Monthly Archives: February 2015

jumping back with paige warthen

Ashtanga Yoga: Mind + Body Episode 9. Ashtanga Yoga practitioner Paige Warthen demonstrates and talks about picking up and jumping back, a movement for connecting seated postures, from the Ashtanga Yoga method.

Ashtanga Yoga: Mind + Body Episode 11. Ashtanga Yoga practitioner and teacher Paige Warthen follows up Episode 9 with more details and a demonstration of how she broke down the Ashtanga Yoga pick up and jump back movement.


chakra balancing

chakra_balancing_mudras


values and beliefs

Belief

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know; it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

-Mark Twain

 

Knowing yourself requires a careful examination of your own values and beliefs.

What are your values and beliefs?

How did they originate?

How do your beliefs align with your values?

How have they evolved over your lifetime?

How do they help you live a gratifying life?

 

Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your character. Your character becomes your destiny.

-Mahatma Gandhi


shoulderstand

Although the word sarvangasana translates as “all limbs pose,” the posture is commonly referred to as Shoulderstand because your body weight rests on the top outer edges (the bony parts) of your shoulders. Blankets for the shoulders make it possible for the neck to be free to lengthen and get a mild stretch, while the rest of the body lifts straight up in one line. The blankets also prevent you from putting pressure on the delicate vertebrae in your neck. Without this propping, the pressure can, over time, flatten the neck’s natural curve.

Start with three stacked blankets. If, while in the pose, you find that you stand on the backside of your shoulders and upper back or on the inner edges of your shoulders, try adding another blanket or two to the stack. It’s important to center yourself on the blankets, not turn your head, and look gently toward your chest to avoid injuring your neck. Directing your eyes toward your chest also keeps the pose calm and your neck soft.

shoulderstand v1

The first variation at a wall builds a foundation that begins with the proper placement of the shoulders and upper back, and an opening of the chest. Here, you can also work on outwardly rotating your upper arms and bringing your outer shoulders closer to each other while lifting the upper back, sides of the chest, and tailbone away from the floor.

One challenge of Shoulderstand is entering the pose. It’s easiest to position your shoulders, arms, and back for Shoulderstand while in Halasana (Plow Pose), so the second variation at a wall uses a Plow Pose modification to prepare you for going up into the final pose in the middle of the room.

shoulderstand v2

If you find the wall variations challenging, continue to work on them until you feel stable and strong. You can also try using the variations to enter full Sarvangasana. In the beginning, you may be able to hold the variations and final pose for a minute or two. You can gradually build up to 5 minutes, and eventually to 10 to 20 minutes. For those who already practice Sarvangasana, these variations will refine your understanding and skill, and may boost your ability to stay longer in the pose. After practicing any of the variations of Sarvangasana, rest on your back for a few moments before you sit up.

shoulderstand final

Bring your mat and stack of blankets to the middle of the room. Lie down on the blankets and place your hands beside your hips on the floor. Bend your knees and take your legs into Halasana so your feet touch the floor behind you. If your feet don’t reach the floor, use the wall or a chair to support them. Adjust your arms and shoulders, then take your hands to your back. Come into the pose one leg at a time to maintain the lift of your rib cage. (If you lift both legs at once, you might harm your shoulders and neck.) When you lift your right leg, straighten your knee and extend your leg strongly toward the ceiling to pull your torso up. Raise your left leg. Lift the fronts of your thighs straight up and away from your pelvis.

When you’re up, continue adjusting your hands by walking them up your back toward the floor to prevent your upper back from sinking and to lift the sides of your chest. Broaden the chest as you roll your outer shoulders down and pull the elbows in toward each other. If they splay apart, try looping a strap around your upper arms, just above your elbows.

Raise your buttocks toward your heels as you lengthen your inner thighs and reach up through the balls of your big toes. Breathe normally and coordinate the actions of the pose so that you grow from the base at your arms and shoulders up through your legs to your toes.

To open your chest, move your back ribs forward. Some weight will be on your head, and you might feel as though you want to push the back of your head into the floor. Instead, allow the back of your neck to lengthen as you lift your spine up away from the floor. Relax your jaw and throat and look toward your chest.

Practice coming down into Halasana. Through regular practice, you can stay in the pose longer without strain. After Sarvangasana, you should feel calm and quiet, as if all of the systems of your body are awakened and now able to rest.

Excerpt from Yoga Journal Article A Beginner-Friendly Inversion: Shoulderstand by Marla Apt


yoga for parkinson’s disease

Yoga-and-Parkinsons-Disease-by-Peggy-van-Hulsteyn

Whatever the early symptoms, PD is a degenerative disease characterized by a loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for coordinating muscles and quick, smooth movements. For reasons that aren’t clearly understood, a person with Parkinson’s loses these cells and produces insufficient amounts of dopamine for normal motor control. An estimated 1.5 million Americans have PD, and about 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. Unfortunately, by the time a problem is noticed, most people are producing only about 20 percent of the dopamine they normally would.

Degeneration in Parkinson’s patients is usually tracked over five stages. Very often a spouse or a friend will notice that you’re taking smaller steps or you’re having a problem with balance; other clues are a softening of the voice and tremors on one side of the body. By the second stage, symptoms begin to affect both sides, and day-to-day tasks become more difficult. After stage three, people lose the ability to walk straight or to stand. Tremors and severe immobility take over motor control at the fourth stage, when assisted-living care usually becomes necessary. At the final stage, a person may not be able to walk or stand, and one-on-one nursing care is then required.

“We need more studies to determine the most effective type of yoga for people with Parkinson’s and at what dosage,” says Becky Farley, a physical therapist and research assistant professor at the University of Arizona. “However, I’ve seen what happens when people with PD embrace yoga…It [induces] relaxation, which helps control tremors, activates affected muscle groups, and can be a steady reminder of where your body should be and how it should move.”

In her own research, Farley found that certain exercises that target the torso and trunk can help prevent rigidity and maintain normal walking and a sense of balance. Stiffness in the body’s core is one of the most debilitating symptoms of PD because it hampers a person’s ability to walk across a room or simply stand upright. Restorative twists and poses that strengthen the trunk are thought to reduce stiffness and improve mobility.

The instructions a yoga teacher gives in class, of course, build awareness by getting you to concentrate on the details of the poses. But they also focus the mind and therefore bring you to the present. They ask you to tune in to subtle movements of your body. For someone with Parkinson’s, this is particularly helpful. As dopamine levels decrease, it’s also common to become less and less aware of the motor control that you’re losing. But the mind-body awareness that yoga encourages helps [one] self-correct and compensate for these new impairments.

In 2005, a pilot study conducted at Cornell University placed 15 people with Parkinson’s in 10 weeklong yoga programs, after which participants reported less trunk stiffness, better sleep, and a general feeling of well-being. “A surprising side effect was the social support the class provided,” says neurologist Claire Henchcliffe, director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Institute at Weill Cornell. “I think a lot hinges on sharing problems that doctors simply don’t have firsthand experience with. At a support group, people get great firsthand information and become proactive.”

Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article Moving On With Parkinson’s by Peggy van Hulsteyn


breath of the gods


11 yoga documentaries worth your time

  1. Y Yoga: Filmmaker Albert Klein takes up yoga the week of 9/11, falls in love with it, and goes on to make one of the greatest yoga documentaries to date.  This is my personal favorite, and if you only have time for one, this one is it. It’s primarily about the California Yoga scene, but that’s where it all starts anyway.
  2. Enlighten Up!: A skeptic’s journey into the wide world of yoga.  This film is very well put together, and with a lot of colorful characters, like international yoga superstar, Diamond Dallas Page. It is particularly good, I feel, because it raises more questions than it answers. You can watch some of this one on Youtube, and it’s full version is on Netflix.
  3. Yoga Unveiled: This is a great introduction to the deeper dimensions of yoga, especially the history and philosophy of yoga that often gets neglected. It is perfect to watch at the outset of a yoga teacher training program. You have to pay for this one, though you can find some clips on Youtube.
  4. Yoga Woman: Among other things, delves into why yoga is now still primarily practiced by women, even though for most of yoga’s history it was not. I saw this when it premiered on Maui in early 2012. It’s not my favorite, but definitely worth your time.
  5. Shortcut to Nirvana: It’s now been almost 12 years since this film came out, which features the 2013 Kumbha Mela, the  largest religious festival in the world, which happens every year in India. So if you want to get some sense of what it’s all about before it happens, this is a good place to start.
  6. Sita Sings the Blues: This is a brilliant, funny and ironic modern re-telling of the ancient Hindu epic The Ramayana, which relates the possibly tragic story (depending on how you look at it) of Rama & Sita. You can watch this for free online.
  7. Titans of Yoga: This documentary is a good introduction to some of the major figures on the contemporary yoga scene. It is helpful to hear what they have to share with us about the yoga journey.
  8. Yoga Is: This is a very sweet introduction to the world of yoga.  It is one woman’s journey while coming to terms with her mother’s death from cancer.  It is especially good for those new to yoga and is very inspiring.
  9. The Soul of India: This is not a yoga documentary per se, as yoga is only touched upon only briefly, yet it gives some very good insight into Mother India, the birthplace of yoga.  My students have loved this video  Rick Ray also has another great documentary for yoga people called “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama.”
  10. Ayurveda: The Art of Being: Explore Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, as it has been traditionally practiced in India for centuries. Students have found this to be one of the most fascinating films we’ve shown.
  11. Fierce Grace: This is a touching, insightful film about the life and work of Ram Dass, author of the famous book” Be Here Now” and recently featured by Oprah on her online network.

Gaiam TV Article by Alan Lowenschuss