Yoga is bigger than "styles": you can find everything from power to hot to aerial yoga and it's easy to think that if you just understood what the names meant you'd be closer to finding what you need. "Styles" are what happen when people take a simple set of postures and techniques and brand them. Yoga is bigger than that.
The categories of yoga that matter don't refer to people's names: they are ways of taking care of yourself.
You may have experienced strong hatha in studios and gym classes, videos and audios - any class where you spent part of the time in standing postures, weight bearing on your arms or sweating. These classes run the range from gentle through what's commonly termed "advanced" and build strength, flexibility, bone and breath capacity.
Yin practices are characterized by long holds and cooling breaths, often through the mouth, contrary to the ujayyi warming breath often encouraged in the prior set of practices. These help address long standing patterns and support self knowledge, working with sensation and release of unskillful tension in the body at many levels, from muscle to fascia and nervous system.
You've definitely experienced restorative practices as long as you stayed through Savasana, or final rest in your 'regular' or strong hatha yoga class. Savasana (literally, "corpse") is a taste of restorative that's included in any true yoga class. These are fully supported postures where you stay for minutes at a time, sometimes with guided meditation or visualization and are a luxuriously accessible way to radically change your nervous system over time.
If you've been here very long, you know I recommend at least one of each of these practices a week for every yoga student. I even include some of each in every single class. This is the most effective use of your time on the mat if you're looking to create transformation in your body, your breath, your mind or your feelings.
Full Spectrum Yoga is a practice that includes all three of these yogic modalities. Full Spectrum Yoga teaches you to care for yourself in every situation: strong, injured, tired, energized, morning, evening, weekend, weekday, young, old, postpartum, pre- and peri-natal, anxious, depressed, joyful, content: a spectrum of practices you can tailor to your own life and needs. Full Spectrum isn't a new kind of yoga. Full Spectrum is a way of approaching your practice, fitness and self care so you address every level of yourself in your fitness regime and can draw from the ancient wisdom of yoga, proven through what science is learning about the fractured fitness model, to take care of your whole self and reach the goals you set for yourself.
Full Spectrum yoga for full spectrum living.
You've heard the drill: it's important to reduce stress, stress isn't healthy, stress is a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, even the flu. And maybe, like many of my clients, you've grown numb to such warnings, thinkings something like, "Oh sure, I'll get rid of stress, I'll quit my job, stop worrying about my responsibilities like kids, parents, mortgage, school, work, voting and groceries. That'll work out greeeeeeeaaat."
Of course trading the stress of broke for the stress of responsibility is no choice at all. But this is a misunderstanding of how stress damages us, of what stress reduction really calls for. The Stress Management Society's website defines stress as, "... primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action."
Stress is any condition that provokes a response. Some stress is necessary for simply maintaining structure - bones are modeled and remodeled according to patterns of stress. Some stress can actually strengthen. Too much provocation is what switches the body to fight or flight (or sympathetic nervous system activation); that one more rude interaction than you can handle gracefully, one more request, one more close call in traffic - the one more than simply strengthens you.
The reason those stress hormones - adrenaline, cortisol, norepi - are deleterious is that they are built from the same building blocks all your good life hormones are built from. If you only experience this once in a while and the reaction is limited, you probably won't suffer from lack of the good stuff. But if you have a close call or provoking interaction every day, or even more, you have no time to recover, nor does your hormonal balance. You begin to make so much of the stress hormones you don't have the raw material for everything else you need.
But the body has a built in brake, if you know how to pull it: the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system). There are straight forward techniques of breathing, posture and imagery that can invoke your relaxation response. But you have to practice to have them available when you need them, and if your balance is already off, you need extra doses to bring the system back into balance.
Yoga is chock full of these practices and techniques for invoking your relaxation response and reducing cortisol already in the body. A daily practice gives you the familiarity to remember a helpful thing or two instead of giving in to the rapid retort or knee jerk response in alcohol, smoking, food or whatever your vice of the moment is.
Restorative yoga is like the reverse of a hard day at the office. Every so often you need a little extra bump of restorative: maybe a little every night or an hour every week. My favorite combo for nearly nightly, pre-bed reset? Queens Pose (Supta Buddha Konasana) + Legs Up the Wall, 5-15 minutes each.
You have an opportunity for a nearly total reset on Saturday, May 7th, 2016 from 12-2:30pm: Restorative Yoga with Reiki treatments from a master in an experiential workshop at Badlands Yoga. Know anyone who could use a real break? A grad or a mom, or maybe even you. Click the link and reserve one of the last spots today. You'll be happy you did.
Can't make it? Keep stopping by this blog for tips on how to include more yoga in your day, more restorative practices, more on strong practices to stoke your awesome and meditation to keep you in the zone. Leave a comment below about what stresses you the most and what helps you reset. One person will receive a personally designed weekly practice template to inspire their #HYP!
... and your body includes (at least some of) your mind. Stress: physical reaction. Emotions: at least in part physical. Thoughts: require physical activity that can be imaged and tracked.
You don't have to know how the body and mind interact or whether they are in fact one to understand that what you do with your body effects how you feel. How you feel effects how you think. How you think effects how you act. How you act is what you do with your body, so the cycle goes round and round.
Whether you are dealing with a malady recognized by the healthcare system such as diabetes, arthritis, allergies and inflammation or just want more strength or flexibility (or both), or seek "stress" reduction, more vitality or mood support - there's a yoga for that.
Yoga is a system of techniques and practices for increasing and decreasing reactions and processes in the body and what we usually refer to as the mind. That's why it sometimes gets construed as mystical or religious. Yoga is the user manual for your body.
Does this mean yoga will fix any or all of these things all the time? No. Does yoga hold all the answers? Absolutely not. Yoga works hand in hand with many other answers - but it is part of the solution when the question is about how to effect the body. Yoga is a set of practices and techniques that you do yourself, under the guidance of a skilled teacher for the best results. This is empowerment, this is understanding and this is something that enhances other systems and techniques that support the body in wellness and you in experiencing your wholeness. One of my favorite ministers recently said in sermon that healing isn't fixing: it's returning to the experience of wholeness. Sometimes this comes with a "fix." Sometimes things can't be returned to any prior state. But as long as you are you, you are whole Returning to an experience of this - as opposed to experiences of disconnection, reduction, dissembling, evaluating, comparing and objectifying which so often happens when we seek to experience more or less of something - is the beginning of what yoga provides.
Want to feel more awake? There's a technique for that. Want to wind down for a good sleep? There's a technique for that. Want to suffer less from pain? There are techniques for that. Want to be stronger + more flexible? That, too. Cardio? Yep. HIIT? Yep. Resistance? Yep. Want to experience less stress? Yoga's got you covered.
Here's the rub: yoga isn't like a car wash: you go in one end dirty, have a few solutions applied and get rubbed by a brush and come out the other end shiny. There isn't a pill or a cut for that in yoga. Yoga is something is something you do. If you're looking to be fixed, move on. If you're looking to do something positive that will help you feel the way you want to feel, you're in the right place.
Sign up in the upper right hand corner to receive more information on how to read the manual and apply it to your life - and leave a comment with your particular question or concern! I reply to every comment and when you sign up for the newsletter and hit reply, you'll have a direct line to my email. I answer every one. See you on the mat!
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!