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    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Festival Yoga

    It's high summer festival season, so I put together a short sequence of festival friendly yoga poses that refresh and relax, so you can be ready for the next band!  Festivals are tons of fun, but they can be stressful, so be sure and make time for yourself each day by taking a break from activity and re-connecting with yourself.  You'll get a lot more out of the festival if you're feeling your best.

    As you perform these exercises, allow your body to be as it is without forcing an experience, relax your facial muscles and your throat to provide relief from so much interaction, and release areas of your body where you are holding unnecessary tension so that later you can fully release on the dance floor!

     Mountain Pose
    Instead of overdoing this pose, take the time to just be.  Stand, using no more energy than you need to hold yourself up.  Let gravity relax your pelvis and your low back.  Feel your feet on the ground.  Let your torso and upper body rise up effortlessly.  Broaden your collarbones without forcing.  Just be where you are instead of trying to force an experience.

    Perform these next exercises while sitting or standing:

    To release tension in the neck and shoulders:

    1.  Stretch the back of your neck by bringing the crown of your head forward and down for a breaths.  Slowly come up and stretch each side of your neck by bringing the crown your head down to each side for a few breaths.  Relax the opposite shoulder.  Slowly come up to neutral.  

     2.  Leading with your shoulder blades, shrug your shoulders up.  Then release down letting everything go.  Repeat a few more times.

    3.  Again leading with your shoulder blades, roll your shoulders.  So bring your shoulder blades up, together, down your spine, then draw them apart.  Repeat a few times, then reverse.  Bring your shoulder blades together, up the spine, then draw them apart and down.  Repeat a few times.  Doing these exercises leading with your shoulder blades is awkward at first, but you'll get the hang of it!

    To create more lung capacity for more dancing perform Breath Stretches--let your breath lead the way:
    1.  Inhale as you broaden your collarbones and bring your arms slightly back and fill the front of your chest with air.  Exhale and release down.  Repeat a few times.

    2.  Inhale as you round your upper back, spreading your shoulder blades and fill your upper back with air.  Exhale and come up.  Repeat a few times.

    3.  Inhale and bring your arms overhead.  Exhale to one side.  Stay for a few breaths.  Feel the breath making space between each rib.  Relax your head, your shoulders, and your opposite hip.  Repeat to the other side. 

    Come back into Mountain Pose and just be. 

                                               Waterfall Forward Bend
    Now slowly come into a forward bend; bend your knees and come all the way forward letting your upper body dangle forward. Keep your weight even in your feet.  Let go.  Relax your face and throat.  Feel as though your upper body is a waterfall. 

    The rest of the poses provide relief from standing, walking, and dancing to get you ready for more! 

    Come onto your hands and knees. 

                                                  Half Dog
    Scoot your knees back slightly and then move your hips back toward your feet.  Move your ribcage toward your hips, not the ground.  Let your head hang.  Make sure to not overextend out of the shoulder joint—keep your shoulders and your upper back relaxed.  Do not try to force an experience.  Be with what is.   After a few breaths, come back to all fours.

                                                  Down Dog
    Push up through your abs to bring your hips up and back.  Bend your knees if you need.  Honor your body.  Let your hamstrings slowly unwind.  Then "walk the dog," stretching each calf separately.

    Step one leg up between your hands.  Drop the back knee down.  Keep your pelvis square and neutral.  There should be no tension in your hips or low back.  If there is, move to a place of no pain or tension.  Move your hips forward, not down, to come further in the pose.  Bring your arms overhead and fill the front of the chest with air.  Take a few big breaths and switch legs.

                                                 Bound Angle
    Come to a seated position with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet together.  If your knees are higher than your hips, sit up on a support.  Place your hands besides your hips and take some big breaths.  Then bring your hands in front of you and come forward any amount breathing into your back body.  Release into the pose.  Take a few breaths and come up.

                                              Seated Wide Angle Pose
    Straighten your legs so that you get a stretch, but not too much!  Place your hands besides your hips again and take some big breaths.  Then place your hands in front of you and come forward any amount without forcing.  Take a few calming breaths and come up.

                                               Supine Log Pose
    Lying down on your back with your knees bent, place your ankle on the opposite knee.  Do not push on your knee to stretch the hip--let your hip release on its own through relaxed breathing.  For more stretch bring the legs toward you.  Take a few breaths and switch legs.

                                              Easy Twist
    Lying down with your knees bent, bring your legs up to a 90-degree angle.  Make sure you don't arch your back as you bring your legs up.  In this position, relax your hips and draw your belly in slightly.  Exhale as you release your legs to one side.  Come all the way to the floor or have your legs up on a support if bringing them all the way to the floor makes a twinge in your low back.  Be in a pain free zone always.  Release and relax the side waist.  Now, straighten your top leg and feel a nice stretch in that hip:
    Take a few breaths.  Inhale, come up, and switch sides. 

    When you are finished, hug your knees to your chest and then slowly release all the way to the final pose, Corpse Pose, lying down in a comfortable position.  Take a few minutes to fully release in this pose.  Feel the weight of your body heavy on the ground. Release all muscular effort.  Go through each body part releasing tension.  Feel your breath through your whole body.

    If you like, you can begin and end your yoga practice with this breathing exercise:
    We Begin With The Breath

    Roll to your side and come to sitting.  Don't you feel so much better!  Bring the peace, love, and connection that you feel out into the festival!

    If you really dig the clothes that I am wearing for this shoot, keep your eye out for my upcoming review of the "Carry Your Own Sunshine" Tank on the Soulflower Karma Krewe blog soon.  For now, you can check out the tank and the pants at!

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    In an Injury Rut? Quit Skimping on Your Rehab and How Yoga Therapy Can Help

    Being involved with outdoor sports, I am around lot of people who have or had injuries.  One thing that we all have in common is that we want to heal fast and get back at our activities and our lives.  However, if you want to fully heal from your injuries, you can't take short cuts, so it's best to have a holistic plan that involves both treatment and rehabilitation. 

    There are many treatments for an injury; examples are surgery, prolotherapy, acupuncture, or any other choice that involves a specialist doing something to your injury to help stabilize it.  Rehabilitation, such as physical therapy and/or yoga therapy can either follow or be included along with the treatments.   In both PT and YT, the purpose is for you to learn to move your body again using kinesiology principles that you learn from your therapist.  Then you move your body through the exercises in a pain free zone until it becomes engrained in your mind and body and you develop necessary strength and flexibility. 

    Yoga therapy is a tool for healing that looks at the whole person—body, mind, and spirit to achieve your goals.  So, in a yoga therapy session not only do you learn physical movements that you can do to heal your injury; but you learn better ways of breathing to release tension and create stability; and awareness exercises for your mind so that you can be aware of how you are holding yourself on a daily basis and during your activity.  You are also encouraged to look at what your injury means on a deeper level—what personality traits are causing you to move in such a way as to cause injury?  Are you rushing through a movement because you don't have proper technique?  Is your mind somewhere else, such as on the perceived outcome?  Are you tense and nervous?  Are you trying to move your body faster than you are able?  Do you constantly push yourself past exhaustion?  These traits are human nature and by becoming aware of them, they no longer will control you.  You can learn these things about yourself just by being mindful of how you do your physical exercises in a yoga therapy session.  The purpose of the session is to learn to slow down and pay attention to what you are doing so that you can hold your body in a way that is healthy and effective, and you learn how to observe where your mind is so that you can bring it into the moment and apply yourself fully.  

    Any injury rehabilitation is not a passive process and can take a few weeks to years.  Actually, it is a process that never ends.  I'm sorry, but there are no shortcuts in this step.  Saying that there is would be like saying you can become a great cyclist by going out one time, or that you can learn to climb or kayak instantaneously.  Just like the outdoor sports that we love, rehabilitating after an injury is a learning process.  If you skip steps, the only person that you cheat is yourself.  Plus, if done thoroughly and mindfully and with the appropriate therapist, your rehabilitation will probably make you better at your sport or activity than you were before!  

    So if you've recently been injured and you're cutting corners on your rehab, I encourage you start fully participating in it now!  You don't have anything to lose except the couch!