Friday, May 31, 2013

What's "Neutral Pelvis"?

When I was in school, (for Exercise Physiology) each movement began “from neutral pelvis”, but no one ever explained how to find neutral pelvis.  How far do you stick your backside out?  How much do you tuck your pelvis?  This has always concerned me.  And no wonder!  I recently looked up the psoas in one of my old Anatomy books, and it barely had a paragraph about it.  I can’t believe that.  It’s such an important muscle in the health of your back, and it just had a paragraph!  Of course I had a hard time finding neutral pelvis, not to mention what a hard time I had teaching my personal training clients about neutral pelvis. 

But then, I went to yoga teacher training.  I studied under Stephanie Keach, at Asheville Yoga Center (awesome yoga teacher training program, if you get a chance to go!).  Stephanie teaches a technique she calls “Pez”, like the candy.  I’ll show you what she’s talking about in the workshop.  Suddenly, I understood!  Yay for yoga.

But over the years, with so much teaching, I started to have trouble with my left hip and sacro-illiac joint.  What was going on?  I was practicing Pez!

Last fall, I went to the workshop at AYC with John Friend.  John looked at me, and immediately knew I had been tucking my pelvis under too much.  All these years of teaching yoga had strengthened my abs to the point that they overwhelmed my back muscles.

So, I’ve modified Stephanie’s Pez just a little bit, added a bit of John Friend’s advice,  as well as my own experiences, and have come up with a workshop I call “Neutral Pelvis”.  If you have back pain, or know someone who does, try this workshop!

Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 24, 2013

How to create community in your yoga studio...even as a student
At Mountain Yoga in Johnson City, TN, we have a great community.   We’ve introduced people who’ve become friends, who may have never met any other way.  I love to hear students making plans to get together outside of the studio, or doing business with one another.  Few of us sit on our front porches, and greet the neighbors anymore, so we have to find a way to connect with others.  Yoga studios are the perfect environment.  You already have something in common!

1-Talk.  No, I don’t mean in Sivasana!  But before class, instead of ignoring everyone in the room, smile and say hello.  Comment on the mat you like, or introduce yourself.  I know this isn’t common practice in some studios, but isn’t it a welcome change?

2-Laugh.  Stop taking your practice so seriously.  If the teacher makes a joke, it’s ok to giggle.  Who said yoga has to be boring?  (Refer to the book, Happy Yoga by _______________.  He says we Westerners take ourselves way too seriously!)  You might just catch the eye of your new best friend.

3-Stick around.  Does your studio offer tea?  If so, grab a cup, take a seat, and see what happens.  I’ve learned so many interesting things from our post-practice chats!  Plus, it’s a great way to come out of a deep meditation.  Don’t be in such a hurry to rush out the door.

I can’t point you to a Sutra, or tie it specifically to the Yamas and Niyamas, but I’ve always believed that sharing community is its own kind of yoga.  That personal interaction is so lost in today’s society.  Try today to make a new friend at your yoga class.  I’m sure you’ll have other stuff in common, too.

Monday, May 13, 2013

7 reasons to love child's pose

1-Relaxation-Childs’ pose is a great opportunity to release all the tension in your muscles, and just be supported by the floor.  If Childs’ pose isn’t relaxing to you, use props, maybe behind the knees, or under the head & chest.

2-Grounding-How often, in daily life, do we put our foreheads to the floor?  Not much.  And yet, it’s a great way to connect with the earth again.  Placing the forehead on the floor can help to bring you out of the monkey mind, and into the body once again.

3-Pranayama-One of the things I love about Childs’ pose is how my breath seems amplified when I’m all curled up like that.  The sounds of my breath reverberate back to me off my legs.  This allows my focus to remain firmly on my breath…just where it needs to be.

4-Yin time-The ‘yin’ side of life is the calm, quiet, solitude side.  In Childs’ pose, I feel like I’m totally alone in the world.  I feel protected by my strong back, and I feel I can spend some time just being me.

5-Low back stretch-This posture is a great counter pose to some of the back-strengthening poses we do in yoga.  When we’ve done several locust poses, or camel poses, it can feel so good to just shift backward and stretch the lower back.

6-Neck softness-All day long, we hold up this 8-10 lb bowling ball we call a head.  Our necks get tired and stretched, often causing neck pain, headaches, and more.  But in Childs’ pose, all the weight of the head is on the floor.  What a nice break from our daily chore.  The muscles of the neck can relax and become soft, leaving that big head to be supported by the mat.

7-Breath consciousness in the back-We are often aware of the breath coming & going through the front of the ribcage, but it also moves through the back.  In Childs’ pose, because the front of the chest is compressed, we can focus on opening the back with the breath.  Our intercostal muscles rarely get such a great workout as when we’re actively bringing the breath into the back.

Monday, May 6, 2013

5 Keys to Tree Pose

5 Keys to a better Tree Pose
1-A firm foundation-Begin by mindfully placing all four corners of your foot on the floor (both sides of the heel, big toe mound & little toe mound)  Lift & spread all your toes & place them down firmly.  Imagine your toes to be like roots, grounding into the floor.  Strength and flexibility in the foot and lower leg can make all the difference in your Tree Posture.

2-A solid gaze-Find a spot that’s not moving, a “Dristi” spot.  Hold this spot clearly in your vision.  By keeping your eyes on the Dristi, you will increase your balance dramatically.

3-A gathering energy-When you bring the foot to the inside of the leg, it’s important to gather your energy in and up.  Think of squeezing in, and lifting.  One of the chief complaints I hear about Tree Pose is that the foot slides down the yoga pants.  To keep this from happening, the foot AND the standing leg must press against each other, gathering energy toward the center.  Also, we want to lift the pelvic floor, for strength and stabilization, gathering the energy upward.

4-An open heart-Often we find ourselves just focused on the balance in Tree Pose.  But we also must remember the upper body to obtain the lightness and freedom associated with this posture.  Shoulders are back, and the sternum (the big bone in your chest) is lifted here.  Imagine floating your collar bones closer to the sky, and spreading open the front of the chest.

5-A humble ego-While we all want to do the perfect ‘Yoga Journal” pose, that’s not always in the cards.  Honor your body.  Maybe you need to keep your toes on the ground, or just barely bring the foot up.  That’s ok.  Maybe, especially if you’re just beginning yoga, you might even want to put a finger on a wall, until your balance gets stronger.  Listen to your body, and practice in the NOW.