Tag Archive | yoga for seniors

Yoga to boost your immune system

Dear Readers, Yogis

We all know Coronavirus (or Covid 19) has caused a pandemic, there is no cure yet and it has not peaked.

In Autumn (at the change of seasons) we are all prone to catching colds.  Sniffles, mild throat sore and coughs are typical for this time of the year.  As THE virus is here and the 2019/20 flu vaccination is not available yet we have two reasons to be concerned.

What can we do to improve our chances to stay healthy/healthier?

The answer is to include poses in our practice which are restorative and have a number of health benefits such as: calming the mind, boosting the immune system and open the chest which helps with breathing! 

You will find a few simple poses further down.

Staying grounded, mentally well is just as important as physical well-being.  Our nervous system might still be on high alert from the bush fires, floods and we might feel overwhelmed by the information regarding Coronavirus and the effects of the restrictions our everyday life.

 My classes will continue – with the following modifications:

  • I won’t do hands-on adjustments,
  • I will not sequence partner-work (which are a lot of fun in ‘normal’ times),
  • I will continue to include restorative poses,
  • We will use less props or no props at all,
  • I am considering a streamed version of the classes – but I will need some technical help with this.

 Here is what you can do:

  • In addition to normal hygiene practices – please wash your hands (or use hand sanitiser) before and after class,
  • Stay at home if you are feeling under the weather and/or have any flu like symptoms,
  • Bring your own mat, blanket or towel and other props if you wish.

 And here is what we can all do:

  • Extract from Yoga Australia’s recent note:

“Talk to your friends. Talk to your students / fellow students. Try to steer clear of sensationalist media. Lean on your community. Most importantly, remember to breathe through it all”.

Try any or all of the following poses which help to boost the immune system:

In restorative yoga we allow the body to rest /lay over props.  The para sympathetic nervous system will relax (i.e. the opposite to fight or flight).

General notes:

  • Stay warm, wear socks, jumper and cover up with a blanket or towel,
  • If you wish cover your eyes (either with an eye pad or face wash folded up),
  • Modify your set up until you are comfortable as it is beneficial to stay in each of these poses 2-5 minutes or longer. If you new to these poses slowly build up the time.
  • Relax the face, let go of the lower jaw,
  • Slow down your breath, start with counting to 4 to inhale and 4 to exhale. Then extend your exhalation, say to the count of 6.  Experienced yogis might include a pause after the inhalation and after the exhalation.

 

Setu bandha (bridge pose)

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You can use a bolster to on or fold up two blankets to lift the chest and the rest of your body.

Use yoga blocks, books or folded blanket to rest your feet. Feet to be a bit higher than the rest of the body.  For beginners the blankets will be fine.

The aim of the pose is to open the chest, shoulders to rest on a rolled blanket, neck is supported.

Go into the pose with legs bent and straighten them one by one – only if it feels comfortable.

Do not turn your head and do now swallow in this pose!

 

Supta Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose)

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In this pose the abdominal area opens (note it is different from stretching).

Use a bolster or folded up blanket to lay over.

Put some elevation under your head, both under the bolster and on top of the bolster.

You can use a strap to hold your feet together. If you use a strap make a big loop, pull it on and have it below the waste.  This will help you to lengthen the lower back

Start by sitting up tall, have a small gap between your buttocks and the bolster.

Bend your elbows and lower your torso onto the bolster.

Gentle push your heels together, this will allow for the hips and groins to soften.

 

Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall or resting the calves on a chair)

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IMG_0077          IMG_1688

There are a few modifications to this pose.

If you are able to keep your legs straight and against the wall the buttocks should touch the wall. You can place a folded blanket to lift the buttocks and hips.

You might need elevation under your head, the throat to be soft

If you use a chair aim to keep the shins vertical.

Rest the calves on the seat of the chair, try to have some elevation under the heels.

I do this pose most nights before going to bed.

It is relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time.

ENJOY YOUR PRACTICE, HOPE YOU FEEL BETTER AFTER IT!

Please note all these poses help with going to sleep or stay sleeping (insomnia)

Note to my dancing friends – try these once you get hone from an evening of good dancing!

Keep breathing and hopefully we collectively get through these uncertain times!

yoga mat

Mary

 

 

 

 

Trimming down – New Year’s resolution

Dear Readers,

Hope you summer break was pleasant and belated good wishes for 2020!

Did you make a New Year’s resolution (or maybe more)?  How is it going?

As I understand 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the end of January or latest by mid February.

If you eat or drank too much during the festive season – and your waistline has expanded as a result – this article is for you (and for me 😊).

As we age it easier to put on weight, the metabolism slows down so we need to watch the energy intake and output more closely.  Hormones also affect how and where we store fat on our body.

My aim is to show you a variety of poses which lengthen the spine and make you move around the waist.

I used props to make the poses more accessible for people who are not very mobile or not very steady on their feet.  Work with your body intelligently – do what suits on a given day!

We need to practice regularly to reap the benefits of yoga!

Let’s start – I will give you some pointers!

Remember to do the poses on both sides – holding for equal amount of time, maybe count your breath!

Standing poses:

Apart from helping to trim down we also strengthen the ankles and legs and open the chest – which creates more space for the lungs to do their job.  Having the wall behind us helps with alignment.  Note that I keep my elbows and knees slightly bent as I have flexible (hyper extending) joints.  If you micro bend the arms and legs you will protect these joints, you will not overload them.

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Trikonasa (trinagle)

Feet are about 1m apart, right toes turned in, heel is wider. Keep the left heel roughly in  line with the right inner arch.  If you are not steady move the left foot ‘backwards’. Stand tall, on exhalation take the hips to the right, create space in the left side.  Place your left hand on a chair or block or on the inside of your left shin.  For some of you the fingers might even touch the floor!  Aim to keep the arms in line with the shoulders.

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Parsvokonasa (side angle)

The feet are wider than for Trikonasana. Left forearm is resting on the left thigh. This is the therapy version.  The anchoring points are the right heel and left big toe-base. Aim to keep the left thigh parallel to the floor, shin is vertical.  This pose is also very good for lower back problems.

Twists:

What I love about yoga is the variety. As you can see below twists can be done sitting on the floor, sitting on a chair or standing.

IMG_0030    IMG_0034 IMG_0045

For these twists the common theme is: inhale, lengthen the spine and twist on exhalation. Stay in one spot for a few cycles of the breath and then twist more. Head turns last. Keep your knee(s) in line with your hip. Soft gaze, in eye level and look towards your shoulder.

Forward bends:

IMG_0052    IMG_0039

These poses open the back of the body, torso and legs.  Sit on a folded blanket and when you go forward pivot around the hips!

For the chair variation have enough elevation on the chair so you can rest your forehead. The skin on the forehead to extend from the hairline to the eye brow – it is relaxing!

When doing the variation on the floor some of you might be able to go forward without the strap – but do not collapse the front of the body.

Inversions:

IMG_0082    IMG_0077

In the first variation I rest my sacrum on two blocks.  Aim to keep the chest open and the legs to vertical.  It is OK to keep one foot on the floor.

The chair variation is my favourite restorative pose, I do it before going to bed at night or before going out if I am tired. The strap keeps the knees together so you do not need to do any work!  I do not like heavy eye pillows so I use a folded face towel.

Relaxation:

All practice should finish with Savasana (the pose of the corpse) meaning we stay still.  To be able to stay still we need to find a symmetrical comfortable position.  Not doing a relaxation is a bit like not saving your document on the computer!

Choose the variation which suits you:

IMG_0077  IMG_0069

Enjoy your practice and hope regular practice will help you to shed some of the excess weight!

Warm regards

Mary

Love your feet and toes!

 

As long as we are healthy, we take it for granted that our body functions as it should do.

When was the last time that you thanked your feet for carrying you to your destination – day after day, year after year?

I used to bush-walk and we often talked about boots, orthotics, dome under the ball of the foot, corns and bunions.  No-one of these topics are sexy but as we age the shape of the feet change and we cannot ignore this.

With the arrival of spring it is the right time to exercise our toes which have been enclosed in shoes for months!

Let’s start with the easiest form of exercise: walking barefoot.

Walk 1

You can do it on the beach or walk on the grass. Both are emotionally grounding activities and allow the small muscles in your feet to stretch and strengthen and joints to move.

Be mindful when you walk barefoot.  Notice how you roll onto the ball of the foot and then you push away from the ground.  Progressively increase the time you walk, do not overdo it as you might end up with sore feet.  The sand will dry your feet so use a moisturiser after walking!

I practice the following exercises while sitting.

Blanket folded in 3

Use a blanket or big towel and fold it (see above) to sit on.  Sit towards the rounded edge so your hips roll a bit forward, the spine is upright.  Keep your feet hip width apart.

Toes relaxed

Observe your feet in a relaxed state. Notice the difference between right foot and the left!

Toes stretched

Flex your toes towards you.  Feel that you stretch the back of the legs.  If you are an experienced yogi, pull up your knee caps and quadriceps – just as if you were standing on your feet.  Move your toes away from you.  Repeat this cycle 5 times – 2 or 3 times a day.

Toes spreading

Spread your toes.  Observe if there is an asymmetry between the right and left foot.  If you have a bunion like me the joint stiffens and the gap between the big toe and second toe decreases.

Toes fist

Make a fist with your toes.  Repeat this cycle 5 times – 2 or 3 times a day.

Work the sole of the foof

Bend the legs and bring the soles of the feet together.  Align your heels.  This is the cobblers’ pose (or badhakonasana).  Now move your toes away from each other.

Interlace

Visualise interlacing your fingers.  Now try to interlace your toes, starting with the little toes.  Try the other side.

You can do these poses with your hands too.  They will help with the management of arthritis, will keep to keep the joints more mobile.

Once you finished the sitting poses come up to standing and get a tissue.

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Place it on the ground with one corner facing one foot (hard surface is better than soft).  The aim is to scrunch the issue until it disappears under your toes!  Try with the other foot with a new tissue!

I believe some yoga can be done anywhere not just in a studio and you do not need the latest leotard!  Yoga is for any shape or size and any age!

Oh – and try a new colour of nail polish – maybe to match or contrast your yoga mat 😊!

Enjoy your yoga!

 

Yoga for Cramps

Tree pose in the woods

Yoga can be practiced anywhere

Do you know the feeling of toes rigidly curling up and would not release or the calf muscle pains and you have to jump out of bed, walk a bit before returning to bed?

My students (just like me) are over the age of 50. In class sometimes students get a cramp, generally in the foot (toes) or legs (calves).

Cramp is a painful, involuntary contracting (shortening) of part or all of a muscle, or several muscles in a group.

Cramps of the extremities, especially the legs and feet, and most particularly the calf, are extremely common. Other common areas for muscle cramps include: back and front of the thigh, hands, arms, abdomen, and rib cage muscles.

The actual cause cramps in the legs and feet is not known, but it may be caused by conditions or activities such as overuse of muscles, dehydration, nerve compression, mineral deficiency and cold weather.

Foot cramps are more common in older adults and sometimes they happen at night. Nerves and muscles can wear out as aging occurs, causing cramping. Stretching, staying active, and eating a nutritious diet can help older adults prevent leg cramps.
People of any age who lead a sedentary lifestyle are also at higher risk for leg and foot cramps.

I would like to share my favourite poses which – if practiced regularly will significantly reduce cramps and will strengthen your ankles as well. These poses (as yoga in general) can be practiced almost anywhere. The photos were taken on a recent trip to the Wollomombi area of North/West New South Wales.

Raising both heels:

Ankle ~ standing on toes

Start with standing tall in the mountain pose. Keep the spine erect, chin parallel to the ground. Roll the shoulders back, bring the shoulder blades in and left the chest.

If you can keep your ankles together and come up on your toes. Release and bring the heels back to the ground. This is one cycle. Repeat fifteen times. It is recommended to do three sets in a day.  This pose will strengthen the ankles and the muscles in the sole of your feet and in the toes.

Releasing one heel:

Release one heel

Come up on your toes (as in previous pose) and release one heel to the ground. Raise the heel so now both heels are off the ground. Release the other heel then raise it. This is one cycle. Repeat it ten times, several times a day.

Stretching the calves:

Calf stretch~one leg straight

Part one:
Place the toes of one foot against the wall or a solid structure. Have your hands on the wall or a solid structure. Keep the front leg bent, shin vertical. Step back with the other leg to a distance where the ankle is on the ground. Do not bring the foot across our midline, try to keep the foot in line with the hip. Feel the stretch in calf. Keep your back straight (take in your spinal processors), chest open and shoulder are wide. Hold it for say 10 cycles of your breath, i.e. one inhalation and one exhalation are one cycle.

Calf and ankle stretch

Part two:
Keep the front leg as it and step forward with the other leg. This will bend both of your ankle. Stay in the pose for 10 cycles of your breath. This variation will also strengthen your ankles, good for bushwalkers going down the hill.
Repeat on the other side (i.e. have the other foot at front).

I hope regular practice of these poses will help you to manage the cramps.

Mary

Yoga for seniors / ageing well

Growing old photo

Recently attended a two-day workshop (run by Elizabeth Williams) on how to teach yoga to seniors.  In this context senior is someone over the age of 65. She is a senior person herself, a nurse, trainer of nurses and a yoga teacher.

Elizabeth thinks age care is medicalised, it is not possible to get a pill for every ache and pain.  If one takes more than three types of medication it effects the kidney, the side effects sometimes as bad as the condition they aim to help.

Some statistics:

  • The way we age is made up as follows: 40% genetic and 60% lifestyle and attitude;
  • 80% of over 60’s have one pre-existing condition;
  • 50% of over 60’s have two pre-existing conditions;

People between the ages of 55-65 (the baby boomers) are aware of the importance of an active life style.  It is not the case for over 65’s.

There are many physical and cognitive changes as we travel on our journey towards old age.

 The key messages for ageing well are:

  • Healthy attitude, accept it as we won’t get out of it;
  • Healthy diet (high in fibre, retain protein intake, reduce carbohydrates);
  • Exercise daily – weight bearing. This will delay the onset of illnesses, it extends independence.  Walking is a good form of exercise;
  • Drink lots of water (tea and coffee in moderation – water is better);

Yoga is the ideal practice for ageing as it is an umbrella for life. 

The word yoga is a Sanskrit word, it means to yolk or unite the body, breath and mind.  The journey of the yogi is through the eight limbs of yoga which was first written down over 2,000 years ago.  Through regular practice of poses, various breathing techniques and meditation the yogi aims to progress towards inner peace (some call it bliss state).

If you decide to join a yoga or exercise class inform the teacher about your pre-existing conditions, recent operations – if you had any.  Seek out yoga classes which are advertised for seniors, therapy, small classes or relaxation.

 Most common changes in the body and mind as we age:

  • Fear of movement due to pain / or fear of fall;
  • Digestive system is compromised by medication, the older person might get malnourished;
  • Vertebras fuse together or canal narrows;
  • Muscle fibre reduces, muscle loss, loss of strength;
  • Walking with toes turned out (inner leg muscles shorten);
  • Reaction time slows down, when have to go the toilet it is in the last minute. Most of the falls happen in the bathroom;
  • Body parts might be replaced (knees, hip, shoulder) – for recovery follow the information sheet given by the surgeon after operation;
  • Feel the cold more – especially in hands and feet,
  • Eyes: fat behind the eyes reduces, loss of peripheral vision, torso leans forward. Do not do full inversions after any eye operation (half uttanasana is helpful, legs up the wall is OK to do)
  • Blood pressure increases – do not do full inversions;
  • Hearing loss (high frequency goes first);
  • Dehydration: as we age we do not get the ‘thirst’ sign, we get dehydrated, might faint to due this;
  • Sleep deprivation increases heart problems by 50%. We need sleep for homeostasis (the ability to maintain a state of internal balance and physical wellbeing in spite of changes or outside factors, such as body temperature.
  • Brain reduces in size (regardless of the number of crosswords one does 😊). Any concussion to the head can cause bruising against the skull, blood slowly sweeps.  The effect of a fall might not be obvious for days;
  • Dementia is an umbrella term; Alzheimer is the most common form. The number of nerve cells disappear and the pathways reduce.  Word finding (on tip of the tongue) is usual part of ageing;
  • Accept that an older person cannot be 100% safe;
  • Moving to aged care brings on depression – even if the person was willing to move in. Depression starts the domino effect of not eating well, not exercising and not sleeping well.

Self-help:

  • Do daily weight bearing exercises (like walking);
  • Stand on one leg (i.e. while waiting for the kettle to boil);
  • Keep your legs strong, practice sitting up from a chair (with feet hip width apart) – 10 times – 3 times a day;
  • Do a fall prevention course (it will teach you how to get up from the floor – in case you have a fall). Practice getting up from the floor before you really need to do it (come to rest on your knees, use arms to hang onto a stable furniture to come up);
  • Exercise your eyes (follow one hand from upright to down – diagonally, bring index finger to nose tip).
  • Exercise your jaw & teeth (eat apples, maybe cut into smaller pieces);
  • Exercise your tongue (stick it out, roll it around the top of your pallet);
  • If you are taking pain killers take them at least two hours before yoga class. You do not want to be totally pain free as you need feel the effects of the poses and how your body feels;
  • Skin care: discard commercial bath wash. Use natural oils for moisturising (olive oil, almond oil or Jojoba oil which I recently started to use and really like it).  Use dry brush before shower; start from the extremities towards the heart.  Let the brush dry under the sun and wash it once week without soap;
  • Eat with proper posture – i.e. eat sitting up – do not eat in bed;
  • If you have any pain get it investigated – but be aware that all painkillers have side-effects. If you accept some pain you can cope with it better;
  • If you use socks in bed make sure they are sticky on the sole to avoid slipping when getting or in the bathroom;
  • Keep your core warm otherwise blood stays there (not circulating enough);
  • Reduce in stress and anxiety. It helps with pain management;
  • Sleep well (deeply); – see previous blog
  • Try to learn new skills;
  • Keep socially active;

If you are interested in my class please contact me: Mary

tranquability@gmail.com

or 0408 296 670

 

yoga mat

 

 

Yoga for Anxiety

Photo from Sculptures by the Sea (Sydney) 2017

‘FEAR KNOCKED AT THE DOOR – FAITH ANSWERED – THERE WAS NO-ONE THERE’

Some time ago I attended a two day workshop by Sally Flynn which focused on how to reduce anxiety with regular yoga practice.  The topic is very close to my heart, to my personality.

What is anxiety?  It is “a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”.  We all have different disposition and tolerance to it.

Anxiety is contracting us, draws us away from people – does not allow us to live life to the fullest.

According to ‘Beyond Blue’ on average one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life.  In a 12-month period over two million Australians experience anxiety.  We all know someone who is affected by it.

There are many ways to soothe ourselves, some of which will be unique to you.  Take time to get to know your ‘base line” experience, how you feel when you are not anxious, how do you feel before starting your yoga practice and note of whether anything feels different when you complete your routine.

Remind yourself, thoughts are just tangled wired – they will soften.

In general – yoga poses which open the chest and extend the arms help us to REACH OUT.

You know your body better than anybody else – listen to it.

Wear layers, be warm during your practice.  If you can dedicate a quiet space for it.

Below I would like to share five methods that have been tested by research and/or in my practice.

1.Breathing.

Deep belly breathing activates the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system and slows down reactivity. Breathing slowly, deeply, can de-escalate a full-blown panic attack in a matter of minutes. Remembering to breathe through the day de-stresses you throughout your day, and helps you install calm as your real baseline.

 

2.Hand on the heart.

Neural cells around the heart activate during stress. Your warm hand on your heart centre calms those neurons down again, often in less than a minute. Hand on the heart works especially well when you breathe positive thoughts, feelings, images of safety and trust, ease and goodness, into your heart at the same time.

 

3. Poetry & Mantra.

Because poetry is metaphorical, imagistic, emotion and sense based, reciting poetry activates the right hemisphere of the brain which processes experience in a holistic, imagistic, emotion-sense based mode. Because the right hemisphere of the brain is rich in neuronal connections to the limbic system in the lower brain, including the alarm centre and emotional meaning centre of the amygdala, snuggling with a partner or a pet, drinking a warm, cup of tea, and reading poetry or reciting a mantra can soothe and calm your nerves in about ten minutes.

 

4. Meditation & Yoga Nidra.

Compassionate mindfulness meditation & Yoga Nidra are gentle ways to calm the mind and body and let things simply be, over time generating a steady inner calm that sustains you over the long haul.

 

5. The three minute breathing space.

A simple and accessible technique that can be practiced anywhere, anytime. It helps to find ‘ground’ again when we are experiencing overwhelm, and we can clear the clutter of reactivity to restore clarity, and make sound choices.

  1. Observation: what sensations, thoughts and sounds coming to you – 1 minute;
  2. Breath: notice where breath shows up in your body – 1 minute
  3. Body: breath into the body: – 1 minute;

Do it 3x a day – regardless whether you need it or not.

 

ASANAS (poses)

For each of these poses start with observing your current state, current ‘base line’ experience.

Garuda Mudra

  • Place right hand on chest;
  • Left hand over the right hand;
  • Link thumbs;
  • Pause to notice if anything feels different;
  • Take a couple of breaths while allowing yourself to feel the touch of your hands, letting the exhale settle.

Optinonal

Remind yourself of an image that you find reassuring, comforting

Repeat any words or phrases that are meaningful

 

So Ham

Meaning “I am that”, the mantra So Ham acknowledges that the energy that surrounds us is also the energy that we are – no separation – all is one.

If comfortable combine breath and arm movements.

  • Inhaling SO, we contain the vital energy – raise the arms;
  • Exhaling HAM, we absorb it as we settle, let go – lower the arms;
  • Repeat six times;
  • Pause to notice if anything feels different.

 

Meeting the Mood

Beginning by watching the breath or trying to slow it down may not be the most efficacious way of calming your anxiety.  Meet the anxiety, normalizing it with a slightly more rapid breath like “Stairstep.”

Stair Step Breath (Viloma or interrupted breathing) – for Anxiety

  • Inhale: take little steps through the nostrils, as though climbing a mountain

(usually 4 to 8 counts);

  • Sustain (hold) for four counts (as is accessible) at the top of the mountain; •
  • Exhale: slide down the mountain;

Practice two or three times.

 

Grounding & Settling

  • Try placing one hand gently on your forehead & the other hand on your abdomen.
  • Notice the feeling of the top hand against the skin of the forehead.
  • Now notice that the hand on the abdomen can tune into the movement of the tummy as you breathe in and out.

Spend a moment or two simply sitting with this.

Nothing to change unless you choose to.

Breathing in and breathing out.

 

Grounding – FOOT work 

When we are grounded we feel calmer and more connected to the earth and to ourselves.

You can use a tennis ball if you prefer or in the sand.

  • Stand comfortably;
  • Lower your eyes or let the gaze rest on one point;
  • Take your attention to your feet;
  • Now try lifting your toes, wriggling them and putting them back on the floor;
  • Now with your right foot, roll across the ball of the foot from the big toe to the little toe a few times, then go the opposite way – little toe to big toe;
  • Next see if you can stretch the arch by lifting your heel and reaching it back to the floor;
  • Then roll around the heel;
  • Finally try rolling the whole foot from side to side – inner arch to outer edge.

 

IMPORTANT – notice the sensations in the right foot AND the contrasting sensations in the left foot that HASN’T been massaged.

Change and try the same thing on the left foot.

When you’ve done both feet pause for about 5 seconds while you notice what sensations or feelings are presenting themselves.

 

Reaching OUT (sideways)

Take a comfortable seated or standing position

Tune into your connection to the ground

Place your hands on your abdominal or middle of your torso

Spend a few breaths here while noticing the movement as the abdominal expands and contracts with the inhale & exhale.

Now as you feel the beginnings of the inhale, let that be your cue to start moving the hands and arms (one or both) up and out – reaching out as far as feels comfortable

Just go as far as feels enough for today, understanding that this may change from day to day

Depending how it feels today, you might choose to remain in the ‘open’ position for a breath or two.  In that case, notice if you can bring your attention back to your middle each time you exhale (while maintaining the reaching out position).  What would it be like to extend your ‘reach’ all the way to your fingertips?

Next, notice when you are ready to bring the arms back down, and when your exhale is ready to begin, let that be your cue to slowly return the arms to the starting point at your middle.

Repeat this several times and choose the pace that best suits your breathing rhythm.

Expanding out as far as is comfortable, holding the expanded position if it feels okay, returning to home base as you’re ready or when you need to, all the while being let by your breathing. Remember to pause for about 20 seconds when you’re finished, and notice and sensations or feelings that are there.

 

Bonding with Gravity – SAVASANA with “TENSE” & RELAX

Lying on your back in a comfortable position, eyes closed:

  • Let your weight be supported by the earth. Notice any part that seems to be “hovering” weightlessly above the surface. Try to soften or melt all of your body towards gravity;
  • Now lift your head above an inch off the ground. Feel its full weight and relax it back to the earth; notice the difference;
  • Life one leg off the ground, feel its weight, relax it to the earth; notice the difference
  • Lift your pelvis off the ground, feel its weight, relax it to the earth; notice the difference
  • Lift an arm off the ground, feel its weight, relax it to the earth; notice the difference
  • Notice your full body weight resting on the ground;
  • Notice the full body here on the ground and the front surface of the body touching the space between the front of the body and the ceiling;
  • Begin slowly to pour the contents of your body towards one side and roll onto this surface (bring your arms along). Feel your weight drain into the earth;
  • Continue to roll slowly, pouring the fluid contents until you are resting on the front of your body. Release your front surface to the ground;
  • Roll very slowly onto the remaining side, pouring your contents;
  • Return to your back and nestle your whole body into the ground;
  • Slowly begin the transition to standing, remaining aware of your fluid contents with the pull of gravity;
  • Once standing in plumb line remain in open attention, noticing any sensations (thoughts, emotions, images) that occur. Add vision and continue awareness of gravity.

Bonding with gravity underlies all other movement patterns.  We must be able to release our weight down in order to push away, stand, walk tall.

Disclaimer:

This blog is written with good intentions but it is not substitute for professional counselling.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNT FROM MY SHOULDER INJURY?

1 Marc 2019 (AEST)

I have been practicing yoga for almost 30 years, teaching for 8 years and in October 2018 I had my first yoga accident.  Some of you might think nothing to be proud of, it is bad for business to write about it – BUT – I LEARNT VALUABLE LESSONS which I would like to share.

Half handstand

Doing Half handstand – long time ago

Half hand stand was always a pose I could do with confidence – until – one Saturday whilst I was teaching and demonstrating I lost my balance and fall onto my left shoulder, causing a swollen tendon and nerve impingement.

Brief background to the accident

I got bad news on the Wednesday of that week and was still working through the issues on Saturday.  I was determined to teach the best class I could because I am a professional :)!

On this Saturday the strap around my elbows was a bit tight, I was not quite comfortable in the spot I was demonstrating.  An inner voice was saying ‘do not lift your right leg off the wall’ but I did and fall onto my left shoulder.  I jumped up quickly, felt some pain but I knew no bone was broken.  I finished teaching the last 20 minutes of the class.  My students were concerned, they recommended cream to buy and helped to put on an ice pack.

The rehabilitation

I visited my trusted physiotherapist as soon as I could (Vicki from http://www.myspineandbodyphysio.com/) and started on the exercise routine she prescribed.  It was to remove my fear of movement, to mobilise the joint and to strengthen the muscles in the shoulder.  I am still doing these exercises daily.

The mobility quickly returned but the movements are still not smooth.  It was recommended to modify my yoga practice.  At the beginning restorative yoga replaced general practice.  By Christmas I tried inversions like shoulder stand and it felt good.  I also did THE half handstand without raising a leg.  My confidence has suffered!

 What does yoga philosophy teach us?

Yoga is more than the poses what Westerners mostly focus on.  It is a whole way of life.  The philosophy was written down in Sanskrit by Patanjali more than 2,000 years ago.  He defined the eight limbs or stages of the yogic journey in the Yoga Sutras (chapter II.29) and they are the following:

  1. Yama – ethical disciplines – living in harmony with others;
  2. Niyama – rules of conduct – living in harmony with yourself;
  3. Asana – postures for mind-body connection;
  4. Pranayama – breath control;
  5. Pratyhara – withdrawal of the senses;
  6. Dharana – concentrating on a single point;
  7. Dhyana – mediation, uninterrupted flow of concentration;
  8. Samadhi – pure bliss, fully conscious and alert – no ‘I’ and ‘mine’ exist

Quoting BKS Iyengar ‘When the eight disciplines are followed with dedication and devotion, they help the student to become physically, mentally and emotionally stable so that she/he can maintain equanimity in all circumstances’.

In every yoga conference, workshop or course I have attended we were told to practice and teach all eight limbs of yoga.

 Where did I go wrong?

The first stage (Yama) the ethical disciplines (amongst other things) include non-violence or non-injury in general.  It of course includes no self harm.  On the day I did not follow this.  If we are not gentle with ourselves how can we be gentle with others?

As they show on the airline safety demonstrations: first put the oxygen mask on yourself then onto others who need help.

The second stage (Nijama) includes study one’s own self.  I might have studied myself but I ignored the findings on the day.

 My advice for safe yoga practice

  • Listen to your body. You know your body better than any teacher, you know what sort of day you had prior to coming to class;
  • Accept where you are on a given day. We bring a different body every time we step on the mat;
  • If a pose gives you sharp pain or you are not comfortable in it come out of that pose;
  • If you have an accident seek professional help as soon as possible. Depending on the advice you receive – either rest for a while or start the rehabilitation process and work on it diligently.  As they say ‘you are worth it’;
  • Accept that in our age healing takes longer.

Enjoy your yoga practice!

 

Mary

yoga mat

Introduction to Ayurveda

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Recently I was on a Yoga / Ayurveda retreat in a small, purpose built village in the South of India.  The retreat was organized by Adore Yoga.

As you might know Yoga means yolk or unite, generally interpreted as uniting the body, mind and spirit or uniting the individual consciousness with the universal.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda (Ayur: life, Veda: knowledge/wisdom) is ancient science of life and healing. It is originated from India, 4000-2000 BC.  Holistic healing, sister science to yoga.

THE LINK BETWEEN YOGA AND AYURVEDA IS PRANA OR LIFE FORCE.

Ayurveda offers knowledge of the senses, mind, emotions, body and our relationships with others, with our environment and with ourselves.

There are five elements (air, space, fire, water and earth) and three Doshas or energies in the body, Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth).

Our individual constitution is called prakruti and it is decided at conception.  Your prakruti will determine how things will affect you, how you react.

An Ayurvedic specialist will assess our dosha by observing our body (built, eyes, hair, skin and nails), speech, gate, tongue and he/she will ask about digestion, elimination and sleep pattern.  Based on these he/she will specify our prakruti.  Each dosha has its positives and negatives properties, we need them all and in the body they work together (i.e. digestion).

Most people have a dominant dosha and sometimes one of the three is out of balance.

Knowing and understanding our doshas is important for selecting suitable foods, species, herbs and lifestyle.  Generally we get along better with another person whose prakruti is different from ours (imagine two cooks in a kitchen!).

Back to the retreat – we started the day with an early morning yoga class

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which was followed by a healthy breakfast, including all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter).

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In Ayurveda they teach against overeating and it is recommended to fill the stomach with food up to half way, ¼ is used for liquids and ¼ of the stomach is left empty to allow for digestion.  Indians eat sitting on the floor in easy crossed legged position.  This pose helps to  as one burps at half-mark.

Despite eating big meals after a few days we all felt lighter as the toxins were leaving our body.

The table below has some information on the Doshas.

 

Dosha Vata

Air & Space

Pitta

Fire & water

Kapha

Earth and water

Main characteristics

If Dosha is

in balance

 

Occupation

Expands energy

Movement

Joy, creativity

Inspirational

Good communicator /

 

Actor

 

Efficient at alloc energy,

Transformation

Fire of metabolism

Intense, focused, detailed

Politician

Conserves energy

Cohesial / stagnant

Grounded, stable

 

 

Bank Manager

If out of balance Worry, insomnia

erratic

Poor digestion

Irritable and critical Congestion in the body, weight gain
To balance this dosha needs Nourishing and grounding/ routine

Take regular breaks

Calming foods (warm) and calming yoga poses Stimulating food (light foods/salads) and more vigorous yoga

Change routine

This dosha is dominant in People over 50 Between the ages of

20-50

Childhood

If you are interested in reading more about Ayurveda ‘The science of Self-Healing’ by Dr Vasant Lad is a good book.

We live in a Vata society, high rise buildings, air conditioning, fast pace – so ideally we all should chill out / relax more.

My Ayurvedic treatment included warm oil massage and massage with warm herbal pouches – as prescribed by the Doctor.

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Treatment table, my herbal pouches in the bowl and gas for heating

As we age we are getting dryer both outside and inside.  Self massage with warm oil (which is suitable for our constitution) once a week is an effective way to keep ourselves young.

There are a number of qualified and experienced Ayurvedic specialist in Sydney.