Countering Cube Life: top yoga poses to open the hip flexors and relieve back pain

Countering Cube Life: top yoga poses to open the hip flexors and relieve back pain

Monday through Friday I work a typical 9-5 cube job, meaning, like so many people, a lot of my day is spent sitting. While I am lucky enough have a stand up desk which allows me to move up and down throughout the day (this is seriously the best invention) I still spend WAY more time sitting than I’d like to. One complaint I hear all the time from co-workers is how their bodies ache from sitting all day.

Sitting compresses our hip flexors, causes us to hunch our shoulders over our keyboards, and has been linked to a whole bevy of negative health impacts. Coined “the new smoking”, studies show that office workers may be sitting up to 75% of their waking day. Such a sedentary life is linked with increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In the body, sitting for such extended periods of time can also lead to joint stiffness, low back pain, and tight hips.

So, how to combat this?

  1. Get up and MOVE throughout your day. Take walks during your breaks, walk over to someone’s cube instead of sending them an email, look into if your company will support a sit/stand desk, or stand when appropriate during calls or meetings.
  2. Try my top yoga poses to counter cube life! These focus on getting mobility into the joints, opening up the hips, and creating movement and strength in the spine. I’ve also included a few poses to counter the keyboard hunch by opening up across the chest.
    • Forward Fold – Forward fold stretches the backside of the legs, the hamstrings down to the calves. This pose also helps to keep the spine strong and flexible. Remember to keep as much bend in the knees as you need, you want your focus to be on creating length through the spine. IMG_3002.jpg
    • Spinal Twists – Twisting poses help to maintain mobility and range of motion in the spine. If the natural motions of the spine are not used, the joints start to harden. Spinal twists can be taken reclined (laying on the ground), seated, or in an energizing pose such as chair or crescent lunge. For all twists, first create a long spine with each breath in, then find a deeper twist with each exhale.Processed with VSCO with e8 preset
    • Crescent Lunge – This pose is amazing for stretching the hip flexors. You can also add a gentle backbend to open up across the front of the body. Be careful to keep the front knee stacked over the front ankle and not to let it track any further towards your toes. Processed with VSCO with e8 preset
    • Three-legged dog – From downward facing down, lift your right heel high to the sky and then stack the right hip on top of the left. Continue to press down into your right palm to keep the chest square to the earth, and begin to draw circles in either direction with your knee. Repeat on the opposite site. This brings mobility into the hip joint. IMG_3011.jpg
    • Warrior 2 – This powerful pose will open up the chest, stretch the hips and inner thighs, and can help to relieve low back pain. Keep the heart lifted, extend long from fingertip to fingertip, and press down through both pinky toes.IMG_3006.jpg
    • Lizard Pose – Lizard pose is great for stretching out the hamstrings, groin, and hip flexors. This pose also opens up the hips and creates length in the spine. Let your hips be heavy towards the earth, keep the spine extended long, and let the head fall easily towards the mat – releasing any tension in the neck.IMG_3001.jpg
    • Yogi’s Squat – Malasana, or Yogi Squat, helps to open the hips and groin, stretches the ankles, and is keeps the hip joint healthy. This is one of my favorite preparatory poses for deeper hip openers. If your hips are feeling tight, place a block beneath your sit bones for more support.IMG_3004.jpg
    • Camel Pose – Camel pose aids in opening up across the chest; focus on the lift through the sternum in this pose, as if a string was gently tugging your heart upwards. This pose is also a deep stretch for the hip flexors, extending them long after a day of sitting in flexion.Processed with VSCO with e8 preset
    • Pigeon Pose – Pigeon pose can help ease low back pain, open the hip joint, and release stress or anxiety. This pose is advance and an intense stretch for the hip; you can always take this pose lying down: start with knees bent and both feet on the earth, then cross the left ankle over the right thigh and begin to draw the right knee towards your chest. Repeat on the opposite site.IMG_3009.jpg

 

Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga

Last weekend I took a Yin Yoga Teacher Training. I have so much to write about this this training and my experience with it, but wanted to dive in on some Yin Yoga 101 first. So much of this was new knowledge to me and has provided new depth to my yoga practice, that I wanted to share it with you!

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Yin is the counterpart to a “Yang” yoga practice. Yang yoga is your more common hatha or vinyasa style, characterized by movement, change, and heat, focused on uncovering or bringing things to light. Yang is male, active, and positive in nature. Yin is slow, unmoving, cool, and focused on the hidden aspects. Yin is female, passive, and negative in nature. They are the balance to each other’s halves, in opposition to each other. Yin and Yang are in a constant, shifting relationship with each other.

Within the body, there are more Yin and more Yang organs and functions. Yin, the feminine, is associated with the inner body (organs), below the waist, the fluids of the body, and such organs as the liver, spleen and kidney. Yang, the masculine, is associated with the outer body (skin), above the waist, the qi, and such organs as the gall bladder, stomach, and bladder. Yin yoga poses stimulate pairs of Yin and Yang organs through opening of the energy meridians, allowing chi to flow.

Closely linked with Chinese medicine, Yin yoga works with the Meridian Theory. Meridians are tunnels throughout the physical body through which the body’s subtle energy, or chi, travels. There are 14 main meridians, 12 of which correspond to the Yin and Yang organs in the body. Half of these meridians end in the feet (Yin) and half in the hands (Yang). Yin postures focus on restoring healthy chi to these pathways. Chi nourishes the body, providing balance to the body and the mind. Chi can become blocked or stagnant when it is not able to flow through the tunnels in a smooth pattern. Chi can also be deficit when there is a lack of energy. Healthy chi brings strength, mobility, and balance to the body. Yin yoga, breath work, and acupuncture are all ways to help restore chi in the body.

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Meridians of the body. picture via: acupresence.co/

In her book, Insight Yoga, Sarah Powers details three tenets of yin yoga:

  1. Come into the shape of the posture to an appropriate edge. You want to move slowly and carefully into the posture, with intention and purpose, and search for the point where there is enough intensity to the pose, without being overwhelming. Remember that you are looking to encourage chi flow.
  2. Soften into the posture. Allow gravity to work its magic. While holding the postures you want to release any tension in your muscles, this allows the chi to move into the joints instead of the muscles.
  3. Hold the postures for long enough to fully nourish the meridians. 5 minutes is an average for a yin class, however this can be adjusted depending on the posture and the student. Holding a pose for this amount of time can feel uncomfortable at times – that is all part of it. Note that uncomfort is different that pain; if you feel pain in a pose, back off or exit the posture. Uncomfort is the level where it is just enough to challenge you a bit, in body and mind. Yin teaches us a willingness to experience this, to sit with it, and to observe our thoughts around it.

A yin yoga class is typically made up of a series of long hold, passive postures, taken on the mat, and held for an extended period of time. One distinction to make is the difference between a yin and a restorative class. While a restorative class is focused on relaxation, a yin class invites you to find the edge, to get a little uncomfortable.

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Yin has SO many benefits, both to our bodies and our mind. One key benefit of Yin yoga is improved joint health. Through habitual, repeated actions or postures, the connective tissue in our joints gets bound together, creating adhesions. Yin helps to break up these adhesions, releasing the fascia. The mild stress placed on the joints during a yin pose also helps to improve joint mobility. Joint health overall is improved as the connective tissues around the joint are able to gently stretch, squeeze, compress, etc. in the postures. Because we typically engage our muscles during daily actions, we are not able to get into the deeper layers. Yin yoga also offers us a change to slow down. The pace of a Yin class is slow, thoughtful, and with pause. As you hold the postures for extended periods of time, there is the space to practice patience, to be observers of our own bodies and mind – notice what thoughts arise, where does your mind go? When the pose becomes uncomfortable, when you find that edge, can you be non-reactive to those feelings? Can you find kindness towards your body? Yin is a quiet practice that gives us the space to turn inwards, to calm our minds, and to find stillness.

Lmk,

did you find this helpful?

any yin yogis out there? how has the practice influenced you?

xo

Current Crushes vol. 2

Current Crushes vol. 2

Current Crushes:

a few of my fav things I’ve been crushing on recently

hiking

Workouts: Aside from my yoga practice, I’ve been focusing on taking my workouts outside. As we move towards “winter” here in San Diego, we move into hiking season. It’s not nearly as warm as the summer and the breeze is slightly cool aka ideal hiking weather. Getting outside as much as possible has the double benefit of helping to reduce stress, while also not feeling like a workout at all. I’ve had the personal goal of trying to get more movement in each day, whether that’s a weekend hike or just a long stroll to get coffee. If I’m in a funk, feeling lazy, or need to get centered, a little dose of nature and fresh air always seems to help.

superwoman rxBooks: In the Superwoman Rx, Dr. Taz helps you identify your own “blueprint” to determine how to build a diet and fitness plan around that to optimize your health. You take a quiz to determine your Power Type: Gyspy Girl, Boss Lady, Savvy Chick, Earth Mama, or Nightingale. Each type has a plan tailored to their needs: including meditations, exercises, supplement, and general strategies. I really like that Dr. Taz pulls on her holistic health background to incorporate Chinese Medicine and ayurvedic systems of medicine in each plan. This book is an easy, fun read that gives lots of good tips to bring into your daily routine.

Podcasts: Lately I’ve been super into listening to podcasts. They make my commute to and from work go by so much faster and make the traffic slightly less aggravating. I also love listening to them when I’m at the gym or going for a walk. A few of my favorites from the past week:

  • TED Radio Hour: Manipulation – touches on just how much social media is influencing us and how memories can be swayed
  • The Skinny Confidential Him & Her with Lorna Jane Clarkson – Lorna is SUPER inspiring and gives lots of tips on living a healthy life.
  • The Balanced Blonde Soul on Fire with Kelsey Patel – I’ve heard amazing things about Kelsey from friends and this podcast did not disappoint. Jordan and Kelsey talk lots about reiki and transitional times.
  • Radically Love with Rosie Acosta featuring Ruby Fremon – Ruby shares her journey to becoming a transformational coach, including her own struggles and how she took power in her life through decisions.

Life: Turkey Day – This year I am celebrating Thanksgiving in a non-traditional, yet very traditional way? There will be no big feast with turkey and stuffing, but instead lots of hiking and exploring at ZION NATIONAL PARK (all caps= my level of excitement). I love Thanksgiving as a time to be able to gather with family and share good food. My personal favorites are stuffing and mashed potatoes. But I am beyond excited to be spending this Thanksgiving exploring more of the natural beauty of our country, which I feel like is equally as fitting for celebrations. If you have any hike recommendations for Zion, send them my way please 🙂 Angels Landing, Weeping Rock, and Observation Point are all high on my list!

experience_angelslanding.jpgThings: If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I have a thing for phone cases and love getting new ones fairly frequently. I’ve tried to limit myself to at least 6 months between switching them up, but sometimes it’s hard to do that… like when you see the perfect COSMIC case from Sonix.

Other obsessions:

  • This faux cheese recipe from Lee from America using butternut squash.
  • This jacket from Zara that I can’t totally justify buying since “winter” in San Diego is 65 degrees.
  • This DIY terranium table that I wish I was handy enough to make.
  • This helpful guide for what to feed and not feed your pup this Thanksgiving.
  • A cute AF planner to keep you organized.

 

Gratitude

Gratitude

With Thanksgiving coming up fast & feeling the holiday spirit, it seemed timely to reflect on gratitude.

“[through] acknowledging abundance (aparigraha) we recognize the blessings in everything and gain insights into the purpose for our wordly existence,”

– translation of the Yoga Sutra by Nischala Joy Devi

Aparigraha is normally interpreted as “non-attachment” or “non-greed”, taking no more than we need and not being possessive over what we have. I love this interpretation because it brings the focus to recognition of the positive, instead of negating what may be there (non-attachment, non-greed, non-possessive). Generally speaking, I find it much more effective to focus on what you can become versus what you should not be — by focusing on gratitude for all that you have, by default you will be less focused on greed for what you do not have.

Gratitude fosters more love in your life and less stress. It is show to improve both your physical and psychological health. Gratitude increases optimism, spirituality, self-esteem, and energy. It makes us happier. A few guiding principles in cultivating gratitude:

Acknowledge abundance

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Life moves quickly and gets busy. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day, to be constantly moving from one thing to the next, on the treadmill of life. Take a moment to p a u s e. To sit for a moment and reflect on all of the good in your life. This could be from as big of things as having a supportive family or close friend network to as small as the sun was shining. There is room for gratitude everywhere in your life. Seek it out and when you find it, acknowledge it. Reflect back on it.

See the good in all lessons

This can be a hard one. Life isn’t always peachy. Sometimes it straight up sucks – breakups, bad bosses, sickness, loss of a loved one – this list goes on. Life has its ups and its downs, but the opportunity for gratitude is always there. When everything is going wonderfully, gratitude is easy. Embrace it. Enjoy it. But what about when life isn’t so grand? Try to take a step back from the situation – imagine how this might play out in your bigger story. What will you learn from it? How will you grow through this? How might this change your path for the better? Even when it is hard to see the good, trust that there is a lesson there, that there is a reason behind everything.

Contentment in the present

It is easy (I find myself doing it frequently) to compare ourselves to others. To look at someone else’s life and wish that we had their job, money, family, closet, lifestyle, etc. etc. First, remember comparison is the thief of joy. Second, instead of looking at what you do not have, focus on what you do. Let go of your notions of what you wish you had, the “if only I had X I would be happy,”  –  be happy with what you have and where you are now in your life. This is not to say don’t strive to reach your goals, but rather to give thanks and find contentment where you are presently.

Radiate and reflect

Through expressing gratitude, opening up to it in our daily lives, we reflect this out into the universe. You are magnifying the joy and gratitude around you, sending it out into the universe – it will come back to you. The more you acknowledge it, the more it appears back to you. While gratitude should be given without expectation, it is my firm belief that by sharing this love, the love comes back to you. Karma and all 😉

A couple of quick ways to manifest gratitude in your life:

  • Daily Gratitude Journal – this could be an actual journal or use the “Notes” app in your phone. Each morning write down one thing you are grateful for.
  • Gratitude to Others – Write letter / email / text to those in your life, telling them why you are grateful for them.
  • Self Gratitude – Tell yourself how grateful you are for you being the rad human that you are.  This can be in your head, to your reflection in the mirror, out loud – whatever you feel most comfortable doing. Tell yourself one thing about you that you are grateful for.

I’ll leave you with one more quote:

“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life and you’ll find that you have more of it.”

-Ralph Marston

 

Yoga as a lifestyle, not a workout

A co-worker asked me the other day what I do to workout and it took me a few seconds of staring blankly & scanning my brain (What do I do?! Do I even workout?!)

I eventually came to and responded “Yoga mostly, and some cardio here and there when I’m craving it.” For someone who typically gets on my mat 5+ times a week, you wouldn’t think this would be something I’d have to think about. But yoga to me isn’t a workout, at least not in the traditional sense.

When I think of “working out” I think of treadmills and elliptical, ab circuits, and squats. I think of sweating away until you hit some numeric goal – miles, calories, reps, etc. Yoga is anything but that for me, its “me” time, it’s time to decompress, time to center myself before the day begins.

Yoga also stretches so much further beyond the four corners of my mat. Yoga weaves its way into every aspect of my life, every day. It impacts my relationships, my methods of communication, the lens through which I see the world, the foods I choose to eat, the products I choose to buy, and the path on which I try to set my life.

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The reason why I chose to name this blog and my instagram “Eat Flow Live” is because I want them to embodied yoga as more than just the poses (asanas). I want to have a platform that shares the practice, yes, but also the food, actions, and thoughts that round out the yogi lifestyle.

While I don’t technically consider yoga a “workout” (because it is so much more) – it is an incredible way to move your body and to become more in tune with what your body needs. The combination of these two of these has resulted in me being far happier with my body now than I ever was back in my gym-cardio crushing days.

Your yoga practice can absolutely be a workout.

Power and vinyasa style classes will challenge your muscles, balance, and cardiovascular systems. More restorative classes may not be as physically challenging, if that is what you are craving, but are wonderful for centering your mind and working out any kinks or soreness in your muscles.

Any style yoga class will help you tune into your body’s needs, and this, just as much as the workout, is crucial to being in shape, being healthy, and being happy with your body.

Yoga helps you to really listen to what your body is telling you. Ultimately, when you are able to intuitively feed your body what it needs —

  • a long walk or a power class?
  • a big bowl of veggies or a slice of pizza (dairy free chz plz)?
  • a nap or a hike with friends?

— you are able to get to a point of optimum health and functioning. This is where yoga (IMHO) far excels any diet or exercise program because you are doing what you need.

Listening intuitively to your body is obviously more complicated, but with time, the practice will get you there.

All that to say, I don’t do yoga to “workout”,

I do yoga because it is part of my life.

If I am craving a workout, my favorite ways to move my body are:

  • spin classes (the only cardio I really enjoy)
  • getting on the elliptical or stair stepper (while watching food network)
  • and barre class (pure barre is a fav)

Thoughts? What is your favorite way to workout?

Current Crushes

Current Crushes

Current Crushes — a few of my fav things I’ve been crushing on recently

Beauty: Naturaculina: While I’ve been lucky enough to never suffer from severe acne, my skin has always been prone to breakouts, especially when I’m stressed. Since I started teaching hot yoga, my breakouts got more frequent and my skin in general wasn’t as clear. I fell into a vicious cycle of breakouts & cover-ups: the more I breakout, the more I feel the need to wear makeup, the more makeup I wear, the more clogged my pores get, the more clogged my pores get, the more I breakout….etc. etc. on and on it goes. All that to say, I felt the need to change up my skin routine and was looking for something that would both clear my breakouts and better my skin.

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photo cred: naturaculina.com

Through the Southern Yogi (whose skin is always glowing) I found Naturaculina, an all natural skincare line. These products are AMAZING. All natural pure ingredients. No weird names that you can’t pronounce. Realness like jojoba oil, rosehip seed oil, tea tree oil, lavender, and manuka. I got the Botanical Skincare set which is created for acne prone skin but they also carry a moisturizing line for dry skin and an anti-aging line for all skin types. You can get the products in one offs or get the whole set. I opted for the set because having a skincare regimen is something I think is CRUCIAL. These products have seriously helped my skin so much already. Highly recommend!

Workouts: Aquavie: Aquavie may be the prettiest gym I’ve ever seen. I first heard about this place because on Saturday mornings they hold rooftop yoga classes, led by the wonderful Kendall Wood, another local San Diego yogi. To start from the top, Aquavie has a gorgeous rooftop pool, plenty of sun lounging chairs, a hot tub, some cardio machines in case you want a fresh air workout, and a jogging track that wraps around all of this. Go down a level and there are two beautiful yoga studio rooms and their cardio room filled with brand new machines, all equipped with personal TVs. I greatly appreciate this because I like to 1) catch up on instagram or 2) watch Food Network when I do cardio. If there aren’t classes going on, the studio rooms are open to practice which is such a perk.studio space at Aquavie

Beneath that, there’s the spa (services unfortunately not included, gotta draw the line somewhere), beautiful locker rooms, and a sauna if you want to get your steam on. The first floor has weights I believe although TBH I haven’t ventured there yet. Yoga is obviously a huge part of my fitness routine but I also really enjoy mixing in some cardio, get my heart pumping and all that good stuff.  If I’m going for cardio or looking for some rooftop yoga with views, Aquavie is the most aesthetically pleasing, beautifully equipped, spa-of-a-gym to get my sweat on.

Books: You Are a Badass: As one of my 26th year resolutions I wanted to read more books. I love a good book but its been something I have to remind myself to make space for otherwise I can go months without reading. I started off my 26th year cruising through 4 books, then fell off the wagon for the next 8 months. Yikes.

So with 2 months left, I have re-resolved (not a word, it’s fine) to get back on the wagon and read more. I started “You are a Badass: how to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life,” by Jen Sincero. I’m only a third of the way through but so far am lovingggg it. Easy, fun, empowering read. Jen writes in a light hearted way that keeps it from getting too heavy while she addresses some major things, like the universe and God. She provides clear guidance on how to start tapping into your greatness and create the life that your truly want instead of leading the same old boring one, or the Big Snooze as she calls it. Full review to come when I finish reading, but so far this one’s a winner!

Life: Trip Planning: If you follow my instagram you know I’ve been feeling the itch to travel and am soliciting all and any travel suggestions! I love exploring new places and feel like its been far too long since I went somewhere new. My ability to travel as much as I want is limited by two things: vacation and money. In true Type-A personality fashion, I created a spreadsheet for both to figure out how many days I’ll be accruing and how much money I’ll be able to save up for various trips.

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photo cred: www.prek4fun.com

Planning is KEY for traveling. The more you plan ahead of time, the more you are able to do and the less you have to worry about when you are actually traveling. On deck for the next couple of months: a trip to Seattle and Olympic National Park, a long weekend in Zion National Park, and a short trip to Joshua Tree. Big trips on deck for next year are a trip to London and Stockholm and maybe a trip to Bali.

 

Other obsessions:

Eight Limbs of Yoga: diving into the niyama, saucha

Eight Limbs of Yoga: diving into the niyama, saucha

I wrote a post a little while back about the eight limbs of yoga: the yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana. Eventually I will get around to writing more about these. Although at my current pace of blogging (slow), you may all need to show some real patience. Skipping over the first limb for now (I’ll circle back to these). I chose to focus first on the niyamas. The niyamas are observances of ourselves, tuning into how we relate to ourselves in order to live more skillfully.

The first niyama is saucha, or cleanliness. Saucha is a personal fav as I tend to be a person who craves cleanliness and order by nature. Whether I’m going to relax and watch a movie or need to focus on a specific task, I need my surroundings to be clean. Saucha includes the cleanliness of your mind, body, and environment.

Saucha of the environment, to me, is the most straightforward of the three. Cleanliness of environment applies to your home, your practice space, your work space, car, etc. Any place where you are spending time. Create order and cleanliness within your space. By creating a calm environment, you create a space where you are more able to focus your thoughts, to find a sense of peace. Saucha in your environment also reflects a respect for that space and creates an enjoyable environment. I like cleaning, (weird,I know) so creating saucha in my space is enjoyable for me. Last weekend I did a deep clean of the apartment to get everything sparkling. This weekend I am tackling buildup of sand and dirt that has collected in my car. Daily, I make a conscious effort to put things back where they belong, keep up with the dishes, and clean up after the kittens (toys everywhere). These are little things but they make a world of a difference in cultivating saucha in your environment.

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Saucha for your body is two-fold, general hygiene and diet. Obviously to keep your body clean you gotta shower (duh), especially after hot yoga classes. Hopefully we’ve got that step covered so take it one step further. Next time you shower, take a look at what products you’re using. What’s in your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, etc. etc.? How many unknown chemicals are in those products? Your skin is a living breathing surface, absorbing all those products. What’s in the products matters. This goes for makeup too. Some products are harder to find replacements for. I’m forever on a hunt for deodorant that works (sorry friends). An entire overhaul of all your products might seem like too much to take on at once, so take bite size chunks. I recently switched all my face care over to Naturculina, a California based company that uses all organic, natural ingredients. I know exactly what’s going on my skin. Moreover, this stuff works. More on that another time perhaps. Bottom line, be conscious of what you’re putting on your skin. Choose all natural products when you can.

Saucha of the body, part deux. Diet. To be as simple as I can here because I could write for days on this and I like to keep these posts a reasonable quick read: Eat clean, real food. Read your labels. If you don’t know what’s in it, probably not the best for your body. Some easy advice on diet comes from Michael Pollen (love him): “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” You are what you eat. Literally. It makes up your cells. So if you’re eating mostly processed, chemically laden foods versus local produce, imagine the impact on your body. No food is hard core off limits for me. I tend to avoid meat, dairy and gluten. I try to fill my diet with veggies, gf grains, fruits, beans, nuts, and occasionally fish. Also, water. DRINK it. This one is hard for me sometimes as I can easily go a day only having consumed coffee. I know; not good. La Croix is a life changer. Bubbly and delicious. I also make an effort to drink at least 3 water bottles at work plus an extra bottle if I take or teach yoga.

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And finally, saucha of the mind. Your thoughts matter too. Tune into your thoughts and your intentions. Saucha of the mind is a little more complex (IMHO) than the environment and body. To me, it is more about having clarity of thought, goodness of intention, and speaking truth. Saucha of the mind doesn’t mean that you have to only think pure thoughts or else you’re failing. It is about shifting those intentions and thoughts toward goodness and purity. Two ways I work on incorporating Saucha of the mind into my life include becoming more conscious of my thoughts towards myself (e.g. no more negative self-talk) and goodness of intention when relating to others, trying to think and act with their best in mind. Speaking truth is still a hard one for me as I tend to avoid the truth when I think it will lead to confrontation. We are all a work in progress 😉

Thoughts? Lmk.

Next up: santosha.

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Considered the father of modern yoga, Patanjali created the Yoga Sutras, a guidebook of sorts to help those on their path towards enlightenment. Sutras, or threads, provide a succinct, nugget of knowledge that provide insight into the core of yoga. This goes beyond the physical practice and includes as a way of being in the world. In the text, Patanjali outlines the Eight Limbs of Yoga, each a stepping-stone towards enlightenment. The eight limbs are:

8 limbs

  1. Yama – moral guide
  2. Niyama- personal observances
  3. Asana – physical postures
  4. Pranayama – breath
  5. Pratyahara – withdrawal of senses
  6. Dharana – concentration
  7. Dhyana – meditation
  8. Samadhi – bliss state

The first two stones, yama and niyama, are foundational to Patanjali’s eight-limb path. There are five yamas and five niyamas. The yamas can be thought of as “moral discipline”; they help to provide guidance in our actions and relationships with others and the world. The niyamas can be thought of as “observances” and are more inwardly focused on oneself.IMG_5782.JPG

In my teacher training, when we learned the yamas and niyamas we were challenged to choose one to focus on throughout the next week. I really enjoyed this exercise; it helped me to carry yoga off the mat and into my day-to-day life. Over the coming weeks, I am going to return to this exercise in order to dive deeper into the theory behind the practice. For each week, I’ll choose a yama or niyama to focus on, sharing here more detail on the yama or niyama, and how I brought it more into my life for that week.

Shoulder Speak: yoga poses to strengthen your shoulders

Shoulder Speak: yoga poses to strengthen your shoulders

Let’s talk shoulders.

Last weekend I took a workshop on shoulders, focusing on the anatomy, common misalignments, and ways to modify your practice to protect against injury. I found the workshop to be really helpful, both in my teaching and in my practice, so I thought I would share some of what I learned.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. This means that it has the greatest range of motion, but also the least stability. The less stabile, the more prone to injury, making it key to focus on alignment of the shoulder throughout your practice and to work on strengthening the muscles of the joint to help support it.

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Dolphin Pose – draw shoulders blade in & up to your tailbone!

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint (think golf ball on a tee), the head of the humerus rotates around on the glenoid fossa of the scapula. There are a ton of muscles working together to allow for such a range of mobility in the shoulder. Due to frequency of injury, the most commonly heard about is the rotator cuff, a group of four muscles that attached to the scapula and surround the joint. For scientific purposes, the official names of the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and the teres minor. Other major players in the joint are:

  • Deltoids: action to engage = raises your arms out in front of you
  • Rhomboids: action to engage = superman arms
  • Trapezius: action to engage = shoulder shrugs
  • Serratus anterior muscles: action to engage = plank pose

The rotator cuff and the serratus anterior are stabilizers of the shoulder joint. These muscles will help to you to find balance in inversions and protect against injury. In the effort to keep this as simple as possible, two key points to make here:

  1. CHATURUNGA ALIGNMENT: protect your rotator cuff people! When you move from high to low plank (chaturanga), your shoulders should never dip below your elbows. Keep the body in one straight line and lower just till the shoulders are in line with your elbows (or above). From there, push the earth away and pull the heart forward to upward facing dog. You can always, always, ALWAYS, place your knees to the earth for more support, or skip completely and flow to downward facing dog or take a cat/cow. This is SO important (if you can’t tell by all the bolding and capitalization) to protect your shoulder joint and prevent strain on the rotator cuff.
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Eka pada chaturunga – shoulders in line with elbows!
  1. ENGAGE THE SERRATUS ANTERIOR: Take a break from reading and try this one out for me: Get into a plank position (knee to the ground optional), let your chest sink between your shoulders, now actively press the ground away, chest rises between your shoulders, space is created between your shoulder blades. Do this 5-10 more times. Feel it?? That’s your serratus anterior. The muscle wrapping around your ribs is a major stabilizer, providing support to the scapula and preventing impingement or winging of the shoulder. Now that you know where it is, you’ll be able to more easily engage the muscle in your practice.

Let’s talk postures:

Shoulder strengtheners:

  • Downward facing dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Dolphin, Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
  • Handstand, Adho Mukha Vrksasana
  • Low plank, Chaturanga,
  • Cobra, Bhujangasana

Shoulder stretchers:

  • Puppy pose, Uttanashishuasana
  • Thread the needle
  • Cat pose
  • Cow face arms, Gomukhasana
  • Eagle arms, Garudansana
  • Reverse prayer arms

 

**Shoulder stretches have been so important for me in my practice. I have really tight shoulders, so in order to access certain poses (any flipped grip) I have to stretch my shoulders plenty in advance.

Intention Setting

Setting an Intention: 

In light of hosting #trueexpressions, a yoga challenge focused on pairing a mantra or intention with a pose (check it out! Instagram.com/eatflowlive), I thought I would write a little bit more about setting an intention for your practice, why I love intentions, and how to create your own. 

Intentions, or Sankalpa, help to guide your practice, or to set your mind on where you want your awareness to go. Intentions can be as a simple as a short phrase; they do not need to get complicated! I find that simplifying my intention to one to two phrases works best for me, even if the thought process behind the intention is more complex 😉 Play around with it, see what works for you.

At the beginning of your practice, come to your breath first. Once you feel connected to it, begin to turn inwards, what do you want to cultivate in your life? Is there a quote that has resonated with you lately? Is there a person you want to dedicate your practice to? Is there something specific you want to bring into your life? The intention can be whatever speaks to you; it is yours. Throughout your practice, offer yourself space to pause and return to this intention. At the end of practice, following savasana, return again. Does your intention resonate with you more strongly after your practice? Did setting an intention change your practice, physically, spiritually or emotionally for you?

If you’re loving intention setting, remember yoga does not stop at your mat’s edges, carry it with you into the rest of your day / week / year. 

Stuck on an intention? Some examples to get you going. For more, follow along or join the #trueexpression challenge!

  1. I am grateful.
  2. I am enough. As I am here today on my mat, is enough. I am whole.
  3. I have an open heart. I am open to be loved. I send love out to those around me.