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Monday, September 26, 2016

Tip of the Week: Improve Your Eagle

  • Works into the major joints of the body appendages: Shoulders, elbows and wrists; Hips, knees and ankles
  • Good for central nervous system
  • Facilitates lymphatic function, improving immune system
  • Improves mobility of hip joints
  • Improves balance
  • Strengthens legs
  • Good for varicose veins
  • To help with balance, focus on one spot directly ahead of you in the mirror. Or, for a more powerful mediation, look into your own eyes with a soft focus.
  • Work on symmetrical hip alignment. Both hips facing the mirror evenly, one not higher than the other.
  • We have a tendency to lean forward and hunch over the knees and toes. Visualize yourself sliding down a wall with your shoulders and upper back flat against it.
  • The tighter you squeeze your legs together, and the more you engage your core, the more stability you'll have.
  • Work on arching your upper body back more with your inhales and sitting down more with your exhales.
Check that you:
  • Keep your chest up high at all times
  • Never lean forward to ‘sit down low’
  • Weight is in the heel, with your shoulders stacked evenly above your hips

Monday, September 19, 2016

Tip of the Week: Floor Bow Pose

The last of the of spine strengthening series postures works on the entire spine. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get the most out of this posture.

1. Lying on the belly, bend the knees, reach back and grab the outside of each foot, two inches below the toes. Keep the knees and feet as close together as possible and make sure that the wrists stay straight (*read more on this below). 

2. Roll your shoulders onto your back so that the heads of your arm bones lift off the floor and the shoulder blades move towards each other. 

3. Exhale and contract through the abdominal region in order to lengthen the lower back and bring support to the spine. 

4. Inhale and lengthen out through the crown of your head.  At the same time, keeping the knees hip width apart, press the feet back into the hands, creating a natural lift. For more strength, push the hips and pelvis into the floor before lifting the legs up and back. 

5. Release the shoulders back as the torso keeps lifting and roll the body weight forward to balance on the center of the abdomen (not too far forward on your ribs or too far back on your hip bones)

6. Just as in Standing Bow Pose, it's more about the KICK than the pull of your arms. With each breath press the feet back and up into your hands, gradually increasing the back bend, keeping the spine long. Maintain the supportive contraction of the abdominal muscles to counter any pressure going into the lower spine. 

7. Use inner thigh strength to make sure the knees don’t splay out too wide – keep the knees and feet six inches apart. Bringing the heels together with the toes pointed outwards helps to keep your thighs together.

8. Keep looking up! Try to look up towards your toes and one day you will see them! Looking up during this posture helps to complete the benefit for the cervical spine (neck) and helps to tone the muscles surrounding the eyes while stretching the ocular nerve. 

80-20 breathing is very important during this posture. Read more on that by clicking (here)

*From our blog entry on 10/23/12: If you are bending your wrists, it is a sure sign that you are using the strength of your arms instead of the strength of your legs. Bow Pose is all about the KICK. Instead of holding on to the feet, think of yourself as ‘hanging’ from your feet, using your fingers only. You kick your legs up and back behind you. This pulls on your arms. The arms have hold of the feet only through the grip of the hands (the only active part of your arms). The kick of the legs pulls the arms back allowing a surrender of the shoulders so that they get pulled behind you as well.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tip of the Week: Avoid These Pitfalls in Pranayama Breathing

Some common pitfalls that happen in Pramayama Breathing, especially for beginners in terms of form are: 

1. Collapsing in the spine
When exhaling, don't do a backward bend. This caves in the lower spine, puts a lot of pressure on the vertebrae of the lower back, and collapses the chest. You want to keep the chest lifted while keeping the spine straight to keep a nice feeling of elongation throughout. Squeezing your buttocks will also help to elongate and straighten the spine.

2. Creating a lot of excess tension in the neck and shoulders. 
Keep the shoulders down away from the ears and stretch the shoulder blades away from you.

3. Not breathing slowly enough.
In order to achieve full lung capacity, you must breathe in and out for the full size counts or for as long as you can.

4. Not sucking the stomach in.
 You want to keep the core engaged to keep the spine straight.

5. Closing the eyes on the exhale. 
Many people naturally close their eyes as they tilt their head backwards on the exhale. Keeping your eyes open helps you to stay present in the room. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Tip of the Week: Lengthen Your Spine in Head to Knee Pose

If you focus on going deeply into a forward bend, such as the seated forward bend Janushirasana (Head-to-Knee Pose), and your hamstrings and glutes are tight, you’ll bend from the spine. The tailbone will tuck under, the upper back will round, and the backs of the knees will pop off the floor. In this case, even though you might still be able to reach your toes, you’ll be missing the true benefit of the pose. The goal of a forward bend is not, in fact, to “bend” but instead to fully extend and lengthen your spine while stretching the back of your body—your hamstrings, gluteal muscles, and spinal muscles—to the extent that’s appropriate for you. Although you don’t want to bend your spine in Janushirasana, there are three joints you do want to bend in the pose: the hips, the knee of the bent leg, and the elbows. Learning to bend in all the right places allows you to create length and extension in the spine.

Bending at the hip joints is crucial in any forward bend. It allows the torso to extend forward while the spinal muscles stay relaxed. Move your shoulders away from your ears, and lengthen your spine. From your knees, lift through your quads up into your pelvis, and use that to help deepen the flexion (fold) at your hips. Keep lengthening your spine and torso.

Having one knee bent in Janu Sirsasana makes it different from other seated forward bends. The action of bending one leg helps alleviate the pull of tight hamstrings and gluteal muscles on that side of your body. The added mobility allows you to extend the abdomen farther forward.

The final bend in the pose is at the elbows. When you clasp your foot and bend your elbows, the pull of the arms helps lift the chest upward, which lengthens the upper spine. And gently pulling the shoulders back helps maintain this extension.

Extending the spine and stretching the back body in a seated forward bend can have a calming effect. Practicing these poses can improve digestion and soothe the nervous system. You experience these benefits by practicing a progressive series of actions: stretching and releasing tension in the back of the body, bending at the joints with skill and attention, and lengthening the spine before folding forward. When you practice Janushirasana this way, not only will touching your toes become easier, but you’ll be getting the benefits of fully extending your spine and expanding your chest.