3 Key Principles for Good Posture… #2 Releasing the Shoulders & #3 Maintaining Safe Angles

My last post was about the first principle for good posture:  Engaging the Core.  To refresh… Strong spinal alignment begins with maintaining the natural lumbar curve of the lower back.  Too much curve (a condition called ‘lordosis’) and the anterior pelvic muscles experience congestion/constriction while the posterior muscles of the gluteals and hamstrings become overstretched and painful.  Too little curve (a condition called ‘kyphosis’) can create tension and hyperactivity in the posterior muscles of the body and weakness in the anterior muscles of the pelvis and abdomen.

We can properly Engage the Core by:

1. lengthening the tailbone toward the heels

2. activating the lower abdominal muscles

3. gently pulling the navel in and up toward the rib cage

This allows us to align the pelvis upright and hold the natural lumbar curve with a strong core.  Feel free to watch the video from my previous blog post for more review!  Again, it’s NOT rocket science!  It just takes some awareness, knowledge and discipline for ANYONE to experience good posture and the benefits that go along with it.

 

So here are the remaining two video clips – Releasing the Shoulders and Maintaining Safe Angles & Planes –  from my Yoga Essentials DVD series.  These are the foundation on which you can build good postural habits.  Please post any questions, comments or feedback… I’d love to hear from you!

 

3 Key Principles for Good Posture…. #1 Engaging the Core

For many of us, good posture has become quite elusive due to our sedentary lifestyles.  Human beings weren’t meant to spend as many hours in a seated position as we do today…. at work, in the car, watching TV, at the computer, etc.

In working one-on-one with my wellness coaching clients, I have seen time and time again how they have greatly benefited simply by improving their posture!  “How have they benefited?”, you ask?

They have…

  • reduced, and in some cases eliminated, chronic back and neck tension and pain
  • improved their breathing by expanding their chest cavity and thus allowing for deeper, longer breaths
  • strengthened their core muscles by regularly practicing their good postural principles
  • facilitated movement in their bodies so they move more efficiently and with greater ease
  • increased confidence and self-esteem when they experience ALL OF THE ABOVE!

It’s NOT rocket science!  It just takes some awareness, knowledge and discipline for ANYONE to experience good posture and the benefits that go along with it.  To get you started, I’ll be posting 3 video clips, each one introducing a key principle for good postural alignment.  These clips are from my Yoga Essentials DVD series and are the foundation on which you can build good postural habits.

Here’s the first one… Body Geometry:  Engaging the Core 

Stay tuned for the other two…

Stop and Smell the Pine!

Here’s your friendly reminder to allow yourself to fully ENJOY the experiences of this season and NOT get caught up in the “holiday hub bub”.

The energy of the season can be full of distraction and overwhelm.  I find that the key to staying present and focused amidst this chaotic and sometimes challenging time is to PAUSE and BREATHE!  I do these “Daily Breathers” several times throughout the day as needed.

Every time I notice my mind wandering and being pummeled by way too many thoughts, I simply…

  • become aware and stop what I’m doing (or thinking of)
  • close my eyes (if my environment allows it) or focus on a specific point/object (if I cannot close my eyes at that time) and
  • take 3 DEEP, SOOTHING BREATHS.

As I’m taking these breaths, I make a point to really FEEL the breath moving in and out of my body.  This very basic, simple exercise of mindful breathing is very grounding and will bring you calm and greater focus.  Like anything, the more “Daily Breathers” you take the easier it gets and the more effective they become!

And in case you need a helping hand with this I’m sharing with you a 4-minute Mindful Breathing Meditation audio for you to follow:

Mindful Breathing Meditation

Some of you may have received this meditation from me before, but I’m re-posting it as it’s short and sweet and does the trick.  You can even save the link in your Favorites on your web browser to use it regularly!

During this time of year, it can be easy to forget our most basic yet powerful tool:  our BREATH!

Make good use of it so that as you are getting presents…. you’re also getting present! 🙂

HAPPY HOLIDAYS… AND ENJOY!

 

Remake Yourself…

As human beings, our greatness lays not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.   ~Mahatma Ghandi

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What a thought-provoking and powerful statement!  I think it’s especially applicable in today’s world where so much change and so many challenges are presenting themselves.

It can feel overwhelming sometimes when we are bombarded by so much negativity and tragedy in our (so-called) news, politics, and current events.  Even if you want to help bring about a positive change, you may ask yourself, “Where do I begin??!!”

Exactly where Ghandi has directed us… with ourselves!  Instead of getting bogged down and worrying about things outside of us that are beyond our control… if we focus our intentions on how we can help ourselves feel healthier and think better… we can each as individuals make a positive impact not only on our own beings… but on our families, communities and our world!

The only things we have complete control over are our own thoughts, intentions and actions.  If we each commit to improving and elevating our own well-being — that is how we feel physically, how we think and how we interact with others  — we initiate our own little ripple effect.  When you start feeling better in your body, thinking with more clarity and calm, managing your emotions and stress with ease… you indirectly affect others by example and energetic interaction.

We’ve all experienced something of what I’m describing before… If you’re in a room full of people and someone who is carrying a lot of negativity walks in, everyone feels it.  It drags everyone else down as well.  But if someone who is uplifting comes into the room, it elevates everyone in the room.

Now imagine if you are working to feel the best that you can each day… Your positive ripple effect collides with my ripple effect which collides with someone else’s… get the picture?!  And soon… the similar positive energies converge to effect larger and larger populations over longer periods of time… this is how movements are started!

If you are tired of feeling like a victim or a bystander… if you want to be a participant in something positive, then I challenge you to commit to yourself and your own well-being!!!  If necessary, start with small simple steps that only require 10 – 15 minutes every day.  For example:

–        take a walk outdoors

–        read something inspirational or educational

–        spend time by yourself to journal or reflect

–        take multiple “Daily Breathers” (just pause from what you are doing and take 3- 5 deep, slow breaths)!

The key is to take some action for YOURSELF every day! And if you are ready to learn even more powerful self-care techniques or just need some support and motivation, come talk to me… I would love the opportunity to help you!

Here’s to remaking ourselves…

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To learn more about yoga self-care and personal wellness programs, visit www.anyonecandoyoga.com… download chapters of my complimentary E-Book on the Home page, check out my 3-Part “Yoga Essentials” DVD set from the Shop or simply contact me.

Pausing, Breathing… and Reflecting on a Modern Yogi

As we headed into October last weekend, I found myself wondering (as I do at the beginning of each month) what to write about in this month’s newsletter; however, nothing was coming to me.  When that happens, my first instinct is to get anxious about getting something out – “I’ve got to get something out there… everyone else already has their newsletters/blog posts out this month?!”  That’s one of MY samskara – a conditioned pattern of thought and/or action based on my past experiences – that I am continually working to re-program.   Luckily, the yogi in me recognizes this pretty quickly, and so I PAUSE… and then I BREATHE deeply… several times… and I realize the futility of my anxiousness.  So I let it go.

I then wait until I stumble upon some words of wisdom or thought-provoking topic that I feel compelled to share rather than simply writing something for the sake of a “deadline”.  Well yesterday morning, I found that inspirational spark…

I was reading an article in the November Yoga Journal called “Stay Connected” which discussed how leaders in the Tech industry marry their love for technology and yoga to balance their lives (I recommend the article, especially if you are a ‘techy’.)  There was a mention of the late Steve Jobs in this article and suddenly an old memory came to me regarding him.

While his technological brilliance is well known, some may not be aware of the wisdom and light he also shared throughout his life.  I myself only recently learned that he was a self-proclaimed Buddhist who had visited India in the seventies looking for spiritual enlightenment.  And the more I learn about him, I feel he was in his own way, a modern-day yogi.

I have my own story about how Steve Jobs inspired me…  As most of you know, I worked in the corporate world for over 15 years prior to my quitting in the summer of 2006.  While deep down in my heart, I knew this leap of faith – relinquishing the comfort and security of a steady job to pursue my passion to teach yoga and provide healing massage therapy – was the right thing to do, I certainly had bouts of fear and doubt!

A few months after I had quit my job, a friend of mine emailed me a copy of the 2005 Stanford commencement speech given by Steve Jobs.  WOW… I was blown away.  I felt as if Steve was talking directly to me!  I remember now how it had inspired me to hear his words of validation and wisdom, which so closely resembled many of the lessons I’d learned throughout my yoga training & education.

Things like:

–       Relinquishing attachment to material results (vairagya)

–       Finding your truth (dharma) and taking action toward it regardless of others thoughts

–       Trusting your Intuition, your “heart-mind” (citta)

–       Self-Surrender

… just to name a few.

So below, I share a video of that speech with you in hopes that you too are inspired as I was 5 years ago and have been once again today.

Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford University

The AHA Principles – Honoring the Body

When we begin practicing yoga, it is easy to get caught up in the idea of doing the picture- perfect pose. Our competitive minds make us think that if we don’t bend far enough, or aren’t able to touch our toes, or look a certain way in our poses it’s just not good enough.  But yoga is NOT a competitive sport!  And a picture-perfect pose is not the end-goal (if you happen to achieve that along the way, then it’s just an added bonus.)

In the previous blog post, we spoke about having full awareness while doing yoga poses.  By using our breath to stay in the present moment we can really discover a lot about ourselves.  However, this awareness does us little good if we then choose to ignore the signals our bodies provide.  Thus, the next step is to HONOR this information.

I always instruct students to really pay attention to their first point of resistance in each pose – I like to call this “the edge”.  Once we find “the edge”, we just hold, breathe and observe.  What are our bodies telling us at this point?   If the body is saying “this hurts!” or “I don’t feel balanced/steady”, then we should back off a bit, make adjustments and/or add support to the part of the body requiring it.

Using accessories to support the body is a great way to not only experience a pose but also allow the mind to be present in each pose.  For example, imagine we are on our hands and knees doing the Cat-Cow movement – in Cat-Cow, we flex and extend our spines while grounding through our hands and knees (for more information on doing Cat-Cow, please visit www.anyonecandoyoga.com and download the FREE chapters of our yoga guide).

For many of us, the wrists may begin to feel pressure in this pose since we are supporting a good amount of our weight on our hands.  We can easily support our wrists to alleviate any pressure.  But if we choose to “tough it out” and ignore the message our wrists are conveying …

  1. We could potentially hurt ourselves
  2. We will feel discouraged and may not want to stick to our practice
  3. Our minds will be occupied by the thoughts of our sore wrists instead of being present with the movement of the spine and our breathing.

By bringing support under our wrists to alleviate the pressure, we would eliminate the distraction of discomfort and be able to stay present with the pose to gain its full benefit.

The moral of the story… HONOR your body!  Don’t resist or dismiss the sensations that come up.  Our egos may say “tough it out”, or “I bent further yesterday, why can’t I do the same today?”  The tendency is to follow the ego, to compare and to push further despite what we feel.

We think of ourselves as weak if we “give in” to our sensations of discomfort or pain. But nothing is farther from the truth. Being honest and honoring where we are at this time takes courage!  Giving in to our egos only keeps us in pain and prevents us from truly enjoying the benefits of our practice.  The idea is to challenge the body, not to punish it!

So let’s put those egos aside and instead HONOR our bodies wherever they may be in this moment.  Then, not only can we gain great benefit from our yoga practice, but we can truly enjoy it!

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Check out this video clip on “Honoring the Body” from Anyone Can Do YOGA’s Yoga Essentials-Fundamentals DVD.  For more information about the DVD or to purchase, visit the Anyone Can do YOGA Shop.

The AHA Principles – Awareness

Do you sometimes feel as if you’re going through your daily activities like a robot… just going through the motions as if you are on “auto-pilot”.  I know I find myself sometimes falling into this mode when I am driving a well-known route – I don’t even have to think about it, I just drive and somehow after about 15 minutes, I’m at my destination!

And that’s just one common example.  It is easy to become a creature of habit – to go through our actions without being fully present.  But how enjoyable is that?  How rewarding is that? How enriching is that?

Throughout the past 20+ years, one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from my yoga practice is the ability to experience “AHA” moments.  Moments of self-discovery where…

  • I am fully “A”ware of myself and my surroundings
  • I “H”onor where I am in the moment
  • I have complete “A”cceptance without judgment.

When this happens, it feels like… “AHA!” 🙂

These are such important concepts that before I ever teach a single yoga pose to my students, I first discuss the principles of “AHA” – Awareness, Honor, and Acceptance.

Let’s begin with the first “A” in  “AHA”… Awareness.  We spoke before about going through our actions as if on “auto-pilot” – mind and body feeling disconnected rather than on the same plane of consciousness.  Why is this?  Two key reasons:

  1. We find it all too easy to get distracted by our thoughts of past and future and
  2. We allow ourselves to act from memory or habit because it’s easier to do so.

And as we allow ourselves to be distracted (going from one thought to the next, wasting vital mental energy) and as we continue to rely on habitual actions, we reinforce this viscous cycle that makes it even harder to stay in the present and leaves us feeling mentally & energetically drained.

Also in the process, we potentially miss out on experiencing and enjoying things due to this lack of awareness.  When I’ve driven to my destination on “auto-pilot”, I’m sure there have been plenty of beautiful vistas or interesting places I may have missed seeing along the way!

How do we break this cycle?  First and foremost, we must recognize what we’re doing.  Identification is the first step to addressing any issue/condition.

Then what?  It’s simple – just BREATHE!  The quickest, easiest and most effective way to bring the mind back to the present moment is to take some nice deep breaths, bringing your attention to your breath.  Our breath is extremely powerful in it’s ability to bridge the gap between the mind and the body.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking… “I can take a deep breath and that will help me return to the present, but a few minutes later, I’m lost in my thoughts again!”

The final component to really being present is the willingness to “let go”.  As you take your deep breaths, be willing to surrender those thoughts that bind you.  This idea of detachment or letting go is perhaps the most challenging to most people.  We feel that if we “hold on” to our thoughts that somehow we can control them; however in actuality, when we hold on to our thoughts (and even emotions), they end up controlling us!

When we practice yoga, we are continually practicing Awareness.  Each time we do a pose, we pay attention to how we move our bodies, we observe the sensations in the active and passive muscles, we work with our breathing to maintain this presence of mind and we surrender whatever comes up that does not serve us in that moment.

And just like anything else, the more we practice the easier it gets! This on-going process becomes the underlying norm rather than the active effort.

Now I’m not suggesting that once you practice yoga, you’ll NEVER be distracted by your thoughts… after all, we are human. 🙂  However, you will definitely find it easier to stay focused or bring yourself back into the present moment when you do feel distracted.

And as you progress in your regular yoga practice, your Awareness is honed and heightened to deeper levels of your physical and energetic being – it truly becomes a wonderful journey of self-discovery.

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Check out this clip on Awareness from Anyone Can Do YOGA‘s Yoga Essentials-Fundamentals DVD and for more information visit www.anyonecandoyoga.com:

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