The first limb of yoga is the yamas (Sanskrit: यम), the second limb is its complement, the niyamas. They represent a series of "right living" or ethical rules within yoga. Yamas means "reining in" or "control."
As a group of us discussed “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele, what really came to light is the harm, non-truths and stealing we do to ourselves. It seems so much easier to care and be kind to others. We have to work even harder to take care of ourselves, constantly finding a balance and recalibrating ourselves.
Here is a summary of the Yamas:
Ahimsa (Non-Harming), the first of the yamas. Seems so easy. But look deeper. Are you kind to yourself? Do you nurture your health, your sleep? Do you spend too much time on social media? (Irony, I know!)How do you incorporate ahimsa into your daily life?
The second yama, satya, "truth" or "not lying," can be obvious and subtle. It is honest words and actions to those around us. It is being honest with ourselves. It is first, doing no harm. It is being quiet when the truth might harm. It is knowing when to back off a pose, when to go in deeper.
The third yama is asteya, or "non-stealing." Asteya encourages us to act from a place of abundance. To give instead of take. This, too, can be subtle or not. It should be obvious that we would not walk into someones home or place of business and start taking items. But what about stealing someones time? What about stealing someones energy? How can you act from a place of abundance and not scarcity? How can you, too, not steal from yourself, your precious time and energy?
The fourth yama is aparigraha or "non-possessiveness." This is a powerful emotion for many. How do we detach, how do we not covet, stay away from jealously? One method is mudita. Mudita is sympathetic or unselfish joy, or joy in the good fortune of others. It is finding pleasure in others well-being. It is cultivating a heart that rejoices in other's accomplishments. It is cheering the student who does beautiful handstand in the middle of the room.
The fifth and final yamas is brahmacharya. Brahmacharya translates as the concept of celibacy or, when a person controls his citta, abstaining through word, thought, and deed from physical or sensual pleasures. Applied to a more modern lifestyle, it is the art of sustaining energy, and not depleting your vitality. This can easily tie back to the first four yamas, not wasting time on jealously, or "stealing" others or your own time. What so you do to maintain energy?
Like many people you may have set resolutions or goals for the new year that involve health and fitness. And, like many people, by the the beginning of February your resolution begins to wane. How can you keep your healthy goals through the year?
First, write your goals down on paper and be very specific. Stating that you want to “eat healthier” is too vague and hard to measure. More concrete goals may be to “make home-prepared meals with only fresh ingredients” a certain number of times per week or “eliminate added sugar” from your diet. Second, allow yourself some wiggle room, or even a day off. Go ahead and eat a piece of birthday cake at a party. Just get back on track the next day. Third, keep track of how you are doing. A great idea is to take a picture of the food you eat each day and then review at the end of the day. Don't hide anything and don't cheat! Fourth, watch out for fad diets that are just too hard to stick to in the long run. Occasional fasting is fine, but be sure to check with your doctor before you try something drastic!
For physical fitness, try a variety of activities to see what suits you. If you didn't stick to running last year, you probably won't stick to it this year. Keep doing what you like andstep out of your routine once in awhile. Switch up your activities so that you don't get bored. You will also be more likely to avoid injuries if you do a variety of activities. Our bodies need weight bearing, stretching and cardiovascular (cardio) exercise. Weight bearing exercise is essentialfor building and maintaining healthy bones and building bone cells and helps prevent osteoporosis. Cardiovascular exercise raises your heart rate, improves stamina and the function of our heart, lungs and circulatory system. Stretching keeps our muscles strong and our joints healthy. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get all of these is to take a vigorous walk, preferably with some elevation gain. Be sure to stretch after!
One of the best ways to keep your healthy goals is to have an accountability partner. Pick someone that you can trust and that can be honest with you. They don't have to be a workout partner though, it is nice if your accountability partner and you occasionally get together for a walk, or to share a healthy meal. Your accountability partner could even be someone remote. Share your goals and your accomplishments and even your failures. Set a specific time and day to check in, preferably several times per week. Most important, just keep moving and don't give up. Your health is worth it!
Watch a child at play in movement. Observe your dog or cat as they stretch in the morning or engage in play. There doesn't always seem to be a sense or rhythm to their movement. They don't seem to have an agenda. They stretch, run, jump and come to abrupt stops. Adults tend to lose the ability to move in innovative ways. We are too worried about how we look and become constrained in our exercise and everyday movements.
Even if we are active, we often focus on certain activities, such as running, golfing or biking, repetitively moving the same way. We tend to lose the ability to listen to our bodies and so we get stuck in ruts of movement, which can lead to injury. When was the last time you skipped, did jumping jacks or hung from your arms? When was the last time you stood on your tippy-toes?
There are still plenty of warm days to move around outside. If you hike, try some easy jogging, if you run, try some fast walking. Try walking backwards. Climb some hills. Move your arms while you walk, stop and do twists or lunges. Do push-ups on a bench. The idea is to move in a novel way. Let your body dictate what feels right. Explore stretching. Take deep breaths. Heck, you might even want to climb a tree!
As we head into autumn and spend more time indoors, it is important to keep moving. If you sit often at a desk, stand every fifteen minutes to stretch: inhale your arms overhead, interlace your fingers, open your palms up to the ceiling. Then reach your hands behind your back, interlacing your fingers and opening up in the chest as your shoulder blades draw together. When you are seated, twist to the right, hanging on to the side of your chair with both hands and hold for four to five breaths, then twist to the left and hold. Do heel lifts at your desk while seated. Stand and lean forward with your hands on the back of your chair. You don't have to do lengthy workouts to keep your blood flowing, your fascia supple and muscles stretching.
There are plenty of places to do organized movement indoors, but the idea is to keep moving. Studies have shown that exercise can improve brain function and repair damaged brain cells. Exercise has positive effects on the nervous system, encouraging the brain's pleasure chemicals, and can reduce anxiety. You might see me stretching in the grocery store line and doing yoga in an airport terminal if I am waiting for a plane. Keep moving, keep breathing!
Private yoga sessions allow clients to work one-on-one with a yoga teacher to assess and reach their personal goals and set an emphasis on what they want to accomplish while addressing the whole individual, body, breath, mind and spirit. Working one-on-one allows the teacher to more closely work with your specific body alignment and to help you develop a regular practice. You can take these lessons into a group setting and into personal practice at home. Private sessions can be beneficial as an initial starting point for a yoga practice or ongoing. Private sessions are also easy to work around a busy schedule.
Beginning students will gain initial experience by starting in one-on-one sessions to gain confidence in poses. Starting out in a group yoga class can seem overwhelming. You may not know your downward facing dog from your upward facing dog or what the teacher means by scissoring your inner thigh muscles! In a private session you will learn asanas, how to move in and out of poses and begin incorporating the language of yoga in your body so that you feel comfortable in a group setting.
If you are recovering from an injury, working in a private session can address your individual needs. You learn how to modify poses, how to strengthen while you heal, and how to prevent further injury. Yoga instructors can work in tandem with a physical therapist or others in the health profession to support your healing process.
Are you struggling to learn arm balances or inversions? Do you want to improve your balance poses? If you wish to take your practice to a new level, private lessons can enable a client to work in depth on individual asanas and to find subtleties in the body to challenge individual practice.
Private lessons may focus on movement, stretch, strength, posture, breath, or meditation, or a combination. You set the pace and the focus in a private session, allowing you to achieve your goals.
I fell in love with therabands long before I used them in physical therapy recovering from a broken arm. There is so much to these bands that they have endless uses!
They can make some movements more accessible, some more challenging. They can be used to stretch, strengthen, align. They come in different strengths or you can simply double them up! they pack up tiny. I take them camping and on trips.
You can use them standing, sitting and lying down. I use them in high power core exercises and with seniors in chairs. I use them in private sessions for injury recovery. I love the way that they can add just a bit of challenge in Pilates and I love when people find the proper form of an exercise just by using a band to keep centered.
If you want to learn more ways to use therabands come to Portable Strength and Flexibility with Band & Balls on June 16th 1-3 p.m. I will show you how you can experiment and find your own ways to play! You get a band to take with you and balls are available to purchase if you would like them. Sign up under workshops on our website!
Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana, Revolved Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold
This wide-legged forward fold with a twist is generally calming and grounding, helps to detoxify the organs (as most twists do). It lengthens and strengthens the spine, using mild traction with the gravity of the fold, opens the shoulders, strengthens the core and stretches the hamstrings, calves, hips and lower back. Bring focus to the abductors to strengthen inner thighs while stretching hamstrings.
Be cautious and aware of the shoulder area. If you have any shoulder injury try the twist with the hand on the hip and elbow to the ceiling instead of extending the arm. Use blocks if the floor is not easily accessible.
The meaning comes from comes from six words:
•Parivrtta — revolved
• Prasarita — spread or expanded
•Pada — foot or leg
•Ut — intense
•Tan — to stretch
•Asana — pose
Don't forget to breathe!
Bhujangasana vs. Urdva Mukha Svanasana
Though very similar, in cobra your chest lifts, arms are extended but may stay bent. Hips and legs stay on the ground. In updog, the entire body is lifted, with the tops of the feet and the hands as the base, arms fully extended, with legs and arms doing most of the work. In both poses, feet are parallel, toes pointed and tops of the feet press firmly into the mat as the legs reach back. The spine lengthens, the crown of the head reaches upward, as the gaze looks forward. The chest opens and the collar bones widen and reach up. The lower abdomen lifts.
Bring attention to the low back. Be cautious of any pinching. Try to lengthen more then bend. Think of a banana, not a crispy taco! Experiment in both positions to feel the difference in muscles engaged. Now you know what's up dog!
Don't forget to breathe!
Lately I see people choosing a word of the year. One word is certainly easier than a list of resolutions! Several years ago the word “joy” kept creeping into my radar. That I craved, it, wanted more of it, wanted to readily recognize it. That word is still constantly buzzing in the background. Mulling over a word the last few days, what struck me is “abundance.”
I love the idea that one word can be concise and distilled, or can encompass a huge range of ideas and actions. I would like abundance of joy, abundance in my life, abundance is others lives. Does this mean money? No, not really for me. Do I want to be comfortable? Hell, yes. Yet there is so much more to abundance. Health, time, exercise, sunshine. Time and health to teach yoga, to give others health. An abundant breath, abundant energy, abundant heart to make room for joy! So that will be my focus for the year. Do you have a word?
Happy New Year!
Don't forget to breathe!
Besides the obvious commonality of tight hamstrings, cyclists have a litany of other areas that need attention. Low back, hip flexors, shoulders and wrists can be tense and strained after a long ride. Cyclists need leg strength, quadriceps and hamstrings most of all, but also glutes and calf muscles. Core muscles also come into play.
Yoga can target all of these areas in strength and stretching, giving special emphasis to flexibility and strength in the lower back, hamstrings and hip flexors.
Cyclists spend most of their time bent forward over the handlebars, which leads to tight hip flexors. Forward fold, utkatasana, is a good pose to stretch the hamstrings, open up the low back and relax the hip flexors. Keep knees bent a bit to take strain off the hamstrings. Reclined pigeon, or figure four, is a good choice for a hip flexor stretch. Lunge and its deeper stretch, the lizard, can get into the psoas for stretch and strength. Plank is an excellent overall core builder. Eagle arms and cow face arms will help open the shoulders.
Many yoga poses target all these areas important to cyclists, helping to balance muscle strength and stretching to prevent injury. Yoga practice is also a focus on a deep and steady breath, important in any physical activity.
Thank you Bike Therapy for hosting me to teach pre-ride yoga. Come see us in the studio for more tips
Phew. Our buildout is done. Most of our decorating is complete. We have held our first classes and I am so happy to be teaching more. Now the hard work begins. Building community. Building trust. Come in and get to know us. See this lovely space we have created. Breathe with us. Laugh with us. Create with us. Get to know us and lets us get to know you. In the spirit of community we will have open studio each week. You can ask us questions. Work on a pose. Do some zen doodles. Or just lie in a corner with legs up the wall. Come say hi and don't forget to breathe!