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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?

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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

Taming the Walrus: An Integrative Approach

20 Jul

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I haven’t written any blog entry for such a long time…. But I was very busy! Together with my partner, we worked on the Taming the Walrus Approach: an integrative approach to living with MS, including Yoga, Mindfulness and Diet.
We are finalising our website – which will take over the name tamingthewalrus.com – and this blog will be linked to it.
It is so exciting! I feel that everything is coming together.I will of course share the link as soon as it is life!
I’m looking forward to your feedback. But i a m also looking forward to our first Taming the Walrus retreat, which will take place in Ericeira, Portugal, from 11th to 18th of October. We are delighted to organise it in Omassim guesthouse, which is owned by good friends of ours. It is a “small” guest house, which is perfect since we want to keep the number of participants low. Here is the schedule:

08:00-09:30 – General Yoga Class
09:45 – 10:45 Breakfast
11:00 – 12:30 Adaptive yoga (to address specific MS issues) or talks, video and discussions.
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 17:30 Free time – beach, massage, reading chatting etc.
18:00 – 18:45 Gentle Restorative Yoga (on the beach if you want to!)
18:45 – 19:30 Mindfulness
20:00 – Dinner

From 595 euro a week (Early Bird) including:
– Accommodation in mini dormitory
– 3 Delicious vegetarian meals per day
– Daily yoga classes – suitable for all levels
– Introduction to Mindfulness Sessions
– Retreat Manual

And hopefully there will be plenty more to come!
Have a lovely day!
ps: for more info you can write to us to tamingthewalrus@gmail.com

Ready, steady, go! – À vos marques, prêts, partez !

30 Dec

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englishI love New Year, new resolutions… Life seems full of possibilities. I’m full of energy, ready to conquer the world!

In 2012, I decided to move to Spain, and here I am, in beautiful Andalucia. In 2013, I’ll embark on the Overcoming MS program. Right now, I feel that this is a much bigger challenge than  changing countries.

The OMS program was developed by an Australian doctor who himself has MS. It is based on the proof that changing your lifestyle has tremendous positive impacts on the evolution of your MS. The program is holistic. It includes regular exercise, 30 min daily meditation and 15 min sunlight a day. It also includes a meat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, low saturated fat diet.

Indeed, saturated fats trigger a “fight” reaction in the immune system, whereas unsaturated fats trigger a “flee” reaction, which is obviously best when you have an autoimmune disease. This diet follows the same principles as the standard immune modifier treatments, but it requires discipline. Especially since no “deviation” is allowed…

One of my problems, as usual, is that “forever” seems far too long!!! When I stopped smoking, I tricked myself by saying “No worries, you don’t stop forever. You’ll have another one… but on your 80th birthday!” It has worked very well so far…

Should I try it with cheese and avocados? Maybe.

Another major issue is to decide “How badly do I want to fight MS?” “Am I ready to give up nice food?” And that is where I’m completely wrong. I don’t have to give up nice food. I just have to be more “creative” as my friend Jorin told me. Jorin is an amazing vegetarian chef (check her blog if you need a proof: http://ConsciousFoodChoices.com) and I’m so lucky to be able to count on her support and advice.

So here I go, I have my blender, I have Jorin’s advice, I have the energy. So let’s do it!

Good bye mature goat’s cheese. Good bye strong blue Roquefort… See you on my 80th birthday, a birthday of blue cheese with red wine and a cigarette…

Happy New Year to you all!

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FrenchJ’adore le Nouvel An, les bonnes résolutions… La vie semble pleine d’opportunités et moi, je suis pleine d’énergie, prête à conquérir le monde !

En 2012, j’avais décidé d’aller vivre en Espagne et me voici ici, en Andalousie. En 2013, c’est décidé. Je me lance dans le programme  OMS (Vaincre la SEP). En ce moment, le défi me parait bien plus grand que celui de changer de pays.

Le programme OMS a été développé par un médecin australien, lui-même souffrant d’une SEP. Il s’appuie sur l’idée, vérifiée, qu’un style de vie adapté a d’énormes effets positifs sur l’évolution de la SEP. Il s’agit d’un programme holistique qui inclut des exercices réguliers, 30 minutes de méditation quotidienne et 15 minutes d’exposition solaire. Il inclut également un régime sans viande, sans produits laitiers, sans œufs et bas en graisses saturées.

En effet, les graisses saturées incitent le système à « attaquer » alors que les graisses non saturées le poussent à « fuir », ce qui est souhaitable en cas de maladie auto-immune mais nécessite une certaine discipline. D’autant plus qu’aucun écart n’est acceptable.

Comme d’habitude, un de mes problèmes, est que « pour toujours » me semble beaucoup trop long !!! Quand j’ai arrêté de fumer, je me suis convaincue que « Ce n’est pas grave. Tu n’arrêtes pas pour toujours. Tu fumeras une autre cigarette… Mais pour ton 80 ème anniversaire ! » Jusqu’à présent, ça marche…

Devrais-je essayer la même astuce avec le fromage et les avocats ? Peut-être.

Un autre problème est de décider « Jusqu’où es-tu prête à aller pour combattre la SEP ? » « Suis-je prête à abandonner la bonne nourriture ? » Et c’est là que je commets une erreur. Je ne dois pas abandonner la bonne nourriture. Je dois faire preuve de créativité, comme me l’a dit mon amie Jorin, qui est une chef végétarienne exceptionnelle. (son blog en est la preuve : http://ConsciousFoodChoices.com). J’ai la chance de pouvoir compter sur son soutien et sur ses conseils.

Me voici donc. J’ai mon super blender. J’ai les conseils de Jorin. J’ai l’énergie. Alors, c’est bon, je suis prête!

Au revoir mon tender chèvre. Au revoir mon Roquefort bleu et fort… On se revoit pour mes 80 ans, pour fêter un anniversaire avec du bleu, du rouge et une cigarette…

Bonne année à vous tous!

Cultivating a Positive Attitude – Cultiver une attitude positive

21 Oct

One of the statues in Suryalila

“When disturbed by negative thoughts,
opposite [positive] ones should be thought of.”
Sri Gurudev’s translation of the Yoga Sutras

Last week, I didn’t feel too good. My immune system was apparently fighting something and dormant symptoms awakened. I felt tired and slightly depressed.  As always in such cases, I remembered the first advice the MS nurse gave me: “Only use 70% of your energy. Keep the rest to manage MS.” Since I didn’t want to take days off work, I gathered and saved up my energy to meet my deadlines.
Luckily I could spend these “tricky” days in Suryalila, my favourite yoga retreat centre. And I soon got better.
However, I have to admit that frustration crept up… I was right here and but I couldn’t attend my yoga teacher’s classes. My right leg was numb and I had twisted my ankle recently… I felt too weak and thought that I would either exceed the 70% limit I was trying to respect or hurt myself if I joined the vinyasa morning class.
Maybe I was wrong, maybe it would have been ok but how do you know when your 70% energy level has been used up? I decided to play it safe.
However, although I didn’t do any asana, I still practised some form of yoga. I practised cultivating positive attitude.  There are different techniques but I focused on Pratypaksha Bhavana, which consists of shifting one’s perspective. So each time, I had a negative thought because of MS, I added an item on my mental list of all the things I should be thankful for, like being in love with a wonderful caring man, being surrounded by great people, living where I want to live, having a job that I enjoy and can do from anywhere or going for a walk under a blue sky…
For me, being positive is not about believing in a miraculous recovery or a cure but about replacing negative thoughts – which we all have – with positive ones. It is not always as easy as it sounds as the negative thoughts sometimes keep coming back, especially when the body aches or when the future looks bleak. But for me, it has been worth the effort so far. It “unstuck” me and helped me create a more positive image of myself. Yoga also offers other techniques to cultivate a positive attitude and as for the asanas, the more you practise, the easier it gets.

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 La semaine dernière, je n’étais pas en super forme. Mon système immunitaire s’efforçait apparemment de combattre une infection et quelques symptômes se réveillèrent. Fatiguée, je me sentais légèrement déprimée. Comme d’habitude dans ces cas-là, je me souvins du premier conseil que me donna l’infirmière: “Il faut utiliser seulement 70% de votre énergie. Vous aurez besoin du reste pour gérer la SEP.” Comme je ne voulais pas prendre de congé, j’ai rassemblé mon énergie et l’ai consacrée à mon travail.
Heureusement, j’ai pu passé ces journées “difficiles” dans mon centre de yoga préféré, Suryalila. Et je me suis rapidement sentie mieux.
Néanmoins, je dois avouer que je me sentis également frustrée. J’étais ici mais je ne pouvais assister au cours de vinyasa de ma prof. Ma jambe droite était constamment engourdie et je m’étais tordue la cheville peu de temps auparavant… Je me sentais trop faible et pensais que je risquais soit de dépasser les 70% soit de me blesser.
Peut-être ai-je eu tort. J’aurais peut-être pu suivre les cours mais comment savoir si ce serait trop? J’ai décidé de ne pas prendre de risque.
Mais, bien que je n’aie pas fait pratiqué diverses asanas, j’ai tout de même fait du yoga. J’ai cultivé une attitude positive! Plusieurs techniques existent mais je me suis concentrée sur celle du Pratypaksha Bhavana, qui consiste à changer de perspective. Ainsi, dès qu’une pensée négative liée à la SEP me traversait l’esprit, je songeai à une chose pour laquelle je me sentais reconnaissante. Par exemple, être amoureuse d’un homme merveilleux et chaleureux, être entourée de personnes chaleureuses, vivre où je le désire, avoir un travail qui me plait et qui me laisse libre de voyager, me promener sous un ciel bleu sans nuage…
Pour moi, être positive ne signifie pas croire en une guérison miraculeuse mais remplacer les pensées négatives – que nous avons tous – par des pensées positives. Ce n’est pas toujours aussi facile qu’il n’y paraît surtout quand le corps souffre ou quand le futur semble sombre. Mais pour moi, cela en a, jusqu’à présent, valu la peine. Ça m’a permis de me libérer et aussi de me créer une image plus positive de moi-même. Le yoga propose d’autres techniques pour cultiver une attitude positive et comme pour les asanas, plus on pratique plus cela devient facile.

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