Archive | September, 2014

Yoga Diary – Runner’s Lunge “the asana treasure waiting to be discovered”

16 Sep

In an article published in Yoga International, Luke Ketterhagen described banarasana (one of the names given to the Lunge pose) as “an asana treasure waiting to be discovered”.

This reminded me of a workshop I attended with Ana Forrest. She also recommended practising Lunge pose. In her book “Fierce Medicine”, she  wrote: “When you are moving into Lunge, you’re dealing with big muscles –quadriceps- so it takes a while for the pose to take its effect. This pose is so simple, and it works deeply. Anatomically, it’s straightforward, but energetically and physiologically, it’s a mover and a shaker.” (page 30)

In Yoga Therapy, we learn that the benefits of the pose are varied: it tones the abdominal muscles and gives a good stretch to the back and hip flexors. It strengthens the hips, legs, ankles and feet and induces balance in the nervous system!

So here are the instructions to come into Lunge:

  1. Starting from the table position, on all four, step your left foot forward between your hands.  Left knee is directly over the ankle and the shin perpendicular to the ground. Extend the right leg behind and place the knee and the top of the foot on the floor. Make sure the neck is in line with the spine, head looking down. Fingertips are on the floor or if you feel more comfortable, place blocks under your hands.
  2. Then lengthen the left thigh forward and the right thigh back, lowering the hips towards the mat. Stay in the pose for 30 to 60 seconds and then come back to table position and change side.
  3. Repeat a few times on each side.

To be honest, it wasn’t one of my favourite postures when I started yoga. My thighs were burning and although I am fairly flexible, it just didn’t feel right. But little by little, I started to notice how to adjust to make it nicer.
First it is crucial to place the knee of the extended leg comfortably on the mat. It sometimes helps to place a blanket underneath or to fold the mat. What I like doing is extend the straight leg back so I can place the top of the kneecap on the floor rather than the front. But only slightly as you need to keep the hips square to the front of the mat!
I also like to lift the toes and press the ball of the foot (of the bent leg) to make sure my knee doesn’t rotate inwards and stays in line with the ankle and the hip.
Then the main thing is to LET GO! The more relaxed you are, the more your hips will release. Gently! As Ana Forrest said, you need time in the Lunge to really experience it.  For some people, doing lunges releases a lot of emotions. If you feel “vulnerable”, just return to your breath to relax. Let go at all levels, and observe what happens without judging yourself.

I now really enjoy the lunges and I increasingly practise the Yin version: the Dragon Pose. Holding the pose for 2 minutes stimulates the stomach and spleen meridians (on the extended leg) and the kidney and liver meridians on the bent leg.

So are you ready to go into Lunge?

Yoga Diary with Video – Get up & Go!

15 Sep

Have you ever noticed that the idea of doing some yoga tomorrow is always such a good idea! Tomorrow when I get up, I will prepare the mat and I will do some yoga!

And then tomorrow arrives… But I don’t know what to do. I don’t have time. Well no more excuse: Here is the solution: a 13 minutes long video that will do the trick. Nothing complicated… Just simple but very effective postures. It is “general” and not particularly for people with MS. The aim is just to “Get up & Go!”. Please try it. You will find the video on our Vimeo channel:  http://vimeo.com/user30009423

Are you awake now?

You might even want to do more… Keep moving and have a fantastic day!

Namaste

Yoga Diary – Why you should include “core” work in your practice

13 Sep

In 2010, an article in the Times entitled “The Core Stability Myth” gave rise to some discussions about the important of strengthening the core muscles. However, the controversy arose mainly because the author was referring to the Transverse Abdominals (the six pack muscle) rather than all the core muscles.

It is indeed important to see the core as a group of muscles including the Transverse Abdominals but also the Obliques, the Multifidus and the Pelvic Floor Muscles.

Why are these muscles important?
First because they protect the lower back by stabilising it and help keep a good posture.
Second because they help massage the internal organs, improving digestion and elimination.
Third, because strong core muscles will help you in about all the yoga asanas. Whether standing, balancing poses or twists, they all require strong core muscles and stability.
Fourth, core strength is magical. It makes everything easier: sitting, lifting, standing, bending, playing tennis, reaching overhead… you name it. Personally, it makes me feel stronger, not just physically but mentally too.

How to strengthen the core?
Students often believe that the only core strengthening yoga pose is Navasana/ the Boat pose but there are many many more. And not just asanas! Practising Kaphalabati breath everyday for a few minutes will undoubtedly strengthen your core! Pelvic tilts too, Balancing Table, Lower Planks… There are core strengthening practises for every mood, every level!
Hmm I guess a short Core Strengthening Video is required. Coming soon.

Yoga Diary – MS Hug (How Yoga helps)

12 Sep

Over the last few days, I occasionally felt tightness around my ribcage, very mildly and briefly. However last night, it became quite intense. No doubt, it was the so- called MS hug, which is basically due to spasms of the muscles between the ribs. It can last a few minutes or hours.

I had just finished reading a great article (Sam Harris’s Vanishing Self by Gary Gutting) when the pain started. My ribcage was caught in a vice. My breath got shorter and shallower. So I got up, walked around trying to stand up and then lied down breathing as deeply as I could. But it didn’t stop.

I then decided to go on my yoga mat – I am lucky to have a ‘yoga room’ where my mat is always waiting for me, with bolsters and blocks. Without any hesitation, I went into Supta Badda Konasana, the Bound Angle Pose.
I demonstrated this pose in a video for ekhartyoga: Watch the video

I did this pose without the belt though and stayed for about ten minutes, listening to some relaxing music. Peter had brought my iPad in the room and lit the candles to help me relax – i think he was a bit worried as he had never seen me with the MS hug before!
I then moved into Savasana, the Corpse Pose, and played a ‘Chanting Om’ album. I listened to Om being continuously chanted, anchoring my breath on each long slow Om. I did this for about twenty minutes, focusing on keeping with the breath, and then I felt better. Later on, I also meditated briefly, had a nice cup of tea and a hot shower. The crisis was over.

Yoga doesn’t take away the pain of the MS Hug – it is hard to reach the muscles being in spasm with the MS hug- but it helps.
For me, it is like having a toothache. On the one hand there is the tooth pain itself, the ‘core pain’. But on the other, there is also the discomfort, and sometimes even pain, due to us being nervous, irritated, etc., the ‘secondary pain’. Yoga may not reduce the core pain itself but it certainly helps reduce the secondary pain. And it makes the whole experience much easier to cope with. I do not wish anybody to experience the MS Hug, but if it happens, try this and see if it helps. Namaste

Yoga Diary from Taming the Walrus

11 Sep

Yesterday I had this great idea: “Tomorrow I will start a Yoga Diary and I will share all the benefits I experience in different poses. I could start with some energizing Kundalini sequence, take pictures, wouldn’t that be great?”

But that was yesterday!

This morning, I woke up – or did I?- and felt exactly as I looked. The best way to describe it would be to imagine someone dips you in a gigantic cheese fondue and you are trying to get out of it… A battle against Gravity!

Gone was the big plan of doing some nice energetic Kundalini sequence. For a little while, I even tried to convince myself that it would be best to start tomorrow. Everything starts on Mondays, n’est-ce pas?

But I thought “Yin, Yin, Yin yoga is what you need!” I took everything I could take hold of: a mat, blocks, bolsters, cushions… I lit some incense. And there I was, ready to work on my kidney meridian – I always need to relax a bit so working on this meridian is always useful.

What I like about yin yoga, besides the fact that it is amazing to stretch the connective tissues, is that there is no rush… You have time to slowly settle into the poses (I usually hold each pose between 3 and 5 minutes) and you can  focus on your breath or observe your mind.

The first few poses were challenging, not physically, but mentally. All these thoughts were coming in “Why don’t you do yoga later?” “You are tired, go back to bed”… I remembered a trick given by Esther Ekhart in one of her classes. She described how her cat would be waiting in front of a hole in the wall, ready to catch anything that comes out, completely alert. And she explained how we could do the same with our thoughts: be alert and catch them as soon as they come up and then let them go (not sure if the cat does the letting go bit!). So I imagined being a cat. I did miss a few thoughts but I kept going on.

I practised for just over an hour. I took me at least 25 minutes to stop fighting but then I really enjoyed it. I feel better – still not ready for a marathon – but I am awake, I have more energy and I am happy with myself for getting on the mat. This is indeed the main thing: to get on the mat! Just by doing that you will feel better.

I guess the point of starting a diary is to keep writing regularly. So see you soon. Namaste

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