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Monday, December 22, 2014

Tip of the Week: Stretch Your Toes to Keep Them Strong

Your toes play an important part in maintaining your balance. Stretching your toes can reduce your risk of injury by increasing the overall flexibility of your toes and the arch of your feet. Here are some great tips for stretching your toes at home. Keeping them strong will help you with all of your balancing postures, and maybe even help you come up higher on your toes for the second part of Awkward Pose.



Simple Toe Fan Stretch

Sit on a chair or on the floor, or lie in bed for the easiest of all toe stretches. Use the muscles of your feet to fan out your toes as far as you can get them apart. Once your toes reach their max separation, hold the stretch for five seconds and then relax for five seconds. Repeat this stretch 10 times. It's easier to stretch warm muscles, so perform this stretch after a warm shower to enhance the stretching potential. 


Toe Tops Chair Stretch


Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. If it's a simple four-legged chair or computer chair, keep the back of your thighs pressed on the seat of the chair as you further bend your knees to move your ankles under your chair and place the tops of your toes on the ground. Tuck your toes under your foot so your toenails are firmly against the floor. Push the top of your foot into the floor until you feel a painless stretch. Use your leg muscles to advance or pull back on the stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. If you're sitting on a couch, rest the ankle of your right foot on top of your left knee. Place your fingers over the top of your toes and pull your toes toward your heel.

Seated Toe-Foot-Calf Stretch

To perform this stretch, sit on the floor while holding a  towel with one end in each hand. With your knees bent, place the middle of the towel under the ball of your right foot. Extend your right leg while keeping your left knee bent with your foot flat on the ground. Pull the towel toward your body until you feel a painless stretch; hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your left foot. This stretch also benefits your calf muscles. Stretching your calves reduces concentrated forces to your feet, according to comfort shoe specialists.

Rubber Band Stretch

While sitting on the floor or in a chair, place one thick rubber band around both of your big toes. The thick rubber band used in the produce department of your grocery store for asparagus is perfect for this stretch. Slowly pull your feet apart as your big toes stretch because of the resistance from the band. Hold the stretch for five seconds and repeat 10 times.

Toe Lunge Stretch

Start this stretch by standing with your feet together. Step forward about 2 feet with your right foot and lower your left knee so it touches the ground. The cushions of your left toes stay on the floor under your buttocks while arching your foot, so you're sitting on the heel of your left foot. Place your hands on the floor to the sides of your body to help maintain your balance during the stretch. Lean your body forward against the upper thigh of your right leg, so your chin is aligned with your right knee. Your right foot is flat on the ground. As you feel the stretch in your left toes, hold the position for 30 seconds and then switch feet.

information by Melissa McNamara, eHow contributor

Simple Toe Fan Stretch

  • Sit on a chair or on the floor, or lie in bed for the easiest of all toe stretches. Use the muscles of your feet to fan out your toes as far as you can get them apart. Once your toes reach their max separation, hold the stretch for five seconds and then relax for five seconds. Repeat this stretch 10 times. It's easier to stretch warm muscles, so perform this stretch after a warm shower to enhance the stretching potential.


Read more : http://www.ehow.com/info_12271744_stretch-toes.html
it doesn't matter if you're a ballerina or a factory worker, your toes play an important part in maintaining your balance. Even with this important function, toes are often neglected during stretching routines and abused by uncomfortable footwear. Stretching your toes can reduce your risk of injury by increasing the overall flexibility of your toes and the arch of your feet. All of these toe stretches are performed barefoot. Before stretching, consult with your doctor, especially if you have a pre-existing foot injury.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/info_12271744_stretch-toes.html

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tip of the Week: Class Etiquette

 

This is a nice review, especially since we have so many new students to our studio! 

BEFORE CLASS:


  • Sign in for each class at the front desk.
  • Remove and put your shoes in the lobby area. No shoes are permitted in the changing rooms or practice room.
  • Arrive at least 10 minutes before class begins to get set up in the yoga room (New students arrive 15 minutes early).
  • Please bring only towel, mat, and water into the yoga room (no cell phones).
  • Avoid wearing perfume, scented lotions, and excess jewelry or watches.
  • Enter the yoga room silently. Practice and observe silence in the yoga room as students may be meditating.
  • Make sure you can see yourself in the mirror, but also be sure the people behind you can see themselves as well. 

DURING CLASS:

  • Refrain from talking in class. Practice and observe silence in the yoga room. If you have questions for the teacher, please ask before or after class in the lobby.
  • Practice in the front row only when you feel you are ready to be a role model to those behind you.
  • Do your best to stay in the room once class begins. If you must leave, please let the teacher know and return between postures.
  • Focus on yourself in the mirror.
  • Practice stillness in between postures.
  • Listen to your body and take a break if you need to.
  • Try to refrain from drinking water until "Party Time" right after Eagle Pose. This will allow your body to warm up properly. After that, take small sips of water as needed but only in between postures so you won't distract those around you who may be in a posture.
  • Refrain from using hand towels to wipe sweat from your body during class. Your body cools naturally through perspiration.
  • Wait until the final savasana to use your cold hand towel that is passed out at the end of class. 
  • Have fun...and remember this is your practice.

AFTER CLASS:

  • Practice and observe silence after the final savasana. This is your time for meditation. Try to relax for at least 2 minutes.
  • Use a mop located at the back of the yoga room to clean up any sweat or water from your water bottle.
  • Leave the yoga room quietly by walking softly, rolling your mat carefully, and shutting the door gently.
  • Leave your cold hand towel in the purple bucket just outside the yoga room door. 
  • Bring rented towels and mats back to the front desk when you are finished with them.
  • Please be mindful of the time. Be aware of students coming in for the next class who might need your space if the class is full.
  • Take all of your items home with you (clothing, mat, towels, water bottles).
  • Thank your teacher before you leave, and feel free to ask any questions you might have.
  • Enjoy the peace and energy you have within you. Come back tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tip of the Week: More Great Back Bending Tips

Bikram Yoga SLC student Lori Stromness

So many great tips from Tomasz Goetel at Yoga Evolution Studio on back bending that we just had to share! You can find his blog by clicking "here". 

I hear often from students who practice Bikram yoga that their back hurts after class! That’s not very good news! I would recommend you look at the standing back-bend in detail, there may lie the cause.

First and most important: LIFT UP through the chest toward the ceiling to support your sacrum – make sure you don’t “crunch” into your lower back.

Secondly: proceed SLOWLY when coming in!

Ground the feet into the floor, engage your inner thigh muscles, contract the buttocks together, mula bandha active.
Lift your ‘heart up’, relax your neck, and let your head fall back. There should be a space at the back of the neck.
Keep your arms straight, look back (not up), and reach back.

Go slowly at first. Then, increase the intensity. Give yourself a tangible goal, each time you exhale – lift the rib cage up and reach back through the arms one inch, repeat with each exhaling breath. Hips press slightly forward, it is good to shift the weight back to heels, toes can lift off the mat. Legs must be straight at the knees. Inhale to come back to standing straight.

Beginners


If you have a sensitive neck, it is okay to keep your head between the arms (ears and arms together). If you have a lower back issue/injury, place the palms of your hands in your lower back and drop your head back only as far as comfortable on your neck/lower back. The way to practice (and teach) this posture is “less at the beginning, more towards the end”. Don’t be frustrated, if you can’t go as far back as the others. The “back-bending” is one of the most advanced parts of Yoga posture practice.
Give yourself plenty of time, there’s no rush.
 
IMPORTANT: We need your pelvis in a neutral position. Tuck in the tailbone, drawing it down toward the back of the heels. Common beginner’s mistake: the tailbone/butt sticks out, then the lower back gets “crunched” and hurts the next day from inflammation!

Beginners tip: if you need to hold your breath in this exercise, that’s okay.

Intermediate


Here’s a GREAT KEY to standing back-bending: “Strong legs, flexible spine.”

Here’s another one: “Work from the feet up.” Ground the feet, engage the inner thighs, contract the gluts. You will eventually shift your weight slightly towards the heels.
The “strong” feeling in the legs and hips is the foundation of this back bend.

We’re lifting up through “the heart”, as we reach back out of the chest through the arms.
Learn to see the back-wall behind you, but instead of dropping back, continue lifting up through the sternum. Then, straighten out the elbows and squeeze you palms together flat.

If you like, hold the position a few seconds longer than the rest of the class, the come back up with control and go straight to Padahastasana with no unnecessary movement.
Intermediate tip: look BACK behind you, not up.

Advanced


“Strong legs, flexible spine.” As you can already see the back wall, begin to relax your lower back. Drop the head even further back and begin to look for the floor behind you. Isolation: inner thighs engaged, gluts (buttocks) engaged AND lower back muscles relaxed!

Once you see the floor behind you – look for the back edge of your yoga mat. The next step is to see your heels, your arms will be pointing down towards the ground behind you.

Advanced considerations: the back-bends explore the heart-chakra and its psychology. Here we approach our capacity to give and receive love. The heart is the Yogi’s “mission control center”. Back-bends explore this area of ourselves and offer a tremendous contribution to our emotional development, and general well-being!

For Teachers



Common teaching mistakes: not giving the students enough time to do this backbend and/or rushing them in/out this pose. In my class, you’d have as much as 30 SECONDS to do this part of half-moon (10 seconds to set up, 20 seconds in the pose).
The most important – offer the following modifications:

  • Head between the arms for sensitive neck.
  • Hands flat on the lower back for back injuries.
  • Careful coming down to Padahastasana after the half-moon: bend the knees, hands on thighs on the way down to protect the lower back.
  • No back-bends in pregnancy. Teach active Mountain Pose instead?
Common Student mistakes:

  • Tailbone sticks out – bad for the lower back.
  • Eyes closed – danger of falling back.
  • Rushing into the pose (this is very common in bikram) – chances of injury, lack of satisfaction.
  • If your Students are getting lower-back pain from class, the first thing we must evaluate is the alignment of their standing back-bend.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tip of the Week: Stay Healthy During the Holidays




According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. This is through pure over-indulgence and gluttony. Moreover, much of this weight is maintained from thereon despite our promises to go on a diet in January.

Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season - and there is certainly nothing wrong in that. However, the holiday season is also a stressful time for many of us, and we need plenty of energy and stamina to cope with it. It is therefore essential that we eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients to give us energy and reduce stress levels. This is not to say that we shouldn't allow ourselves to indulge a little, but we should eat in moderation and maintain a varied diet.

Here are some tips for enjoying the holidays in a healthy way:

Narrow down your options  
If you attend a gathering that is offering a lot of sugary treats, find one or two of your favorite holiday goodies and enjoy them! After that, call it quits on desserts. 

Eat regularly

If you are going to a big party or dinner, don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation. If you do, you're in danger of arriving there feeling ravenous and eating everything in sight. Instead, consume a balanced breakfast (egg, toast, and fresh fruit) and a reasonable lunch (sandwich and fresh vegetables/fruit) so your blood sugar doesn’t drop and cause even more sugar cravings.


Be assertive

Don't feel as though you have to say yes to everyone that offers you food. If you are not hungry, then simply say so. Peer pressure can influence some of our food choices around the holidays, so be aware.


Prepare for outings

If you have some big meals planned over the holiday season, try to have as many routinely healthy meals as possible leading up to the event. Then when you attend the gathering you can enjoy all the special entrĂ©es and treats - within moderation. Many of us think that we might as well forget about healthy eating over the holidays instead of realizing that we shouldn’t forget all about our healthy habits. It’s a time to simply manage them a little more carefully. 


Do a 30 Day Bikram Challenge

Sign up at the studio to a 30 day challenge. Knowing that you're committed to practicing daily will keep you on track with eating routines. And staying focused on your practice will  keep your stress level down, especially during this hectic time of the year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tip of the Week: Bikram Helps Your Ski Season

Ski season is finally here! The runs may be ready...but are you?  Keeping your Bikram yoga practice strong by practicing at least a few times a week will increase your strength, balance, coordination and concentration which will inevitably make your ski season all the better.

All of the balancing postures will train your body to recover from shifts in your center of gravity. Handling erratic conditions on the slopes is like dealing with erratic people: You need flexibility and balance to get you through intact. Work on focusing on your form and alignment during your Bikram practice, and you will improve your ability throughout the season.

Below are just some of the many benefits of some of these balancing postures:

Awkward Pose builds strength and endurance in addition to firming all muscles of thighs, calves & hips and makes hip joints flexible. Firms the upper arms. Increases blood circulation in the knees & ankle joints.
 

Eagle Pose helps firm calves, thighs, hips, abdomen, & upper arms. It also improves the flexibility of the hip, knee, and ankle joints.


Standing Head to Knee strengthens the tendons, biceps of the thigh muscles and hamstrings in the legs, in addition to the deltoid, trapezius, latissiumus dorsi, scapula, biceps & triceps.


Standing Bow Pose Firms abdominal wall & upper thighs, & tightens upper arms, hips & buttocks. Increases the size & elasticity of the rib cage & lungs. Improves flexibility & strength of lower spine & most of the body's muscles.


Balancing Stick perfects control & balance.
Firms hips, buttocks, upper thighs. Improves flexibility, strength & muscle tone of shoulders, upper arms, spine & hip joints.


builds strength endurance in the quads and glutes.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tip of the Week: Don't Hyperextend Your Neck


I have observed many yoga students who hyperextend their necks in poses like Cobra. In the case of backbends, many students have the habit of over-arching from the neck. They compress the backs of their necks, and often arch too much from the back of the skull (the occiput), at the atlas-occipital joint. (The atlas is another name for the first cervical vertebra.) This habit is common in those with tight thoracic spines. When the thoracic spine is stubborn, people sometimes overcompensate by overarching the more flexible cervical and/or the lumbar spines. In other words, when one link in the chain is tight, people tend to move more than they should from the links above and below it.

When instructing backbends, I encourage students to try to keep the back of the neck long. Rather than looking up in a pose like Cobra, I encourage those with the habit of neck hyperextension to keep their gaze forward, which tends to keep them from tipping the head back too much. It’s also useful to think of originating the movement in your neck from the middle of the thoracic spine and the lower cervical vertebrae (where the neck attaches to the back).

In twists, try not to lead with your head. In other words, the turn should come from the vertebrae all along your spine, with no twist whatsoever from the atlas-occipital joint. One instruction I give if students feel any tension in the neck is to turn the head ever so slightly (say 1 millimeter) in the opposite direction of the twist. What this accomplishes is to stop people from trying to twist the skull on C1, a motion those joints are not meant to do. Even more conservative, is to not let the chin turn any more than the chest, in other words the nose and chest point in the same direction. 

Beyond lessening the theoretical risk of a vertebral artery stroke, all the above advice will also tend to help avert yoga’s contributing to such musculoskeletal problems of the neck as arthritis and overstretching of spinal ligaments.

Excerpt from Yoga for Healthy Aging. The entire article can be found by clicking "here".

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tip of the Week: Confront Yourself



Look at your own eyes in the mirror. 


We hear this every time we take class, but why is it so important? There’s quite a bit going on by following this part of the dialogue, and it all boils down to confronting. Now this is not referring to the common definitions of confronting, which involve adversarial confrontation, or meeting face to face with someone or something, but rather some lessor known definitions of the word “confront.” 

Here are two that I dug up which are applicable to Bikram yoga. “To bring together for examination or comparison”.
 
This one is fairly obvious, and you could look at it a number of ways. We are all coming together in the room, or your mind, body and soul are coming together for examination or comparison. Pretty interesting way to look it. As we progress in our practice, we constantly exam or compare how we are doing to previous classes and only be confronting can we truly make meaningful improvements or changes. If you never saw how your postures look in the mirror, you wouldn’t have a very clear idea how to improve them.


“Face without flinching or avoiding.”
 

I like this definition, because it’s exactly what we’re doing in the room. In life, we all have situations we avoid or draw back from, whether it’s your own body or another person, a job situation, credit card bills, whatever. In the hot room, we confront ourselves without flinching or avoiding, or at least that’s what we are striving to do. 

I had various physical problems before I started doing Bikram, long since handled. I was able to address them because I would go in the room everyday and face myself in the mirror. By confronting myself, I was able to handle these problems, and it became very simple. For years I had simply avoided things and didn’t confront, and this made everything very complicated. Only by confronting myself, did things get simple and finally resolve.

By Bikram Infinity

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tip of the Week: What to Eat Before Class




Do you know what works best in your body before class? What you should eat in order to boost your energy while still feeling nice and light in the belly? I’ve come to realize that many people really don’t know what – if anything – they should eat before practice. If you fall into this category, ask yourself the following:

Should I Eat At All?

Not everyone needs to eat before class. In fact – for many of us – we’ll get more out of our practice on an empty belly. The question of whether to eat may depend on the time of day. If you’ve been awake for only an hour or so, it’s best to hold off on the food. Food in your belly during class will drain you of energy. This is because you’re body must focus first and foremost on digestion. That pretty much puts a stop to reaching any new limits with your postures, and you may even make yourself feel quite ill. For the same reason, regardless of the time of day, I’d generally cease eating at least 90 minutes before class. There are some exceptions, and I’ll get to that.

If you’ve eaten a large meal on the day in question, I’d leave a good 3 hours before practicing and avoid ‘eyes-bigger-than-stomach’ snacking until after class (if at all!) This may be difficult to adapt to initially, but I promise that you will ultimately feel much better for holding out, and your body will thank you for leaving your system free to focus on going the extra mile in class.

But What If I Just Can’t Get By With an Empty Belly?

Those of you who ‘love food and live to eat’ as opposed to ‘eat to live’ may need to eat something small, even if it’s quite close to class. This is mainly for morning classes. Not sure if you fall into this category? If you wake up ravenous most days, seem to digest most foods within an hour or two, and generally have a good idea of what your next few meals will entail, then I’m talking about you.

But even if this is not you, three hours is still a little too long if you haven’t laid a good foundation. For example – if you ate dinner quite early, went to bed hungry, and then didn’t eat more than a light breakfast and a salad for lunch, you may find it pretty tough to hold out through 6pm class until late dinnertime. If you’re not sure whether you need to eat, think back to your last 3 meals. Were they a ‘solid’ meal or just a light snack? If you’ve eaten 3 solid meals within the past 16-24 hours, you should be okay to hold out. If you’ve been skipping meals or grazing, I’d suggest eating something light around 90 minutes before class.

So Which Foods Are Best If I AM Eating Before Class?

We all have different ‘types’ when it comes to which foods work best. To put it very simply, some people function, feel and look their best on a (good quality) high protein/high fat diet while others do better on carbohydrates. I’m definitely a protein person. When I eat predominantly protein and fat, with most of my carbs from vegetables, I’m like a well-oiled machine, and I stay in good shape. If I eat a high-carb diet (even if it’s ‘healthy’) I start feeling and looking awful. But my Mum is exactly the opposite. Long story short – what you should eat before class, and indeed in general, is a very individual matter. The best approach is to eat a light meal with both protein/fat and carbohydrate represented. For example:

  • A soft-boiled egg with a little spinach and feta
  • Some natural plain yogurt with half a banana
If you choose carbs alone (fruit, cereal, salad) you may find you feel great initially and then you slump. Choose protein without carbs and you it’s likely you’ll experience a heavy feeling in your gut which will slow you down during class. Combine both and you have a recipe for success.

I hope I’ve given you the knowledge to start to figure out what the best approach is for you. In the meantime, why not record what you do or do not eat before your next three classes, and track your response. Pay attention to the way your stomach feels, your physical energy, and your mental focus. A 'tick' in all three areas is usually a sign that you're doing things right.


Read the entire article on foodforyoga by clicking "here".

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tip of the Week: How to Cure Insomnia in 12 Minutes

 
 
I was badly afflicted with insomnia last winter in Perth, Australia. While many people hibernate through winter, I was kept up by the coldness and stress in general. It was overwhelming me — exams, rental, a triathlon and a crazy boss. My cognitive demands were almost ceaseless.

When a new Bikram yoga studio sprung up in my suburb, I was happy. Instead of going out and running in the cold, I could keep up with my exercise indoors instead. I paid up for a trial. 

I went into the searing hot room and did my first class. I was in “child’s pose” for most of it, because I was spinning from the heat! 

That night, I slept like a baby. 

Was it the heat? Maybe. Was it the yoga? Definitely.

Yoga reduces arousal in general. Bonnet and Arand (1995) suggested that insomnia is caused by inappropriate arousal, and isn’t a sleep disorder. Most insomniacs will attest to this — they can’t sleep because something is going on in their minds. They can’t relax enough to fall asleep. 

According to Karen Then, Studio Director of Bikram Yoga Victoria Park, improved breathing patterns from yoga relieves stress. She also shared that mental and emotional aspects ease factors that contribute to insomnia. This allows the sleepless to return to normal sleeping patterns. 

Bir S. Khalsa (2004) recruited chronic insomniacs who had to practice Kundalini yoga for an hour daily over eight weeks in the evening prior to bedtime. Participants were taught to use long and slow abdominal breathing, focusing on breathing or a mantra. They were to return their attention to the breath whenever the mind wandered. 

For 11 minutes, the participants meditated on their breathing using the ratio of inhale to hold to exhale of 4 seconds to 16 seconds to 2 seconds. They remained seated, while maintaining an erect and relaxed spine. Here's an example of the sort of exercise you can do to relieve your insomnia and help you achieve sleep:
  • 1 to 3 minutes: Long and slow abdominal breathing
  • 3to 5 minutes: Arms extended vertically at 60-degree angle, with upward-facing flat palms
  • 5 to 7 minutes: Arms extended horizontally with straight wrists and flat palms 
  • 7 to 9 minutes: Palms pushed together by arms 
  • 9 to 11 minutes: The palms are now rested in the lap, facing upwards. The right palm is resting over the left with thumbs touching. 
The breathing exercise improved total sleep time, sleep quality and sleep efficiency. The time spent awake decreased as well. 
Karen recommends the following postures for insomniacs to help with their rest as well:
  • Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose
  • Wind Removing Pose
  • Half Tortoise
  • Half Spinal Twist 
  • Savasana
Sleep tight!
 Melissa Mak
 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tip of the Week: Tree Pose

Tree Pose is a standing, hip-opening posture that improves balance and concentration. Below are some tips to help you improve in the posture.

Esta Osil at Kura Waterfall in Nigeria
  • Work the pose from the ground up. Balance your weight evenly across your standing foot. (Read Your Feet are the Foundation for more specifics on how to balance your weight on your foot). Then, find balance and strength in the shin, calf, and thigh of your standing leg. Find alignment in your hips, tailbone, pelvis, and belly; and then in your collarbones, shoulder blades, arms, and neck.
  • Extend the pose through the crown of your head. Imagine that you’re trying to touch the ceiling with your skull.
  • Do not keep the raised foot in place by sticking out your buttocks. Instead, tuck your tailbone and maintain alignment through your spine.
  • To help with balancing, bring your awareness to the center line of your body — the vertical line that runs directly through the center of your head, neck, and torso.
  • Regularly practicing Tree Pose will tone your abdominal muscles, but weaker muscles can make it difficult to balance. Add extra core-strengthening work into your practice to help with balancing (and with the rest of your standing poses!).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tip of the Week: How to Improve Your Practice

Small changes to your Bikram practice can help you take it to the next level. Follow these steps from livestrong.com and watch your practice improve with every class. 

 

Step 1

Increase the frequency of your practice. Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga, advises students to attend at least 10 classes per month to achieve its baseline benefits. Yogis who continue to deepen their practice, however, usually attend far more frequently, never missing more than a day or two between classes. Frequent practice enables your body's fascia -- the tense membrane that surrounds your musculature -- to stretch slowly over time, deepening your flexibility.

Step 2

Strive for endurance and intensity in the standing series and focus more on depth in the floor series. The standing series, roughly the first half of class, is intended to generate the internal heat required for you to get deep into your body's organs and muscles in the second half. Don't be surprised if you hear your Bikram instructor say that the hard work you do up front will reward you later in class.

Step 3

Listen closely to instructions and pay strict attention to form. Every Bikram pose contains elements that must be mastered in sequence. In Standing Bow Pulling Pose, for example, many yogis have a tendency to flare out the hip of the non-standing leg, dancer style, in order to pull that leg higher overhead. This may get you more depth in the short run but compromises the integrity of the pose and creates a literal imbalance in that you're more likely to fall over sideways. Keeping your hips level, as directed, enables you to develop a solid, balanced posture over time.

Step 4

Hydrate yourself well before class, but don't eat or drink anything less than two hours before class. It's nearly impossible to deepen your Bikram practice if your only goal is to survive the class. Dehydration, hunger or a sloshing stomach inhibit your ability to maintain stillness, absorb verbal instructions and find your edge in a given pose.

Step 5

Check your diet. Bikram studio owner and 2005 International Yoga Asana Championship winner Esak Garcia advises eliminating sugar and refined flour from your diet to reduce inflammation that can inhibit joint mobility. Although researchers haven't looked at sugar consumption and yoga specifically, the University of Maryland Medical Center does advise osteoarthritis patients -- who suffer painful joint inflammation -- to "avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas and sugars." Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, junk foods and fat also may compromise the quality of your practice.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Tip of the Week: Let Your Emotions Surface in Camel

When we carry heavy emotions for a long time we tend to start to hunch over. Carrying the weight on our shoulders, this is the physical body's response to the burden. This keeps the chest closed off and the heart closed in. It is only when we open our hearts and open our chest that we can let this go and create the space for new things to flow in. 


Camel Pose is the ultimate chest and heart opener, making your heart so open and vulnerable which allows the emotions to surface. To bring up and release certain emotions you've been holding on to, allow yourself to experience the freedom that comes with this acceptance and letting go. Using poses to move past emotional and mental blocks is part of moving your yoga practice forward. Emotions that aren’t released are held in the internal organs on a energetic level, effecting their function. The unreleased energies and emotions get trapped in a particular part of the body. Pent up emotions effect the production of hormones and can create tensions in these areas of the body.

The practice of asanas unblocks the energy currents and the emotions, exposing and bringing up many things. As yoga makes us more open we start to notice our awareness grow. As emotions start to move and surface, the process of balance and harmonizing begins. Emotions can surface in anyone, after just starting your yoga practice or after practicing for years. Sometimes you may not be able to link the emotion with any event in your life, you may not understand it, but this is okay. Just observe the emotion and let it go. This comes with practice; because it can be hard to let the things we hold on to go. 

You can sometimes know when you need to let go of things by feeling it in your body. It can be a heaviness in your heart even if your mind is contradicting the feeling. It is important to pay attention to these signs the body gives. Use yoga as a tool to help you not only physically but mentally and emotionally. Notice what comes up for you in camel pose, or any  pose. Is it frustration, sadness, joy, anger, love…

If all this "emotions" talk is not your thing, how about practicing Camel Pose for these benefits:
  • Stretches the entire front of the body.
  • Stretches the lower body  (ankles, thighs, quadriceps)
  • Strengthens the back.
  • Improves posture.
  • May help with respiratory issues, fatigue, menstrual cramps, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
  • Helps with digestion.
  • Opens the Heart Chakra and stimulates the Throat Chakra.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tip of the Week: Half Moon Pose

In Half Moon, you stretch one side of your body while contracting and strengthening the other, reaching side to side and then to the back. The ultimate destination is to have only 4 inches distance between the shoulder blade and the hipbone on the side you are bending. This lateral flexion of the spine prepares your body for the back bend that comes next.


   Bikram Yoga SLC student Monroe Hart


Benefits:
  • Gives quick energy and vitality while heating the body up
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Improves the flexibility of the spine
  • Strengthens every muscle in the body’s core, particularly the abdomen
  • Firms and trims the stomach, buttocks, hips, and thighs
  • Increases flexion and strength of the rectus abdominus, latisimus dorsi, oblique, deltoid, and trapezius muscles
  • Helps to correct bad posture by realigning the spine
  • Promotes proper kidney function
  • Helps cure enlargement of liver and spleen, dyspepsia (indigestion), and constipation.
 
 Tips:
  • Stretch up first out of the waist as much as possible to open up the intervertebral discs
  • If you find it difficult to keep the palms glued together and the elbows locked, focus on stretching and lengthening, which will automatically force the elbows to straighten and the palms to touch
  • Make sure there is always visible distance (3 to 4 inches) between the chin and the chest in order to keep the chest and airways open, which will make it easier to breathe
  • Focus on STRETCHING your hips to the left rather than bending your body to the right when you initiate the move: using the hips in this manner forces you to stretch the arms and torso harder and harder to the right to keep the balance
  • Exhale as you come down, let gravity help you!
  • Even if you can only come down a couple of inches with correct alignment in the beginning, you are doing better than someone who breaks at the waist and twists the body out of alignment to come down… Remember the goal here is to realign your spine, not to see who can get their arms the closest to the floor!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tip of the Week: Try Smiling!

Heart racing in class? Try forcing a smile. Smiling tricks the body into thinking it's relaxed. It may seem weird, but a study performed in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science found that it could actually help you relax. 


Researchers, using chopsticks, manipulated the faces of 169 participants into either a neutral expression, a standard smile (only affects muscles around the mouth), or a Duchenne smile (the effect spreads to the eyes, and thus looks more genuine). Participants—some of whom were specifically told to smile—then completed a number of stressful activities while continuing to hold the chopsticks in their mouths. 

Monitoring heart rates and stress levels (as reported by the participants), researchers found that those with Duchenne smiles were the most relaxed during the experiment. Those who were told to smile also had lower heart rates than those who had neutral expressions, and even those whose standard smiles were formed by the chopsticks felt better than those who didn't smile. 

These findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.

So the next time you're feeling stressed or working hard in class, try holding your face in a smile for a moment. Your smile will naturally tell your body to relax. Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tip of the Week: Yoga & Meditation Will Make You a Better Leader

When Steve Jobs passed away, friends and family attending his funeral received a small gift from the late tech genius: Autobiography of a Yogi, a book focused on the "ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation."
Like the late Jobs, more and more leaders are adapting this kind of "mindfulness" into their work environment to help decrease stress while boosting their mental state. I have also adapted this approach. After being stressed out every day and unorganized, I found that peace of mind and deep stretches helped me become a better startup leader.

 
For those looking to get into yoga and meditation, here are the lessons I learned and why I continue to weave mindfulness into my everyday routine.

1. Enables a relaxed state of mind.

In the past, I would wake up in the morning and something would go wrong. My alarm wouldn’t go off, the coffee I had was below par or I'd still bothered by an email I received the previous night. This lead to a negative attitude that my team picked up on. To prevent this, I meditate 10 minutes each morning as soon as I wake up. After trying a handful of mediation applications, I've found the Headspace Meditation App to be the most effective (but there are plenty of other ones out there). Regardless of how your approach morning meditation, it is just important that you approach it. It helps get your day off to a good start and clear your mind.

2. Helps build confidence.

As a leader, I'm always in situations where I need to be courageous. Whether it’s going into a big time sales meeting or giving a pump-up speech to my team, I have to make sure I have a confident mindset to get results. Both yoga and meditation have helped me get rid of negative thoughts before high intensity situations. By learning to ignore negative thinking, I worry a lot less about what about could go wrong. This allows me you visualize the perfect outcome, giving me a huge confidence boost. For others, it is important to stay present and ignore the negative talk in your head, as it is just talk.

3. Reduces stress.

Being a CEO of a startup, it's easy for me to focus all my attention on small problems. This causes me to ignore larger issues and hurts my effectiveness. By integrating a yoga practice into my schedule, I was able to relax.
During yoga, the best mindset to have is one that does not focus on your worries. Try to schedule your yoga in the morning, before you lay out your daily schedule. By doing so, your mind is clear, and you are able to prioritize better.

4. Bolsters Creativity. 

Both mediation and yoga have helped. So many times, leaders get stuck in a certain way of thinking and don’t acknowledge a wide variety of different ways to attack an issue. Yoga and meditation changed that for me. Now I am able to attack problems with an outside perspective. By getting rid of tunnel vision, I've been able to put together patterns and solutions without even trying to do so.
Like most things, it will take dedication and patience to reap all the benefits of yoga. The key is to learn to focus more on finding your own peace of mind rather than trying to force yourself to develop a new mindset. Without the right state of mind, it is impossible to be a great leader.

AJ Agrawal




Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tip of the Week: Yoga for Substance Abuse




By Sangeetha Saran
 
Although scientific research has been limited, there is strong anecdotal evidence to support the practice of Yoga in the treatment and management of addictions. In one randomized study done at a methadone clinic in Boston, studies found that Yoga was as least as effective as traditional group therapy.

Although more evidence is needed for substance abuse, there is comprehensive data to support its effects on stress-related illnesses. The link between stress and addictions is well known, and scientists have documented the effect of Yoga on good mental health. Others have observed similarities between Yogic philosophy and 12-step programs, and there is little doubt that Yoga complements traditional treatments for many conditions.

Potential Benefits of Yogic Methods for Treatment of Substance Abuse

• Reduces stress
• Increases self-esteem
• Improves physical health
• Provides social support
• Enhances mental health
• Complements other recovery programs
• Encourages spiritual growth and beauty

Yoga teaches practitioners to live in the present moment: to examine the inner self, to be aware of the breath, and to notice physical sensations. This alone is helpful for battling compulsions and panic attacks. Addicts, like others, hold emotions in their mental and physical bodies. Yoga clears blockages in the energy system, promoting recovery from past trauma.

Yogic Techniques for Substance Abuse

• Asana
The physical practice of postures, such as Forward Bends and Warrior Poses, keeps practitioners in the moment, reducing compulsions and negative thinking. Exercise also contributes to better self-control and a sense of overall wellbeing.

• Pranayama
When people are tense and worried, their breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Controlled breathing brings the senses to the present moment, reduces anxiety, and stimulates the circulatory system with an oxygen-rich flow of blood and lymph.
When working with students who have a history of substance abuse, it has been my experience that they never realized the feeling of euphoria that pranayama can bring. In Yoga classes, students should be made aware of how prana is similar to candy, but they do not have to be concerned with gaining weight or tooth decay. Pranayama does not cost a dime, makes you feel fantastic, and it is calorie free.

• Meditation
Meditation has always been a part of spiritual and healing practices, and some of the world’s most prestigious universities have endorsed its benefits. Whether labeled as prayer, mindfulness, or one of its many other names, meditation is an ancient art recognized by both the traditional and the holistic care system.

Conclusion
The eight limbs of Yoga, like most timeless teachings, promote a healthy lifestyle that unifies the mind, the body, and the spirit. Unless otherwise indicated, Yoga is recommended as a complement to treatment for substance abuse, not as a replacement for more traditional programs.