“Just being low down in a room tends to clear the mind. Maybe it’s because being on the floor is so foreign to us that it breaks up our habitual neurological patterning and invites us to enter into this moment through a sudden opening in what we might call the body door.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
This week, we will begin to explore the individual poses of yoga or the asanas. This is the 3rd limb of the yogic system. Although it is self-evident that a steady yoga practice will involve the postures themselves, in the vast scope of yoga the asanas have a specific role to play. The intention of asana is to bring attunement (or greater awareness) to our instinctual responses. For that reason, many of the poses derive from animals who, by nature, are strongly instinctive.
“If you want peace and purity, melt away your coverings…let a streaming beauty flow through you.” – Rumi
This week we continue our quest to support a steady yoga practice by looking at the second limb of the yoga system called niyamas or observances. There are five niyamas and the first is shaucha or purity.
By observing purity, we endeavor to lift ourselves to a higher, clearer and more peaceful state at all levels: intellectual, verbal and physical.
“Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow is only a vision, therefore look well to this day.” – Goswami Kriyananda
This week prepare your yoga days by designating a practice tag line for each day of the week. The labels not only provide a preset plan but also assure that during the week the practice will be variable and well rounded.
My quest for August will be to explore the teachings of Viniyoga. Over the years, I have found this particular style of yoga attractive because it represents the way yoga can serve as therapy. The method stems from the teachings of T. Krishnamacharya, T.K.V. Desikachar and, more recently, Gary Kraftsow. In a nutshell, Viniyoga “tweaks” the traditional poses in order to address specific ailments. Foremost, it works closely with the breath by presenting the poses in a vinyasa (or flow-like) manner.
Below, I have provided a short posture sequence for reducing upper back tension and/or the curvature disorder called kyphosis. Unfortunately, we are seeing this condition occuring more and more frequently with the increase in computer and cell phone usage. Left unattended, this posture bias can adversely affect breathing and other system functions. Continue reading “Putting the Kibosh on Kyphosis”→
Today we address a more delicate subject. A part of our anatomy that is not discussed often but plays a huge role in our day to day lives. Commonly known as the pelvis, it’s the “basin” for many biological systems and the root of our support. Not only is the pelvis the foundation of our stability but it is home to our organs of elimination and reproduction – thus the sensitivity.
As a structure, the pelvis is more like an architectural feat rather than a mere bony skeleton.
It shelters and provides entrances and exits for a vast number of muscles, ligaments and nerves that feed and bring movement to our upper and lower bodies.
Therefore, the pelvis needs to stay fluid. Not too tight yet not too loose. The stability of its frame and the musculature within is easily off balanced. Pelvic distortion can lead to chronic hip misalignment, lower back pain and scoliosis. Strain or misalignment at the spine base can also lead to pelvic floor abnormalities affecting both women and men. Muscle weakness or even tightness can bring about urinary incontinence, urinary frequency, cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome and prostate problems.
Luckily, yoga can help stabilize the pelvis, engage, strengthen and relax pelvic bowl muscles. A study performed at the University of California San Francisco studied urinary incontinence and found that participants who practiced specific yoga postures experienced a 70% reduction in this abnormality. Some of the postures included in the study were baddha konasana (bound angle pose), salamba setu bandhasana (supported bridge pose) and utkatasana (chair pose).
In addition, the yogic practice of mūla bandha is helpful in generating awareness and encouraging blood flow into the hips and pelvic floor or perineum (the perineum can be thought of as a hammock of muscles between the sitting bones and the pubic bone). Although mūla bandha (along with the other bandhas) is considered an advanced yoga practice, it can be more simply characterized as a set of pelvic floor contractions much like Kegel exercises.
Sitting in a cross-legged position, “align the center of your skull over the center of your pelvis. Be sure to release your jaw and tongue…begin by relaxing the tissues in and around your pelvic floor. Take several long, slow breath strokes. Once your breath has settled, exhale deeply and, at the end of the exhalation, contract your perineum (or pelvic floor) rhythmically in a set of seven pulses, in what amounts to a catch and release action. Then take a long inhalation brushing your breath against your spine. Repeat 5-10 times.