From the current draft of The Light of Awareness:
Yoga is a holistic system and the best definition of “holistic” I’ve ever heard was on a Dharma Podcast from a brilliant physician named Dr. Martha Herbert: it went something like, “holistic means all of the above.” All of the above. Systemic care, which is a transformation from within, doesn’t come from a single input, decision, lever or intervention. Yoga is a system of self care.
On the most mechanistic level, you know that if you just change the oil in your car on schedule, but forget to ever tune it up, put gas in or check the transmission fluid, you’re going nowhere. We must take care of the whole system. But even more than that, Dr Herbert’s point is that holistic care works synergistically.
You can’t dissect the system, look to refine a single mechanism that will “fix” the system. Care isn’t fixing. That bears repeating: care isn’t fixing. Holistic methods transform through four iterative processes :
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!
It happens to all of us and for so many reasons: we haven't moved enough this week, or yesterday we did too much; yesterday we had too much sugar, one too many glasses of wine or not enough water or even sleep.
For me, this morning, it was the insistent soreness of the epic hike our daily romped turned into when I found a new warren of trails in my wayworn stomping ground. The foothills I usually take one by one beckoned me to take them groups at a time, and with the smell of desert phlox beckoning I blissfully wandered over hill and cactus dale - until I took my phone out to take this pic and realized I had a meeting in less than an hour online!
Needless to say, the return hike was brisk and I took a few short cuts, so ended up on my behind down some scree. But I made it back with 8 minutes to set up the computer and go!
At nearly 50, I think I've used up more than my quota of butt sled rides down granite scree. I woke up a little creaky this morning. And the story in my head sounded like the one my clients tell me that makes me cry, "I'm sore... maybe I should just lay here a little longer. Maybe I should move less today..." There it was, unbidden but clear.
Don't get me wrong - if you're really sleep deprived and could get more sleep by staying put, then by all means. Sleep trumps almost everything in my book (and in any good healer's book). But if you're really just lying there awake, marinating in your stiffness, then this post is for you. And me. And anyone who occasionally overdoes the things they love in life.
If you've ever watched Gil Hedley's "Fuzz" speech (he's a ground breaking anatomist), you know what this feeling comes from and that it's pretty accurate: metabolic and functional byproducts of living, moving and doing what we do get a little stagnant overnight and seemingly glue our insides together. Hence we wake up feeling like the tin man without an oil can.
Here's the kicker, though: that story? It's just a story. The best thing you could possibly do, all else being equal, is trundle out of bed, drink a couple glasses of clear water as you roll out your mat and begin to practice. I know it's a shocker but the answer is still.... yoga. Maybe you move a little slower, focus even more than usual on breathing and the gentle joy of movement, start with sacral pumps and let the water and breath do their work. Or maybe you start to feel like you again and go for the sweaty Sun Salutations. Whichever way you go, you'll be glad you did.
As the man said, "Practice and all is coming." Life, breath, joy, wholeness amidst all of life's fragments, inspiration, tears and above all, presence. All.
I'm off to take my own advice. See you on the mat _/|\_ Christine
Let’s face it, holidays can make time management a nightmare. On top of your regular job, family and general maintenance of shopping, cooking, eating, cleaning, you’ve to lots of extra errands, parties, goodies to make, pressies to wrap, surprises to plan - and less time to get the work side of things done!
The holidays are a wonderful, magical time, full of celebrations, old friends and family, surprises and wonder. Lights, decorations, sweets, sacred celebrations, sledding, ski trips, moonlight walks with sparkling snow.
Do you keep your yoga practice up? Do you give it up? If you give it up, what will take the place of the calm and feeling of wholeness you have after class? If you keep it up, what errands don’t get done? Or is there something else that can give?
If you keep your practice, do you schedule twice a week classes? Do you scale back to one? Do you carve out 15 minutes before the rest of the house wakes - or after they’re in bed? Or both?
In addition to regular, skilled teaching, a Home Yoga Practice is the best way to remain flexible through the scheduling chaos of the holidays. And it’s always there for you! Because I can’t always be there when the lines are long and people at work or while shopping are rude, it’s important you have a practice where you develop your inner guide and your ability to hear that guide when it whispers, “Soft belly breath… relaxation response…” or “Remember how Warrior pose feels? You can be kind and brave - channel that!”
When you have a regular practice of 15 minutes most days you are more likely to respond from what you’ve practiced than your inner control freak - not that you have one, but you’ve got some inner routine that likes to take over from a place of less calm, less understanding and less awesomeness than you have when you practice.
And this is a self-reinforcing cycle. When you begin to respond from your practice, your stress levels don’t rise, others don’t respond from their inner rage-a-holic as much, more peace reigns, less cortisol pumps and your awesome shines.
That's why I created the "Zen for the Holiday" HYP Workshop. In this 2 hours, we’ll plan for your yoga practice. I’m not going to tell you what you need for your home yoga practice or for the holidays, preach about coming to class or give you minimums. This is your time to reflect, imagine, play and plan.
I’ll give you some basic ideas about go to techniques for creating energy, connection and calm and options. You’ll decide what’s most important to you and what resources you have and how to leverage those resources to feed your light and let it shine hot, long and bright.
After this workshop, you'll have all this wrapped up and waiting for you every day!
Are you still doing sit ups and crunches?
When you understand and feel in your own body what true core strength is, you'll never do another sit up again.
Modern life brings us many conveniences through computers and through cars. These are the 2 nearly ubiquitous experiences of modern adult (and more and more, child) life. Both create what's come to be known as "desk hunch" - shortened hamstrings, psoas, head forward posture, with a coincident loss of the curves of the spine, space for breathing and even, over time, for proper circulatory function.
You come to yoga, go to the gym, hike, run, walk, bike in part to reverse this pattern. Sitting has become, as many of you know, "the new smoking" because of this pattern.
Sit ups and crunches work in a single plane, bringing the rib cage toward to the thighs, and very few people are able to complete even a set of ten without bringing the shoulders forward and chin down. Does that shape remind you of anything? Perhaps the graphic above? Don't practice that shape!
You come to yoga to practice getting the body into shapes that make you feel great.(Check out this post on the "Power Pose" phenomenon for more on that!) And there's a reason they do: they access your true core.
Most "core" workouts target the muscles that join the front ribs to the front of the pelvis (the rectus abominus) and the ones around the sides (the obliques). These muscles are important but they're only a part of the story. And the story can be too short: you can engage, strengthen and buff out these muscles and never engage the deeper core. That's why I call them the vanity abs. Like beautiful skin, their health comes not from focusing on them and applying efforts on the surface; their health comes from paying attention to what they draw upon. In the skin's case, proper nutrition and hydration, and in the core's case, accessing the deeper, unseen and too often unfelt muscles that yoga refers to as "locks" or bandhas and the other muscles that connect to them and form functional groups. The locks aren't key locks, but rather locks like on rivers that when closed create strength (or lift) further upstream.
The pelvic floor is known in yoga as the "root lock" (mula band), the respiratory diaphragm (also a muscle) is the "flying lock" (uddiyana band) and the vocal diaphragm and muscles around it, jalandara band. The first two are our concern for this article. The respiratory diaphragm is actually part of your core and the pelvic floor is actually part of breathing, and both are integral in the body knowing where it is in space and maintaining balance.
The pelvic floor and respiratory diaphragm are joined by the psoas, which originates along the front of the spine just where the respiratory diaphragm is ending and in situ, they are nearly indistinguishable. The psoas then moves diagonally down and forward to attach inside the pelvis, from where it takes off for one more trip diagonally down and inward to attach again inside the upper femur (leg bone).
This complex is what I refer to as the "c" of the core, because it makes that shape inside the body in movement. The c attaches to all the other abdominal muscles - including the vanity abs.
The result is that you cannot engage the deep core (the c) without engaging the vanity abs - but you can - and workouts often - do it the other way around.
Yoga focuses our attention and awareness on the deep core and offers a multitude of ways to engage and strengthen these deeper core structures without compromising their flexibility, which is equally as crucial as being able to access their strength.
Would you like to experience true core bliss in a class? Just come to any class this month, where our focus will be on deep core in every pose. Out of town? - no problem! Simply comment with "True Core, please!" to receive a complimentary yoga audio class you can keep and take over and over.
Workbooks for the following workshops will also be available for purchase after the workshop - comment "workbook" to be notified when these are released.
In person workshops are held at OMA from 1-3pm on the Saturdays indicated. One workshop a month is included in Unlimited Memberships (both Freedom and Committed)!
... 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!
Sometimes you roll out your mat and daydream until you realize you only have 5 minutes left. Sometimes you feel like you have to choose between yoga practice and brushing your hair.
We all have those mornings - sometimes strings of them together. Invariably, when I feel least like getting on my mat, when I finally get there and get past Up Hands, all of the sudden a string of poses I simply *must* do wells up inside of me and I realize I have time for maybe 2. Okay 3 if I don't salt the hard boiled eggs before throwing them in my bag for breakfast while I drive.
While I love combo yoga all the time, it's particularly applicable on these mornings. If you've been in class lately, you've been introduced to one of my favorite go-to combos: Kapalabhati (bulb syringe breath) in Fierce Pose. What I love most about these combos is that it reveals all yoga poses are "combo:" you inhale as you raise your hands, you exhale as you forward bend; you inhale as you lengthen, you exhale as you go into or deepen the twist. Sun Salutations? The ultimate combo for 360 wellness (just notice how you feel in Savasana afterward!)
So what it really comes down to is that even one yoga pose, when you attend to and coordinate the breath, when you feel it out to your toenails and hair, this pose is a practice some mornings. True, other days need to be complete classes for this to really be effective, but the difference between the days with no morning practice at all (morning for me, may be different for you) and the days of even a single pose - that difference is epic, meaningful, crushing and uplifting.
So you don't know what to do "next" - big deal. Do one now, breathe it, reach out through your fingers and toes, reach in to your real core, the place where you resonate. Your you will be better for it. One pose, a world of being.
It looks unassuming, but it's a powerful force: the gratitude jar made its debut at our anniversary party last month and is already holding so many powerful statements of what matters most to the people who yoga at the Badlands.
The idea is simple: write down anything you're grateful for. Put it in the jar. Once a year - at our New Year's celebration - we'll take them out and read some and then burn them to symbolically release and remember all the wonderful things that have transpired in the Badlands this year.
The act of writing down what fills your heart and mind with gratitude is correlated with an increase in feelings of well-being and happiness. This starts what is known as a "virtuous cycle:"
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!