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Transformation at Kushala Yoga

The yoga studio formally known as Kula Yoga has recently changed their name to Kushala (Kushala is Sanskrit for well-being). This change is perfect timing as they are celebrating the expansion and grand opening of their new Port Moody location in Suter Brook Village.

Along with an amazing view and masterful instructors, the new location has two studio spaces, a retail shop full of yoga goodies, a tea lounge and a wellness center! There are also rumors that another location will be opening in early 2012!

What I love about Kushala is that they offer a wide variety of classes, so there is definitely something to meet everyone’s needs. Some of their more unique offerings include: Sunrise Hatha at 6am, Wild Thing Wednesdays (a class designed for more advanced yogis), Yoga 101 (for the beginner yogi) and Pre-Natal Yoga.

Kushala Yoga also specializes in teaching the philosophical side of yoga with courses such as: Prana 101 (students learn meditation and breathing techniques) and the Dharma Series that takes a closer look at Eastern philosophies.

What I enjoy most about Kushala is the extremely warm and inviting atmosphere that only a great yoga studio can provide!

For more about Kushala, please visit:

http://www.kushalayoga.com/

 


A “Hip” Guide to Happier Movement: The Hamstrings

A “Hip” guide to happier movement continues, and this week we take a look at the hamstrings. As we know, the hip flexors and hamstrings are two groups of muscles that need to work in symmetry, in order to maintain proper balance, distribute load and stability through the pelvis. Many believe, or look at yoga, as merely a means of increasing flexibility, and that the more flexible you are, the less susceptible to injury you will be.

Way too often I find students moving into a posture while trying to achieve a version of a certain posture exerting too much force than their muscles can bear, thus “cranking” into it and moving beyond their normal range of mechanical alignment. When it comes to postures involving the hamstrings, this is all too common.
The truth is, sometimes being too flexible can increase your chances of sustaining an injury, as the muscle and associated joints are now in a constant state of  slack and with this comes instability of the joint, thus stability needs to be ascertained. This is the dynamic duality of our systems. Where there is an increase in mobility – there needs to be an equal force of stability to create symmetry.  Yoga is about achieving a balance between flexibility and strength, and mobility and stability.

The Anatomy:

The hamstrings groups is comprised of four muscle parts ; the first two are the Biceps Femoris (long and short head). The biceps femoris’s function is to flex and laterally rotate the leg and extend and laterally the thigh. The short head has it’s same origin at the lateral hip joint, then only crosses the knee joint and functions to flex and laterally rotate the leg.

The Semimembranosus originates in the ischial tuberosity and inserts into the medial tibial condyle. The Semitendinosus muscle also originates at the ischial tuberosity and inserts into the upper part of the medial surface of the tibia and medial tibial condyle. Both these muscles, extend the thigh and flex and medially rotate the leg.

The ideal length of the hamstrings is achieved at 80 – 90 degrees of hip flexion, which most often is questioned because students get wrapped up in “what the pose should look like,” rather then what their bio mechanics will and should allow. Where the emphasis is then placed on becoming too flexible in order to achieve the pose; however, when we push too hard into a pose, the tension has to be re distributed somewhere and this energy is most likely going to pull at the musculotendinous junction or strain at the hip and knee joint.

This can then not only lead to injury, but to faulty movement patterns that will persist off the mat. Remmber the fascia systems? When we change one meridian line, we uniquely impact them all. As I mentioned in the previous article pelvic alignment plays a crucial role in balance, load distribution and locomotion; therefore, when we think about how many  muscles stem from the ischial tuberosity, you can see how critical it is to focus on balance and symmetry of mobility vs stability and flexibility vs strength.  Two of the main joints at the pelvis are referred to as the sacroiliac joints. When the hamstrings are stressed some students can exprience hip, as well as knee injuries. Tightness in the low back can also contribute to excessive stresses on the hamstring attachment as well, or lack of hamstring mobility.

When working with hamstrings in any health modality, always remember the hamstrings are never alone they are part of the posterior muscular chain, the back line of the fascial system and are a huge primary mover of many movement patterns; therefore, respect the hammies and your mechanics within postures.

Some tips to avoid over stretching and creating better balance mechanics in your postures:

  • Always Aim to Keep Your Pelvis Level
  • Practice your postures only within your natural alignment (no cranking ~ leave this for hitting trails on your mtn bike)
  • Keep the thighs active and engaged
  • Distract at the hip joint
  • Bend the knees if needed, especially if you are a beginner
  • Work within your genetic limitations
  • Use props; such as blocks and straps if needed
  • Stretch your hip flexors
  • Listen to your body, never work through pain

Now hit the mat and enjoy!

Laughter Yoga

Laughter yoga was created by Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995 in Mumbai, India.  The idea came to him at a time he was writing an article ‘Laughter- The Best Medicine’.  It originated as a ‘Laughter Club’.  After two weeks of telling the same jokes, the participants became bored.  Dr. Kataria’s wife is a yoga instructor.  He consulted with her in further developing the ‘Laughter Club’.  They discovered that there were a lot of similarities between laughing and pranayama exercises.  Laughter yoga was born, resulting in a blend of Yogic Deep Breathing, Stretching, and Laughter Exercises that cultivate child-like playfulness.  Dr. Kataria came to the realization that the body cannot tell the difference between real and pretend laughter.

I took my very first Laughter Yoga class at Open Door Yoga on Commercial Drive.  I have to say, there were a lot of times when I thought to myself, what the heck am I doing.  However, the laughter was contagious.  I left the class feeling happier and lighter.

Give Laughter Yoga a try.  Go with an open mind and an open heart.

Namaste.

 

 

Eat Local

I am passionate about food.  It brings people together and fuels our body.  My Bikram yoga practice made me very aware of the food I was putting into my body and my bodies reaction to it.  I felt so clean from all the sweating that I no longer wanted to put junk food into my body.

In Vancouver we are so lucky to have access to a variety of amazing food.  Currently, we have a bounty of local produce.  Just go check out one of the many farms in Richmond or your closest farmers market at http://www.eatlocal.org.

Right now is the perfect time to take advantage of the 100 mile challenge.  Try to eat only foods produced, grown or sold within 100 miles of where you live.  This way we eat healthier and reduce our carbon footprint.  To learn more, read the book 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon.

Bon Appetit!


Shark Fin Soup Ban?

Shark Fin Soup Ban?

As Yogi’s and Yogini’s we learn to live our lives with more compassion.  However, the practice of yoga is not only on the mat.  Yoga is about more than just the Asana.  We are living yoga each and every moment of our lives, by learning to see the divine in all people and all creations of the universe.

It was announced on CBC News that Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May is calling for a ban of Shark Fin soup in Canada.  She is collecting signatures for a petition she plans to send to the House Of Commons.  This is a topic that I feel very strongly about.  If you are unaware of the shark finning industry.  Please watch the documentary Shark Water by Rob Stewart.  It is important for us to live consciously.  To be aware of where our food comes from and how it got to our table.

Sign the petition here: http://www.divepro.ca/

An Afternoon with Thich Nhat Hanh

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to yesterday’s “Open Mind, Open Heart; Touching the Wonders of Now” talk at the Orpheum with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Thich Nhat Hanh {source: http://wkuplondon.wordpress.com/about/our-teacher-thich-nhat-hanh/}

Thich Nhat Hanh, who turns 85 in October, is one of the most respected Zen masters in the world. Also a poet and peace and humans rights activist he is the founder of several organizations, including Plum Village, and has spent his years working with refugees, political prisoners, hungry families throughout the Third World, veterans, and on meditation retreats. Author of over 85 titles of poems and prayers, Thay, as he is known by his students, practices “the art of mindful living” and wrapped up his week in Vancouver with a public talk at the Orpheum.

While I wasn’t able to attend the whole retreat that was held at UBC last week, it was an honour and a privilege to spend a few hours at the Orpheum yesterday afternoon. The afternoon included guided meditation and songs of prayer, along with his lecture that focused on the practices of mindfulness and being happy in the present moment, the here and now.

He explained that being mindful is being present in the here and now, and when we practice mindfulness we are always in the here and now. While the concepts he describes are so simple, so easy to understand we, I know I, struggle with remembering to be in the present moment, to let go of the past & not rush for the future but to enjoy everyday for what it is because “this is all there is.”

Today, I still find myself processing the day looking for the simple ways to bring mindfulness more readily into my daily life, but was left with the overwhelming feeling of content, content in my here and now. If you did not have a chance to hear him speak yesterday or attend the retreat last week, here is a clip on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings;

Thich Nhat Hanh

Vancouver Pride

What an amazing weekend in our beautiful city!  The Celebration of Light and Gay Pride.  It got me to thinking?  If we are to recognize the light in others, we must first accept ourselves:  gay, straight, short, tall, fat, skinny.  If we are able to accept ourselves, we are free to accept others.  We are able to come from a more authentic place.  A place of love.  This is where yoga comes in because it takes us on a journey of self realization.

A friend came to me with a problem this week because of a person in his life who chooses to see him in the past.  Life is constantly changing.  It is important for us to move forward and grow without being shadowed by past regrets or judgements.  We wouldn’t be in the place we are today if it wasn’t for our past experiences.  For example, I recently became a vegan.  I had a friend tell someone that was inquiring about my dietary choices, “I’ve seen her chow down on a burger.”  Yes, that is true.  It is because I used to eat meat that I choose not to now.  Does that make my current decision any less valid?

By no means am I perfect.  What is perfection?  Yoga helps me to recognize the good in myself and others.  I am truly grateful to live in a place where we have access to yoga and the freedom to express our pride.

Lead by example.  Be proud of who you are!  Celebrate who you are because you are unique.  As long as your intentions are not to hurt, you will change those around you for the better.  This is the energy that moves mountains.

Namaste.

Yeah, I Speak Yoga

I don’t speak Korean. At all. But I speak some yoga. So when I recently attended my first hot yoga class in Bundang, South Korea I somehow knew the language.

The room was hot and humid, much like the weather outside but stronger. My sister, who frequented this studio over the past year, told me to get acquainted with the room before class started. Sitting cross legged, I settled into my space in the sauna-like, wooden panelled room. Mirrors lined the front wall so I could see myself slowly melt – I decided to keep my focus inwards and away from my reflection.

The cute, yet serious teacher greeted the class. I prepared myself for what may be my most difficult yoga class to date: hot and in Korean. To my surprise, our teacher began leading us through a few body awakening movements which I followed smoothly. Neck stretches – right then left, forward then back. Then arms into a standing half moon on each side. Hey, I thought, I’m actually doing yoga in Korean.

I had no clue what she was saying vocally, but the universality of the practice made the class much easier to follow than expected. She counted aloud in English a few times, which my sister says she always does. In mountain pose, she explained the correct stance thoroughly in Korean and it was as if I understood word for word what she saying, “have your feet hip width apart, tuck your tummy, engage your core, and relax your shoulders.”

It is amazing how something can be completely foreign, yet thoroughly understood in the same breath. Despite how displaced we may be culturally, we can still find a kula through yoga, even if it’s in a place far away from our community.

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

PET + POSE 2012 YOGA CALENDAR PHOTO CONTEST

Calling on all yogis!  Last month I posted a “Yoga Teaser” on a national event, linking up yoga communities for a global cause. Well, the details are in!

The Ladybird Animal Sanctuary (LAS), an animal rescue group made up of three Canadian singer/writers (Melissa McClelland, Janine Stoll and Lisa Winn) are on a mission, to bring much needed awareness and support to our furry friends.

The LAS sole purpose is to help as many dogs, cats and other domesticated animals in need, and in celebration of the joy of yoga and the beautiful relationship we share with our pets, the LAS is looking YOU to submit a Pet + Pose Photo for their 2012 calendar.

Here is the challenge:

Take your best pic of YOU and YOUR Pet (or your neighbors) – we want to see a beloved pet in the photo with you. The more creative the better, they are looking for anything fun, playful, beautiful, poignant, peaceful… you name it. Anything that expresses your wonderful relationship to your yoga practice & your best furry pal.

The LAS will choose 12 winners from across Canada who will be featured in our 2012 calendar, which will be sold in yoga studios throughout our country. The Grand Prize winner will get the cover photo and all winners will receive a gift pack with yoga and pet related goodies. Alongside your photo will also be a short description of you, your photographer and your animal. The best part of this whole project is that all proceeds from the sales of the calendar will go to helping animals in need.

To enter, please send the following to [email protected]

  • 1-3 photos, ideally 8×12”, 300 dpi (jpeg or pdf)
  • A quick description of yourself, your pose, your pet + your photographer friend (max. 200 words).

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: AUGUST 31, 2011.

So Get Your Best Downdog, Updog, Cat Pose or Pigeon Asana On!

Check out thier facebook page for more details and connect with the Song Birds behind this great cause!

Ladybird Animal Sanctuary Pet + POse Yoga Photo Challenge: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=218722811484946&ref=ts!

Namaste & Good Luck!

Vancouver Yoga Riot 2011!

In the aftermath of the unimaginable events last week, and the showcase of love for our city and our community the following day, make sure you check out the latest event; Vancouver Yoga Riot 2011!

“Join together as a community to heal and rekindle the beautiful energy of our city using the powerful practice of yoga.”
With a variety of teachers expected, make sure you check out the Vancouver Yoga Riot 2011 details are as follows;

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict — alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.
~
Dorothy Thompson

Courage To Fall

blogs.forbes.com

In a conversation with my pal Jennifer before class started last night, she filled me in on some changes she is making in her life. Risks she’s decided to take because the saying, you never know until you try, deems to be true (funny how clichés tend to be true). Yet, making a big change, or trying something foreign or different often brings a sense of fear along with it.

For instance, I find myself going to lengths of comparing pros and cons before I make a big decision that will bring change to my life. I’m unsure if the idea for change sparks from a right feeling or desire, or the need for a challenge. So I weigh all the thoughts surrounding the risk for change and take my time before making a final verdict. Then I stop and ask, who cares?! Why do the things we lean towards need to be justified if they feel right?

Last week in a Vinyasa Power Flow class, I took several risks. My shoulders and arms violently quivered as I attempted four arm stand and side crow over and over again. I pushed myself because it felt right. I was determined that my body could manage. I knew the worst that could happen was I’d fall, and I did. Flat out like a pancake I just splattered onto my mat. My body, at that point had enough. But instead of harping on my decision to take this risk with my body, I laughed. Falling is actually kind of fun. Instead of beating myself up over failing to do the pose, I gave myself credit for trying and making progress.

Why is risk taking in yoga, when if done improperly could result in injury, so carefree? So unruffled? We will inevitably fall out of the pose, but we hold our dignity while we do it. We know that after falling, we’re merely right back to where we started and nothing less.

This notion is so simple in our yoga Kula, yet so hard in our outside community. How do we incorporate the courage to fall into our daily lives?

To quote the risk taking Jennifer, I’ll always have what I have now, so if this change doesn’t work out, I’ll be right back here. And here, the now, isn’t such a bad place to end up.

How do you bring your yoga mentality into your daily life?

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