During September 2015 we'll be focusing on forward folds. Poses referred to as forward folds in yoga are poses in which your femur, or upper leg bone, is closer to your torso than 90 degrees.
When we focus on a particular class of poses - like forward folds - we focus on the actions of all the poses we do that involve this action. For instance, Downward Facing Dog has forward fold actions in the hips and backbend actions in the shoulders: we'll focus mostly on the hips this month. In Warrior I, instead of focusing primarily on shoulder actions, we'll focus on the leg strengthening action in the forward leg.
Forward folds both require and create strong, flexible core muscles - both the deep core and the vanity abs - to support a long, aligned spine with all its natural curves.
Hamstrings are a major focus during folds because the action of rotating the pelvis forward lifts the sitting bones from which the hamstrings originate. Since they attach to the bones of the lower leg (the tibia and fibula) and cross the knee, keeping the knees bent while you flex at the hip with your core supporting your spine is the best way to enter forward folds form the majority of people - even very flexible ones. This allows you to create the container of the pose, focus on aligning with your breath and then to feel into the lengthening of the hamstrings as you straighten your legs, lengthening the hamstrings. Only go as far as you stay connected to your breath and your low back stays in great alignment; if the hamstrings are pulled down because they're not yet flexible and strong enough to cross the back of the leg fully extended, they'll pull your pelvis back toward its upright position and this will round your lower back. Rounding your lower back in forward folds puts you at risk for disk injury and generally compromises the fullness of your breath as low back rounding leads to shoulder and rib cage rounding. Bent knees allow you to stay connected through the entire body and create the strength you'll need when you're flexible enough to extend fully.
Forward folds are more contemplative, in general, than the mood elevating forward folds, and are great for calming anxiety, preparing for sleep and soothing your worried mind.
Look for forward folding focus in all my hatha, yin and restorative classes and explore the strength and flexibility that will allow you to rock your world from a place of calm and stability.
Questions about forward folds, hamstrings, home practice or yoga? Comment and get your answers here!
Restorative Yoga class for December 2014 combines Pranayama, Simple Yin Postures, Figure 8 Sacral Pump, Chi Kung and Fully Restorative Yoga Poses with Guided Meditations for a powerfully enlivening, relaxing, fire up your digestion class.
We digest not only the food we take in (and maybe a little extra over holiday time!), but also our experiences, perceptions, emotions, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. The aim of yoga practice is to clarify the body, breath and mind so much that we process all of these varieties of experience as efficiently and effectively as possible, to release their energy and integrate their wisdom into every way we interact with and serve in our lives.
This class combines simple twists, powerful but simple chi kung and deeply restorative postures to invoke the parasympathetic nervous system - colloquially referred to as the "feed and breed" system, since in this relaxed but awake state our body sends circulation and nutrients to the core of the body, supporting these everyday processes of life. This is distinguished from (though interacts with) the more commonly known "fight or flight" - sympathetic - nervous response, which in the extreme shunts circulation and nutrients to the larger muscles of locomotion and away from digestion and reproduction.
Use this sequence to stoke your digestion of all you take in and share it with your family! One recent student experienced the relief of leg and low back pain she'd experienced for years after 3 classes:
"Thank you for Restorative Yoga class. My leg and feels better than it has in a long time, as well as my low back. After only three sessions it was a tremendous improvement in the leg that has been tight for a couple years." ~Chava"
Effective digestion of experience doesn't require reliving trauma or even necessarily knowing the exact cause. Chava reported no specific provoking factor or discrete injury, though she'd recently had a long car trip that seemed to aggravate the pain. Effective digestion does require bringing the body's sensation into the field of your awareness while integrating the breath. This sequence allows you bring those sensations gently to awareness, breathe and let go.
What are you digesting in your practice? What do want to digest on the mat? Do you ever surprise yourself with what comes up on the mat? Or what is resolved by your yoga practice? Share your experience here and let us know when you try this sequence or if you have any questions about how to follow it. Your practice - that's what this website is all about.