Tag Archive | mary abraham yoga

Spine Care Class

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On Monday night I attended the above class. The class was taught by Vickie Weeks from myspine  physiotherapy in Maroubra,  http://www.myspinephysio.com .  Vickie is an Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapist with 30 years of experience and has done a lot to promote healthy ageing in the community.

Like my car goes to service and tune up regularly – I visit Vickie a few times a year to release those tight spots in my body.

Vickie encourages her patients to look after their health and to achieve this she gives some homework for all of us. Her mantra is: KEEP WALKING!

During the 2 hour spine class we covered the following topics:

  • Anatomy of the spine (with feel and touch model);
  • Common causes of spinal problems (generally more than one cause and they develop over time);
  • Common disorders of the Spine;
  • Examination and Treatment – AND THE MOST IMPORTANT:
  • Prevention (posture, back, support, nutrition, stress management and rest).

Vickie explained workings of the spine in a clear and conscise manner.

We viewed X-rays and CT scans showing a healthy spine and later compared it to an ageing  spine.

Vickie’s workshop reinforced my belief that prevention is better then cure and regular exercise goes a long way to combat the effects of ageing.

I recommend the spine care class for anybody with back problems and health professionals whose expertise is outside the “spine”.

Take care and keep walking!

Namaste

yoga mat

Foot care over 50 and healthy yoga feet

 

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My zebra toes

As a beginner yogi I used to think that I might not remember the names of my fellow students but I would recognise them from their toes/feet!

As yoga is done barefoot we cannot ignore our feet and the changes which occur was we age.

My feet problem started about 15 years ago. As a keen bushwalker could not wear proper booths, you know the ones with good grip and ankle support. I used wear Rockport walking shoes with very soft orthotics and no orthotics for every day wear. As the years passed by I noticed that I wore my orthotics more and more often. The beginning of the “end of the pretty shoes” came in 2008.  Whilst walking the cobble stoned streets of Quebec (Canada) I developed a condition called Plantar Fasciitis. After several months of stretching exercises (asanas), a new pair of orthotics and a few new pairs of shoes later I was pain free again!

Feet are very complex, we have 26 bones in each foot, they need ample space in our shoes to distribute and balance the weight of the body!

Bones of the foot

Drawing courtesy of posturown.com

Tom from  Podiatry First http://www.podiatryfirst.com.au/ was assisting me on my journey from pretty shoes to “realistic” shoes.  Tom’s comments on the ageing feet:

  • The joints should be moved/exercised to the full range movements, “use it or lose it”;
  • Walk whenever you can, walking in the sand is beneficial;
  • Feet changes with age, it is mostly hereditary;
  • As we age the intrinsic muscles (the little muscles) in the foot get over-powered by the big muscles;
  • The fat pad on the bowl of the foot dissolves;
  • Foot pain is abnormal; pain can be eased by wearing “realistic” shoes and orthotics.  Note pronation is not a disease;

To counteract ageing practice spreading, stretching the toes to create space between them! Stretching the hamstring muscles will keep the knees healthy. If you have injured knees practice stretching the legs whilst laying down (supta padangusthasana).

Foot aliments, if left unattended they alter our body mechanics, our whole posture is affected by foot problems – which gradually will progress to pain in the ankles, knees, hips, back and neck and head.

The combination of walking in wide shoes (weight bearing exercise) and yoga is the supreme way to rehabilitate your feet!

yoga mat

How to find the right yoga teacher?

“The most important thing is finding the right teacher – someone you relate to, someone who’s professionally trained, who keeps up with professional development and has professional risk insurance”

The above quote is from an interview with Leigh Blashki vice president of Yoga Australia (Refer to Spectrum of The Sydney Morning Herald 15-16 Sept 2012).

Recently in a yoga workshop we were asked to honour our lineage.  I would like to dedicate this blog to the teachers who shaped me as a yogi over the last 23 years and this might give further insight to the complexity of the “right”  teacher and a good class.

Robin was a physiotherapist and yoga teacher.  She was treating my lower back problem and she is the one who introduced me to yoga, I will always be thankful for it!  Her classes were hard work, in those days the classes were 2 hour long and boy she put in a lot of standing poses!  And we had to hold them for a long time to increase strength and stamina! We were delighted to do sitting poses after all that standing!  She tried to teach us how to look after ourselves and she was always encouraging, saying “you are better than you think”.  She lent a sympathetic ear if a student needed it.

I used to attend Tracey’s therapy classes when I was relatively new to yoga. The therapy classes were “short” at 1.5 hours and there were less number of students.  Most of us were somewhat stiff, we knew each other’s aliments and the atmosphere / comradery in the class was very good.  Tracey paid attention to every one of us, there was no limit to the props she would use to support us where and when it was needed.  She is very professional, always teaches a high standard class (sequence and poses modified to suit the students and to the weather).  Tracey is also very approachable and she does a lot of self development.

Zajna was very a special teacher!  Her playfulness and  intuition were always present. The poses we did were unique and the sequencing too!  From one twist through squatting to another twist! How did she come up with this?  The answer was simple: she loved her yoga and she practiced at home and shared her discoveries with us.  Her descriptions were colourful.  At one time she said to a pregnant student “it is good for the baby to see that you are folding up the blanket nicely!”  Only and Iyengar trained teacher would say this!  I wish I had taken notes on her unique sequences so I could incorporate some of them in my teaching!  Zajna loved her food and cooked with the same confidence as she taught yoga.

Helena took over Zajna’s Saturday classes and I continued to attend.  This brings in some other considerations when choosing a yoga teacher:

  • location (either close to work, to home or shopping, i.e. fits in with your lifestyle)
  • time of class

Helena introduced me to the “monthly cycle” of the Iyengar method where each week is spent on practicing a particular family of poses.  This  cycle aims at achieving a balanced practice.  Helena is very good with adjustments.  The atmosphere in her classes is jovial and the students are regulars.

Nowadays there is an abundance of different styles of yoga, we need to respect each other’s preference and be united by the love of yoga.

In conclusion: finding the right yoga teacher is a bit like finding a hairdresser or car mechanic!  She/he will become a special person in your life – choose wisely!

TRANQUIL YOGA FOR OVER 50’s

The website’s name is “TRANQUABILITY”, where tranquillity meets ability.

Both of these terms mean different things to different people.  To me tranquility means walking on the beach or just admiring hilly landscape at sunset.  Ability covers a wide range, from young age (learning to talk and walk) through teenager years, middle age towards old age (where ability might just mean coming down the stairs unaided).

Please keep reading on – especially if you are over 50.  We live longer and we need to be prepared!  60 is the new 40!

Yoga (which means to unite the body, mind and spirit) helps us slowing down the ageing.

We need to understand and accept the cycle of life and instead of resisting the change and developing a negative attitude towards life we need to activate our willpower, our intelligence.

Our health is very precious and we either have to allocate resources (time, energy and money) to staying healthy or we will need to apply more resources to being sick and recovery.

The most obvious sign of ageing is change of posture (shortening and rounding of the spine).  The effect of the rounded spine is collapsed chest which restricts breathing. This is why it so important to keep the spine supple and to open the chest.  Movement lubricates the muscles, ligaments and joints.  In conjunction western medicine yoga helps to control/reduce high blood pressure.  As the metabolism slows down we are prone to put on weight, so staying active is even more important.  Yoga poses stretch the trunk, massage the internal organs and help with digestion and trimming down.  In many cases with ageing come orthotics and lace up shoes.  Yoga is done in barefoot, toes; muscles in the feet are stretched!  We need to practice standing on one leg to keep our balance.  Pranayama (breath control) helps us to cool down and relax.  The use of props (especially for older beginners) makes it easier to get the correct alignment to allow us to gain the benefit(s) of each pose.  Supported poses restore energy.  Meditation helps to clear the mind, reduces anxiety associated with ageing.

With menopause the body becomes stiffer and due to the hormonal changes one might become irritable.  Certain Pranayama practices help to control hot flashes, have calming effect and “solutes to the sun” provide gentle form of exercise.  Cutting down on coffee / tea also helps to reduce hot flashes.

Brief Summary – how yoga poses help us to slow down ageing:

  • Standing poses for building and maintaining muscle and bone strength, increasing stamina and balance, helps to prevent osteoporosis;
  • Forward-bends, Back-bends Lateral poses and Twists to keep the spine flexible; to reduce shortening and rounding of the spine;
  • Inversions for reversing the downward pull of gravity, the hart rests and more blood flows to the brain which helps with memory function;
    • Reclining positions restore energy and for relaxation

One can start practicing yoga at any age.  Once you know how to do the poses safely yoga skills are transferable, can practice anywhere.

Yoga is not a competitive sport; it is about connecting with yourself, accepting yourself and being gentle with yourself.

Tips to start the day:

Over 50 we are stiffer in the morning so I start the day with some warm up poses, gently circling the ankles, wrists and neck combined with a few gentle twists and maybe stretching the hamstrings by extending one leg up at a time and using a belt over the ball of the foot – all of these in bed before getting up.

It is recommended in Ayurvedic science to drink a glass of water after rising, it will help the kidneys to function better.

Do a few cat and downward facing dog poses and maybe a few cycles of “salute to the sun”, open your chest to welcome a new day!

Take your health in to your hand and start exercising regularly – preferable on a mat near me! 

 Note: this is a general guide to yoga over 50, written with love and good intentions and does not intend to replace medical advice.

Namaste

Spirituality in Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon

In case you are interested the photos on my “Home page” were taken in the small HimalayanKingdom of Bhutan in July.    Though this is not a travel site I would like to share my experience with you – as it relates to yoga / spirituality / religion / tranquility and inner peace.

Why did I choose this unique, almost un-spoilt destination?

I believe sometimes the universe gives us signs.  This was the case with my trip to Bhutan.  Between conception of the idea (reading an article in the Yoga Journal), further research (talking to people who have been there), reading the guide book and finally – departure – almost couple of years had passed.

As soon as I met my Guide at the airport in Bhutan he started to tell me about Buddhism, the tapesty of  Bhutanese life today.

Golden Present Buddah (under construction)

Buddhism originated from Northern India around the 6th Century BC. Siddharta Gautama who would become known as the Buddha (awakened or enlightened one) practiced yogic techniques and meditation. Some of the Sanskrit words/expressions were familiar to me through my studies of the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutras were written about 2,200 years ago and the 196 aphorisms cover the whole philosophy of yoga from the ethical standards through meditation to Samadhi or Bliss state (where there is no I or Mine).

One can see that Buddhism is inscribed into the landscape of Bhutan via the prayer flags on the mountain sides and roofs , white and red Chortens (receptacle for offerings) with prayer wheels of different sizes, images of Buddhist Saints. In the courtyard of the Paro Dzong (Citadel) there are several murals, rich in tradition and colour. The paintings I really liked are the “Four friends (the peacock, rabbit, monkey and elephant promoting teamwork) and the “Wheel of life” (cycle of birth, death and recarnation). The images of the three Buddhas in the Phunaka Dzong will stay with me forever.  Each Buddha sits on a lotus-flower throne with legs crossed and they represent the past, present and future, all expressed with their hand gestures (mudras).  You will find trinity in yoga; just think of the secret sound of AUM which we chant.

The ultimate goal of Buddhism is enlightment.  Buddhists are very aware of the three elements of Karma which are: actions, their effect and their consequences.

Through my travels in Bhutan I saw the gentle and courteous interaction between different generations, the importance of family and respect they have for all living and nature.  It seemed that people were content with their life and inner peace radiated on their faces in a shy smile.

I believe this trip was important for my personal development and brought me closer the true meaning of yoga which is to unite mind, body and spirit and to live in the present.

Four friends – promoting team work

Wheel of Life (cyce of birth, death and recarnation)

Prayer flags and chortens with prayer wheel inside (powered by the creek running throgh the chorten)