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BIOL 349 Physiology Research Project at WWU

9 Sep

Slide1

In my Human Physiology course at Western Washington University, we were asked to conduct a research study on a topic of our choice.   My Physiology Lab partners and I studied the impact of Pranayama and Viparita Karani on mean arterial pressure (MAP is a measure of blood pressure) in college-age women.  Above you can see our poster and below a figure from our paper.

Fig3

Figure 3. Average percent change in mean arterial pressure (MAP) for the treatment and control groups during three time intervals: Posture/Breathing shows the difference between Stages 1 and 2, Recovery is between Stages 2 and 3, and Overall shows the difference between Stages 1 and 3. Error bars show standard error (Tierney et al 2015).

While we did not find a statistically signifiant difference in MAP resulting form the posture; however, we did find that a simple, 5-minute Pranayama practice reduces MAP.  I invite you to have a look at our paper and also take five minutes to practice breathing to the recording I prepared for the study.

Here is a link to the paper.

Here is a link to the breathing recording.

On a side note, our group’s project won Best Poster in our class.
Great work, ladies!

Best_Poster_Partners

Children’s Yoga at Valley Kids Therapy

31 Jul

This fun class is open to all past and present patients at Valley Kids Therapy in Mount Vernon

Suggested $5 donation

RSVP required

KidsYogaSubscribe to Jessie’s Yoga e-mail list here.

Vinyasa IV: Posture Perks

18 Sep

This Posture-Perking Vinyasa is dedicated to all my yoga students (who are also my teachers!), and also in gratitude and dedication to all my beloved yoga teachers, past, present and future.  Namaste.


1.Seated_Yogic_BellyBreahs

Begin seated on a chair or in Sukhasana on the floor for a centering Pranayama practice.  Enjoy at least ten slow, deep Yogic Belly Breaths, gradually lengthening the duration of the inhale and exhale.  You may choose to place your hands on your belly to help guide breath into the space of the belly and low back.  Following ten rounds of belly breaths, transition to the Middle Ribs Breath, inhaling to inflate the side and back ribs, exhaling to release and relax, gently drawing navel to spine.  Keeping the navel gently drawn in to the spine, repeat the middle ribs breath for at least ten rounds.

 

10.Strappy_Side_Bends

Sitting in the center of your chair with feet flat on the floor, find your strap and extend your strap between arms in front of you. Hold the strap taught. Inhale, slowly and mindfully (we are simply warming up the shoulders) lift the strap overhead, seeing how straight you are able to keep the elbows. You may notice that you need to adjust the distance between your hands—be sure to do so. On an exhale, keep your side chests lifted as you arch over to the left. Inhale through center (overhead). Exhale to the right. Notice that your sit bones are equally rooted. Repeat for ten full-breathing rounds of Strappy Side Bends, lingering in any expression of the pose that feels nourishing.

 

9.Strap_Shoulder_Opening_Vinyasa

Please be very mindful and gentle to the shoulders in this posture. Inhale, lift the arms overhead, keeping a steady tension in the strap. Exhale, reach the arms back (please slide your hands farther apart on the strap until this action is comfortable for you) and perhaps the arms lower toward the back hips (it’s okay if they don’t today). Inhale the arms up and overhead. Exhale the arms to the front.   Repeat for ten full-breathing rounds of Strappy Shoulder Rolls, lingering in any expression of the pose that feels healthy. Over-stretching in this postures is not useful; listen to your body and only go as deeply as feels safe and comfortable.

 

2.Tadasana

Come to standing at the front of your mat with two blocks closeby. Place one block between your upper thighs, standing with the feet hip width apart. Find Tadasana (mountain) by lifting your inner arches, spreading your toes, lifting your knees to engage your quads, and drawing the inner thighs back. Lift your side and back chest, spread your collarbones and let your ears rest over your shoulders. Reach down through the four corners of your feet as you reach up through the crown of your head. Draw your top thighs back and side chest tall.

 

3.Urdvha_Hastasana_Collage

Take a second block into your palms. Extend the elbows straight, pressing the pinky finger side of your hand more firmly into the block than the thumb side. Maintaining the integrity in your spine (your low back will want to arch; front ribs poking forward), inhale and begin to lift the block a few inches higher. Pause to exhale, checking in with the shoulders—plug them back; keep the front ribs back. Inhale, lift the block a few inches higher. Pause to exhale. Honor where your shoulders are able to move in Urdvha Hastasana keeping an external rotation to the shoulders and internal rotation to the thighs. Work toward five or ten full breaths in this posture, being gentle yet strong.   Exhale to slowly lower the block down, keeping the elbows straight and pinky fingers of the fingers pressing in. Bend your knees, place both blocks onto the floor. You may choose to explore Urdvha Hastasana without the blocks, and see if you can keep the block-inspired actions as you move into and out of the pose.

 

4.Anjaneyasana

Find a chair and place it facing the long edge of your mat for Anjaneyasana. Step your right thigh over the chair, and rest the ball of your foot on the ground directly beneath your knee. If your front foot does not reach the ground, use a blanket or yoga block beneath the foot. Hands come to the hips, drawing left hip forward, plugging the right hip back. Walk your left toes back, back, back, until just your toes are on the ground and the heel is lifted. Toes point directly forward (in the same direction as your left hip). Extend through the back left heel; draw your inner left thigh up toward the sky, straightening the knee. Keep your quadriceps engaged. Inhale, reach arms forward, parallel with the ground. Exhale, plug the shoulders back into their sockets. Inhale, lift the arms overhead. Maintain the same action as you did in Urdvha Hastasana, drawing outer armpits in toward your ears. Draw the tailbone toward the earth and keep extending the back leg. Exhale, release the arms down to your sides. You may either progress to Virabhadrasana I on chair next pose) or repeat Anjaneyasana on the other side.

 

5.VirabhadrasanaI

To transition from Anjaneyasana into Virabhadrasana I with Chair, angle your back heel in toward the center of the mat slightly, then ground into the outside edge of the back foot. Continue to draw the inner back knee up toward the sky and press the back leg long. Inhale arms level with the floor; exhale plug the shoulders back. Inhale to raise the arms overhead, magnetizing the pinky side of the arms toward one another to find an external rotation to the arms. Draw the tailbone down toward the earth, float the front ribs back, and extend the spine upward through the crown toward the sky. Enjoy a few mindful breaths here. On an exhale, hands to hips, bend the back knee and carefully switch sides.

 

6.Virabhadrasana_II_on_chair

You may choose to move directly into Virabhadrasana II on Chair from Vira I: to do this, bring the hands back to the hips. Gently open your hips toward the front edge of the chair. You will find that this rotation allows for you to scoot your back foot further away from the body: do this, and then find a rooted outer edge of your back arch. Hands are still on hips at this point. Draw the inner right (front leg) groin toward the inner right knee; draw the outer right knee toward the outer right hip to find healthy knee and hip alignment. Lift the back kneecap to engage your quadriceps; this will help to release and straighten the back knee/hamstring as you root your outer back foot into the earth. Inhale, grow tall through your spine, checking in so that your spine is perpendicular to the earth. Tailbone descends as you inhale to reach your arms out to T. Exhale, find a soft gaze over your front middle finger. Elbows straight; shoulders release from your ears. Exhale arms down, resting hands on hips. Carefully step the back leg forward and repeat on the other side. The former three postures can be done sequentially (all on one side, then change) or one at a time.

 

11.Virabhadrasana_Block

Here is a fun variation on Virabhadrasana I with a block just below the knee on the front of the shin. Come to the wall and step your front leg close in, placing the block. Walk your back leg as far back as you can without losing your square hips. You can work here, feeling the solidness of the legs pressing into the wall and the sturdiness of the outside edge of the back foot. You can also walk the fingertips up the wall, plugging shoulders back, then raising the arms overhead. Find some full breaths into the space of the back ribs here. Exhale to release the arms, bend the back knee and grasp the block to step the feet together. Enjoy the pose on the other side. You may choose to explore the posture without the block, seeing if you can mimic the actions you found at the wall.

 

7.Adho_Mukha_Svanasana_bent_straight_chair

Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation (Downward Dog) begins standing facing the back of the chair. Step your hands shoulder wide apart on the chair, resting the pinky side of your hands onto the chair back. Bend the knees *this is a top priority in this posture* and begin to step the legs back. Keeping knees bent, lengthen your spine as you step your legs back until the feet are beneath the hip sockets. Press into the chair and lengthen back through your tailbone—as though someone is pulling your tail—as you continue to activate the arms, releasing the heart toward the earth (if you are already very flexible in the shoulders, you will need to actively resist hyperextending the shoulder joints by pressing into the chair and keeping your front ribs lifted). Keep the knees bent, continuing to work with lengthening the spine, growing an inch longer with each exhale. Only if you are able to maintain the neutral spine (no rounding!), you may begin to straighten the legs by drawing the inner knees back and lifting the quadriceps. Work here for ten breaths. To come out, bend the knees, draw the navel toward the spine, gaze forward and step one foot forward at a time to find Tadasana.

 

8.Parsvottanasana

You may find Parsvottanasana from Adho Mukha Svanasana (above). Knees can stay bent. As above, bend the knees and walk the legs back. From there, step the right foot forward—toes face the chair—and check in with the alignment of the hips: draw the right hip back and left hip forward. The back toes angle out to the left slightly. Lift the arches of the feet; lift the kneecaps to engage the quadriceps. Lengthen both side bodies and press the hands (or arms, as shown) into the chair. *Note: your torso may not be level with the floor. Make sure your spine is neutral; you may have your hands on the chair but chest lifted higher. Do what ensures a neutral spine. Each inhale inflates the length of spine; each exhale draws the navel in and lengthens your body crown to tailbone. Breathe here for ten rounds before bending both knees and gazing forward to step the feet toward the chair and transition to the other side.

 

11.Goddess_Shakti_Flow

Set the chair aside to prepare for Shakti Goddess Flow. Step your feet wide apart, toes pointing out. See that the kneecaps and toes are pointing in the same direction. Sink the tailbone toward the floor as you lower the hips. Find cactus arms. Inhale, straighten the knees and reach the arms overhead in prayer position. If you feel balanced and your neck is happy, you may choose to gaze at the hands. Exhale, bend the knees, sinking the tailbone, and open the heart to find cactus arms. Inhale here, then exhale, side bending to the left. Inhale through center and side bend to the right. Inhale through center; exhale, sink deeper. Inhale repeat the flow by straightening the legs and reaching arms overhead. Continue for five to ten rounds, exploring openness and stability in the hips and thighs.

 

13.Trikonasana

From the wide Shakti stance, turn your left toes toward the short edge of your mat, and turn your right toes in about 45 degrees from the back edge of your mat, internally rotating your entire right thigh. Lift your arches and kneecaps. Draw both hips toward the back foot as you lengthen out of the hips, both sides of the spine long. Reach the left arm out over your toes and catch a chair, your leg, or a block (avoid the knee joint) for Trikonasana (Triangle). Press strongly into the ball mound of the left big toe and equally strongly into the outside edge of the back right foot. Draw the shoulders away from your ears as you reach the arms out, extending through fingertips. To come up, draw your belly to your spine, press strongly into your feet and inhale to bring the torso horizontal. Face the other way and repeat on the other side.

 

15.Posture_Work

Make your way back to the wall, taking your blocks along. You may recognize Posture Practice at the Wall from an earlier Vinyasa, but it is so potent that I chose to include it here as well. Lean against the wall as though you are sitting in a chair. Notice if your chin or shoulders come forward of the wall. Plug your shoulders back to touch the wall and see if you can touch the back of your head to the wall, keeping your chin level with the floor. This may be a sufficient practice to work with for awhile. As you progress, inhale to lift your arms parallel with the floor, palms facing each other. Plug your shoulders into the wall on the exhale. Magnetize your pinkies toward one another to externally rotate the shoulders. Inhale, lifting your arms up a few inches. See that your back hasn’t arched away from the wall. Working with breath, gradually inhale to lift your arms higher (pause on the exhale), keeping the back body in contact with the wall. Exhale to release the arms down to the sides. Eventually, once posture practice feels simple, you may choose to squeeze a block between your knees and hold a block between the palms to increase strength in this pose.

 

12.Wide_Leg_Fold

Step one foot onto your chair. Allow the hips to be open. Lift the kneecap of your standing leg to strengthen the leg as you inhale, lift the chest, lengthening out of the spine. Exhale, fold forward, pulling your navel toward your spine to help support the back. Inhale, lengthen forward and up, finding a long spine. Exhale, fold forward into your pose and catch both elbows gently for a ragdoll variation. Shake your head softly to release your neck. Breathe deeply into the back body here, keeping navel in. You may wave the spine side to side to help release and relax muscles here, being sure to keep a firm standing leg. Inhale, belly to spine as you roll up bone by bone; the head comes up last.

 

16.Savasana

Move your chair to the side and make your way into Savasana Variation with the legs elevated on a stack of blocks and a rolled up blanket to nourish the low back. Roll the shoulders back and down, lifting the chest gently. Lengthen the back of the neck. Settle in. Make any modifications so that you can surrender completely here. Soften all muscles, all thoughts, even the breath. Watch the activity of the mind, the breath, as an observer, for at least ten minutes as you fully integrate all the benefits from your practice.

 


 

“You create the space, and the universe fills it.”

~Leslie Kaminoff  in Yoga Anatomy

Our bodies have so much to teach us. Be patient, soften, persist, and practice. Let your body be your guide.

The highest potential in me honors the highest potential in you.
Namaste.


Here are some useful resources for more work with posture, which really begins with breath awareness and an expansion of your ability to use your diaphragm and supporting muscles:

  • Many of you have asked about a guided meditation.  One practice that helps if you are in acute pain or experiencing anxiety is progressive muscle relaxation.  There are many versions and voices, with or without music, available online for free.  Here is one that I think is nice.
  • As you explore deep breathing, consider the diaphragm muscle and how it moves to assist the breathing process.  To the right is a simplified image that may help you visualize the action of the diaphragm.  Click here for a link to a more detailed illustration by Sharon Ellis from the book Yoga Anatomy.
  • I recommend Yoga Anatomy if you are interested in learning about the physiology of asana in beautiful depth (available as an e-book or paperback).  The quote above is excerpted from here.  A sweet blend of ancient and modern.
  • Here is a video of Ginger Garner, a Physical Therapist, demonstrating what she calls the TATD breath.  You can practice along with her at home:

Vinyasa III: Hip Healers

10 Sep

This Hip Helping Vinyasa is lovingly dedicated to the talented Matney Cook, a horse & human-healer and musician I am honored to have on my journey, and also in gratitude and dedication to all my beloved teachers, past, present and future.  Namaste.


 

1.Virasana_on_blocksVirasana on Support Please take care to build up your support in this posture by stacking two or three blocks and a blanket to sit on, then slowly removing layers until you are in a comfortable posture. The sensation is felt in the belly of your thigh muscles, never in the knee joints (if you feel strain/stretching in your knee joints, you are doing damage to the body; please come out of the pose and find a higher seat until there is no knee pain). The inner knees touch; the feet are just under or slightly wider than the hips. The spine is tall, sit bones equally rooted, shoulders relaxed, back of neck long. Enjoy at least ten rounds of your choice of pranayama (suggestion: belly breathing) with your palms folded in your lap.

Note: the next series of asanas can be done seated in a chair or squat if your knees do not tolerate Virasana

2.Urdhva_Virasana

To find Virasana with Arms Extended, reach your arms in front of you, level with the floor. Bend your elbows, interlace your fingers, and flip your palms away from your face. Keeping the alignment of your spine (avoid over-arching the back), lift your arms overhead, elbows straight. Breathe fully here. Inhale to lift energetically through the hands and top of the head; exhale to melt any tension down through your legs into the earth.

3.Virasana_Twists

To Twist in Virasana begin by noticing your hip alignment. Notice that the right and left hip bones are level. Inhale, lift through the crown of the head. On your exhale, draw your navel in toward your spine. Keep an expansive inhale and gentle drawing in for the exhale throughout the twist. Inhale, grow tall through your spine. Exhale, lead the twist with your belly button (not your face) and keep your hips square as you twist right. Inhale stay in the depth of your twist, then exhale spiral deeper beginning with the belly, followed by ribcage. You may place your left fingertips on your right knee and your right arm behind you (if you are on height, you may wish to use a block behind you to rest your fingers). Breathe dynamically gently moving deeper with each exhale, keeping chest lifted and shoulders relaxed from your ears. After five to ten breaths, inhale to unwind back to center. Exhale, settle here for a moment. Repeat the twist to the left.

5.Virasana_Side_Bending

Keeping shoulders lowered away from the ears & back of your neck long, inhale your right arm up beside your ear. Exhale, keeping sit bones rooted evenly, arc over to the left, keeping the left side body long. Lift your belly to lift your left arm up on the inhale—both arms extend overhead—and then exhale reach over to the right, side bending and resting your right hand onto the floor or a block. Continue breathing dynamically through Virasana Side Bends, inhaling to lift the arms overhead, exhaling the find a side bend. Feeling the arch in your upper back, space between your side ribs. If you neck feels happy, you may choose to gaze up toward your lifted arm. After five rounds of dynamic side bending, you may choose to hold the side bend expression for a few full, chest- and belly-expansive breaths. Inhale to return to center; exhale rest the arms at your sides and absorb the effects.

 

4.Supta_Virasana

Be mindful of the sensation of the knees in Supta Virasana: your sensation should be felt in the belly of the thighs; not ever in the knee joint. If you feel a pulling or tightness in the knee joint, come out of the pose and try Dhanurasana (an upcoming pose, on your belly) instead. From Virasana, Inhale to lift your chest. Exhale, roll your shoulders back and down away from the ears. Inhale lift through the spine. Exhale, begin to walk your hands back on the floor. Inhale, lift the heart toward the sky. Exhale here. Inhale lift your hips slightly off your block. Exhale, draw your tailbone toward your knees to create more space for your low back. A tendency in this pose is to crunch the lumbar spine, so mindfully keep space for the low, neutral back and find the arch in the upper back. Inhale navel to spine as you return to vertical.

 

6.Trianga_Mukhaikapada_Paschimottanasana_Variation

From Virasana, extend your right leg out in front of you for Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana Variation. Find that the sit bones are even; you may need to adjust your block or add a blanket or second block to help level the hips. Lift tall through your spine. Lasso the ball mounds of the feet with your strap and walk your arms forward on the strap so your elbows are straight, without rounding your spine or shoulders forward. Inhale and lift tall through the heart and crown. Having your leg outstretched like this may create a strong sensation in your hamstring: if so, breathe here into the space of tension. Engage your quadriceps muscles at the front of your thighs and feel equal weight in right and left sit bones. Inhale to extend tall, and exhale—if you have space, can keep your spine neutral and knee straight—hinge forward at the hips, drawing your shoulders back and leading with your heart for a slight forward bend in the pose (if your knee bends or your spine rounds, avoid bending forward and instead breathe and keep the spine tall). Stay in your expression of the pose for five to ten breaths. Inhale to lift back to neutral. Gently bend your right knee to place your leg back in Virasana, extend your left leg and repeat on the left side.

 

7.Supta_TMP

Begin in Virasana with one leg forward, lifting tall through the crown. Exhale, begin to walk the arms back behind the body. Pause a moment to lift the hips slightly and draw the tailbone toward the knees. Each inhale lengthens the spine, and each exhale moves you deeper into the posture. Breathe in this Supta Virasana Variation, feeling the inner thighs rolling in and down, for five to ten breaths. Extend your neck long, shoulders down away from ears. Inhale to lift up with the strength of your arms. Change legs and repeat on the opposite side.

 

7.Urdhva_Prasarita_Padasana

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana begins on the back with knees bend, feet on the floor. Draw your knees into your chest on an inhale, and exhale to extend your feet up toward the sky. Lasso the ball mounds of both feet and walk your arms up your strap until the elbows are straight and the shoulders are lifted slightly away from the mat. Straighten your knees and engage your quadriceps—this may mean lowering the legs toward the floor until your knees can be straight. Feel the sacrum balanced on the floor; internally rotate your thighs; the tops of your thighs away from your torso. Observe the alignment of your knees, ankles, and feet. Keep the navel drawn back toward the earth. Soft face. This can be a very strong pose, so practice here with a strap, creating space in the hips and low back by pressing the tops of the thighs away, extending through the heels.

 

8.Supta_Padangusthasana

Transition to Supta Padangusthasana from UPP (above) by removing the left foot from the strap and placing the foot on the floor (knee bent to start). Check in with the hip alignment. On an exhale, extend the left leg to the floor, flexing the toes toward the knee and drawing the inner thigh down toward the earth. Soften your face, root the top of the left thigh down and feel the low back lengthen. Keep both quadriceps engaged to help release the hamstring muscles. Remain here for at least 30 seconds—up to two minutes—so that your body’s stretch reflex lets go and you can truly help the hamstring muscles to lengthen. Inhale, return to UPP by placing the left foot up into the strap. Exhale, lower the right foot to the floor and repeat on the right side.

 

9.Iliotibial_Band_Stretch

From Supta Padangusthasana with the left leg lifted, place both straps in your right hand, extending your left arm on the floor in T, palm face up. Plug your left hip into the floor (see arrow); keeping your hip in contact with the floor, move your left foot toward midline (to the right). Inhale pause. Exhale, move the leg maybe a centimeter to the right. Exhale to pause. Here you will find an Iliotibial Band Stretch, but if you go to far across the midline, you will miss the stretch. Lengthen your left side body long (the hip tends to hike toward the ear, so balance your hips side to side). Breathe here for at least five to ten breaths. Inhale, lift the leg back up to straight. Mindfully switch sides, and repeat with the right foot lifted, moving across toward the left.

 

10.Supta_Kapotasana

Staying on your back, feet on the floor with knees bent, cross your right ankle over your left thigh for Supta Eka Pada Utkatasana (Figure Four). Be very mindful of hip alignment in this posture, as it is easy for one side of the hip to creep up toward the ears. Keep length in both side bodies and slowly, on an inhale, lift your left thigh toward your torso. You may place a strap behind the left thigh or if your arms reach, clasp your hands behind your left thigh. Check back in with hip alignment; shift your weight slightly toward the left side. Keep both those flexed toward your knees to prevent knee strain. Big inhale, slow, complete exhale to melt any tension out of your hips. Stay here for up to ten breaths, softening the face and incrementally, gently, drawing the left thigh closer toward the torso, gently accessing the stretch of the right piriformis. On an exhale, slowly release the left thigh and lower the foot to the earth, followed by the right. With feet as wide as your mat, inhale, and exhale to lower the knees to the right. Inhale through center, and exhale lower the knees to the right. Repeat as many times as feels great for your body before finding Figure Four on the opposite side.

 

12.Dhanurasana_Variation

Roll onto your belly and fold your blanket to the hot dog orientation, placing it under your forehead. Keeping your forehead on the floor, catch your ankles with your strap and flex your toes toward your knees. Notice the stretch in the quadriceps, forehead still on the floor. Root the pubic bone down into the floor to protect the low back from compression. If the sensation in your thighs is intense, stay here and breathe deeply, melting tension one ach exhale. This may be your work for some time until the quadriceps can let go. To progress to Dhanurasana Knees Down Variation, the knees and pubic bone stay grounded for the rest of our work in this pose. Inhale, roll your shoulders back and down away from ears; exhale, pressing your ankles into the strap to lift the chest then forehead off the floor. The arms are not doing the work, except for holding onto the strap. Find the lift of the torso from the strength in the legs. Inhale, broaden your chest; exhale, root the pubic bone down into the earth and press the legs away from the body. Exhale, lower down, release your strap, let the head rest on the blanket and feet on the floor. Breathe deeply into the space of the low back.

 

11.Dhanurasana_Variation

Catch your ankles with your strap, floint (flex and point) the toes, and press the feet into the strap. Keep the feet hip wide apart, knees hip wide apart. Root the pubic bone into the earth, and notice the stretch in the quadriceps. If this sensation is intense, stay here and breathe, inviting your quadriceps muscles to let go with each exhale. This may be where you work for awhile until your quad muscles lengthen and you can easily keep the pubic bone touching the earth.

To progress, connect with your core; rooting your pubic bone down into the earth, lengthening the small of your back. Keep your head comfortably resting on the blanket for Dhanurasana ~ Knees Up Variation. On an inhale, roll shoulders back and away from ears. Exhale, press feet strongly into your strap, keeping the knees hip wide apart (they will want to splay apart). Continue pressing the feet into the strap, and perhaps you will find that the knees are able to lift a centimeter off the floor (this takes a good amount of hip extension, so if this is not possible for you, don’t be concerned; Anjaneyasana and the variation of this pose described above are great work for you to practice). Exhale, lower the knees back to the earth for a resting breath. Inhale, repeat, pressing the feet into the strap to lift the knees, keeping the pubic bone rooted and the low back neutral. Exhale, release the knees down. Repeat lifting on the inhale and releasing on the exhale. When you are ready, lower feet to the earth, placing the strap to one side. Invite at least three full belly breaths into the space of your low back, inflating so that your back lifts away from the earth.

Please find Bhaktasana (devotional), Balasana (child’s pose) or Puppy Pose as a counter pose before moving on to the next postures.

 

13.Mermaid_Flips

Lay on your side with either a block covered by a blanket for your head or holding your head in your arm for neck support. Bend both knees, stacking the ankles. Place your hand on your hip and notice if the top hip creeps toward your ear. Lengthen both sides of the body. Keeping the knees together, inhale to lift the top foot up, leading with the heel (toes point toward the earth) as you internally rotate your thigh slightly without shifting your hip alignment. Exhale, slowly lower your foot back down, taking your time and using the entire duration of your out-breath. Continue Mermaid Flips for at least ten rounds of breath, feeling some warmth in your hips and core from this gentle yet strong work. Smile. You can progress to the next two postures before switching sides.

 

14.Clamshells

In the same orientation as Mermaid Flips, this time keep the feet married as you inhale to lift the top knee up toward the sky. Exhale, slowly lower your top knee to meet the bottom. Use the entire duration of your breath to inhale open, exhale close your hip for Clamshells.  Mindful of your hip alignment, your breath, and keeping the top hip from rolling back as you inhale. These postures may not look glorious, but they are doing good work on your deep stabilizing muscles, so be loving and precise with these movements.

 

15.Iliotibial_Strengthener

Continuing in the same orientation as Clamshells, extend your bottom leg straight out, knee extended, heel flexing toward your body. You may keep your top hand on the hip for added challenge (pictured) or place your fingertips on the floor in front of your body for stability. Bend your top knee and place your foot on the floor. Check in with hip alignment. Inhale, lead with the heel to lift your bottom, extended leg an inch or so off the floor. Exhale to lower. Repeat with breath for five repetitions, gradually increasing to ten, then thirty, with practice. Whale Fins strengthen the adductors as well as the glutes and hips, so breathe deeply and have a soft, happy face as you practice.

To progress, you may wish to inhale, lift the heel and hold for a few breaths, then lower slowly down. Maintain the alignment of the knee and see that the heel is elevated higher than the toes.

 

16.Anjaneyasana_Chair

Transition slowly through hands and knees, making your way to standing with a chair nearby. Here we will find Anjaneyasana on a Chair, emphasizing the alignment of the hips and extension of the back leg. Begin with your right thigh resting on the chair. Step your left leg back, tucking your toes under. Hands on your hips, walk the toes back and extend back through the heel, lifting the inner left thigh up toward the sky. Plug the right hip back and draw the front of the left hip forward. This action lengthens the left leg in both directions, while protecting the hip joint. Lift your front ribs up and back, side body long as you inhale your arms forward, 90 degrees. Exhale, plug your shoulders back. Inhale to lift the arms up and overhead, without arching the low back. Keep drawing the tailbone down toward the earth, extending back through the heel, lifting the arms up. Your body is extending in all directions here, from a strong core center. Exhale, lower the arms down to the hips, and mindfully step your left leg forward. Transition to the other side.

 

17.Virabhadrasana_Chair

Setup for Virabhadrasana I on a Chair is similar to Anjaneyasana. Here, angle the heel toward the middle of the mat slightly as you plant the foot down onto the floor. This requires slightly greater openness in the back of the legs. Press down through the outer edge of the foot, lifting the inner arch. Same process to lift the arms overhead. Cactus arms are also an option. Keep drawing the hips square—right hip plugs back as the left hip draws forward, pressing out through the back leg. Exhale to return the hands to hips, stepping the back leg forward. Transition to the opposite side.

 

18.Adho_Mukha_Svanasana_Chair

Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation on Chair (Down Dog) or at the wall helps us to find a neutral spine while using the support of a chair or the wall. With the chair at the front edge of your mat, stack one forearm on top of the other on the back of the chair—palms resting on elbows. Step your feet back and bend your knees as you lower your chest and torso level with the earth. Keep the knees bent as you inhale, lengthen your spine back through your tailbone. Exhale, draw your belly button toward your backbone, creating a slight concave belly. Find length in the side body, a gentle stretch in the shoulders. Keep the knees bent as you hone in on the beautiful length of the spine that can be experienced in this supportive Dog pose. If you are able to keep the neutrality of your spine, you may choose to begin, on each exhale, to draw the inner knees / inner thighs back as you straighten your knees. Keep the tops of the thighs moving back, length to the spine, space between the torso and hips. Breathe in your expression of the pose. To come out, bend your knees, gaze forward, and step one foot at a time toward your chair to stand up. You may also practice at the wall with arms extended, palms flat on the wall shoulder wide apart.

 

19.VirabhadrasanaIII_Chair

Virabhadrasana III at the chair begins in Adho Mukha Svanasana as above. It is absolutely okay to practice this posture with the standing knee bent. Most important is the alignment and protection of the neutral spine in this pose. With the belly lifted toward the spine to protect the low back, inhale to extend the left leg straight up and back. It does not have to come level with the floor (as shown); if your foot hovers a few feet off the floor that is great. More important than how high the leg floats up is the action of the hips: draw the inner left thigh up toward the ceiling so the flexed toes point down ot the earth. You can move dynamically here, inhaling to lift and exhaling to lower the leg. Notice the alignment of the hips; move slowly and mindfully with breath.

If you are feeling very strong and balanced here, you may choose to inhale, lift the leg and exhale hold the lift, extending out through the heel and out through the arms, belly lifted and strong. Notice hip alignment, keeping the hips level with the floor. Exhale lower the foot and repeat on the opposite side.

Uttanasana at Wall (forward fold, not pictured) begins standing with the hips resting at the wall, feet hip wide apart. Inhale, extend up through he crown of the head, engage the quads and draw your inner thighs back. Exhale, navel to spine as you hinge forward from the hips, lowering your torso between your thighs. You may bend your knees or keep them straight, making sure to keep the belly lifted to protect the back. Place your hands on a block or catch your elbows. Allow the head to hang. Shake your head side to side; nod your head; draw your chin toward your chest; release. Breathe deeply into the entire back body, finding length and release. Be sure to have the knees bent if you are feeling a stretch in the base of the pelvis (sits bones area) or in the knee joints; finding the stretch in the belly of the muscles. Inhale, draw the belly strongly toward the spine, hands come to the hips, lengthen through the crown of the head as you come halfway up. Exhale re-activate the belly, inhale rise all the way up so your back is against the wall.

Find your way onto the floor for supported Supta Baddha Konasana (supine bound angle). Draw the bottoms of both feet together and place a block beneath each knee. Lay back onto the floor, tucking the shoulders under to lift and broaden the chest. Enjoy this posture for ten full breaths. To come out, use the hands to pull your knees together. Transition to Savasana.

 

20.Savasana_Bolster_Knees

Settle into Savasana Variation with the legs elevated on a stack of blocks and a rolled up blanket to nourish the low back. Roll the shoulders back and down, lifting the chest gently. Lengthen the back of the neck. Settle in. Make any modifications so that you can surrender completely here. Soften all muscles, all thoughts, even the breath. Watch the activity of the mind, the breath, as an observer, for at least ten minutes as you fully integrate all the benefits from your practice.

 


 

Enjoy your yoga journey! Our bodies have so much to teach us. Be patient, soften, persist, and practice. Let your body be your guide.

The highest potential in me honors the highest potential in you.
Namaste.


Here are some useful resources for more work with the hips & lower extremities:

  • from Wikipedia

    For some quick relief from knee pain (and a slightly different approach to the Iliotibial Stretch that we have in the above vinyasa), you may consider trying a foam roller on your IT band.  Here is a link to a video by Dr. Peggy Malone that explains how to roll your IT band.  Note that strengthening the hips and glutes will help the root cause of IT band tightness, so keep doing your clamshells and mermaid flips!

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the hip anatomy by reading this article by Julie Gudmestad, a Physical Therapist in Portland, OR (she currently sees patients and treats them all exclusively with yoga!), called Hip to be Square.
  • It is important to understand the anatomy of the knee joint if you are practicing Virasana, so please take a moment to read Keep the Knees Healthy by Roger Cole, PhD.
  • For those of us who spend time at a desk or seated, take 20 minutes to integrate this sweet, gentle chair yoga sequence into your seated time!  You can pick bits and pieces and practice whenever you think to.

Back Care Vinyasa II: Upper Back, Neck & Shoulder Love

3 Sep

This Vinyasa is dedicated to Nathan Malcomb (the photographer’s boots are in the picture below ~ his healing journey inspired many of the postures included here), and also in gratitude and dedication to all my beloved teachers, past, present and future.  Namaste.


 

1V1.Supported_FishBegin in Supta Matsyasana on a rolled up blanket or mat: hips on the floor with your spine and back of your head resting on support. Knees bent (or if comfortable, legs out straight). Enjoy at least ten slow, deep breaths, gradually lengthening the duration of the inhale and exhale. You may choose to place your hands on your ribcage to help guide breath into the space of the circumference of your ribs.

 

Note: the next three asanas can be done seated, standing at the wall, or supine

1V2.Angel_Arms

With knees bent, practice dynamic Snow Angels on a rolled up mat / blanket: palms face the sky, inhale arms out to sides, then overhead, thumbs almost touching. Exhale stretch arms out to the sides and down next to hips. Keep the elbows straight, extending through the fingertips, hovering the backs of the hands just an inch off the floor. Keep the low back long, gently pressing the small of your back toward the floor and depressing shoulders away from your ears.

 

1V3_Nerve_Glide

For Owl~Eyes Nerve Glides begin with arms out to sides, pointing your fingers toward your head, palms facing out (1). Bend your elbows so your fingers point toward your ears (2). This may be a deep stretch for you; if so, continue inhaling fingers toward ears and exhaling arms out to sides.

When you can do (1) and (2) without feeling tingling in your arms or hands, you may progress to (3), pointing your fingers down toward your shoulders as you draw your elbows up. Once this feels accessible without discomfort, progress to (4), lifting your elbows up further: this is akin to the “Owl Eyes” you may be familiar with from childhood. Feel free to create circles with your fingers and Hoot if it makes you smile

 

1V4.Nerve_Glides_Waitress_style

Keeping shoulders lowered away from the ears & back of your neck long, bend the elbows and flip palms facing overhead. Inhale, then exhale to extend the arms out to the sides until you feel a gentle sensation in your arms. Inhale, draw hands in toward your shoulders. Continue dynamic Serving Tray Nerve Glide for up to ten breaths.

 

1V5.Extension_on_Rolled_Mat

Be mindful of the alignment of the neck: not looking down or up, simply straight forward at the sky. Feel the back of the head sink subtly into the rolled up mat. Feet are hip wide apart; press into your heels and allow knees to rest together or hip wide apart. Keep the shoulders depressed away from the ears, gently flattening your low back toward your rolled up blanket or mat.

Practice Shoulder Extension dynamically first, flipping your palms to face each other at your sides, inhale arms up so fingers touch the sky on the inhale and lowering the arms over your head toward the earth on the exhale. Inhale up again so fingers touch the sky, then lower back toward the hips on the exhale. Continue for ten rounds of breath.

Once that feels supple yet strong, you may progress to Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge ~ see Vinyasa I) moving your arms dynamically as you lift your hips up toward the sky. Arms lift as hips lift on the inhale; arms lower as hips lower on the exhale.

 

1V8.Supported_Matsyasana

From where you are, keep your neck relaxed as you lift your hips up. Scoot your palms and forearms toward your rolled up blanket / mat as much as you can without discomfort. Notice the broadening of your front chest, your collarbone area. Keep your low back neutral, drawing tailbone gently toward your heels. Enjoy five breaths here. This may be your edge (that’s great!) so enjoy Modified Matsyasana as you breathe into any space where you feel tension.

If it is appropriate for your neck and shoulders, progress to Matsyasana (Fish): keeping your neck relaxed, roll your shoulders down away from your ears and press your elbows and palms firmly into the earth. From the strength of your arms pressing into the earth, draw your heart up toward the sun, shoulders back and down to lift the chest. The elbows bend slightly, the crown of the head is resting on your support, but not holding the weight (arms support this position). Keep the low back from arching; find the extension in your upper back.

To come out of the pose, lengthen the back of the neck (draw your chin toward your chest) at the same time as you straighten the elbows, gently lowering yourself back onto support.

 

1V8.Prone_Tadasana

For Prone Tadasana, roll to your belly, resting your forehead on a blanket or the floor. Tuck your toes under, draw your inner thighs toward the sky; lift your kneecaps; root your pubic bone down. Place your palms under shoulders. Lift the shoulders back, away from the floor and ears. Stay here, continuing to rest the head on a blanket for ten breaths. If this feels simple, inhale to gently lift the face from the blanket without looking up or down, hovering your hose and chin just barely off the floor. Broadening the chest and back, take three breaths here, lowering on an exhale to return the forehead to the blanket.  Check out this video for some more in-depth instruction.

 

1V9.IYTs

I’s Y’s and T’s begin in the same orientation as above (remember the legs and pubic bone), with the forehead on a blanket or the floor. For Y’s Begin with arms at your sides, palms down. Keep your forehead resting on the blanket as you gain strength. Eventually, you may lift your forehead up to hover just a few centimeters above your blanket once you become stronger in this posture. Inhale, lift the palms and the shoulders up toward the sky. Exhale lower. Repeat for five rounds of breath.

Progress to T’s by bringing your arms out to airplane position, palms facing the floor. Keep elbows straight as you lift the palms up and shoulders up. Exhale lower. Repeat for 5 rounds of breath.

When you feel very strong with Y’s and T’s, progress to I’s (or Superman), with arms overhead, palms facing one another. Find starfish fingers as you extend out through your fingers and out through your heels. Plug the shoulders into their sockets. As you inhale, lengthen the arms (keeping shoulders plugged in) and lift the hands and shoulders up. Exhale lower. Whew! Repeat for 5 rounds of breath.

 

1V17.Bhaktasana_Side_Stretch

For Bhaktasana Variation (Devotional), begin on hands and knees. Sink your hips back and down toward your heels (if you have knee or hip pain, place a folded blanket behind your knees or in your hip crease). Inhale, reach your spine and side body long, walking your hands forward without lifting your hips. Exhale, walk your hands to the right. Enjoy the side stretch for five full breaths. Inhale, walk your hands to center. Re-lengthen your spine. Exhale, walk your hands to the left. Enjoy this side for five full breaths. Inhale to return to center.

 

1V15.Puppy_Pose

From hands and knees, shift your hips back a few inches (not all the way to your heels), and walk your hands forward to find Puppy Pose. Allow your heart to melt toward the earth with each exhale, feeling length in your shoulders and side body. Stay for five to ten breaths, melting deeper with each exhale. Note: If you are already very flexible in the shoulders (or tend to hyperextend), instead of melting with each exhale, press firmly into your hands and lift your inner elbows up toward the sky, rotating your shoulders to build strength rather than flexibility.

 

1V14.Adho_Mukha_Svanasana_strap

Beginning on hands and knees, place a strap on your forearms so that they are shoulder-wide apart. Palms spread wide, index fingers parallel. Inhale, tuck your toes under. Exhale, draw your navel toward your spine. On your next exhale, lift your hips up and back for Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) with strap. Allow your spine to lengthen (bend the knees if your spine rounds) and press your palms into the earth. Rotate your shoulders down and wrap them around your ribcage while keeping the strap taught. Exhale to lower your knees to the floor.  Click here for alternatives and more work in the pose.

 

1V16.Thread_NeedleThread the Needle begins with a neutral spine on hands and keens. Inhale the right arm out to the side, palm facing down. Exhale, thread the right arm through, just behind the left arm. This is a twist, so allow your left elbow to bend as you continue to reach the right arm across. Inhale to come up, reaching the right arm out to the side again. Repeat on the left side. After about 5 rounds on each side, building strength first, you may choose to find depth in the pose by threading the needle until you can rest the back of your right arm, shoulder, and temple on the earth. You may move your left hand a few inches away from your body. Press your left hand into the earth to help spiral the spine, heart opening toward your left forearm, keeping the hips square so that you feel the twist in your upper back (not lumbar). You may choose to stay for five breaths.

 

1V12.Yoga_Jet_Pack

Begin seated in the center of a chair or standing for Yoga Jet Pack. Place the center of a strap behind the base of your neck, draw the strap forward around the shoulders, then back and across the upper back. Take hold of the ends of the strap. Inhale, lift the chest, exhale pull the ends of the strap forward to strap yourself into the jet pack! You may choose to clasp the belt and wear the strap while you are performing an activity to increase your awareness of your posture. Enjoy five breaths here, then release yourself from the strap.

 

1V19-21.Neck_Shld_Variations

Practice this Shoulder, Neck & Forearm Warming Cycle seated or standing. Inhale, roll your shoulders up; exhale shoulders back and down to pocket the blades. You can repeat this as many times as you like for tension release and to help find a relaxed seat for your shoulders.

Next, inhale with your chin level with the floor, exhale to draw your chin straight back. You may choose to use one hand to gently guide your head. Eventually progress to hands and knees (drawing the back of the head up toward the sky against gravity).

Finally, use your breath and awareness to explore the wrist stretches shown on the bottom row.

 

1V13.Gomukasana

You may sit, stand, or sit on your heels (pictured) for Gomukasana (cow face) Arms. Take your strap in the right hand. Inhale, lift the right arm straight up overhead. Externally rotate the arm. Exhale, bend at the elbow (right hand comes to shoulder). You may use your left hand to gently guide the right forearm to roll in. Inhale, reach your left arm out to the side, palm facing back. Exhale, bend your left elbow, reaching your arm across your back comfortably. Find the strap, clasping it with your left hand. Inhale, lift the heart and the chin level with the floor. Exhale, roll the shoulders back and down. Enjoy five breaths here, softening the shoulders with each exhale. Inhale to gently slide your left hand down the strap, releasing the strap and extending your arms out to T. Exhale, release your arms to your sides. Repeat on the other side.

 

1V20.Namaskar_Stretch

Place your hands in prayer position. Slowly, keeping the heels of the hands touching, lower your hands to find a gentle Namascar Wrist Stretch. Inhale, lift the hands up to heart center. Repeat dynamically with your breath five to ten times.

 

1V22.Robins_Breath

Practice Robin’s Breath seated or standing. Inhale hands to Namascar. Exhale, point your fingers away from heart center, pressing your palms together. Extend your arms straight ahead. Inhale, spread the arms wide apart like you are spreading your wings, lifting your chest up toward the sky (lifting your gaze is optional if appropriate for your neck). Exhale, draw the chin to chest, tucking the tail under, rounding the spine as you return your palms together in front of you. Inhale, draw the hands in to heart center, finding a neutral spine. Repeat for five rounds of Robin’s Breath.   You may choose to hold any expression of this flow for a few breaths, perhaps exploring the openness of the chest or the roundness of the spine. Do what feels great for your body.

 

1V11.Garudasana_Arms

Inhale your arms out to T.  Exhale, hug yourself, wrapping your left arm over your right (1).  Walk your fingers toward your shoulder blades, massaging your back here as you breathe.  Inhale to draw the backs of your arms together (2).  You can stay here, working in the pose.  Inhale to lift the elbows up; exhale drawing the shoulders down and back.  If it is accessible to you, you may choose to draw your left thumb toward your nose, then wrap your arms further so your palms touch.  Breathe deeply into the space between the shoulders for Garudasana (Eagle), keeping your chin lifted, gazing softly through your arms.  Enjoy up to ten breaths here, being gentle with your shoulders.  Exhale, slowly unwrap your arms and reach out to T.  On the next exhale, relax your arms to the sides.  Repeat with the right arm on top.

 

1V23.Cervical_BackBend

Interlace the fingers at the base of the skull, thumbs pointing down your neck toward your shoulders. Inhale, reach tall through your crown. Exhale, draw your elbows forward. Inhale, lift your elbows up toward the sky as your gaze follows, finding a very gentle supported Cervical Spine Upper Backbend. Keep the low back from arching by lengthening your tailbone down, finding a lift to the back of the heart. Exhale, then inhale, using your arms to return your gaze forward.

 

1V23.Strap_Neck_Release

Upper Trap Release with strap begins seated on one end of your strap. Bring the strap up your back and over one shoulder. Holding onto the strap inhale, then exhale pulling gently. Keep a steady gentle pull as you exhale, lowering the opposite ear toward the shoulder. Breathe fully here to release the muscles of the upper shoulders. Inhale to return to center. Exhale, gaze over the opposite shoulder, lowering your chin toward your shoulder. Breathe here. Inhale lift the gaze and return to face forward. Repeat each on the opposite side.  Special thanks to the amazing Emily M-P at CorePhysio in Fairhaven for this gem!

 

1V25.Baradvajasana1

Baradvajasana on Chair (Sage Twist) emphasizes the twist while keeping hips level: Inhale the right arm out to the side, thumb pointing down(similar to Gomukasana). Exhale, bend the right elbow and walk the arm across your back. If you reach, gently clasp your left forearm. If not, you may loop a strap around your left forearm and hold onto the strap. Inhale, lengthen up through the crown of your head. Exhale, twist from the belly button toward the right. Inhale staying in the twist, lifting through your crown. Exhale, finding more depth. Perhaps the left hand reaches toward the right hip. Continue working to lengthen the spine on the in-breath, and deepening the twist on the exhale. Keep the hips squared forward and the gaze in line with the sternum. After five to ten rounds of breath, inhale to unwind and face forward. Release the arms. Repeat on the other side.

 

V28.Standing_Twist

Come to standing next to the wall so it is next to your left hip.  Find Tadasana.  Inhale, lift your left knee so that it is level with your hip (avoid lifting the hip as the knee comes up).  Exhale navel to spine as you place your right hand on your left thigh or knee.  Inhale lift the heart.  Keeping both hip points forward, exhale to twist your belly button toward the wall (left) to find a Standing Wall Twist.  Inhale here to re-lift the spine and check in with the alignment of the hips.  Exhale, find a deeper twist.  Continue working in this way, slowly spider-walking your fingers along the wall to gently increase the twist.  Keep your gaze in the same direction as your sternum.  To come out, inhale face forward; exhale lower the left foot to the floor.  Switch directions and repeat, lifting the right knee and twisting right.

 

1V23.Wall_Cactus

Lean against the wall as though you are sitting in a chair. Inhale, find Cactus Arms, palms facing away from the wall. It is okay if your arms hover away from the wall. Keep the shoulders seated as you inhale, draw the hands overhead. Exhale through cactus arms, drawing the elbows into your sides. Repeat for five breaths, inhaling arms overhead and exhaling to lower.

 

1V27.Wall_Arms

Posture Practice at Wall / Utkatasana at Wall begins the same as above. Notice if your chin or shoulders come forward of the wall. Plug your shoulders back to touch the wall and see if you can touch the back of your head to the wall, keeping your chin level with the floor. This may be a sufficient practice to work with for awhile. As you progress, inhale to lift your arms parallel with the floor, palms facing each other. Plug your shoulders into the wall on the exhale. Magnetize your pinkies toward one another to externally rotate the shoulders. Inhale, lifting your arms up a few inches. See that your back hasn’t arched away from the wall. Working with breath, gradually inhale to lift your arms higher (pause on the exhale), keeping the back body in contact with the wall. Exhale to release the arms down to the sides.

 

1V30.Bent_Knee_Savasana

Savasana Variation with the legs elevated on a chair or knees bent if you wish to nourish the low back. Otherwise, you may choose to extend the legs fully onto the floor. Settle in. Make any modifications so that you can surrender completely here. Soften all muscles, all thoughts, even the breath. Watch the activity of the mind, the breath, as an observer, for at least ten minutes as you fully integrate all the benefits from your practice.

 


Enjoy your yoga journey! Our bodies have so much to teach us. Be patient, soften, persist, and practice. Let your body be your guide.

The highest potential in me honors the highest potential in you.
Namaste.


Here are some useful resources for more work with the neck, shoulders, and thoracic spine:

Global Yoga Study ~ Takes 15 minutes

27 Jun

Participate in a Global Yoga Research Study

If you are at least 18 years old and regularly participate in yoga, you are invited to complete a 15-20 minute online survey conducted by the University of Queensland to help researchers understand your motives and involvement in yoga as well as your opinions on yoga’s benefits and what influence yoga has on your life.

The results will help researchers better understand the growing importance of yoga and its potential for fostering healthy lifestyles.

The study contact is Ian Patterson, PhD.

 Read more and complete the study by clicking here!

It took me about 15 minutes to complete the study.

Reflections on an Academic Year: Surrender & Trust

10 Jun

Rialto_Natarajasana

“You need to be able to dive into your own heart and find that place of deep, deep nourishment inside.  And then you get happy for no reason.  Sometimes you think there is a reason, but there is no reason.  It is your natural state!”
~ Swami Shambhavananda 

Deep breath … I have made it through my first year back to school!  And now it’s summer ~ gratefully, a time for really diving deeper into my yoga practice, friendships, gardening, and adventure!  Although school certainly allowed for constant opportunities to practice yoga: to surrender, to find balance between effort and ease, and in letting go of the type of student I used to be.  I discovered that I was very attached to being a straight-A rockstar student, and that attachment really caused me a lot of suffering as I navigated through these new math and science courses that provided tremendous challenge for my more artsy, creative brain.  My undergraduate degree in Creative Writing came so easily; my 4.0 GPA felt effortless back then, and I was expecting that returning to school this time around, with 6 years of post-graduate Life Experience & Wisdom behind me, would be a breeze.  It wasn’t!  But in this challenge, I experienced so much growth!  I learned that I am capable of more than I ever thought possible, that I really do have a choice in how I respond to the myriad stresses and demands of academia.  It is not my favorite culture, but I learned that a sense of centeredness (my meditation practice and how its effects seep into daily life) makes anything possible.

It turned out that the college experience is really the ultimate teacher for me at present.  Not necessarily the topics that I am learning, but the way I choose to spend my time and find balance in my life.  My former self would spend hours studying until my brain felt swollen and my eyes were sore ~ all in pursuit of the grade.  I am learning that it is not worth it ~ in fact, all those hours of pouring over my books is actually counter-productive; that a sense of balance and happiness, connection with friends and family is more important than being a top-ranking student.  In my heart of hearts, I do not believe the current educational system (huge lecture classes, not enough time to develop connections with professors or peers, a competitive atmosphere) is as good as it could be ~ I believe that there are better ways to train our minds ~ but it did me no good to agonize over it.  Once I made that mental switch, I was able to really focus on balancing work and play, and to deeply surrender to and trust the experience.  Magically, though I wasn’t studying as much, my brain seemed to work more efficiently, my mind was clearer, and I was happier ~ not only that, but when I stopped worrying so much about doing well, even my grades improved!  These are the boons of finding a deep sense of balance.

I was fortunate to have been hired as a yoga instructor at Western for the past 3 quarters (my class schedule does not allow for me to continue teaching in the fall), and what an incredible growing experience that was.  Teaching a class of 30 students in 40 minutes was certainly an invitation for me to become more concise and efficient with my cueing and instruction, and also to really trust that students were going to honor their own limitations and not injure themselves!  I learned that I have a hard time with that ~ I like to be very protective of my students and make sure they are not compromising their physical bodies during asana practice.  But in a short time with so many students, I can’t possibly get around to everyone in every pose to make physical adjustments and individualized corrections, so this too took a great deal of surrender and trust.  Additionally, I was so inspired by how much my students really loved meditation and mindfulness practices.  They recognized that yoga offers the ultimate antidote to the huge amount of stress and pressure they are exposed to as students.  I am so grateful to be in a position to be able to offer these life-changing teachings.

Michael_Jess

Me and Michael, meeting to organize an event called Prostrations for Peace

I remember my first yoga class, back at Columbia College with Michael McColly.  He was teaching a Freelance Applications of Fiction Writing course, and I (like many American college students) was struggling with an anxiety disorder and depression, being medicated, and told by my doctors that I would be taking pharmaceuticals to help deal with my issues for the rest of my life.  Michael started our first class by asking us to push all the desks to the perimeter of the room.  He had us gather on the floor on hands and knees (in our skinny jeans and Doc Marten bots because we were all trendy art students) and breathe through some yoga postures.  After just 10 minutes of breath and asana, I felt better than after I took a Xanax, and that was the catalyst that set me on my path of yoga.

Now it feels like full circle, offering this practice that has totally transformed my life to college students ~ many of whom are in the same boat that I was at that time of my life.  It is such a gift to be in the position to offer this practice.  I am so grateful.

And I am also very humbled, because this quarter ~ this school year ~ showed me more than ever that I still have so much to learn and gain from yoga.  This practice is not something you master; it is ever-growing, ever-expanding, and there is always more depth to find.

I am filled with so much gratitude.  For all my teachers, past, present and future.

ॐ Om shanti shanti shanti.

Yoga for Low Back Pain

30 Mar

Do you suffer from low back pain?  Sciatica?  Scoliosis?  Ever wish there was a way to get one of those juicy adjustments your yoga instructor offers in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) at home?  Even if you don’t have pain, a supported AMS with spinal traction is a great way to end (or start!) the day, when gravity has been pulling down on your body and compressing the intervertebral discs.  I like this yoga video by Physical Therapist & Yoga Therapist, Rachel Kretzman of Embody Physical Therapy.  All you need is a few yoga straps strapped together, a door that closes and latches, and a yoga block.

 

Another variation of this helpful, soothing pose that only takes one yoga strap is to loop the strap around a door knob and practice there (a bit more challenging because you don’t have a door to rest your heels against).  Note: you do not have to twist the strap as shown in the below video.  If you do not twist the strap, you may choose to add a towel or blanket in front of your upper thighs for comfort.

Remember to breathe deep, and I would advise that if you are in acute pain, only stay in the pose for 10-30 seconds, then gently release for 10-15 seconds, and find the traction again.

Aside from helping to strengthen the shoulders, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles, Adho Mukha Svanasana helps reduce anxiety and alleviates depression.  This is such a powerful posture for many reasons!

Happy practicing!

Restorative Yoga Study & Results

28 Nov

In my Biology course at Western Washington University, we were assigned a 2-hour service project of our choosing: we were to make a video documenting our service and at least 3 points of connection to topics we covered in class over the course of the quarter.  I was excited to integrate yoga into this project, and nearly as soon as I designed the study, a Free Restorative Yoga Workshop, I all 7 participants had signed up.  Please enjoy my final video or peruse the details of the study below.

As a service project in my Biology course at Western Washington University, I chose to offer a Free Restorative Yoga Workshop to my community. Within the workshop, I conducted a simple physiology study measuring the effects of Restorative Yoga on Stress. Here are the results.

More at https://yogascent.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/restorative-yoga-study-results/

Hypothesis

“If you practice Restorative Yoga (passive yoga with an emphasis on breathing and meditation), stress will decrease, pain will decrease, pulse will decrease and oxygen saturation will increase.”

Methods

RESTORATIVE YOGA
Restorative Yoga is a gentle and passive practice designed to promote healing on deep emotional and physical levels. Taught with an emphasis on breathing, meditation, and with precise attention to body alignment in the carefully-planned and sequenced postures, this practice is accessible to nearly anyone.

MEASUREMENTS
I used a questionnaire for participants to rate their pain and stress levels on a 0-10 scale before and after the workshop.  I also used a pulse oximeter to measure blood oxygen saturation and heart rate.

Results

The graph below shows oxygen levels at the start of the workshop (the 0 hour), halfway through the workshop (the 1 hour) and at the end of the workshop (the 2 hour).  6 participants’ oxygen saturation levels did not support my hypothesis: instead of increasing, as I was predicting because of the emphasis on slow, deep breathing, their levels decreased during the workshop and then increased again once they sat upright at the end and I took the readings one last time.  One possible confound for my study of oxygen saturation: it is possible that participants got so relaxed that they forgot to engage in the deep, diaphragmatic breathing.

o2sat

Heart rate results supported my hypothesis: rates declined to their lowest level at the middle of the study, then increased again but not to the level of the start.

HeartRate

Here is a graph of the average level of pain and stress for all participants for before and after the workshop.  Both stress and pain decreased significantly from the start to the end of the workshop.

StressPainThis final graph outlines the average percent change from the start to the end of class.  Oxygen Saturation showed a zero percent change.  Heart rate decreased 19%.  Pain decreased 32%.  Stress decreased 63%.

% Change

Discussion

My results showing that yoga is correlated to a reduction in pain are supported by studies measuring yoga’s impact on issues from fibromyalgia to chronic low back pain. One of the participants in this study reported to me that she walked in with a migraine, and it was nearly gone by the end of the workshop.

Yoga is becoming widely known in the medical community as an antidote to stress, and the results of my study reflect this finding.  For these reasons, yoga is being used increasingly in clinical settings for anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

Restorative yoga appears to be correlated with a reduced heart rate, which may be why we see the reduction in stress and pain: the parasympathetic nervous system is activated through deep, slow, controlled breathing, causing the stress hormone cortisol to lower and the relaxation response to activate. This can be an empowering realization for an individual who deals with stress and learns tools for helping to control this response.

I hypothesized that a yoga class with emphasis on deep breathing would increase blood oxygen saturation–especially given what we learned in class about slow oxidative and fast glycolygic muscle fibers. In this case, the intensity of exercise was quite low, so participants were obtaining energy in the form of ATP by way of Oxidative Phosphorylation–the slow oxidative process. However, deep breathing does not appear to impact oxygen saturation in this case. There is a possible confound in my study: Perhaps participants were so relaxed that they stopped deep breathing altogether.

Beyond this Study

Yoga as a life strategy has been around for over 5000 years.  The practices of yoga have been perfected, replicated, and repeated uncountable times since then.  In the most ancient texts, before our time of mathematics and measurements, there were accurate recordings of things like the speed of light by ancient yogis.  One could think of yoga as the greatest body of empirical evidence in the world, due to so many trails over such a vast period of time.  Western science is now investigating yogic principles, and many of these teachings are being supported by scientific studies.  It is my goal to help further this work.

I personally resonated with the idea of the Scientific Method as Life Strategy because it encourages curiosity, awareness, and mindfulness–as does yoga.  Through observation, a clearer and clearer picture of life emerges.

For example, in science, as we learn that eutrophication destroys the very life systems that sustain us–by polluting our water, killing our fish and creating huge dead zones on our oceans–we can use these facts to inform our decisions about things like whether to use synthetic fertilizer or compost in our gardens.  We can come to a way of seeing the world that is most true, and then derive action from that vision.

What yoga offers beyond the purely objective realm of science is something that I think can help us to navigate through the biggest crisis of our time: Climate Change.   Science shows us that we must act now.

“If we start this year–2013–and if we achieve a 6% global reduction in carbon emissions this year and every subsequent year, and if we begin a massive global reforestation and soil sequestration campaign, we can keep the temperature rise on Earth below 2 degrees centigrade. If we wait until 2020, it’s 15% reduction a year. If we wait until 2030, we have run out of time.” -James Hanson, NASA Climate Scientist

Like Kathleen Dean-Moore said in her Vanishing Ice Talk (and in the incredible book, On Moral Ground), Climate Change is a moral dilemma.  And I’m posing that Yoga offers us a system combining the scientific approach with mindfulness and a framework for action: a way to navigate that dilemma, and create a world that is supportive of life’s systems.

Yoga teaches us that our inner reality becomes manifest in our lives, and that our outer world is reflected within.  This suggests that as we purify our outer worlds, we will enjoy reduced rates of stress, cancer, hypertension, even diabetes.  And as we purify our thoughts, emotions, and actions, our outer world will become more beautiful, diverse, and life-sustaining.  We live in a time of transition, and the gifts of yoga coupled with science provide us with the tools we need to shape the future of our species and the planet.

Thank you and Namaste.

MountBakerSunSalutation

There are a thousand ways
to kneel and kiss the earth.

~Rumi

__________________________________________

Sources

Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  “Natural Patterns of Sleep.” http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/what/sleep-patterns-rem-nrem accessed 11/25/13.

Raub, James A. “Psychophysiologic Effects of Hatha Yoga on Musculoskeletal and Cardiopulmonary Function: A Literature Review” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. December 2002, 8(6): 797-812.

Satyapriya, Maharana, et. al. “Effect off integrated yoga on stress and heart rate variability in pregnant women.”  Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics.  2009 March; 104(3): 218-22.

Sovik, Rolf.  “The Science of Breathing – The Yogic View.”  Progress in Brain Research.  1999; Vol 122: 491-505.

Wren, Anava A., et al. “Yoga for Persistent Pain: New Findings and Directions for an Ancient Practice.”  Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain.  2011 March; 152(3): 447-80.

“Restorative Yoga My Way” Photo on MeghanTelpner.com

“Yogi Seal” Photo from http://www.harappa.com/indus/33.html

“Eutrophication” Image from http://www.pewtrusts.org

I got my classes!

25 Jul

.. ALL of them!

Miraculously, and uncharacteristically for a post-baccalaureate transfer student (who is the last of the entire school to be allowed to register for courses), I got ALL of the classes I needed!

But let’s back up first …

Back in early 2013, I applied to Western Washington University’s Pre-Physical Therapy program in their kinesiology department.  I was told that it was highly unlikely that I would be accepted due to most of their fall science/movement courses already being full, particularly in Kinesiology.  For me, going to Western opens more doors than going to a community college like Skagit Valley College (though it is ranked #2 in the nation for community colleges): My target schools–Duke, University of Washington, Columbia University and University of Colorado–view credits from a university far more favorably than those from a community college.  When I checked with Duke, they said that it was unlikely that they would consider community college applicant due to their already highly competitive pool.  So at that juncture, when I head the news, I figured I’d try for Western and if I didn’t get in, I’d go to Skagit and settle for going to lower-tier schools with less going on in the field of research (It’s my dream to do research on yoga from a PT standpoint, and combine the two modalities for holistic healing).

Admitted

Accepted!

I was just getting settled into the idea that I’d be going to a community college, then to a smaller, private PT school when I ended my morning run this spring at the mailbox and pulled out an envelope from Western.  It was more exciting than my first time as an undergrad … I had, in fact, been accepted to Western’s competitive Pre-PT program as a post-baccalaureate!

But if we back up even further, we come to math.  Oh, math … part of a reason I went to an arts school was so that I could avoid taking any more math.  And this goes back even to High School, when I opted out of precalculus and took an AP Art course instead.  Then at Columbia, the only math course I took was called “Math for Survival,” which is self-explanatory (though quite fun!).  And since then, I haven’t missed math one ounce.  But as I started looking into physical therapy schools, I realized that there’s quite a bit more math that I need, so I decided to change my approach.  I decided to learn to like math, maybe even LOVE it.  And to do that, studied for the GRE (which was also, eventually, required for me to get into PT schools).

So back in September of 2012, I fell off the face of all my social networking platforms and delved into the study of math.  I studied every day for eight weeks, and then I studied even more.  I was basically teaching myself the math skills that I … never had.  At one point I even hired a tutor to help me learn (re-learn?  If so, I don’t remember learning in the first place!) how to simplify square roots and factor algebraic equations.  Boy those guys are expensive if you’re not a student!  GRE test day came, and I scored okay on the math section, good enough to apply to PT schools with, which was worlds better than I would have had I not studied so diligently.  I had intentions to continue familiarizing myself with math, but as the months ticked on, my GRE math study book collected dust.

These past few months have been crazily busy (in all the best ways), and, despite my best intentions, I only cracked that math book open one time before my math placement test, which I was required to take before I was permitted to register for courses at Western.

A lot hinged on this test.  I needed science classes that required math prereqs.  In fact, nearly all my classes required at least Algebra & Precalc.  It had been TWELVE YEARS since my last math class (no wonder I didn’t remember what an explanation mark meant in the math world!).  If I didn’t test into Precalc, I would not be able to register for my needed classes.  If I couldn’t register for my needed classes, I wouldn’t be a fulltime student.  If I wasn’t a fulltime student, my financial aid would not process.  At that point, I would be jobless and financial-aid-less, which would not be a good combination.

So, this morning, I arrived at Western’s Science Math & Technology building, and took the test, at 7:45 am.  I guessed on the answers I didn’t know.  Then I painstakingly waited the rest of the day, through how-to-register sessions and advising sessions.  I kept checking my student account to see if my math scores processed yet, to no avail.

Class registration started for us post-bac transfer students at 3:20 pm sharp.  Our accounts were universally locked until that moment of truth.  We met in a computer lab with an advisor and a student assistant who walked us through the process, offering tips and strategies for how to register quickest.  Still, no sign of my math test score.  I wrote down my ideal schedule, then wrote down backup classes and re-affirmed that if I hadn’t passed that test, there was no reason for me to be attending school that fall.  Time seemed to go in reverse.

Then finally, at 2:30 pm, less than an hour before I was slated to register, my math scores posted.  And … I had scored AWESOMELY WELL!  I could register for whatever classes I needed.  Whew!  I could barely believe it was true.  I just stared at the screen for a minute.  Then I flagged down our student assistant to make sure it was true.  She smiled at me and said that yes, I could register for whatever classes I needed.  What a huge relief.

But it wasn’t a complete relief: I still had to get a seat in the four classes I needed to fill my schedule so I would be considered a fulltime student.  Most classes had 1-4 seats open.  There were probably over three hundred people at Registration, and I sat in a room with twenty other Pre-Medical students who all had their mouses strategically hovering over the “Register” button.  Nearly all of us needed to get into the same classes.  I had my ideal schedule (class codes) written out in my notebook beside me.  The clock ticked on.  The girl next to me said, “I feel like we’re in a game show or something, about to win a million dollars or something…”  I literally had butterflies, so I took some deep yoga breaths and told myself that what is meant to be will be.

3:20 struck!  At the moment of truth, I speed-typed my class codes in.  Biology … click … “this class is full.”  Precalc … click … “this class is full.”  Statistics … “this class is full.”  Psychology … “this class is full.”  Grunts, gasps, and sighs from my registration-mates.  The girls next to me exclaimed, “Oh my god what am I going to do?  None of my classes are open!”

Strangely, I did not panic.  I consulted my list of all possible biology classes and began punching in numbers in random lab/lecture combinations.  “Class is full.”  “Class is full,” then magically, one of the lectures let me in.  One of the labs let me in.  On to Precalc, my second priority.  After a few tries, one of the courses let me in, and amazingly, it did not conflict with my bio/lab schedule.  I punched in Psychology, and BAM!  I’m in.  Miraculously, all these classes worked into the same schedule.  Stats was still full, but I had registered for 14 credits and was only allowed 17 at this point, so I couldn’t have registered for stats anyway.  Suddenly, I was official!

Not only would I get financial aid, but I also got all the classes I possibly could have.  Stats would open again for me on August 26th, when I would be permitted to register for 18 credits (interesting rule).  I sat at my computer and stared at my listing of courses, feeling dazed.  Throughout the room, my pre-medical peers let out exasperated groans.  The student assistant asked one guy, “What can I do to make this right for you?” and was met with a cold, “Nothing.  I’m screwed.”

I can say that many of the other transfer students in that room walked away disappointed, with half-full schedules, or classes that they took not because they needed them for their major, but because they needed enough credits to be considered a fulltime student.

After I finalized my course registration, I left the room and could barely hold back tears.  There was so much at stake, and so much hinged on that day, and now it was over.  I felt silly for worrying so much about the math test, but also felt a sense that something greater than me was at work.  As the reality sinked in, I was overwhelmed by gratitude and a profound sense that I am walking my path, flowing right in line with what I’m meant to do.

Really, truly, this experience has reaffirmed for me that if you believe you can achieve something, and you work hard and surrender to the process, you can accomplish anything.

Do what you dream!

Do what you dream!

It is our responsibility to ourselves and to each other to chase our dreams.  Especially our most outrageous ones.

From math tests to lucky numbers, here I am, ready to embark on my journey to PT school.  I will excitedly keep you posted along the way.

Structural Medicine

23 May

I have had great fortune in being asked to ‘model’ for a local body worker’s Structural Medicine training.  This means I get treatments monthly for one year, and she takes measurements, photos, notes, etc., to study the structural and subtle changes that happen in my body over the course of my treatments.

My experience with the first treatment truly blew me away … SO much that I want to share this rather personal journey with my community, and also encourage each of you to schedule an appointment with Suzy Cornell!  She is amazing!

Contact:
Suzy Cornell
Skagit Valley Structural Medicine
SkagitValleyBodyFree.WordPress.com
206.669.0857

My first appointment happened last weekend.  I drove into Concrete on a iconic drizzly PNW morning and was greeted by a long driveway lined with old growth cedar and big leaf maple, ferns, and even medicinal mushrooms growing on old stumps.  This scenic and magical setting on the bank of Finney Creek really set a soothing stage for my first visit.

Suzy herself is a fantastic woman–energetic and compassionate, she is easy to talk to and immediately made me feel comfortable.  In her home, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Finney Creek, we sat at a table and went over some intake information & my medical history, and spoke about physical areas of concern.

In my body, I believe in part due to falling off horses numerous times in my youth and in part due to over-stretching the ligaments that support my sacroiliac joint in yoga, I have occasional sometimes acute hip and low back pain.  I have treated this pain with physical therapy, Reiki, and yoga, and I’ve found most recently that my yoga practice at Yoga Northwest under the guidance of very anatomically-aware and alignment-specific teachers has helped most with the pain.  However, in the past year, I feel like I’ve come to a bit of a wall and don’t feel like I am progressing.  My personal home yoga practice feels at best uninspired, bland.  I avoid many poses (specifically twists) that tend to inflame my hip problem.  I was ready for a new perspective.

I came to the right place at the right time.

Structural Medicine is a combination and integration of various forms of bodywork, developed by Donna Bagellis, a Physical Therapist here in Washington.  It’s a sort of tango between Hallerwork, Rolfing, PT, pilates, and yoga.  After an extensive series of tests on my range of motion (even down to my ribcage expansion in my breathing) and strength, I lay on a massage table and Suzy began doing some deep work on my fascia.  She mostly focused on the area of my torso: from my hips up to my collarbones and into my armpits.  She coached me to breathe deeply as she worked.  After awhile I switched and lay on my belly while she worked my back.

Below, I felt so inspired after my first treatment that I did an exercise that my writing professor and first yoga teacher, Michael McColly, introduced to me in a Creative Body class: Draw an outline of your body and then write words/draw pictures of sensations and messages from the body within and around that outline.

Structural-Medicine

Body work is powerful because of the subtleties that are physically entrapped in the physical body.  As muscles and fascia releases, so do emotions, sub-consciousness, things that were stuck or suppressed within the subtle and physical body.

“It’s all about inspiration,” Suzy said to me.  She had me take a deep in-breath, and let the out-breath come naturally.  I realized that it was hard for me to inhale and spread my middle ribs.  At first this shocked me.  As a yoga teacher, one would think I would have exceptional lung capacity.  I was shocked to find that I did have a deep, full low belly breath, but my middle and upper ribs were constricted.  Very constricted.

For so long I have been lengthening and deepening my exhale, and consciously keeping my inhale shorter because this longer-exhale helps to ease  and lessen anxiety (something I have struggled with).  However, I’d been so deeply focused on the exhale that my inhalations have become stifled.

Exhales, on an energetic level, correlate with giving, release, offering.    I can see this tendency in myself: teaching more, giving more time away to others, working more, trying harder, doing more …

Inhale invites creativity, helps us take in pleasures, brings in energy, nourishes the body: intake, receive, take in, accept, indulge, welcome, invite, inspire:  and this is where I need to focus.  I’m real good at exhaling.  My in-breath needs some work.

As in everything, there must be balance.  Even to the breath.  In the past, my pendulum had swung too far toward the inhale.  Now it is too far toward the exhale.  With this mindfulness practice, I hope to still the pendulum in the middle of a balanced breath.

Throughout the session, I felt like I was being freed!  With this work, I will become balanced, whole: able to let go yet maintain boundaries.  Fully myself.  Giving, gifting, offering, and receiving, accepting, taking in: the dance of balance.

There is such beauty in balance!

I love working with the subtle body by way of the physical body.  It is in bodywork that we can truly realize that there is no separation between body, mind and spirit.  Like in yoga, what manifests in the physical body is an expression of the subtle body, the emotional body the spiritual body.

On a physical level, at the end of the treatment, Suzy took the same measurements as the start and we noticed these differences:

  • My left hip (previously lower) became level with my right hip
  • My left hip was less anteriorly rotated, more balanced with my right
  • My right shoulder range of motion was greater by twenty or so drgrees
  • I could breathe more fully into my mid-chest, around the area of my xyphoid process (base of sternum)
  • My IT bands weren’t nearly as tight (amazing to me, since she hadn’t touched my legs at all, instead focusing on releasing fascia in my torso)

My shoulders and neck felt completely different than they had pre-treatment.  My walking felt more free, my chest more open.  It struck me to realize how stuck we can feel without even knowing it.

A lot of this Structural Medicine work deals with Fascia, the connective tissue which holds the organs, tissues, and structures of the body in place.  I have much still to learn about fascia, and will continue to update my blog as I gain more resources to share.

~*~

I continue to receive insights as the days pass … the day after my bodywork session, I went on a run.  I felt like I had a new body!  I felt free and moved more easily.  My joints felt more open, my legs felt springy.

DSC_0006

In my yoga class at Yoga Northwest, again I felt like I was in a completely new body.  Like a beginner to yoga, I felt sensations for the first time.  I stretched differently, felt openness in new places, breathed differently, went deeper in some poses and not so deep in others.

I feel more creative, like new ideas flow easily, like my future plans are unfolding more clearly.  Clarity, yes!

It is all so very inspiring.

I truly believe, after just one treatment, that this type of bodywork is one of the the best things we can do for our yoga practice.  It opens places we can’t quite open on our own.  It gives us feedback to have hands-on contact.  It slows us down.  It helps us recognize that we are a part of a greater community. it teaches us how to receive.

I can not wait until my next treatment.  I’ll write about it in the next installment of “Bodywork.”  In the meantime, give Suzy a call and get yourself out there!  It will be worth your while.

Contact:
Suzy Cornell
Ultimate Physiques
rosesque at hotmail dot com
206.669.0857

Pre-PT School: Here I Come!

15 Apr

Jessie-AcceptedIt’s official!

I am officially accepted to Western Washington University’s Pre-Medical Professional Postbaccalauriate Degree Program.  In Bellingham starting this September, I will take my needed prerequisites to apply for PT school.

It is my intention to go to PT school and integrate physical therapy with yoga and hippotherapy (horseback therapies) in an outdoor setting.

This is my first step in making my dreams come true!

How exciting!

Stay tuned to my posts tagged Physical Therapy for updates on this journey.

Yoga Inspiration

9 Apr

Yoga News & Inspiration from Jessie!

1 a : a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
1 b : the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
1 c : the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

2: the act of drawing in; specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs

Image

Julie Gudmestad, PT

I just returned from a trip to Portland to Julie Gudmestad’s Yoga & Physical Therapy studio.  I encourage everyone interested to check out her collection of articles written for Yoga Journal on Anatomy of Asana (asana means yoga posture).

Julie is hosting a 5-day intensive Anatomy of Asana clinic at her studio in Portland this coming August 5-9, 2013.  I hope to attend, and invite you to join me!  Check out the details here.

WISDOM FROM THICH NHAT HANH

“There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse.  The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important.  Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, ‘Where are you going?’ and the first man replies, ‘I don’t know!  Ask the horse!’  This is also our story.  We are riding a horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop.  The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless.  We are always running, and it has become a habit.  We struggle all the time even during our sleep.  We are at war within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others.  We have to learn the art of stopping–stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us.  When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace.  We turn on the TV and then we turn it off.  We pick up a book and then we put it down.  How can we stop this state of agitation?  How can we stop our fear, dispair, anger, and craving?  We can stop by practicing mindful breathing, mindful talking, mindful smiling, and deep looking in order to understand.  When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understnading, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

ImageTry this Book!

If you are interested in the nature of the mind, how to separate from the incessant chitta vrttis (mental chatter) and cultivate a deep and lasting sense of peacefulness and clarity, definitely read this book!

The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer is a straightforward, easy-to-understand, practical and accessible approach to yoga philosophy and practice that anyone, from the most devout religious to the agnostic–will benefit from reading.

This is the type of book that I know I’ll be reading again and again throughout my lifetime, and will give as a gift to many.