Teachers

THE YOGI ATHLETE: FASCIAL ELASTICITY & YIN YOGA

Fasical elasticity and sequencing in Yin Yoga, to prevent athletic injuries? You said what now?!

The practice of Yin can be an instrumental benefit to our fascial trains and fascial net. Yin Yoga is designed to deeply relax and renew the connective tissue of the human body.

But what is connective tissue… and what is fascial elasticity or the fascial net?

Fascia (as a whole) forms the biological container and is the fundamental connector for every organ; including muscles and connective tissues (plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, iliotibial band, thoracolumbar, etc). The fascial trains and net in particular, acts as a single connected unity in which the muscles and bones float, along with smaller connectors where the organs literally hang and co-mingle.

If we take it one step further, and include the neuro myofascial net, which also includes; the blood and blood cells, and other elements not part of the structural cellular “net.” Perhaps the closest term we could introduce all of these elements would be the extra-cellular matrix (ECM), which includes everything in your body that isn’t just cellular; including fibers (collegen weaves), collodial gels or the “glue” that holds and supoprts movement within the connective tissue and lastly water; which surrounds and permiates the cells.

And down the rabbit hole we go… lets bring it back to the benefits of Yin and prevention of injury.

Benefits of a Yin Yoga practice can be immense, especially for students who are also runners or athletes. For example, runners who train fascial fitness and employ fascical elasticity more often (quick whole body movments) will be using less muscle power during their runs, as they ultimatley store more energy in the stretch and then attain it back during the release. Thus, they will be able to run longer with less fatigue.

Therefore including sequenced postures that promote fascial elasticity and resetting the integrity of the trains, post run or training; most teachers and students alike will find these key areas significantly improved on and off the mat:

  • restoring natural bio mechanics settings for posture and function
  • prevention of asymmetries in the body, but addressing small indicators
  • easing the long-term consequences from injury and preventing new ones
  • extending functional movement for longevity

Herein lies, the “Yin” to that Yang, a great Yin practice can balance out the stress of training to prevent injuries and breakdowns. When we reset and maintain elasticity in our body, we move more freely.

Stretching Into New Possibilities

When it comes right down to it Yoga is basically a form of stretching.

From stretching your ability to breathe; lengthening your inhales and exhales to stretching your mind’s capacity to quiet down, to become silent for longer and longer periods of time. To go further into the practice where it becomes not so much about the asana (postures) as it is about the ability to let go of desire, to allow for the spirit to move into the space you have created.

But really in the beginning, for me, it was all about the stretch, the movement into silence came later.

So sometimes I am surprised when people say: “Yoga?!! Oh, I could never do that”.

I try to ease them into it by saying: “Well, have you ever done any stretching after going for a walk, a run or any type of physical activity”. Actually most people have done some type of stretching in their lives. I ask them to start there; allow yourself the space to just stretch into yoga.

The asana are really a specific type of stretch; especially Yin Yoga where you stay closer to the ground and hold the stretches for a longer period of time.

As I am in my third week of recovery from an operation, I decided to try a Yin Yoga class at Yyoga Flow Wellness on Burrard Street.

The instructor, Megan Johnson, put everyone at ease by stating that as with all yoga, the length of the stretch is all up to the individual. I talked to Megan before class about my concerns and she was very reassuring by stating that although Yin can be very intense, I should allow my body to decide and just be very gentle.

I was game for that.

We started in Sukasana (easy cross legged), opening with Pranayama to settle into the space and relax into our bodies.

She then guided us slowly into little stretches of the neck where we allowed our head to drop to each of the shoulders, increasing the stretch by allowing one arm to lengthen to the floor.

Megan told us to deepen into the stretch, come to your edge and then breathe and settle in. But only go so far as to touch your edge; always bring it back if you feel any pain. Yin is about becoming comfortable in the stretch and then holding it for a specific length of time.

For the next 8 poses we stayed close to the ground, deepening our breath and allowing the body to relax.

What is interesting about Yin is that it is not about moving fast from one pose to the other, it is all about lengthening, stretching, breathing and relaxing into the pose, letting go and finally settle for awhile.

Yin does specific things that complements other types of yoga. It allows for a deepening of the stretch which in turns strengthens your muscles by creating little tears that the body repairs. Stretching into the deep connective tissues: the fascia. This is how the body keeps supple. That old saying: “use it or lose it” really does hold true for the body. To keep your body young and flexible, you need to actually use/move it. Yin is a gentle way of moving it.

Megan took us gently into this type of stretching, which is exactly what I needed after a few weeks off from yoga. Her voice is very calm and reassuring. She asks nothing of you except your willingness to try.

If you would like to give Yin Yoga a try, I can easily say it is something anyone can step into if you have done some stretching in your life. Remember that the length and depth of the stretch is always up to you, only go as far as your body allows and try to be kind to yourself. Yin only gets intense if you push yourself further than your body is willing to go. Remember to keep that ego in check.

You might notice that as you stretch further into your body, you might find yourself stretching into a yoga practice that is perfect for you.

(source: theyogafitnessguide.com)

Will Blunderfield Empowers Students With “Glee Yoga”

Vancouver yoga instructor and musician, Will Blunderfield, is an empowering and uplifting teacher! Blunderfield teaches what he likes to call “Glee Yoga” (a nod to the hit TV series), which mixes rock ‘n roll and musical theatre with traditional yoga poses. Tamsyn Burgmann, from The Canadian Press, describes a class of Will’s that she attended:

It’s a glistening 40 C in the yoga studio where three rows of students sitting cross-legged on mats wait patiently, hands at heart in prayer.

“Let’s begin by singing three times the bonjo-vi chant,” says the instructor, “followed by ‘Om.'”

We prepare with a deep, cleansing breath.

“Whooah, we’re halfway there,” he belts out, surprising newcomers to the drop-in class. “Whooah-oh! Livin’ on a prayer.”

Yay Jovi! 🙂 You can read the full article here.

One Yoga for the People

One Yoga for the People

Source www.yogaforthepeople.ca

Last night was the grand re-opening of Yoga for the People. It is now One Yoga for the People. You should go. Really, you should go now. What was a beautiful community is now even more awesome. Last night’s kickoff featured the funnest class I have ever that the pleasure of taking, plus great people, and fabulous food (Gorilla Food– check it out).

Food for all of me.

I’d like to dedicate this to all the creator’s righteous children.
I’ve got some food in my bag for you.
Not that edible food the kind you eat, no I’ve got some food for thought.
-Erykah Badu

Sometimes I get so hungry. Hungry for something that I’m not getting in my life– it has nothing to do with food. I feel hungry when I’m not whole. So guess what I do?

I dig deeper into my yoga practice to find what it is that I need to feel whole, to feed myself. Last night was a feast.

It’s this paradox. In yoga we feed ourselves and fill ourselves up to get empty. The intermediate practice is to be full (of love, compassion). The advanced practice is to be empty. But I’m not there– obviously. Because I’m still hungry. I have moments of fullness, and I have flashes where I can see that emptiness is possible. One Yoga for the People is a community of people who support each other on that journey.

When I’m not paying attention I get hungry. And I try to feed myself with things that I’m not really hungry for. So I’m working on identifying that hunger and what it means so I can get still, take a breath, go to my mat and fill myself up.

Thanks to Ryan and the gang I am full. Next time you’re hungry check it out.

YOGA. BELOVED PETS. SONG BIRDS UNITE! A 2012 CALENDAR PHOTO CONTEST

HOT OFF THE PRESS: An opportunity for yoga teachers and students to get involved in something revolutionary AND play with their pets?! You bet!

Three songbirds of renowned talent and compassion; Melissa McClelland, Janine Stoll and  Lisa Winn founded Ladybird Animal Sanctuary, a multi-tiered safe haven for abandoned animals, a means of advocating for our furry friends, and a call to action in our communities Canada wide to help reduce the extraordinary number of cats and dogs euthanized each year.

Social Change meets Yoga once again; and Ladybird Sanctuary is pioneering a great marriage of sorts, by combining our devotion to Yoga and the devotion to our beloved pets to help animals everywhere! 

Leveraging their talent as musicians, songwriters and singers; they have co-created the Yoga Calendar 2012 project; which is generating a huge blissful buzz amongst Canada’s Yoga community!

Ladybird is currently calling for submissions across Canada; photos that capture and convey the playful, poignant, relationships we have with our pets and our yoga practice. Take a photo of your best downward or upward facing dog, cats flow, pigeon pose or any other pose displaying you and your lovely pet and you could win a spot in their 2012 calendar and be featured on their website!

Proceeds from the 2012 Yoga Calendar will go towards a safe haven/ rescue adoption space for animals to help take the load off local shelters bursting at the seams, as well as therapeutic programs for animals, community outreach programs and workshops on important topics; such as spaying and neutering your pet.

 If you don’t have a pet, but advocate for the protection of our furry friends you can still take part! Full spectrum of contest guidelines can be found by visiting their website or Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ladybirdanimalsanctuary  or by simply emailing [email protected] on how to get involved!

 What a great way to combine Yoga, your beloved furball and social change for the betterment of all creatures big and small!

Sources:

Ladybirds Animal Sanctuary: http://ladybirdanimalsanctuary.com/

Melissa McClelland:http://www.melissamcclelland.com/

Is Yoga Better On The West Coast?

Is Yoga Better On The West Coast?

It is no secret that Vancouver, especially Kitsilano is yoga heaven. The birthplace of  Lululemon has studios on every block, filled with highly experienced teachers and master teachers from around the world. My Vancouver friends are often surprised to learn that the other coast, particularly Halifax,  also has a booming yoga scene. With a large population of  buddhists and a long history of a deep connection to the land and it’s resources, the yogi lifestyle is a natural fit for many Hailgonians.

For a relatively small city, over 400,000 compared to Vancouver’s 2.2 million, there are a plethora of studios with well trained teachers in a variety of different styles.  It is clear that yoga is on the rise here as there are more studios popping up annually. Yoga is getting so big here, that the Halifax Regional School Board has made it an elective in high school, Yoga 11. As a result, many school teachers are becoming certified yoga teachers to help facilitate this program.

While Halifax does not have the line up of  yoga “rock stars” that Vancouver does, they do have their share of workshops with master teachers such as Michael Stone, Coeli Marsh, Ryan Leier, Hart Lazer, Nischala Joy Devi and David Swenson coming later this year!

If you do ever find yourself in Nova Scotia, check out some of my favorite studios:

All Yoga– Located in Dartmouth is a very inviting studio that has something for everyone!

Halifax Yoga– Offers many styles including Baptiste Flow!

The Yoga Shala– Traditional Ashtanga from highly trained teachers!

108 Yoga– All levels

If you are ever here I would love to see you at one of my classes, www.jessicahamiltonyoga.ca!

Yoga Teacher Telesummit

Have you heard about the 2011 Yoga Teacher Telesummit?

If you haven’t, you don’t want to miss out. It’s completely free and a great way to connect to a variety of yoga teachers from Mark Whitwell, Sadie Nardini, Rolf Gates and many many more.

”Telesummit is designed to motivate, inspire, and educate yoga teachers and dedicated students from all over the planet; to connect and share and inquire; to provide tools for teachers, studio owners, and other yoga-related entrepreneurs to become more authentic and more sustainable, to broaden their reach and focus their attention on what really matters; to create a dialogue between many different styles, traditions, and schools of Yoga to find our common ground, the shared pscyho-spiritual ‘trunk’ that roots the yogic tree into the cosmic ground of our being.”

You can register for FREE on their website at; http://www.yogateachertelesummit.com and view the daily call schedule. They will send you email reminders about the upcoming call with login information, but don’t worry if you can’t make the time, all the call are recorded and available for download.

What an amazing opportunity to hear some fantastic teachers share their insights, without having the cost of attending a weekend workshop. Don’t miss out calls with Mark Whitwell and Susanana Harwood Rubin have already happened.

PLAY. BUILD. REACH. LEARN! How do you practice sustainability in the real world?

Ideas Worth Spreading.  Riveting Talks By Remarkable People, Free The World!

Does this sound familiar? If you guessed Ted.com, then Namaste to you!

Over the course of the last decade through the art and science of Yoga I have sought out Dharana (inner conceptualization and compassionate awareness). Through the service to others and much like Yoga intends – found a place of union with something larger then myself; which we know to be the basic fundamentals of the yamas and niyamas of Yoga teachings. Yet, it is no easy task as the landscape of the global revolution changes daily.

At a cross roads I continually find myself asking, how do we practice sustainability in real life?  Today I ask all those who embody the Yoga way to take their practice off the mat and consider this opportunity…

Imagine for one moment, if we could harness that potential as kids? Imagine for one moment the potential if we START with our kids? And lastly, imagine for one moment we could return and re connect with that child-like potential as adults?

It takes a community to raise a village, therefore empowering kids’ means they don’t even have to be your own! We live in a generation where; yoga, get your green on and sustainability are part of our evolutionary process, WE are passing these teachings onto the next generation! Humanity’s framework is always under construction.

This is what [email protected] is preparing to achieve on Sept 17 2011.  Vancouver will host the conference’s first home. [email protected] is a platform for facilitating opportunities to empower kids and support authentic learning. A gathering of remarkable people with young hearts will aim to share their captivating stories borne from genuine curiosity and bold ideas. Much like Ted.com conference, except with the color and vibrancy of play, build, reach and learn and as adults, I say we embrace our inner kids!

In a recent Ted.com video with Jacqueline Norvogratz, called “Living a Life of Immersion,” she coined this closing statement, and I ask each of you to meditate on it for a moment during your next Dharana practice…

Robert Kennedy once said, “few of us have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and it is in the total of all those acts that the history of this generation will be written.”

If you know a speaker, nominate them! If you have a story to tell please apply @[email protected] Story telling, this is one way we create sustainability in the real world!

Sources:

Ted.com: www.ted.com

[email protected]: www.tedxkidsbc.com/

Oh Lordy, Yoga For Forty Part 3

wellsphere.com

When dressing for work, I noticed my pants’ zipper went up a little easier. Really? I thought. So I did what I very rarely do…I went to the mirror. Oh… what the hell. I lifted each arm and flexed my biceps – whoa, they look bigger. Not bulky, just leaner. One could call them pipes.

Pleased with my results, I lifted my pant legs to my knees, turned around, looked over my shoulder back into the mirror, and went up onto my tiptoes. I have calve muscles? And they’re defined?

Then, I went there. Hesitantly, but I was on a roll. I lifted my shirt to just above my hips and went for a grab at the sides of my waist – the forbidden exposure of the muffin-top. I couldn’t grab as much as usual…I couldn’t grab as much as usual! I have less to grab there! I would’ve never thought.

Running upstairs is easier and I sit up straighter. I can finally relax my shoulders more and touching my toes is a breeze. I feel more comfortable in spandex, less concerned about my future, and just plain better all around.

Sure, on April 21st, that final fortieth day after my fortieth class, I went home with a list of things I had to catch up on. My taxes, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping – the usual. I went away for the weekend and gave my body a long rest. But it felt weird. My joints were cracking, my neck stiffening, and my shoulders tensing. I need yoga. I miss yoga, my Kula. So after getting out of my yogic routine, I now cannot wait to get back into one…not every day, but steadily.

For some, forty days of yoga is minimal and part of their regular practice. For me, it was a challenge. A real challenge with much dedication and motivation needed along the way. But I did it and so did many others and it makes the daily challenges in life seem a little more bearable.

After all, if we can hold chair pose every day for forty days and come out feeling strong, I’m convinced we can handle most uncomfortable situations patiently with focus and come out stronger. All it takes is movement, momentum, and breathing. As one of my favourite teacher’s Ara Cusack always says at the end of each of her classes, “remembering that’s all that it takes.” I now understand what she means. Namaste.

KARMA YOGA: DO YOGA, DO GOOD

Yoga for Social Change! 

Karma (meaning to do or action) Yoga (meaning union):  in its simplest meaning literally translates to selfless service, the discipline of action or the union through action; which ultimately brings us closer to dharma.

A growing trend in the West, Karma Classes have been gaining momentum at a steady Vinyasa. More importantly, karma classes are finding their own place amongst social change makers and the Sports Philanthropy Movement; harnessing the Ying to the Yang in the therapeutic sense. This movement is designed to engage industry leaders and professional teachers in a dialogue about the value of sports/therapeutic philanthropy and aims to connect them with social change tools and causes that best fit their passions, recognizing their efforts to inspire others.

About a month ago I posted an article on Yoga & Activism, and karma class, my Yogic friends is the vehicle from which the compassionate-asana is driven! Karma classes also allows for a unique space, where the energy from inside a class is solely dedicated to a greater purpose!

From a business perspective the Yoga Industry can leverage their business in a socially responsible manner and showcase great grassroots initiatives/causes that can have a deep impact towards sustainable, positive change; both locally and internationally. More over; foster social change from a place of hope, opportunity and positive prana on a larger scale.

You can find a karma class at almost any Yoga studio these days, but if you are looking for a larger unified front, this has recently come across my radar and I felt compelled to share…

“Why stretch when you can reach?”  – The Engage Network

…is their tagline. Founded by Sean Crone, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling” Off the Mat, Into the World ® (OTM),” is a non-profit program of The Engage Network, and is dedicated to bridging yoga and activism and is geared towards communities around the world who collaborate for social change. Understanding the idea that we are stronger and more powerful together then we are apart, making a difference starts from the foundation, our roots.

As Yoga teachers and advocates for compassion, a karma class is an incredible tool in our toolkit to bring awanress to social change and connection to our global community!

Sources:

 The Engage Network: http://www.offthematintotheworld.org/community.html

 Charter for Compassion: http://charterforcompassion.org/site/

 SAVE THE DATE: Camp Moomba Yogathon & Blissfest, July 24th Vancouver BC.

Alex Atherton, Rockstar

Alex Atherton, the intrepid director of YYoga Richmond, is the rare male teacher that I’m comfortable with. It’s curious, perhaps, but I like female teachers better. Anyhow, his best classes (I find) are for power and anusara. At this time these two classes are the challenging ones for me, but Alex makes them very mellow. I like the styles a lot, it’s just that some days I’d like to do them without warping my bone structure.

I credit Alex with facilitating my progress. After doing the 30 Day Challenge in August of 2010, everybody that took part would be entered to win a slew of prizes for their participation. I happened to win a 3 Month Pass (whether by luck of the draw of some meddling) and my practice went off the deep end from there. Encouragement, which is relatively abundant in the yoga community, is a huge factor too. That pass was like someone tossed me out of an airplane again with all the exhilaration and fear that goes along with it.

He gets you to push a little further class by class and even though he can make some poses look very easy he doesn’t hide his threshold. Him admitting his difficulty with some of the nuttier poses is refreshing. Some teachers I’ve had in the past made it look as if they were invincible (which I may not doubt), but pointing one’s own wobbliness can do a lot to bolster the confidence and adventurism of others. There’s always a different way to inspire people. Some do superhuman things one after another to get the blood flowing. Others point out the human limits to encourage and lead through prudence.

That's his look of truth. (photo from YYoga's teacher page: http://yyoga.ca/welcome/our-team/)

From what I know, Alex had a major injury years ago. I believe it was to his neck/spine and his healing process eventually moved toward yoga. It’s pretty amazing at how many teachers and students I know who’ve recovered from what would have been debilitating injuries. The snippets of his past life that I’ve gathered are markedly different from what he is (or at least how I see him) now. He sort of saunters around, perhaps wisping even, and can give off a discombobulated feel. Don’t be fooled by his swaying and slow drawl as he’s 100% present. He’s got a quick wit and he’ll bloody well use it.

He renamed one of his classes as “broga” one day. His rationale was that it was quite a sight to see as many as 10 guys in his class (but this is still against 30 women). His said he wasn’t sure how he’d ever react if he walked into a class of just guys, though he’d up to the challenge regardless. His humour is, for lack of a better word, grounded. Nothing really goes over your head since he pokes at things that are happening right in the room. Again, he’s only one of two male teachers that I’m okay with. Nothing against anyone else, but I’ve felt uncomfortable in quite a few other male-lead classes. A big factor is the attitude and personality.

Alex makes sure the atmosphere is super-chill and he won’t go gallivanting  into La-La Land with dense scripts or sutras; he keeps his words and sentence structures very clear and concise, so he ain’t a blatherer. His classes are the same way in that you can anticipate and mentally prepare for the next posture and/or relax because there are no surprises. Well, that’s not true. He helped me into a handstand from Hanumanasana on a whim. It caught me by surprise but he wasn’t intrusive nor was he pushy. He knows his yogis and their capabilities and I sometimes think he changes his class on the fly depending on who he sees in class.

He also has a tendency to rearrange mats, placing the advanced kids in the first two rows when they turn their backs. It’s not malicious or anything since he does it to help the class by placing leaders at the front. This way others can get a grip on some advanced postures while those up front are being encouraged to step outside the comfort zone of tucking into the middle/back of the class. He’s one to help others get out there and shine, but without the over-exuberance that can lead to miss-timed jumps or rocky foundations. Alex will remind you to keep a level head and stay in the now so you don’t crash and burn.

Join The Kula At Kushala Yoga In Coquitlam!

Join The Kula At Kushala Yoga In Coquitlam!

I move around a lot as my partner is in the military, but I have found a family in every city I have lived in. I find my family in yoga studios as they are filled with like minded individuals who are ready to welcome in any new student that enters their door.

I recently spent the last 4 months in Coquitlam, my hometown, to complete yoga teacher training. The first thing I did when I arrived was find a nearby studio to practice in. Thankfully Kushala Yoga studio is very close to my parents house, where I stayed,  and I was able to convince all my family members to join with me!

From the first class I went to at Kushala I felt like I belonged there, as opposed to just being a temporary guest. The yoga teachers are so friendly and approachable that I couldn’t help but want to engage in an after class chat with them. Even the students are beginning to catch on that Kushala Yoga is much more than just a place to practice yoga. During a Power Flow class I was greeted by another student who was introducing himself to the people on the mats around him and arranging an after class coffee. The yoga teacher/ owner half jokingly said that this student was the social coordinator for Kushala. The studio also hosts such activities as movie nights and Hike n’ Yoga to further foster their growing community of yogis.

Kushala Yoga has 2 locations, one in Coquitlam and one in Port Moody, with 2 more on the way. They offer classes for all levels from more relaxed classes such as Slow Flow and Restorative Yoga to more vigorous and advanced classes such as Power Flow, Hatha Core and my favourite Wild Thing Wednesdays with Andrew Colyn.

Weather you visit the warm, soothing studio in Port Moody or the bright and open studio in Coquitlam you are sure to find a class that suits your needs and make several new friends!

Tour of Kushala

Images from http://www.kushalayoga.ca/

Bridging the Gap Between Yoga and Functional Movement Part 2

 

YOGA & BACK CARE

The functional movement of Yoga is integral to our health and wellness, but did you know that Yoga can also benefit the health of your spine! Therapeutic movement and alignment based postures have been used to improve the integrity of the spine, as well as overall mobility of the spinal segments, all by nurturing your spine and caring for your back.

Your spine consists of several parts. Each segment has about 2 degrees rotation when turning. Your lumbar spine has 5 vertebrae and  is designed for stability, as well as load distribution through the hips to the lower limbs. Your cervical spine or neck counts 7 vertebrae. Your thoracic spine counts 12 vertebrae and is designed for mobility.

Our thoracic spine plays an integral role in our overall movement and ability to move freely. Lack of thoracic mobility is as common as lack of hip mobility. Lack of thoracic mobility forces your body to function in ways it was not designed for.

While participating in a class, or teaching your own class keep these anatomical and movement principles in mind:

 Breathe:  When we hold our breath, we hold onto tension. Quiet, introspective breathing, allows for relaxation and increased circulation to tissues whose vessels are constricted during times of stress

 Create Movement of the Spine With Flexion and Extension:  The spine needs movement to lubricate the joints and provide nutrition to the spongy disks between the vertebrae.  During movement, the disks soak up nutrients., therefore it’s necessary to reverse the curvatures for brief periods of time.

Balance Flexibility with Strength: Developing strong yet flexible muscles is perhaps the most crucial principle in back care. It is important to lengthen contracted muscles before working on strength. When lengthening the spine, its natural curves should be maintained, keeping the low back in its concave curve. The back’s curves are designed to absorb shock throughout the spinal column.

 The Importance of Yoga Sequencing: Sequencing yoga poses from basic to more advanced is very important. Start with postures that bring our attention to releasing the fascia first and establishing movement in the thoracic spine.

So the next time you find yourself saying….”awww my aching back”…. Stop, drop and roll out that Yoga Mat!

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