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!
You've just experienced the bandhas. True, there's far more practice, finesse and exploration to do, but it would be disappointing if 7,000 years of investigating the human body were completely revealed in a 30 second exercise. This is, of course, just the beginning.
In May's Yinyasative classes, we'll be using three different breathing techniques to connect to, engage and release and explore the usefulness of the bandhas. While pelvic floor connection and engagement does indeed have the benefits showcased on "The View," you now also see some of the more mundane, but at least as practically applicable benefits of exploring this connection.
We'll then take that sense of connection and apply it in a variety of postures to create experience and strength in the "true core."
Join us to be guided through a selection of some of these postures and techniques in every class (we'll get through this and more in the workshop on the 16th, with modifications available for all levels). Check out the small group class schedule and scroll down to register for your first free class!
If you've ever been to a yoga class, you know that an hour or so of yoga can totally change how you feel. One 2010 study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology even showed significantly lower cortisol after a single yoga class. So when I heard researcher Amy Cuddy begin her TED talk by saying "We are also influenced by our nonverbals," my first thought was "Duh." But that's the way of TED, right? Start with the obvious and then blow our minds. She delivered, concluding "...all they need is 2 minutes, some privacy and their bodies.... Tiny tweaks lead to big changes."
Yoga folks have known this for, oh, about five millennia. Research is beginning to show us how what we know happens happens, though and this helps us create evidence based, efficient and maximally effective practices. This talk is fascinating and the visuals are fantastic - definitely worth the watch, so I've included it below. The best part of the research is the confirmation that our postures, whether in everyday life or chosen "poses" like we engage in yoga class, change our hormonal profiles.
Hormones are messengers in the body and I first heard this claim in a yoga class decades ago: "Locust increases testosterone and reduces cortisol." I've still never seen specific research on Locust pose, but there's a growing body of research showing how yoga class impacts cortisol and hormones of metabolism (check out my page referencing research on theBenefits of Yoga).
We know instinctively that our bodies effect our minds, hearts and emotions. That's why yoga is so powerful: poses are sequenced in a balanced way. Home Yoga Practice (HYP) is so powerful because you can give yourself these experiences every single day, twice a day if you like. Two minutes, five, fifteen. Even two minutes matter. The effects linger and build. You balance the "power" poses of Warrior with calming poses, inverting poses, twisting and you end with a neutral pose that lets all sink in.
"Try power posing. ... Configure your brain to do the best" for your whole life. Give yourself . Home Yoga Practice. Head over to theGuided Practice Page or just roll out your mat and begin.Home Yoga Practice Workbook will take you through everything you need to start your practice and give you the confidence to give yourself what you need, what you already have and didn't know. Give it to yourself, give it, as Dr. Cuddy says, to those with "No resources and no technology and no status and no power." Yoga for everyone.