Tag: home practice

December Playlist ’17

HOLIDAY SEASON EDITION 2.0

If you’re not into Christmas music, not to worry, there’s only a few songs…

Ease into your practice with decadent instrumentals including Beta Radio, Piano Guys, and Vitamin Piano Series.

Includes some more traditional yoga tunes including the Heart Sutra– one of my favorites to chant aloud.

December playlist 2018: Continue reading “December Playlist ’17”

The Yogi Gift Guide – 20 gift ideas for your yogi friend

20 gift ideas that any yogi would appreciate! From yoga inspired reading lists to DIY gifts, you’ll find a range of ideas to celebrate your BYF (best yogi friend).

Props that feel oh-so-good

Some of my favorite props that I like using for my own practice.
  1. Yoga therapy balls– These work perfectly for those hard to reach muscle knots in the back.
  2. Bolster– Essential for any restorative pose or meditation cushion. Recline onto your bolster to open your chest after a day at the office or elevate your hips to relieve low back pain.
  3. Tibetan Singing Bowl – The sound vibrations trigger meditative states comparable to a hard brain reset. Not to mention, they are a beautiful addition to your yoga space!

DIY your gift

A handmade present always adds an extra touch of love.
  1. Mat spray – 1/4 witch hazel, 3/4 water, 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oils. I like to combine lavender oil and eucalyptus oil. Super simple!
  2. Mala Jewlery – Not only are malas fun to wear, they serve as a great meditation tool.
  3. Eye Pillows – Choose a silky fabric and find some dried lavender to fill your eye pillows for added luxe. Minimal sewing abilities required.

Little Gifts of Joy

Small, but thoughtful gifts.
  1. Meditation Journal – Perfect for writing reflections after your meditation practice or turn it into a gratitude journal.
  2. Selection of Teas – Who doesn’t love warm beverage on a cold day?
  3. Earrings – I love these woodcut earrings! They are simple, eye catching, and aren’t distracting during your yoga class. Comes in a variety of colors.
  4. Essential Oils – Put them on your body as perfume, use them in a diffuser for your home, or put them in cleaning products. One of my personal favorites I use in class is “Calm“, a blend of Lavender, Bergamot, Palmarosa, Patchouli, Lemon.
  5.  Succulents or Indoor Plants – Your Instagram-ready yoga space isn’t complete without indoor plants 😉 Improves air quality for your breath conscious yogi. Just make sure they have a green thumb!
  6. Candle – Another way to add ambiance to your yoga space. I like to use them for candle-gazing meditation. And if your yogi is a St. Louis Craft Beer drinker… try out Twinkle Brews, they’ll make your favorite beer into a candle!

Bookish Yogis

Reads that every yoga nerd should have.
  1. You are Here  by Thich Naht Hanh – I like to read a couple of pages from this book when I get into a funk. Thich Naht Hanh has a poetic way of lightening the mood 🙂
  2. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk – Essential for anyone interested in understanding how trauma effects the body and brain. Explains how somatic practices like yoga can be used alongside traditional therapy to treat trauma.
  3. The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield – This book is filled with great insights into the human condition and how to improve your happiness in practical ways using compassion-based practices.
  4. Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith – A great introduction to the chakra system and its applications to Western psychology.

STL Locals!

Shop local this season for your yogi friend.
  1. Dimvaloo Gift Card – With over 10 different brands of activewear, your yogi friend can definitely find something she loves. Plus, she can shop online with free shipping anywhere in Missouri. Win.
  2. Sol Sweat Gift Card– Infared saunas are among the top wellness trends of 2018 according to many health bloggers. Did you know a sauna session can have the similar effects to cardiovascular exercise? I’d give up my running shoes for this…
  3. Confluence Kombucha Gift Card – Ever had a Kombucha flight? Choose between 8 unique rotating taps like asian pear or cranberry. Don’t forget to bring your growler to fill up with ‘booch afterwards. Bonus, the food is amazing. Vegan-friendly dishes that will make you rethink your opinions on tempeh.
  4. Private Yoga Session – Just a wee plug! We offer private yoga classes for your loved ones. Classes take place in the student’s home or other comfortable setting. Convenient and customized for any student, without the intimidation of going to a yoga studio.

 

Ask a Yogi: What poses can I do to ease low back pain?

Whenever I teach yoga at workplaces, low back pain seems to be a common problem area.

In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visiting MDs, the top for chiropractors, and leading cause of disability of people under forty five. Doctors used to recommend bed rest to treat low back pain--ironically, not moving to prevent further strain is actually counterproductive. The longer you stay sedentary, the more muscle mass you lose. The best treatment uses gentle movement and strengthening.

Yoga examines posture, strength, mobility, and emotional states to treat back pain with a holistic approach.

The low back supports the weight of the upper body and provides mobility for everyday motions such as bending and twisting. Our lower back is the area with the most nerve endings in the back. It also produces the largest range of motion in the spine, so when we back bend our lower back does the majority of the bending as it compresses. To maintain good posture, we must encourage a healthy curve of the low spine. Our backs require certain amounts of compression, strengthening, and stretching. Yoga does all three to maintain the physical health of your back. It also helps develop the mind-body connection that brings awareness to the subtle signals in the body. For instance, we might catch ourselves slouching at our desks or notice how mental stress translates into physical stress in our backs.

WHAT CAUSES LOW BACK PAIN?

Everyone's back pain stems from unique causes. There are 4 main causes (and perhaps more!) of low back pain.

  1. Weak core and leg muscles - muscles in our abs, back, and legs play a critical role in supporting your lower spine.  And 100 crunches is not a cure-all. Your core will not be worked by doing crunches alone, there are a lot of muscles there that support the spine. Obliques and low back extensor muscles are especially helpful for holding an upright posture.
  2. Stress (in every context of the word) - When we are mentally or emotionally charged, the body responds with tension. Prolonged physical stress on the back also leads to chronic tension and pain. Back pain is connected to psychological stress. Breathing and relaxation techniques help calm stress related responses.
  3. Tightness in legs - The health of your lumbar spine is directly affected by the action of the hip flexors (aka psoas) and hamstrings. Everything is connected!
  4. Misalignment - Hunching shoulders and forward neck position can lead to back problems. When we sitting for prolonged periods, the natural tendency for most people is to slouch over and sit with the pelvis tilted forward. This posture can overstretch the spinal ligaments and cause the low back to round. That's why some compression and strengthening is necessary to maintain the curve of the lower back. I've also heard so many stories about people with complications in their knees and hips that end up with back pain while trying to favor one side of the body. If you do encounter an injury in your body, be aware of movement patterns that could lead to injuries elsewhere in the body.

POSES/STRETCHES THAT WORK

Strengthen

Locust pose

Baby Cobra

Warrior 3

Bridge pose

Triangle

Compress

Sphinx pose

Dancer pose

Reclined hero pose - not for acute pain

Stretch

Lying hamstring stretch

Spinal twist

Forward fold

Low lunge

Reclined pigeon pose

Cat/cow

Thread needle with arm reach

Restorative Poses to Ease Back Pain

Child's pose

Supported shoulder stand

Restorative savasana with cushion under knees

Resources 

McCall, T. (2007). Yoga as Medicine. New York, NY: Random House Publishing.

Peloza, J. (2017). Low Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment. https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/lower-back-pain-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment

Ask a Yogi: How Do I Start Meditating?

Recently, I’ve seen a surge of requests for meditation instruction.

Fast-paced lifestyles, high-levels of anxiety – it’s no wonder people are looking for ways to slow down.

Learn the basics here: why start meditation, benefits to your mind and body, and meditation methods.

Yoga first started as a meditation practice with only 1 pose – seated meditation. Gradually, poses were added to enhance the meditation experience. Asanas (poses) help the body connect movement to breath, which can be it’s own form of meditation. As well, it’s easier for many people to find stillness in a seated meditation practice after moving. That’s why I like to practice a still meditation after the physical yoga practice.

Yoga: the practice of observing the fluctuations of the mind and achieving relaxed, focused attention.

Why Start a Meditation Practice?

Continue reading “Ask a Yogi: How Do I Start Meditating?”

Asana of the Day: Dancer

Lord of the Dance, or Dancer Pose, is a graceful and powerful pose.

I love this pose because of the strong backbend that targets each side of your back. In this respect, you can isolate the left side backbend and the right side backbend. It strengthens and compresses the low back, opens the chest, tones the core, and can be a great active quad stretch. Because of the focus on opening the front of the body in Dancer, it's great to pair with forward folding and twisting.

Trouble balancing? Grab a wall.

Trouble catching your foot? Grab a strap or tie.

Try out these Dancer variations!

Read More

Offbeat Confessions: Yoga, Injury, and Ego

Almost every yogi (including me) has had an injury.

In fact, 29,590 yoga-related injuries were seen in hospital emergency departments from 2001 to 2014! Most injuries (46.6%) occurred in the trunk region, more specifically, the back.

Safer than yoga? :0

Don’t worry, I’m not recommending ditching your yoga class for MMA fighting. However, it’s hard imagine a supposedly calming mind-body exercise, could induce damage.

Why are yoga injuries a thing?? It might have to do with E G O

Here’s my yoga injury story (a.k.a why my left hip is now more open than my right).

When I got back into yoga at 19, I was committed to a very vigorous practice.
Everyday I practiced yoga–a vinyasa, heart-racing interval inspired form of yoga and I loved it.

One afternoon, I was practicing in my backyard –determined, after many failed attempts, to progress into Bird of Paradise.
Bind the leg, lift it up, extend it out and… I actually did it!

Bird of Paradise, psh no problem now! (However, keep in mind this is on my good side…)

 

Then, my E G O got in the way of my practice.

Incredibly overjoyed that I nailed Bird of Paradise, I ran right off my mat and inside the house to show my boyfriend, Colman. I didn’t even bother to finish my practice. I urgently needed someone to appreciate this physical feat I just accomplished.

Boy, did karma bite back in response to my ego.

“Watch! I just did Bird of Paradise!” I called to him.
Standing in the middle of the kitchen, he watched me perform the pose.
I did just as I had before– bind the leg, lift it up, extend it out and… POP!

I just stood there with my arms still bound around my leg.
If “holy shit” had a facial expression… I would’ve been wearing it.

 

Of course, Colman, on the other hand, thought it was hilarious.
“Did you just pop your hip?!

I casually put my leg back on the ground oh-so-tenderly, and tried to laugh along with him. Ha ha ha…funny, I thought, I can’t bear weight on my left leg without immense pain shooting into my hip.

What yoga should look like. Enjoying the process 🙂

The next couple of days were pure hell.
I limped along thinking I permanently damaged my hip, and my exercise days were over at age 19. I couldn’t jump back into plank. Couldn’t run. Couldn’t squat.
Despite the pain, I kept teaching my yoga and group exercise classes (very slowly and without any burpees). My hip felt better each day, but it still took nearly 5 months for a full recovery. The only upside to this disaster was my left hip felt more open than ever before. Attn: I do NOT recommend you use this method to open your hips

Ego injured my body. I’ve seen many students experience similar situations—going into poses too far, too fast.

Early in my yoga practice, I would attend a studio class with a bias. I wanted to be the star of the room— the pupil with the most flexibility and strength. My ego wanted to be recognized.

Later on, something shifted in my yoga practice. I no longer needed to be the master of splits or invert on command. I just wanted to feel good while I was practicing.

The unfortunate truth: the ego will always be present at some degree in your yoga.

You may try to copy your neighbor’s form during class or get frustrated with your hamstrings that seem extra tight that day. Perhaps, you may even be forcing a pose even though you’re holding your breath to stay there. All of these instances are forms of ego in play during our yoga practice.

What can we do to control the ego?

When you feel ego taking over, encourage process over product.
How do you feel while practicing? What do you feel?
Yoga is an experiential outlet, not just “achieving” pose after pose. Every day is different, thus your poses will look different today than they did last week. While it’s a natural tendency to strive towards a goal, it’s unhealthy to constantly struggle. Your yoga practice is the moment in your day where you can let go of the achievement and merit narrative. Yoga won’t give gold stars for perfect form, but your investment isn’t wasted.

The return on your practice is a simple equation: less ego –> less injury + more peace of mind.

Asana of the Day: Pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose is either a nightmare or a dream.

I’ve heard many people call it their favorite pose, while to others, this pose only causes discomfort.

The pose includes a major external rotation of the hip and deep stretch of the piriformis (muscle in the glutes). It’s a wonderful stretch for those at a seated desk job or cyclists/runners.

Even if you find pigeon pose to be a pain in the rear (quite literally), with so many variations of pigeon, you’ll be able to find at least one that works best for your body.

 

Bare Bones Pose

  1. Place your left knee on the outside of the left wrist

  2. Shimmy your left foot toward the edge of the mat

  3. Lengthen out the back leg.

  4. Try to keep your hips squared off. If you find your left hip is way off the ground, put a block under your hip.

 

 

 

Offbeat Variations

 

Lying pigeon

If pigeon is uncomfortable or you can’t feel the glute stretch, switch to lying pigeon pose. While lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, cross your left ankle over the right knee. If you want to go deeper, grab the right thigh and pull the shin towards your chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mounted pigeon

Not the nicest name…but oh my, what an amazing passive stretch. Put your legs up the wall, the cross the left ankle over the right knee. Start to bend your right knee allowing the foot to slide down the wall. If you notice your left knee caving inward, push it away with your left hand.

 

 

 

 

 

Craddled lying pigeon

For an even deeper lying pigeon, release the right leg and hug your left shin into your chest. Craddle like a baby 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleeping pigeon

Get a deeper stretch by lowering your pigeon to the floor or blocks. Try your best to rest and relax in this pose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thread the needle pigeon

Before you enter sleeping pigeon, slide the left arm across the right knee. Lie on the back of the left shoulder. Wrap the right arm behind your back for a great shoulder opener.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seated pigeon

Looking for a quick hip stretch? Just have a seat with the knees slightly bent and your hands behind your back. Cross your right ankle over the left knee, then slowly bring the right foot towards your body as the left shin meets your chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Double Pigeon

From a seated position, cross your right ankle over the left knee so that the knees and ankles stack on top of each other. Lean forward to deepen the stretch.

To add the twist, place your hands in prayer. Cross your right elbow over the right foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mermaid

Still a pigeon variation in my eyes. From upright pigeon pose, reach back with your right hand to grab the top of the right foot. Slide your right foot into your elbow crease. Reach up with the left arm and bend at the elbow to interlock your fingers. Square off your chest to the front. Yes, you’re a real creature of the sea now.

If your really want to get crazy with the backbend- try ROYAL PIGEON.

 

 

 

 

Quad pull in sleeping pigeon

Your quads will thank you after this. Make a loop with your strap. Put the loop around your back leg as you find pigeon pose. As you fall forward to sleeping pigeon pose, pull the strap in front of you so the back knee naturally bends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pigeon in chair

Practice your balance and stretch your glutes! Cross your left ankle over the right knee. Use the strength of the right leg to sit back into your “chair”. Keep your chest up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying pigeon

Arm balance time! From chair pigeon, lean forward to place your hands on the ground. Keep your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle to make a shelf for your right shin. Transfer your shin to your triceps as you lean forward. Lift the back toes off the ground and slowly extend your back leg. Let your pigeon fly!

 

 

 

 

 

How do you OFFBEAT pigeon pose?