Category Archives: Yoga

Text Neck

texting image via shutterstock

Text Neck is apparently THE new thing.

Apartment Therapy had a recent article about “text neck“, that slouching, slumping motion of the head and neck from constant texting/game playing/use of handheld devices.  On the heels of Apartment Therapy, Lo over at Y is for Yogi has a great post on some yoga poses to counteract text neck.

In addition to all the other great suggestions to fix text neck, I wanted to throw in my two cents (of course).

Here are some simple yoga poses to help relieve the symptoms. You don’t even need to get out of your desk chair, the couch or the bus seat to do them.
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Mirror Mirror

When I practice yoga at home or in the studio, there are no mirrors. I love not having mirrors around as I’m a person who is  easily distracted by visuals.  I embody the “OOOH SHINY Syndrome” at its finest.

It was disconcerting at first when I borrowed a practice space the other day at a local gym, just to have a place to rock out on my mat for a bit, and I found myself surrounded by mirrors. Yikes! So much potential for distraction, was my immediate thought.

Sneaking peeks at myself in the mirror, what I noticed is that I have come a long way in my physical practice. I know that getting too caught up in the way the poses look physically is a very, very bad idea, but I couldn’t help giving myself a little pat on the back. The mirrors gave visual affirmation to what I’ve been feeling: I am getting stronger and more flexible.

At the same time, I knew with a visceral knowing that underneath the skin and muscles and bone, I am so much stronger in spirit, more flexible and courageous than my physical body shows. That the internal mirror of my yoga mat reflects far more truth back at me than a polished, shiny object. This purple sticky mirror, where I pour out my heart and sweat, shows me every moment where I am growing and where I still have work to do. This is the mirror that reminds me to breathe and to explore and to be aware … and doesn’t remind me that my hair looks horrific or that I have an epic wedgie.

** I still think my chaturanga looked pretty cool, though 🙂 **

Why I Teach

About a year into teaching and reading “yoga books” I stumbled across a quote from Judith Lasater in Living Your Yoga that has by turns puzzled and inspired me.  Judith says,

“I teach for myself and practice for my students.”

Back in April of 2010, when I first blogged about that quote, I didn’t quite get it. I knew the words were important (obviously, as they have stuck in my subconscious for the past two years!) but I wasn’t sure if they were true for me. Instead, the reverse was reality: I practiced for myself and I taught for my students. My time on my mat was for me and my time in front of the class was for them. Yet those words stayed in the back of my brain for 22 months, germinating and waiting to blossom.

It was during a sunny, winter morning home practice when it finally clicked what Judith was talking about. It was a subltle but major internal shift as I worked a little deeper into a tall twist.

My practice is ALL ABOUT my students.

I practice for them. I practice so that I can be the best teacher I can be. When I teach, that time is for me, to speak from my heart to my heart … and if I’ve got a solid practice behind it, that heart is wide open with every opportunity to connect to the five, ten, fifteen, sometimes twenty-five or more hearts in the room.

Teaching is when I find my grace. When faith and trust in my own ability to heal surfaces. It’s frightening and wonderful gift. Judith, you are so spot on!!

My practice is for my students.

My teaching is for me.

Permission to Sit

Sometimes you just gotta sit.

From March of 2011 to February 2012, I’ve attended four major yoga workshops: “Functional Anatomy for Yoga Teachers” with Ellen Heed, “Authentic Teaching” with Sue Jones and Alex Amorosi, I received my Reiki I certification in November, and just completed the five week “Advanced Teaching Concepts” with Jacqui Bonwell. It has been a year of intensive learning and self-reflection.  I have dug deep and discovered a lot. I have spent more time thinking about yoga and about teaching than I ever thought possible.

A few months ago I read this great book by David Richo and this one sentence has stuck to me like a burr:

“Practice does not mean forcing yourself to improve, but rather trusting your potential to open”

My brain and heart are so full from all that I’ve learned in the past year and now is the time to put it all into practice: to live it, be it, tweak it, and trust the process of my own practice to begin to integrate what I’ve absorbed.

This will be a first for me since I’m not much one to just metaphorically sit. I like answers, action, DOING something. I love learning. If I could be a university student for life (on someone else’s dime!) I totally would. Taking classes, being exposed to new ideas, and the process of learning really gets me going. In my enjoyment of learning, I get so caught up in the process that I have never allowed myself to be with what I’ve learned. I’ve spent years forcing myself to improve through classes, but never trusted the wisdom that comes from sitting with what I’ve learned.

Starting today, I am giving myself full permission to SIT.

I am going to sit the eff down with all I’ve learned about teaching, yoga, anatomy, healing, energetics, and myself. I will trust myself to open, I will let myself be, and I will let time and experience be the integrator. I will mull, marinate, practice, and feel. I will move with what I’ve learned, practicing it on my mat and in my teaching. This is going to be a whopping big challenge … one that I’m really looking forward to!

As any yoga teacher knows, the great irony of teaching is finding the time to actually practice.  Getting to a studio is not always possible and, until recently, I wasn’t much of a home practice gal. However, I’m feeling the itch and urge to GET ON MY MAT. It’s pretty obvious that my brain’s got a lot to work out and getting feet down (or bum down) on a sticky mat is the best place for that to happen.

This past year has been a diverse, rich, and utterly delicious multi-course feast. Now it’s time to push away from the table and digest it all. 🙂

Rockstar Yoga

Backstory: wheel (the yoga pose) and I are nemeses. There’s a chasm of mistrust and pain between us. I feel that way about most backbends. (I’m a committed supported bridge girl.) Except flip dog. LOVE it. Some how, flipping my dog lets me feel the sense of lightness and flight that I think I should get from backbends.

So you can imagine my joy when I was introduced to “rock star” earlier this week (Adena’s 4:00pm class at yogapower in Waltham, MA). We came into the pose from side plank and I could feel my chest fall open, my shoulder blades move down and in … and I was grinning like a fool the entire time. Love at first pose.  So of course, I have to share my love and all my classes this week have incorporated rock star as a mid-way point for deeper backbends. Love rock star and I’m starting to reconsider my perspective on backbends in general.

Rockstar Yoga
75 minutes
(Much gratitude to Adena for inspiring this sequence!)

supported fish
roll to table top
cat/cow
opposite arm/leg extension, with optional bind
all-fours core (press toenails to mat, lift knees one inch – YIKES!)
downward facing dog
high plank
down dog
plank with knees down
lower to belly
cobra
all fours
down dog
three-legged dog
runner’s lunge
pyramid
(breathe lunge/pyramid three times, then repeat other side)
walk to front of mat
tadasana
om om om
vinyasa to down dog

dolphin

down dog
three-legged dog with hip opener
core plank
three legged dog
runners lunge
crescent lunge
tall twist
reverse twist
windmill down to plank
side plank
ROCKSTAR
vinyasa to down dog

three-legged dog
core plank
three-legged dog
warrior II
reverse warrior
half moon with optional bind
warrior II
reverse warrior
reverse triangle
triangle
prasaritta A/B
revolved triangle
utkatasana twist
dancer

half pigeon

(take mats to the wall and roll egde of mat in 3-4 times that’s closest to wall to provide knee padding)
quad stretch against the wall
lunge out from wall

(lengthen mat back out)

bridge/wheel at wall
supta baddha konasana
happy baby
inversion at wall
spinal twist
savasana, optional legs up the wall

Note: “Rockstar” and variations are also called “Wild Thing”.  Two names you cannot go wrong with in a yoga class!

2012: A Year of Flight

2011 was an incredible year. I learned so much, explored new places and ideas, and put down some new roots. I met a few of my goals, though not all, as life likes to throw those funny curve balls.

I explored more styles of yoga and attend some wonderful classes and workshops.  I am in better control of my finances with an emergency fund, a travel fund and a plan to pay off student debt.  Career goals were tougher, but I remain positive in the face of transition. As for fitness/wellness, I finished my first 5K, though not in under 30  minutes, and learned that I can run!

When thinking of my goals and resolutions for 2012,  I realized my yoga goals make a pretty awesome intention for the entire year. They all have one thing in common: FLIGHT.  In 2012 I want to figure out crow (bakasana) and headstand (sirsasana). Both poses require learning to lift off the ground and find flight and balance in space.  Both poses require a solid foundation and a trust that even if the foundation shifts, you can take a breath and try again. Sounds like a perfect theme for 2012 to me!

Thus, 2012 is THE YEAR OF FLIGHT.

YOGA
– Crow Pose: figure it out, get into it, and hold it for 3-5 breaths
– Sirsasana: figure it out, get into it, wall support is totally ok
– Continue to invest in my practice and my teaching by attending workshops and classes
– Commit to a home practice and complete a 30 day “home practice” challenge to set the habit

FINANCIAL
– Pay off 1/3 of my student debt by 12/31/2011
– Continue to build the travel fund (possible goal: Thailand in 20??)
– Become a more savvy budgeter (this includes actually creating a budget and having a “come to Jesus” with shopping)

CAREER
– Stay employed
– Own my new responsibilities and role in the library. This is a year for me to shine and become a resource and local expert for my colleagues

FITNESS/WELLNESS
– Continue to eat healthy, happily and safely (I really like that goal.)
– Work with a personal trainer to build a habit out of weight training and cardio

PERSONAL
– read more poetry and non-fiction
– be kinder to myself (positive self-talk and belief)
– learn to appreciate black coffee
– wear mascara 2 or less days a week

What are your goals and resolutions for 2012?

Strong Shoulders, Open Shoulders

This class was inspired by  fellow yoga teacher Michael Mann. The sequence that starts with the low lunge twist, through prasarita and the second dolphin/forearm balance prep is all Michael’s genius. I threw in the half bind for extra spice, but the heart of this goodness is all him. The flow below works great for a more advanced group, though it’s easily modified for a beginner group.

When working with shoulders I emphasize three major points:

1. shoulder blades on top of the back, accessing the serratus anterior muscles to keep the bottom tips of the shoulder blades tucked in, rather than winging out. (For a great write up on the serratus anterior, check out Sarah Court’s post on YogaDork.)

2. broad collarbones and an open heart.

3. knees down will build more strength than you can possible imagine. So get over yourself, get over your ego and stick you knees on the mat. (Yoga tough love.)

Strong, open shoulders are a key component to an open heart and chest. Let’s get opening!!

Strong Shoulders a la Michael Mann
Time: 90 minutes
Suggested music: Justin Bieber mashups and Passion Pit (::wink::)

table top
cat/cow
thread the needle
tuck toes & lift knees 2 inches (ABS!)
downward facing dog
down dog to high plank, hold plank
three legged dog
bend knee, open hip
core plank
three legged dog
step to low lunge
deepen lunge on inhale
exhale back to pyramid pose/hamstring stretch
pulse with breath four times
runner’s lunge
down dog

step to front of mat
tadasana
side stretch
intention setting
om om om

step back to down dog
dolphin with fingers interlaced
walk back to dolphin plank
child’s pose
down dog
three legged dog
core plank: right knee to outside of right elbow (maybe arm balance)
three legged dog
crescent lunge
eagle
airplane
crescent lunge
step back to plank
side plank
vinyasa

down dog
runners lunge
back knee to mat
modified twist with knee down 3 breaths
lift knee and open arms
half bind top arm
lift hips high and breath for 3-5 breaths
lift up to warrior II
reverse warrior
side angle
half/full bind
reverse warrior
triangle
prasarita A/B
walk hands around to back of mat and lunge into opposite knee
repeat standing sequence from runners lunge
walk hands around to front of mat

dolphin (forearms parallel to each other on mat)
forearm balance or little hops

active child’s pose (pressing hands to mat, drawing shoulder blades and hips back)
inchworm/puppy pose (anahatasana)
sphinx
prone shoulder stretch
locusts with block between ankles and hands interlaced
floor bow
table top
down dog
jump through to seated, roll to back
supported bridge/bridge/wheels for 20-25 breaths

supta baddha konasana
knees to chest
happy baby
rock n roll to down dog

half pigeon/double pigeon

inversion

supine twist

savasana