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Posted on April 7th, 2009

Yoga and Finding Expansion

The function of our hatha yoga practice is to generate physical expansion and to facilitate circulation of positive energy with the end result being balance. This physical balance is then meant to deliver support for the mind and soul to experience balance and harmony as well. All too often, the Ego sneaks in during our Hatha yoga class and the intention of expansion becomes diluted with goals leading to postures that are driving damage and strain into tissues. By taking time before our practice to center and to experience the sensation of holistic, non-judging expansion, we offer our practice a foundation to grow from.

This centering exercise can be done any time of the day and even beneficial when you need a break from working at a desk/computer:
*Come to comfortable sitting on a cushion or chair. Modify the legs so that your knees and ankles are very free to settle and release. Gently shift through your pelvis and clearly feel the rocking motion on the sitbones. Slowly decrease this motion until you find the center of the sit bones. The pelvis sets the framework for the rest of the spine and posture.

*With your pelvis balanced, notice how the belly and lower back retain equal expansion. The belly is long, but the lower back is not caved in nor belly pushed out. The lower back has length as well, but not generating a forward collapse into the organs. Equal space for balanced flow of energy.

*The natural, healthy curve of the lower (lumbar) spine now can be easily transmitted up into the remaining spinal curves. At this point, many people tend to drive muscular tension into the body to generate a lifting motion. To stay free, imagine your sit bones lightly sinking into the cushion/chart. This light anchoring or rooting allows the body to traction open next. Keeping the front bottom ribs slightly contained, visual 2 points: on the chest and directly behind on the upper back. Feel that these 2 points rise up at the same time without any tension or muscular contraction involved. With each additional lift through gravity, we reciprocate with tissue release and softness. Feel as though the mid section of the body spreads vertically - keep your sit bone anchors intact.

*Now transmit this lightness further up threw the top of the head. Play with the head position. Make subtle shifts back, forward, side to side until you find that the back of your neck is no longer required to hold up the weight of the skull. *With this tension-free vertical expansion in place, we keep breathing deep into the belly and bottom ribs. We explore how the vertical openness can be expressed in other directions.

*Fully relax the shoulders and arms. Elongate the neck and the upper shoulder muscles. Invite in horizontal expansion - feel that you can open the chest and collar bones while also opening the upper back - lower ribs still contained and lower torso balanced. Your body now opening right and left. Every adjustment feeling minute in motion, but profound in effect.

*The horizontal space can easily be brought into the forehead, especially between the eyebrows. Dissolve the vast number of muscles in the face: in and around the eyes, soften the cheeks and lips, relax the tongue, and become free all through the jaw and into the throat.

With all these expanding adjustments, the nervous system becomes more and more receptive to balance. When you find yourself sitting and collapsing, mind cluttering with negative energy, stop and find your physical space and bring this into the mind. Take the extra few minutes before each Yoga class to center and observe your capacity to expand without effort. Then invite this effortless quality into every pose. We often believe that we have to 'push' the body in order to progress. This Ego driven intention gets us nowhere.

Consider running - you can easily see the difference between an experienced, high performance runner who moves with control, fluidity, and expansion versus another that runs with compression, tension and struggle.

Who is receiving the benefits more readily? Observe your yoga practice - from beginning to end - does each pose regardless if it is a forward bend, back arch, side stretch etc, bring the quality of space? Does your posture facilitate wellness beyond the physical?

In order to bring forth balance and openness, we need to expand equally in all directions. If only one part of the body expands, another may be closing to compensate. Enjoy feeding reciprocating lines of gentle pulling into the physical tissues and feel the grace of space cascade throughout the rest of the practice and living. Notice how every yoga posture can integrate the qualities of your initial centering.

Breathe and Expand

Namaste,
Kreg Weiss


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Posted on April 5th, 2009

Yoga at Work: Restore Gluteal Strength

My Yoga Online has posted a new Yoga Anatomy article by Dr. Carla Cupido, Restore Activity to Gluteal Muscles.

This new wellness article offers insight into the unwanted development of inhibited or weak gluteal muscles that can lead to lower cross syndrome and other postural problems. Also learn a series of tips on waking up the gluteal muscles to bring balance back into the body.

Most of us sit on our backsides all day long. This often contributes to lower cross syndrome. This condition involves the combination of tight hip flexor and erector back muscles with weak or inhibited abdominal and buttocks muscles. The specific buttocks muscle affected in lower cross syndrome is the gluteus maximus, the largest and most superficial gluteal muscle. The main action of this muscle is hip extension and is therefore active in the majority of our movements.

Click Here to learn some easy exercises that can be done at home or at the office to both rouse and strengthen your gluteus maximus muscles.

Learn More about Dr. Carla Cupido.


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Posted on April 2nd, 2009

Is Your Yoga Hygienic

Plantar warts and athlete's foot are not desired benefits of doing Yoga.

However, there is a steady increase in the occurance of skin infections and conditions related to communal use of Yoga mats. Even though there are no direct studies linking Yoga to increased skin infections, there is a common element of Yoga studio participation and these increased infections.

Yoga mats are a breeding ground for viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Yoga participants walking around the room pick up and spread infectious agents on mats. The mats become moist and warm, and then rolled up, acting as a perfect environment for growth. With teachers becoming more creative with Yoga flows, where one has stepped multiple times with the feet easily becomes a place for the face and other skin contact points to rest as well.  

Keep your practice clean:

*Be aware of your personal hygiene and address any skin conditions. Respect your yoga neighbors and do your part to reduce the spread of infectious agents.

*Clean any communal Yoga mats prior to using them. If possible, use your own mat and also make a point to clean after each use.

*Wear your socks to your mat. Walking barefoot around a studio and then jumping on a 'clean' mat can still spread germs.

*Ask your studio owners what type of Yoga spray they are providing. Is it natural antibacterial product and in a concentration strong enough to kill germs?

Reusing yoga rags over and over to clean mats can do more harm than good. How often are rags changed? Most antibacterial sprays need to be in high concentration and left to sit for an extended period to truly be effective. Again, best to use your own mat and clean it properly at home after every use.

We enjoy sharing our energy and experience with others in our yoga class, but we do not need to share everything. Keep your mat clean and engage your studio owners to insure that they are taking measures to keep your skin and the rest of your body healthy.  

Related Articles:
Yoga and Your Immune System: Should I practice when I am sick?    Building Your Immune System


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Posted on April 1st, 2009

Hinging at the Kidneys Yoga Class Tip

My Yoga Online has posted a new Yoga workshop video with Jesse Enright, Hinging at the Kidneys.

This Yoga Tips looks that the important aspects of retaining safety in your Yoga flows when bringing motion into the lower spine.

Without proper alignment, the mid-lower back (where the kidneys are located and the mid spine meets the lower or lumbar spine), the vertebrae and discs can easily become compressed when we move without awareness. In this mini workshop we learn key points in maintaining the health and integrity of this important area of the body.

CLICK HERE to enjoy a sample of this yoga video.

Jesse Enright has been a student of Yoga for eleven years and an instructor for the past nine. He began his studies with Sivananda Yoga before exploring the more dynamic Ashtanga Vinyasa, the detailed alignment of Iyengar and the comprehensive intelligence of Vijnana Yoga.  

Other Yoga Video Workshops by Jesse Enright:
Preventing Shoulder Impingement in Yoga

Knee Torsion in Yoga

Wrist Safety in Yoga


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Posted on March 31st, 2009

American Yogis Teach Entrepreneurial Spirit to Poorest Women in India

My Yoga Online has posted a feature article by Kino MacGregor.

This article provides an inspirational view of Yoga Gives Back, an organization that has been supporting female entrepreneurs in developing countries like India.

Enjoy this wonderful article offering insight into how one's Yoga practice can spread benefits across the globe.

Imagine if all you needed to lift your family out of generations of poverty was two hundred dollars. You would undoubtedly have the resources and connections to secure such a modest sum between your family, friends, credit cards, bank or government assistance. But imagine if you lived in a place where not only was money not readily available but the fact of your female gender prevented you from having access to the means of acquiring a source of revenue?

Welcome to India's rural villages and meet Jayashree. She is a young, beautiful seamstress and mother of two who made just 75 dollars a month working at a garment factory to add to her husband's meager income earned by driving a rented an auto rickshaw (taxi). She dreamed of buying her husband's rickshaw so their family could earn more money but had nowhere to turn to for the meager sum of 7,000 rupees or about 175 dollars. Not only does Jayashree not have the education most Americans take for granted, but she also does not have the opportunities that are a vital component of earning a reasonable income. In India it seems like all Americans are rich because the money spent on groceries or on a month's yoga classes has the potential to change the life of someone like Jayashree. The Americans most familiar with India are often the spiritual seekers who journey across land and sea to meet yoga teachers, learn meditation techniques and study ancient sacred texts.

 

Yet for the cost of one month's membership to the average yoga center in America a woman's entire family could be altered forever. Kayoko Mitsumatsu, an avid yoga practitioner who lives in California and studies with Joel Bender, thought she could make that difference in people's lives with the creation of Yoga Gives Back. Rather than just giving money to provide shoes, food or resources Mitsumatsu initiated this charity endeavor after interviewing Dr. Muhammad Yunus for a TV documentary about the power of micro-financing for poor women.

Dr. Yunus is a Bangladeshi economist who won the Nobel Peace Price in 2006 for developing a micro-credit program through the Grameen Foundation in Bangladesh that enabled millions of mostly women to buy everything from cows to cellphones in order to earn money for their families. Yoga Gives Back works with the Grameen Foundation in India to provide particularly destitute families in Mysore and Bangalore with the same micro-financing that has succeeded in lifting families out of poverty in Bangladesh. Mitsumatsu and Bender aim to reach the more than 15 million people (a majority of which are women) in the U.S. who practice yoga and support rural families in India.

One of the reasons Yoga Gives Back focuses its efforts in the Mysore-Bangalore region of South India is because many American yoga students journey to Mysore to study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the 94 year old master of the tradition. It was after a three month visit to Mysore to study yoga that Bender himself made the personal commitment to find a way to give back to the local community and upon his return partnered with Mitsumatsu to create Yoga Gives Back. At least half the yoga practitioners in Mysore are Americans and nearly half of the world's poorest people call India their home. While the Western world lives in relative abundance and benefits from India's yoga legacy nearly one in four of India's 1.1 billion people live below the poverty threshold of less than 40 cents a day. The Western world values equality of opportunity and rewards the entrepreneurial spirit in the meritocracy of capitalist enterprise and it repays another kind of debt when yoga practitioners from the U.S. teach the most needy in India how to run their own businesses with the power of micro-credit.

 

Yoga Gives Back

 

The cycle of poverty in India is a vicious cycle that traps generations upon generations into an indentured servitude to a series of creditors, lenders and lessors who control the resources and money available. When a poor family falls behind and their children are forced out of school and into work they dig themselves deeper into the repetitive and prohibitive system of entrenched poverty, virtually ensuring that the next generation will be as poor if not more than the previous one. Empowering women to find a way out of this trap opens a door to the real possibility of their happiness and self-sufficiency. Jayashree seemed destined to perpetuate the cycle of poverty in her life until she applied for loan of 7,000 rupees or the equivalent of about 175 dollars from the Grameen Foundation and Yoga Gives Back. With the money she bought her husband's auto rickshaw. Whereas he previously paid rent for use of the vehicle his profit was marginal at best, but as an owner the income tripled. In one year the loan was fully repaid and Jayashree applied for a second loan to buy a sewing machine so she could sew bags and other small items to sell. Her goal is to own a garment shop and send her sons to college and with the help of the Grameen Foundation and Yoga Gives Back that she finally had someone to turn to for the help, direction and guidance she needed in order to make her dreams an attainable reality. Mitsumatsu says, "Most women only went to primary school, had to work as daily labor to help family as young child, and got married young. Like their mothers, they never had an opportunity to improve their economical situation until they had access to micro credit."

The old axiom that says that you cannot feed the world but if you teach a person how to fish or make bread they can feed themselves for a lifetime is at work in Yoga Gives Back. More than a charity, the work is a kind of education in business for rural women with an entrepreneurial spirit. They are rewarded for their hard work, given a chance to succeed without the pressure of the unfairly high interest rates of local lenders and find a way to break the relentless cycle of poverty they were born into. Most Yoga Gives Back loans average about 25 dollars a month and with this micro-credit loan rural, poor women start their own small business, buy their husband's businesses or invest in their already existing businesses and double or triple their income almost immediately.

Mitsumatsu states, "Many women used to worry about having enough food for the family, or sending children to schools. But with this micro credit, their life become much more sustainable."

Yoga helps Westerners find peace and thus make their lives more sustainable. With the power of micro-financing Yoga Gives Back helps Indian women gain access to opportunities that would otherwise simply not exist.  

To read more inspirational stories about female entrepreneurs that Yoga Gives Back has helped or to contribute, please visit their website at www.yogagivesback.org  

About Kino MacGregor
Kino MacGregor is a small business owner (www.miamilifecenter.com), yoga teacher and freelance journalist who has produced two yoga DVDs and is currently working on her first book, Inner Peace, Irresistible Beauty to be released late April 2009.

For complete details please see www.ashtanga-awareness.com.


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Posted on March 27th, 2009

New Meditation Video and Download on My Yoga Online

My Yoga Online has posted a new online Meditation video and download by Bernie Clark, Meditation on Emotions.

In this mindfulness session you will learn how to watch the rising and falling away of emotions, feelings, and thoughts that lead to these states of mind and heart. The practice is one of allowing all states to arise and leave, without getting caught up in them, pushing them away or reacting to them.

CLICK HERE to sample this new meditation video.

Bernie Clark has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1998. He has a bachelors degree in science from the University of Waterloo and combines his intense interest in yoga with an understanding of the scientific approach to investigating the nature of things. His ongoing studies have taken him deeply inside mythology, comparative religions, and psychology. All of these avenues of exploration have clarified his under-standing of the ancient Eastern practices of yoga and meditation.  

Other Meditation Downloads available:
Meditation on Thoughts by Bernie Clark
Yoga Nidra
by Daniel Mirecki


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Posted on March 26th, 2009

Being Mindful with Consumption for a Greener Planet

My Yoga Online has posted a new Green Living article by Michael Bloch presenting statistics on consumption habits.

Part of our practice of being mindful can be transmitted into the simple action of consumption. This informative set of statistics brings to light how Western society has generated a severe imbalance in global energy and product consumption that is directly impacting social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Sometimes it can be difficult to relay to people just how much we consume; particularly those of us in developed countries. While purchasing green this and eco-friendly that are all well and good; one of the root causes of our environmental problems is hyperconsumption. We simply buy too much of what we do not need and often even what we do not really want.

CLICK HERE  to read this article and the fast facts on consumption relating to various goods, services and resources we use.  

Related Articles:
Paper Conservation

Water Consumption


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Posted on March 24th, 2009

Best Antioxidants For Your Hard Earned Dollar

My Yoga Online has posted a new nutrition article by Karla Heintz, Best Antioxidants For Your Hard Earned Dollar.

Karla offers some easy and unexpected methods of boosting your antioxidant intake while living on a tight financial budget. This nutrition article also provides a great list of common foods that provide high levels of disease-fighting antioxidants.

With the economy in the position it is in right now, it sometimes is challenging to purchase the best food items in the local grocery store as the cost can be overwhelming. One great way to keep your family healthy is keeping your kitchens stocked with "better" antioxidant choices that will protect ourselves from aging faster than what we should.

CLICK HERE to read full article.  

Related Articles:
Top Must-Have Foods to Heal, Balance, and Nourish

The Importance of Antioxidant Vitamins to Your Brain


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Posted on March 23rd, 2009

Balance and Intentional Flow in Yoga

I was recently reviewing some Yoga anatomy material by David Keil and was reintroduced to a wonder concept of creating balanced energy and flow in your yoga practice.

David presented the common bandha applications of mula and uddiyana in a more generalized concept throughout the entire body. As a reminder, mula means to root and uddiyana means to flow or rise upwards.

In our yoga practice, we strive to generate expansion and balance. By looking at your practice in terms of creating both a state of mula and uddiyana, we can establish a constant intention towards balance.

We can see how this is applicable with various points in the body. Let's take the foot, for example. In any standing yoga pose, we wish to ground or root (mula) through the toe mounds and heel. This earthy support allows us to draw energy from ground while bringing stability into the physical and mental state of the pose. In an opposing intention, we also wish to engage the medial (inner) arch of the foot. This mimics the intention of uddiyana-bringing a lifting energy from the base of the body up through the crown of the head. Hence, grounding flow downwards into the earth is reciprocated with an uprising intention. With lines of opposing energies and intentions, a natural expansion forms in the body. This physical expansion then readily transmits back through the nervous system into our mental practice.

Consider this application in the hands in Downward Facing Dog pose. As we establish our hand and arm positions, we encourage a mindful and rooting expansion downwards through the index finger pads and thumb pads. This rooting mula effect balances force loads across the wrist and hand joints. We can also create a subtle lifting energy (uddiyani) into the center of the palm that generates a direct unloading of the carpal tunnel. With the hands now properly aligned and balanced, imagine how this intention of balanced mula and uddiyana can be carried further into the pose. The uddiyana flow in the center of the palm can be welcomed up the arms, into the spine, and right out through the sacrum and sit bones. In opposite direction, the crown of head flows with release and grounding heaviness (mula) with the application of the rooted index and thumb pads. With the head and pelvis traveling in opposite flow, the vertebrae are holistically opened giving life and vitality to the spinal column.

Whether you are standing, sitting, inverted, lying, or balancing, visualize how the intentions of mula and uddiyana can coexist to bring greater integrity and purpose to your yoga practice.  

Related Articles:
Subtle Rooting in Warrior Yoga poses
Asana Anatomy: Downward Facing Dog pose


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Posted on March 22nd, 2009

Shoppers Guide to Pesticides

Check out this great free download that you can conveniently take with you while shopping to help you avoid unwanted pesticides in your food.

Get the guide so when you are shopping you will know which produce to buy organic, and which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables are okay if organic is not available or if you are working through a tight budget.

 

 

Click Here for the download.  

Related Articles:
Green Super Foods

Green Eating Choices


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