your pelvis is balance there will be more space for your shoulder to move as it will not be pulled back as far. This should give you more space to level your clavicles and open your upper chest. Practice this pelvic opening and strengthening on the floor first where you are fully supported. The leg that is in front and bent, draw your toes back toward your shin and isometrically pull your leg back towards your body and in towards your mid line. Do a similar action with your back straight leg. Curl your toes under lift your upper inner thigh toward the ceiling and isometrically drag your leg towards your pelvis and in towards your mid line. Take a few deep breaths here then explore opening with your exhale and creating length in your legs and pulling in towards your mid line with your inhale. Breath into your lower back to create space there and from this new space open your upper chest woking towards balancing your shoulders.

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Help with Ardha Chandrasana

Half Moon or Ardha Chandrasana is a beautiful and very challenging posture. If you are working on opening your pelvis to prepare here are some ideas that will help. Because the hips are opening away from each other in Half Moon, postures that do the same like Warrior Two, Triangle and Extended Long Side Angle will help deepen this opening for you. These standing postures will also strengthen your legs which is crucial in this balancing pose. You can also explore the opening of the hips in this posture by practising it at the wall or a table. Allow your front bottom hand to rest on the wall or other support and focus more on stacking the hips into one line.

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Sciatica

As stress get the centre stage these days the curious question of the body and mind comes in to play again and again. Often the holding or tightness that people experience in their body is not a physical symptom but a psychological one. A student may face a challenge much greater then solely having sciatic pain, however it is also a tricky situation of timing to know when is it the right opportunity to make the shifts needed to experience change. I understand your concern with encouraging her to stay with a Restorative practice even though she is craving a more vigorous flow style however you may want to consider the Bhava or feeling of the practice instead of the actual postures. If you use sequencing that allows for rest and integration as well as time for her warrior nature to shine through, in essence creating a Satvic or harmonious practice for her she may be more able to begin the journey towards transformation. By continually encouraging her to notice the difference between engagement and relaxation she may awaken to the concept that for a muscle, cell and psychological pattern to shift and truly experience peace and strength it needs to know and have felt the difference between the two.

Use the Bahva or intention of what yoga truly is, as stated in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, yoga is the mind which no longer identifies itself with it’s vacillating waves of perception and that all yoga asana are meant to be steady and comfortable. Or consider working with your student from the perspective of divine love and encouraging her to see herself as divine, without needing to fix or change anything simply allowing herself the space to become aware of her true potential.

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Remembering the Feet

This article discusses the importance of building a strong and supple foundation in our lower body. Let’s begin by by bringing awareness to the fluidity and support of our feet.
Begin in Tadasana.

Bring your awareness into the bottom of your feet. Feel your feet touching the floor or your yoga mat. Feel where the metatarsals join with the phalanges (the toes). Become aware of the calcaneus (the heel bone). Notice how the talus interacts with the tibia to form your ankle joint. How balanced does it feel? Now move into Vrksana (Tree Pose). Notice how each foot is feeling, and how they are contributing to your practice – are you holding your feet with hardness, or is the lift through the arches of the feet happening with effortless effort, with a sense of nourishing ease?

Sustaining the arches with effortless effort and nourishing ease comes from the interaction of muscles and fascia. When the interaction of the muscles and fascia is functional, we are more able to feel the 2-way energy exchange between us and the earth. From us into to the earth, our energy can seep into and spread like roots in soil. From the earth to us, we can feel the return of energy back into our feet and through our body.The Key Players: Muscular Support from Below

Sitting on the floor or on a chair, take one foot onto your knee. Turn the bottom or sole of your foot over so that you can look at it. Take one finger and place it on your calcaneus, in the center of the heel. Draw a diagonal line toward your big toe. That is the medial longitudinal arch. Now take your finger back to the center of your heel. Draw a diagonal line toward your pinky toe. That is the lateral longitudinal arch.

The key muscles that support these arches are the Flexor Hallucis Longus and the Abductor Hallucis on the medial arch and the Abductor Digiti Minimi on the lateral arch. The Flexor Digitorum Brevis and the Quadratus Plantae support both longitudinal arches.

Still in sitting, place your foot on the floor, sole touching the floor. About 1/3 of the way between your ankle and toes is the transverse arch, which connects the two longitudinal arches. The primary muscle that supports the transverse arch is the Adductor Hallucis.

The Key Players: Muscular Support from Above

There are 2 primary muscles that support the arches from above, the Peroneus Longus and the Tibialis Posterior. Together, they are commonly called the “stirrup muscles because they powerfully pull upward. Each originate on the lower leg, with their tendons entering the bottom of the foot from 2 sides – the peroneus longus on the pinky toe side, the tibialis posterior from the big toe side. They both attach at multiple locations on the bottom of the foot, which enables them to give primary support to the transverse arch and secondary support to the longitudinal arches.

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