biomechanics of Yoga

THE FASCIAL PROTECTOR: THE EMOTIONAL DIVIDE


Fascia keeps us together in recognizable form. It is a tough, stiff, elastic connective tissue that is the protector – the foundation of our energy force, all our other systems in the human body.  This fascial net serves as a barrier from the outside world against pathogens and transmits immediate feedback to your brain about your surroundings.

In Yoga we practice mindful meditation and asanas to bring peace and harmony to our state of physical and mental being.  As a teacher, coach, and student of Yoga sometimes I find my own practice just isn’t enough to heal my body from the constant compression and mileage I place on my structure day after day. Sometimes, it needs a little more TLC.

As an advocate for an integrated approach and what practitioners are now calling, “structural integration,” it’s no wonder the fascia has gained traction within the medical and holistic communities.

Have you ever thought of the connection of our emotions and thoughts connected to our fasica system?

As we know we have well over 16,000 thousand thoughts per day and that can (and does) affect our bodies. Emotion can be stored as a memory within the body cells and when emotions become trapped within the tissue energy can become blocked, when left can result in physical symptoms, like pain and discomfort, anxiety and interrupted ease, throwing our fascial connections and relationships to our bones, joints, muscles and organs off balance.

In these instances your body is in a self perpetuating cycle. i.e. your mind starts to affect your body and vice versa and thus to break the cycle, we need to change our thought pattern, we need an intervention.

This past week, I spent a few hours with an amazing holistic practitioner, located in Vancouver. Robin Turner is a registered Kinesiologist, who specializes in Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST). Over the course of both our conversation and my own FST treatment we discussed the importance of whole body breathing, emotional restrictions in our tissue,
all of which is connected to the fascia system and reflex receptors.

With any deep bodywork there is a potential to release some emotions or memories stored in the tissue. This is a great opportunity to probe your mind and reconcile with any pent up unresolved thoughts that affect your optimal well being. The slow FST dance your coach takes you through stretches, not only fascia, but also alters the collagen and softens the viscosity, causing greater ease in movement and less pain in your daily existence.

The principles and ideology behind Fascia Stretch Therapy and Yoga are very familiar and they share many commonalities. As part of our own path and duality of life we must understand that the stress we place on our minds and bodies require a balance of this duality (ying and yang), and it is in these lessons where we learn to navigate our path to better, more mobile health and wellness.

Much like after Yoga, after a session of myofascial work it is important to honor the emotions you are experiencing, embrace them and learn from them. When we do this, we open the door to not only better movement and symmetry, but a better relationship with ourselves and our surroundings.

 

For more information on Robin Turner, BHK, RK, CFT-1 and FST, please visit : Body Engineering Personal Fitness Inc. at www.bepersonalfitness.com

BACK 2 SCHOOL: YOGA BASICS 4 THE HEALTH OF OUR KIDS

Back 2 School season is upon us, and with this comes heavy back packs, books galore, sitting hunched over desks for hours, intermitted periods of activity, and usually random intervals of eating (hopefully healthy). The health of our kids is crucial, so that they can grow to their fullest potential and become the next leaders of tomorrow.

One of the governing concerns these days is backpacks.  Kids walk to and from, and around school all day long! This allows any person to carry more items than would be possible by the arms and hands alone. The risk, however, is overload, which can strain the back, neck or shoulders. The back will compensate for any load applied to it for an extended period of time. A heavy weight carried in backpacks can cause a person to lean forward inducing in proper balance and stressing spinal integrity, as well as distort the middle and lower curves of the back, which can cause strain and irritation to the joints of the spine and rib cage. And let’s not forget rounding of the shoulders! An ergonomic back pack is key to back to school health.

Studies have shown that Yoga may be one of the most effective exercises for back pain relief, but we rarely ever think about applying these principles to our kid’s health!

Corrective re patterning of biomechanics actually stems from pediatric development; therefore, as our children grow it makes sense to be pro active and take preventative measures to ensure they grow to their full potential without restriction and premature structural breakdow.

However, as effective as a Yoga style may be to reduce and prevent pain in the body, knowing exactly what poses to perform, the style of yoga, what corrective poses  and in what sequence to execute them should be taken into consideration before using it as a therapeutic relief from discomfort or pain. It sounds complicated, but it is actually very simple, PLUS for kids you want to keep it FUN!

I find that for younger kiddies, it’s all in the fun and imagination – naming the pose and sometimes combining that with drawing and coloring the pose can be creative and improves the fun factor.

For the older, more mature youth, relate it to a sport or an activity they are already engaged in. This will help them relate the benefits to their chosen after school activities.

Yoga Poses to prevent back pain and keep it fun for the kids:

  • Cat Flow Series (meow)
  • Downward Facing Dog to Pike and Plank Variation Sequence (woof)
  • Bridge  Pose (ummm… what sound does a bridge make)?
  • Supine Fish Pose (gurgle, gurgle)
  • Sun Salutations with Cobra:  (hisssss)
  • Warrior Sequence with Ninja Triangle Variation: (wax on, wax off)

Yoga has many benefits beyond keeping the body in balance; it will help generate a good mental balance of discipline and attention to detail for your child’s ample learning potential. Have fun and roll out that mat!

 

 

SEASIDE YOGA: ANCIENT BENEFITS

“Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is never silent, is never still. ” ~ H.P Lovecraft

Regardless of where you practice Yoga, there is always something so serene about practicing Yoga outdoors. Not only is it an opportunity to be more eco-friendly and environmentally sound, but it also offers us a chance to re connect with the beauty of mother natures landscape.

Over the course of the next four weeks, I have been given the opportunity to teach my Yin YogaFORM4athletes workshops outdoors, marina side in False Creek with Le Physique Studio; where my students not only learn about the benefits of Yin and fascial elasticity, but are able to breath in the abundance of practicing seaside.

The ambiance of the sea, cool breeze and practice of Yin to balance out our Yang society evokes a feeling of euphoric calming that not only soothes the soul, but has many therapeutic benefits that go beyond ones practice.

Just take a moment and think that water is the most abundant compound in our body. But what you may not know is the water contained in all of our tissues, cells, blood, etc. is a salty water solution, very similar to the seawater.  

Almost 75% of our body is water:

  • Blood is 83% water
  • Muscles are 75% water
  • The brain is 95% water
  • Lungs are 90% water

Therefore, it is of no surprise that we connect so well with fresh flowing water, streams, rivers and oceans.

One of the largest benefits to practicing yoga seaside; is the abundance of salt in the air. During yoga we focus our attention on the pranyama or breath work; which gives rise to the opportunity to inhale the pure salt air that flows over the water.

Anyone who has enjoyed an ocean swim knows this refreshing feeling! Without salt in our bodies, we would faint due to low blood pressure, as it helps to regulate proper blood pressure parameters.  

Functionally significant to athletes; electrolytes are comprised of sodium, chloride and potassium. These minerals can carry an electrical charge and flow through any part of the body where water resides; which promote healthy cells by carrying nutrients into them and removing any waste as they depart. The main cause of muscle cramping is dehydration. The natural sodium and chlorine in unrefined salt work to maintain body fluids, keeping muscles well hydrated.

We have known for centuries that salt can inhibit bacterial overgrowth and if you are feeling a little under the weather, salt shrinks swollen membranes; congested membranes that can often lead to infections and the common cold. More over, it improves respiratory and cardiovascular functions. Salt is vital for extracting excess acidity from inside the cells, particularly the brain cells, kidneys and liver through sweat and urine.

During the changes of the seasons, salt is a strong antihistamine and combats the particles which cause allergies in the first place. Even in small amounts the salt from the ocean can help to increase circulation and assist in the rejuvenation of the cells, because it naturally aids in healing.

In a Yin practice, as we move and stretch, our fascial and central nervous systems relax and with this the body begins to naturally detoxify our tissues through the process of our asana practice.

Breathing in the sea salt air is just another way to improve your health and your experience of yoga overall. Practicing near water connects us deeper to our own internal water components as water hydrates the body, mind and soul; not only as a physical necessity, but as a symbol of our duality, and in the same time of our unity with all the other elements in nature.  Take time to breath, smell the fresh salt air and connect with your environment.

~Namaste~

BREATHE DEEP FOR INSPIRATION

“Two poles of a battery between which energy flows – in this way bandhas conduct breath through the body. Working against the force of gravity and achieving lightness; a union between the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms.” – Unknown

Last week well known Strength and Conditioning Coach Carmen Bott  CEO of Human Motion Strength & Conditioning (and friend – shameless plug),  asked an amazing question to her fellow friends and team:

 “Connective tissue then, in its various shapes and consistencies, forms a continuous net throughout the entire body. It contains many specialized structures, but it is really one piece, from scalp to soles, from skin to marrow. – Deane Juhan.

So then, how do we isolate the pelvic floor?”  – Carmen Bott

My extension of this question seeks to explore the answer as it relates to Yoga and the connection between the abdominal diaphragms (the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms), in addition to the activation of the mula bandha (in scientific terms the pelvic floor) through deep breathing techniques.

First let’s look at movement and posture for a moment and begin with the simple fact that “posture” comes from the Latin word placement – it is an action, much like sitting or standing. We are never truly placed in stillness, as we are always moving, shifting, balancing and adapting – even in the stillness of mediation and yoga. Therefore, as outlined in our on-going exploration of the interconnected fascial web – isolation is not plausible.

Secondly,  let’s recognize that the pelvic floor is not solely a muscle; its function is complex as it acts as a diaphragm and plays an integral role in breathing mechanics, but is commonly overlooked.  In actuality all three diaphragms pelvic, respiratory and vocal come together in yoga movements that are coordinated to facilitate the breathing cycle. Feeling how breathing works is a good way to realize the power of the diaphragms working  jointly, or sometimes working against one another, as seen in faulty mechanics.

Today’s article, we  are looking for reciprocity between the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms. When relaxed and in balanced acture, they face each other (like a beach ball) with a top and bottom. Understanding that we are always moving and our posture is constantly changing, the positioning of the shoulders-to-spine and spine-to-pelvis can vary; therefore  balance and reciprocity between these two diaphragms (like a slightly deflated or overly inflated beach ball) can be compromised. Balancing of the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms means an equal balance between 4 main muscle groups; which Tom Myers calls the four pillars.In easiest terms – a  constant balance of the back muscles, psoas complex, and the abdominals with breathing supported, ensures that the pelvic cavity is properly pressured.

In Yoga deep breathing techniques are used to bring about an awareness of the muscles associated with breathing, align proper intra abdominal pressure and calm the body into a state of stillness.

Of particular interest to Yoga practitioners is the action of mula bandha (pelvic floor) or as Carmen Bott’s question asked “So then, how do we isolate the pelvic floor?”

We already know isolation is not truly plausible, but through breath we can engage the pelvic floor and associated fascia– simply by initiating a lifting action produced in the pelvic floor muscles that also includes the lower fibers of the deep abdominal layers through breath.  Mula bandha is an action that moves apana upwards, and works to stabilize the central tendon of the diaphragm and fascial net.  Inhalation, while this bandha is active then requires a release of the attachments of the upper abdominal wall, which then permits the diaphragm to lift the base of the ribcage upwards establishing energetic dynamics of the pelvic girdle and aids to properly pressurize the pelvic cavity.

When relaxing the body in the more supported, horizontal, restorative practices and postures, it is important to remember to release the bandhas and constrictions that are associated with vertical postural support. This gives rise to zen-mode-relaxed breath work!

 Deep Breathing Yoga Exercises:

  • The Stimulating Breath /  Bellows Breath:  which aims to stimulate the pelvic floor/mula bandha and reflex actions of the diaphragm through quick exhalation)
  • The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise: (nurturing and calm meditative breath work to balance out the breath cycle)
  • Breath Counting: (designed to lengthen and strengthen the breath cycle through targeted breath counting)

All of these breathing exercises are adapted from various yogic breathing technique, all of which aim to raise vital energy and increase alertness, a clear state of mind and a physical stillness through movement and unify the abdomen through the respiatory and pelvic diaphragms – your organs will thank you for co-mingling support!

Sources:

Posture in Action, Anatomy Trains: Tom Myers (http://www.anatomytrains.com/)

Breathing Exercises: For a complete breakdown of breathing exercises link to Dr. Weil at   (www.drweil.com)

Carmen Bott, M.Sc, B.H.K,  CSCS: Founder & President of Human Motion Strength & Conditioning (http://www.humanmotion.ca/home.php) Blog: (http://www.carmenbott.com/blog2/)

FIND BALANCE OUTSIDE THE LINES: THE LATERAL LINE

We live a world were our structural language is centered around cause-and-effect. Western world requires us to understand systems by dividing them into their own unique parts, in order to define the contribution of each identifiable bit in relation to the whole. The concern with this line of thinking is that the human body is not assembled out of parts, it is a uniquely connected whole.  

Yoga and fascial based philosophy works to embrace the very notation that when you change or impact the structural components of one line, you innately effect and structurally change them all. Thus, we are a sum of all parts – a web of connected myofascial mass.

Last week we looked at the role of fascial communication, a great tool towards linking mind and body, and over the last several weeks have looked at 4 out of the 12 fasical lines related to athletics and prevention of injury.  In this article we continue to discuss the interconnected web of our fasical system with the Lateral Line.

For many linear athletes a common structural breakdown related to a lack of lateral stability, or a lack of rotational mobility, stem from a weak link in the lateral line.

Why? Simple – runners and cyclists are forward motion repetitive athletes and if not balance out with lateral mobility and rotational stability based movement patterns, common strain patterns can start to surface; such as knee pain, ITB pain, or pelvic deviations.

The Anatomy:

Your lateral line transverses each side of the body, starting at the neck, with then scalenes and sternocleidomastoid, then connects to the iliocostalis cervis, traverses in a woven pattern  to your torso at the external and internal obliques,  lateral ribs and intercostals, and deep QL’s. Following along the lateral line then connects fascially over your TFL, IT band and gluteus group; which further connects over the fibular head to your peroneals and then the fibular malleolus.

In movement the lateral line creates lateral flexion in the spine, abduction of the hip and eversion of the foot, as well as acts as an adjustable “brake” for lateral and rotational movements of the trunk. It also helps to balance out the left and right sides of the body.

The repetitive habitual movements seen in running and cycling, forms one’s posture, and the posture requires changes in the structure – the body’s fascial ‘fabric’. In other words, a gesture becomes a habit becomes a posture and eventually lodges in our structure. Thus compensations can occur and becomes a reality, like rounded back or forward head carry, but can be treated and fixed.

Adding in rotational mobility drills and side flexion and extension movement patterns can improve overall performance and establish balance in all the lines discussed previously.   

In Yoga the lateral line can be strengthened by integrating these asanas:

  • Half-moon pose  
  • Triangle pose
  • Gate Pose
  • Lateral Side & Extended Angle Pose
  • Mountain Pose with Lateral Flexion

Soft Tissue Release to these areas can reduce tension to the lower mechanics:

  • TFL (tensor fasciae latae)
  • ITB (Illiotibal band)
  • Gluteus Group

 Sources: Thomas Myers – Anatomy Trains

A REVIEW: HELPING YOU REACH YOUR PEAK WITH THREE PEAKS KINESIOLOGY

Fascial stretching in Yoga vs Facilitated Fasical Stretch Therapy…. Whats the diff? Well they both rock, but sometimes our body needs a little more hands on TLC!

Fascial stretching and building a strong, flexible and dynamic myofascial web is an integral part of optimal health and wellness. The physical and functional demands of everyday life, work or sports can take a toll on the body, leaving you feeling less energized and more prone to injury.

Over the course of the last month we have started to unlock the benefits and understanding of fascial stretching in a Yoga class format, as an integrated approach, combining spinal mobility and fascial meridian lines with traditional Yin Yoga practices.

We know that Myofascial restrictions arise due to high amounts of pressure exerted on the bones, nerves, blood vessels and muscles which result in headaches, limited mobility, pain and disease., but what about those times when a class just isn’t enough? Perhaps you have a nagging injury or need a quick tune up? If so then you may wish to implement a one on one facilitated fascial stretch therapy session into your routine!

Last Friday I had the opportunity to have my very first Fascial Stretch Therapy session with Paul Turner, a renowned Kinesiologist and founder/owner of  Three Peaks Kinesiology (3pk), the premier facility for myo-fascial stretch therapy in Canada, located in Langley, as well as Vancouver.

Having suffered a dislocated rib a few days before the session and gearing up for the Scotiabank Half Marathon on Sunday, I needed a miracle.  My body was in need of rapid improvement and I had a 2 day window. Being a teacher of YogaFORM and fascial release techniques, I knew just fascial stretch yoga postures were not going to be enough.

One of the most significant distinguishing differences between fascial stretch in Yoga and facilitated one on one fascial stretch therapy was the methods a therapist can use in a one on one setting. Myofascial release is an effective hands-on technique that works in the form of sustained pressure into fascial restrictions to remove pain and result in unrestricted motion.

Hands-on therapy, traction techniques and massage enables the therapist to set the myofascial system back to it’s equilibrium, so you feel freedom from pain and are able to enjoy unrestricted motion of our body.

My experience was beyond amazing! When I walked into Paul Turner’s office, he assessed I had a dislocated rib, a compressed left femur and compressed left ankle; as well as a collapsed left arch (due to a weak lateral line and anterior meridian line). After an hour of blissful facilitated stretching.  I walked out with a new musculoskeletal body – no compression, fully mobile ankle joints and a reset rib cage! On Sunday at the Scotiabank Half marathon I started the race strong and pain free. It was indeed a miracle!

My review – you gotta try it! Private one on one fascial stretch therapy can give you rapid results from pain and restriction, and supports longevity and anti-aging ability and can effectively reduce painful muscle spasms that can restrict your movement; especially if you are an athlete.

Thank you Paul!

For more information on Paul Turner,  Three Peaks Kinesiology and on going courses, visit: http://www.3pk.ca/index.html

RUN’YIN TO YOGA: A GREAT WAY TO TAPER

In celebration of Vancouver’s upcoming running events; proper running mechanics and prevention of injury are key elements to any runner’s success. Last week we identified fascial elasticity in Yin Yoga, and the benefits aligned with the Spiral Line Meridian (one of many fascial anatomy trains).

Today we look at how Yin Yoga can be a great addition to your taper for an upcoming race. Common lower limb mechanical injuries associated with distance running (to name a few) are  ITB syndrome, knee pain, shin splints and plantar fascitis, which can usually be attributed to  a breakdown in the structural framework of a fascial meridian, most injuries are not muscular in origin.

The Spiral Line myofascial meridian is somewhat more complicated than the other fascial trains, as it forms distinct spirals of deep myofascial connections looping around the legs and torso.  This is a complex fascial meridian and has functional implications.

Focusing specifically on the lower limb mechanics and to jog your Yoga brain from last week; the spiral loop starts at the anterior hip (ASIS), which then follows the TFL muscle and ITB, connecting to the tibialis anterior (shin)  just below the lateral knee to its insertion on the base of the 1st metatarsal. Then continues up the peroneus longus (outer lower leg), to the insertion of the biceps femoris (lateral hamstring) that attaches on the head of the fibula.  It then follows the biceps femoris to its origin on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bone). 

Repetitive load bearing movements; like running can breakdown our fascia and interconnected neuro web, thus placing stress on the entire meridian line; associated joints and muscles. This can cause minor, sometimes major imbalances, that can go undetected until acute pain or discomfort manifests (ie. muscle pain, strain or tears). 

 The result?  A reduction in performance, agility, speed, endurance and power execution, to name a few.

The best way to prevent injuries from even occurring is to invest in fascial stretching and therapeutic movements used in the Yin Yoga style.  Leading up to any race or event your 1-2 week taper period should include at least 2 Yin classes to reinforce fascial elasticity and improve mobility and flexibility within the joints.

 If you are gearing up for the Scotiabank half marathon & 5km next weekend,  try out this sequence for taper bliss:

  1. Start with 3-4 mins of soft tissue work: foam rolling the mid back, glutes, ITB, quads and hamstrings.
  2. Always begin with T-spine mobility (improve upper running mechanics)
  3. Kneeling Lunge (hip flexor/psoas stretch)
  4. Dancers Hamstring Stretch  (toes pointed to stretch shin)
  5. Pigeon Pose (to stretch glutes and SI joint.  Add in thread the needle for rotational mobility).

 RUN. YIN. REPEAT.

Sources: To learn more about fascial elasticity visit YogaFORM at http://yogaform.wordpress.com/

‘GET YOUR YIN ON’ THE SPIRAL LINE MERIDIAN

Last week we introduced fascial training and fascial elasticity combined with the therapeutic practice of Yin Yoga. Today, we build on that understanding with an introduction to one of (the many) fascial meridians. Meet the Spiral Line Meridian (SL)!

Did you know that most injuries are not muscular? Dysfunctions in the connective tissue account for well over half of the injuries in today’s active population, even when muscles are involved.

 Q. Why? A. One function of fasica is to transfer force from one end of the body to the other and everywhere in between. This is why it is such an important structure to look  in the prevention of injuries. If one area of the body has pain (as in muscle pain) we could possibly find the cause elsewhere if we follow these structural lines of the force and tissue as most “pain” is associated with a biomechanical dysfunction.

The SL meridian, which, for all you yogi-athletes will find functionally significant; has many connections that form distinct spirals of deep myofascial connections looping around the legs and torso and plays a role in proper posture and gait.

If we take a walk on the meridian, we find its connections to the arch and the ITB, the spiral line continues on to connect with the pelvis, it transverses the front of the abdomen, as well as, the thoracolumbar fasica, connecting to the lateral rib cage, cervical/thoracic spine and then scapula by way of the postural muscles of the back and attaching at the occipital ridge.

This meridian loop gives structural evidence of the connection between the pelvis and the arch of the foot. If you suffer from low back pain, SI, ITB or knee pain, collapsed arches or plantar fascitis, your spiral line meridian may be comprimised.

In Yin Yoga, the Spiral Line can be nurtured when we perform twists that stem from the torso and postures that lift out of the arch of the foot. Triangle pose; for example (utthita trikonasana), the torso is twisted and the arch lifts to support pelvic position. The pelvis is a major player in this line, as it related to gait and load distribution.

Other Spiral Line centered postures focused on improving fascial elasticity are:

  • Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana)
  • Marichi’s Pose (Marichyasana III)
  • Revolved Half Moon Pose (Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana)
  • One Legged Revolved Belly Pose (Eka Pada Jathara Parivarttanasana)
  • MET (muscle energy work) used more in therapeutic private sessions

Moral of the story ‘Get Your Yin On” and Let’s Twist!

 Sources: Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists, by Thomas Myers

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.

A MOVEMENT MEDITATION

“With a body made joyous through movement, the mind is able to relax. With mind/body balance, we can take the power of feeling good and generate compassion.” —The Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche (Zen Buddhist)

Movement frees the body and mind. It is one of the most natural and functional movements the body can harness, as it propels us forward in life, literally, as well as metaphorically. Running is often the form of exercise chosen to reduce stress, which brings us greater perspective in connecting us directly with the wisdom and appreciation of our body mechanics.

Most runners will naturally agree, that running is a form of mental therapy, their time to just be… free and joyous.

This begs the question; does the practice running and the practice of mediation have similar affects on the body and mind?  The answer would be yes, and when nurtured can not only improve your state of running, but your state of mind.

The art and practice of meditation and yoga can offer similar benefits; which aid us cultivating stillness and nonjudgmental awareness of the mind’s activities. Even though one is sedentary and the other is not, they both require consistency and discipline. They both are a form of training and both are benefited when the student uses the skill of visualization and control within the moment.

As a  an ultrarunner and founder of RUN for A CAUSE, meditation and yoga are a significant part of my training all year round, as well as for those I coach.

When the mind is trained, the body follows and as many runners will convey, there is a moment in every athlete’s state of performance and consciousness when there is this sense of union within the body. All your senses are heightened and you feel free, even in the presence of fatigue.

Running can be seen as the extension of a basic meditative practice. The next time you head out for a run focus and meditate on your intention and don’t forget to hit the Yoga mat post run for a good stretch.

Next week lets look at the art of meditation in exercise as a preventative tool in prevention of injury and rehabilitation.

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!

BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN YOGA AND FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT PART 1

What do Yoga and Functional Movement (FM) have in common?

In Sanskrit the word Yoga is derived from the root “yul” meaning “to control,” ” to unite,” and “to join;” meaning whole. There are many paths in yoga, all of which lead us to the same ultimate destination; which is optimal health and wellness in body and mind and a connection with something greater then ourselves. Functional movement aims to achieve the same destination, but does so through a more scientific modality. One rooted in understanding the approach to freedom in movement through the application of transformational biomechanics.

 Let’s take a closer look at the fundamentals of both Yoga & Functional Movement (FM):

  • Yoga: Anamayakosha – the physical body and its systems.
  • FM: biomechanics, anatomy & physiology of the human body
  • Yoga: Pranamayakosha – the energy body and breath
  • FM: deep diaphragmatic breathing & energy flow distribution
  • Yoga: Manomayakosha – the psychoemotional body
  • FM: sports psychology & emotional mechanics
  • Yoga: Vijnyanamayakosha – the watcher state or higher mind
  • FM: visualization & skill attainment
  • Yoga: Anandamayakosha – the bliss body, higher consciousness and the enlightened state
  • FM: homeostasis & equilibrium, in mind, body  & spirit

As a health practitioner of movement coaching we focus on aligning the body, and controlling movement through the use of transforming negative restrictions or “bio mechanical breakdowns” into symmetrical movement patterns. These movements are based on real-life situational biomechanics that affect us daily. They usually involve gross motor movement involving multi-joint movements that prepare the body for real life developments; which also place a high demand on the body’s core, segmental stabilizers and innervation of the body processes.

Yoga and Yoga therapeutics have been a growing niche market of the Western Yoga World for many years and with more teachers becoming more educated on human anatomy and physiology and more health practitioners understanding the benefits that Yoga modalities can have both mentally and physically on their clients, it’s easy to see the direct connection between the two disciplines. Both aim to teach on-going adaptation; which is required for people to remain injury free, and to maintain freedom of movement and peace of mind.

Join us next week as we look at the role of Yoga therapeutics and transformational biomechanics in rehabilitating back pain, a common issue in today’s society. Your spine will thank you! Namaste!

YOUR PATH TO PRANAYAMA

breathe deep and relax

We know that the word “prana” means life force and “pranayama”  in Yoga means “breath control” or deep diaphragmatic breathing; which is crucial to both sustaining life, as well as relaxation.

But did you know your diaphragm does more then just help you breathe deeper and cultivate prana? 

Deep breathing establishes the mind-body connection needed to regulate our autonomic nervous system (ANS); which can become under-active or over-active with higher levels of stress, tension and the daily hustle and bustle of our urban lifestyle.

The ANS is comprised of the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and the sympathetic Nervous System (SNS); which are responsible for regulating the body’s involuntary functions; which includes the movement of the diaphragm, breathing, circulation, muscle contractions and how you got into the Yoga posture you are practicing right now!

When we meditate or sleep all of these processes slow, along with our breath and we reach a steady state of deep breathing, which is controlled and methodical.  

However, daily stress, tension, muscle fatigue and anxiety can obstruct the fluidity of breathing leaving us with shallow, rigid breathing patterns. This results in unbalanced or impaired autonomic responses that restrict the flow of energy in our body, thus weakening our prana.  

Deep diaphragmatic breathing exercises engage the diaphragm, abdominal wall and rib-cage which improves the inner space within the abdomen for the organs to move freely.

Practicing your pranayama helps to circulate freshly oxygenated blood throughout the system, improves mental clarity and activates the PSNS by stimulating the vagus nerve; which induces the relaxation response, and provides a healthy respite from chronic stress.

Your Path to Pranayama can begin in a relaxed seated or supine posture. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly:

  • Steady your mind.
  • Breathe more slowly.
  • Breathe more deeply, from the belly.
  • Exhale longer than you inhale. 
  • Cultivate Pranayama

Happy Breath makes Happy Prana!

Sources:

*  Full Path to Pranayama article can be found here:  “The Da!ly Muse” YogaFORM’s official blog site.  http://gimmedailymuse.wordpress.com/  

* Yoga Anatomy: author Leslie Kaminoff and The Breathing Project, Inc – NYC

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