6.29.2009

Gentle Yoga

How many times do we focus so intently on something that we absorb tension into the body? We might be typing, painting, knitting, carrying bags, or maybe just having a tough conversation. I think this happens all the time and often without us even realizing it.

What is gentle yoga? Well our usual weekly class is a practice of Hatha Yoga, with a vinyasa (and flowing) component as well. In gentle yoga, the pace of class can slow down, leading to a very thoughtful approach to the postures, and perhaps a chance to work on our alignment, both mentally and physically. We may flow less, and hold each asana for more breaths.

Especially during the hot summer season, you may wish to work on stilling your energy, and cooling ourselves down through more respect given to the yin aspect of yoga is possible. The calmness, steady breathing, and peace of holding still in space and time should not be underestimated. This practice can energize us without overheating, and sooth us into letting go of any tension as our warm muscles feel loose and relaxed. It might also be tough at first.

One concept to really embrace when stretching gently is total relaxation of the body. As we approach a point of gentle tension in the muscles, we can pause here and focus on the breath. For example, if folding forward in staff pose (seated, with both legs together straight out in front of us), we can begin to pause and imagine the feet letting go, the calves, knees and backs of the thighs all simply unengaging, and feeling heavy. We do not want to push further at this point, in fact we might even ease back slightly or adjust the hips and back as needed. If this is practiced, I have had the experience of feeling a release in my legs. At this point it may be possible to gently stretch just a little further, moving very slowly and always easing back if any sort of pain is encountered. This has given me a feeling of relaxation, and I look forward to continuing to explore this aspect of yoga and stretching.

Namaste,
Kat

6.21.2009

Ahimsa and DAD

In yoga, most of us start with exposure to the asanas, the actual physical poses and postures that we move through during class. Interestingly, if you continue to explore yoga, you arrive at a place where you discover some of the philosophy behind it, and this can be so fascinating as we move through life and try to understand the complex and at times difficult experiences we are having.

Some of the yamas have particularly been bubbling to the surface of my mind in the last few days, as I go through the extremely difficult experience of losing my dad. One of these is ahimsa and thinking of all the yamas, I think my dad reminds me of this concept most. This word means the absense of cruelty and the strong force of compassion. It can mean "pure love" and selfless service. He was very compassionate, and I always felt that while he was very strong, his spirit had such a gentle component. He could barely bear to hear any of us talk about a scratch or scrape without wincing, our pain was his. Funny though, if you asked him about a cut on his hand, he'd just mutter, "it's nothing", "don't know how I got that".

He had such a friendliness, and would make friends wherever he went, with jokes and stories, and honesty. He loved life very much, and often found a gem of humour to share. In addition, he was so polite to others, being considerate and trying his best to do what was right. In his career, he was improving water quality through science, protecting people from the dangers of water-bourne diseases, seeking to prevent harm.

This concept also relates to duty, and he was very committed to his various jobs in life, with unwaivering focus and without complaint. He loved to run, doing 3 miles daily for most of his life, practicing non-violence towards his body by caring for it. He was there for many many events for each of us five children and his wife, from soccer games, weddings, graduations, car trouble, working in the yard, and taking trips together. He was such a rock for our family, uniting us, so humbly. I will always think of him and his spirit, when I think of ahimsa.

Namaste,
Katherine

6.15.2009

Super Superfoods

Steven G. Pratt, MD and Kathy Matthews have coauthored a wonderful book, Superfoods, Rx. Click on the title to visit their wonderful web page, which lists 25 different Superfoods, the list is growing! The unique and unifying factor to these foods is that they can help to prevent or reverse aging and related diseases (according to research), and are simultaneously nutrient rich and mostly low calorie. Each has its own special properties and niche in our health. We probably can't eat them all every day and that's okay! Just pick your favorites and add them in as a healthy snack or meal as often as you can. Your body and mind will thank you! (Especially for that dark chocolate ;) )

The superfoods include:

6.11.2009

Recent Reflections

Just a few random thoughts from me recently about life and yoga. Honestly life is so unexpected. A good person I know from college is very sick. One friend of mine is getting married, moving across the country and starting grad school - so many lovely things all at once! Another friend recently took the time off work to lunch with her dear grandmother who is now going through some really serious health issues. A woman I work with helped her mom through surgery, though it was fine, and now some complications are arising. It really just underlines something I really have learned well in my life, but forget from time to time. If there's something you really wanna do, plan it now. Buy and wear that swimsuit, make that call, whatever it is, don't wait too long. Tomorrow is farther away that we expect sometimes, in fact, things change and then it's out of our grasp for good.

Today I listened to a lecture by an engineer. Yoga has really increased my awareness of not only my own breath, but that of others. I noticed his spine is somewhat rolling forward, and each time he spoke, he could barely catch his breath. It was almost painful to me to hear it. I wanted to teach him yoga breathing and help him. But I know people have to be open to things first, and maybe this will never happen for him. I will simply wish him breath and maybe that will help. The day was really cool too. It was a science lab and we hooked up an electrode that measures muscle activity. It was on my bicep and tricep of my right arm. I did a few pushups and also the half series ---> down dog, plank, chatarunga, up dog, down dog with the electrode on my arm. Turns out I mostly used my triceps the whole time. This sort of makes sense anatomically, but got me thinking I will look for some poses that work the biceps too! Many inversions might, I'll have to keep thinkin' on it.

Tonight I was practicing yoga outside with my delightful Thursday night class taught by Emily. She's a yoga poet! The weather was lush from recent rains, the sun peeked out for salutations, a breeze blew cheerily to dry our sweat. I noticed bumblebees zooming busily over the clover, felt slight fear of sting but they were ignoring us oh so well! I saw a nest in a tree, and how my toes look during chatarunga, the two sets of toes bend a little different, interesting, I never saw that before. I feel cozy doing yoga outside, like I'm bathed in the essense of yoga and they are soaking into me all at once. Drenching me in childhood feelings of safeness, peace, the yoga family moving and resting together.

Recently I was getting my eyebrows waxed. I do this every once in a while. It's slightly painful, not too bad but I focused on breathing calmly and imagined ocean waves rolling in. I was somewhat uncontrolled with this mental focusing, but it took hold lightly here and there and I could actually find myself swaying to this other place hazily. I want to work on this and develop it. It would be very useful if I ever have a child and go through that whole birth process thingy. ;)

Namaste,
Kat

6.04.2009

Yoga Mamas say: "Stand UP!"

Turns out, moms know best when it comes to our spines! Here are some thoughts about posture, and how to work on improving ours ours. In particular many of us tend to round our shoulders forward, and our head moves forward as well, putting extra pressure on the upper back and the muscles there. Thanks to YogaJournal and Julie Gudmestad for the following information! For the entire article, click here!

Better Posture 101

Your mom was right: You'll look better and feel great if you stop slouching and stand up straight. Yoga can help you do just that—in a way that honors your spine's natural curves. Here's a guide to assessing and improving your posture.

By Julie Gudmestad

POSTURE PRINCIPLES

To create great alignment for your body, I recommend a three-part strategy. First, build awareness by assessing your posture and your lifestyle. Next, create a yoga prescription for your specific postural problem by incorporating a few simple poses into your regular practice. Finally, take your newly developed awareness of your alignment issues and apply it throughout your daily life.

Before tackling the how-tos, however, it's important to understand the anatomy of proper posture. Whether you're sitting or standing, your spine has natural curves that should be maintained. They are a mild forward curve (like a gentle backbend) in the neck and lower back, and a mild backward curve in the upper back and midback. As you practice yoga, you learn to maintain these optimal curves in many standing poses, in most sitting poses, and in inversions like Sirsasana (Headstand) and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand).

If any of these curves are habitually flattened or overly curved, abnormal posture can get locked into the body. A wide variety of abnormal curves can occur, including a flat neck and a flat lower back, but we'll focus on the two most common problems: a hunched upper back (known as excessive kyphosis), which is usually linked with a jutting forward of the head (known as forward head) and, at the other end of the spectrum, an extreme sway in the lower back (known as excessive lordosis). These extreme curves contribute to many of the painful problems—muscle strain, joint pain, and disk problems, to name a few—that physical therapists and other health care practitioners treat every day.

Maintaining just the right curves is only part of the equation, however; to function efficiently, your skeletal structure also needs to be aligned vertically. That means when you're standing, your ears should be over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and your hips over your knees and ankles. When any body part falls out of that vertical line, the adjacent support muscles will feel the strain. For example, years of having a forward head will cause the muscles of the upper back and neck to become tired and achy from holding up the weight of the head against the pull of gravity.

So, while you needn't nag yourself about slouching, you may discover that the simple act of straightening up can change your life. If you train your body to maintain the normal spinal curves and keep your posture vertical and spacious when you're standing or sitting upright, you're likely to feel better all over. And that's something to write home about.


Namaste,

Kat

6.01.2009

The sixth month is here!

June. One of the most promising months of the year, in more ways than one! In the northern hemisphere, June contains the most longest days of sunlight. So slather on that sunscreen and let's go outside! The birth stone is a pearl, and the flower is a rose. Does any other month smell so sweet?

The name June (Juno) comes from Hera, the Goddess of Marriage and Households, so this is a lovely time to notice many wedding occurring. From gardens to churches to Vegas, the numbers of unions are high this month! There are many fun celebration days in June, so read below to find a few that you might enjoy this week! This is courtesy of author Susan Wittig Albert via her monthly newsletter, All About Thyme!

June is National Iced Tea Month (Drink up!!)
June 2: Today is the feast day of St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors.
June 3: St. Morand's Day, patron saint of vintners, wine growers, wine makers.
June 4: Hug Your Cat Day. Somewhere, a cat is waiting for a hug. Don't disappoint her. (A bouquet of catnip might be nice, too.)
June 5: National Gingerbread Day. (Why this doesn't take place in December is a great mystery.)

And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days. —James Russell Lowell


We will see you in June for Yoga. Stay tuned for outdoor experiences, Sunny Salutations, and lovely moments!

Namaste,
Kat

Summer Sparkler!

Wow! It's been a while since I've visited Blog-Landia. Are you still out there my friends?? Now I'm a mom times two!! Can you be...