All posts by SpiceYoga

Viparita Karani legs up the wall yoga pose

Restorative Yoga is Power

Can We Do More with Restorative Yoga?

This post first appeared on the Yoga 216 blog. It is reposted here with permission.

In the previous post, we talked about why restorative yoga is a necessity for us urban folks!

While restorative yoga is about paring down to basics and getting us to slow down, take note… you can still get a lot out of restorative yoga! As we continue to explore this topic, we will focus on some ways to make the best of restorative yoga, through creative sequencing, mixing activity and stillness in your practice, and by working in sync with deep breathing.

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Continue reading Restorative Yoga is Power

Yoga Retreat

Quick Yoga Sequences: Front Body Opening

This #ThursdayTuneUp, we are using a yoga block to open up and find more space in the psoas, hips, belly, chest and shoulders. Beginner version is gentle enough for a morning practice!!

We particularly LOVE it when we start sweeping the right arm over head and then begin to draw the fingers and the right heel gently away from each other. You’d DEFINITELY feel the length and opening to that entire side of the front body. Practise both sides! (the video only shows the right side)

Tips:

  1. Start from the absolutely lowest block height (not shown in video demo) especially if you’ve tight psoas/ hips and limited hip extension. Note: your shoulders and heels should comfortably ground you down. Come off the block if you feel crunching or a sharp pain in the lower back.
  2. You may feel a rush when you first enter the pose, as is the case in any chest opening shapes. Allow your breath to deepen and lengthen, and your body and mind to settle into the shape. If something in your body is still in chaos even after a minute in the pose, it’s a good idea to exit the pose and take the resting position.
  3. The resting position for this sequence is to stay on your back, bend at the knees, take the feet mat-width apart, and then let your knees fall back towards each other. You should feel more length returning to the lower back and a nice support from the ground. Take this wonderful counter-pose to the sequence at any point you feel that you need one. And then return to the practice only if you feel alright.
  4. Intermediate option: experiment with this only if the basic version can be practised with ease.
  5. Yoga wheel option: nice to have if you have a yoga wheel. The wheel comfortably holds up your back contours. Let your sacrum and lower back be draped over the wheel. Courtesy: @DharmaYogaWheel
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Sign up now if you want to receive more love from Spice Yoga to you. Our Mindful Monday newsletter (sent approximately on the 1st Monday of each month, no spam!) features highlights of the month’s video tutorials and original writings to take you deeper into your personal practice. As a welcome gift for a LIMITED time only, receive a beginners’ mindfulness audio podcast too.

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Head Massage, Restorative, Nidra

Why You Have to Turn On Your “Off” Button

There’s a war raging in your body!

Win it through the path of least resistance.

This post first appeared on the Yoga 216 blog. It is reposted here with permission.

When we are facing stressful situations, the sympathetic nervous system is on alert, automatically recalibrating to increase blood pressure and heart rate and reduce digestion, to prepare the body for battle. Needless to say, our contemporary workaday lives, which is full of stress and sensory overload – tracking indices and social channel updates, digging ourselves out of a bottomless inboxes, rushing from meetings to lunch, to meetings over lunch – place a constant stress on us and trigger this ‘fight or flight’ response all the time.

Weekend warrior - is that a great idea?
Weekend warrior – is that a great idea?

When we are time starved, we often try to have an efficient workout, either by going for a hard run or a bootcamp session or choosing physically demanding yoga sessions. Perhaps these are efficient from a burning calories standpoint and, with discipline, speed, muscle build-up, weight loss and other results can be attained. But are they giving us overall health, vitality and balance?

With our relative physical inactivity, from desk-bound jobs, elevators and surfing the Internet, getting into weekend warrior mode with high-intensity workouts jolts the body’s system.

Restoring the Body through Yoga

Where it comes to physical yoga, slowly building up the practice with discipline, and keeping it a regular part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle is better than a strong dose once in a while. More importantly, it is critical not to neglect the counterpart of active yoga – the more restful, effortless style of yoga practice often called ‘restorative yoga’. It is so called precisely as it replenishes and renews the practitioner, with the body slowly eased into shapes. Poses are held for up to 10 minutes at a time, supported by various props and gravity.

Viparita Karani is a deceptively basic yoga pose which is incredibly powerful for the nervous system and the body's vitality and energy levels.
Viparita Karani is a deceptively basic yoga pose which is incredibly powerful for the nervous system and the body’s vitality and energy levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleepless in the City

Now you ask, to quiet our ‘fight or flight’ response, why don’t we just get to bed earlier? Proper deep sleep turns on the parasympathetic response of the nervous system, which has the beneficial effects of lowering blood pressure and heart rate and increasing digestion, and also promotes cellular regeneration. It unleashes our capacity to heal ourselves from within.

However, many of us are not actually getting the proper rest that is so crucial for these restorative processes to happen. A combination of city noise (including light and actual sound pollution), mental noise and tension arising from chronically held stress, strain from late nights, irregular and imbalanced work and rest hours and meal times, keeps the mind-body in constant duress. We may not even get to the deep sleep stages of the sleep cycle.

Chronic Lack of Rest is Debilitating

After a strenuous physical workout, it may take you perhaps a day or two for the muscle soreness to go away, but your nervous system takes a much longer time to recover.

Have you ever noticed that nagging fatigue, the feeling that you’re just not ready to start the week ahead? It can be from the lack of proper rest and an over-active sympathetic response.

Our bodies need proper rest for the vital systems to rebuild to compensate for the stress that we subject them to. Without good quality rest, there’s no chance for cellular repair and regeneration to take place. Athletes too under-perform when they are over-trained. Mark Jenkins gives a succinct explanation here.

In the United States, according to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. It is a lifestyle disease caused by a variety of factors, including poor diet, irregular and lack of physical exercise, but a constantly stimulated nervous system is also a factor for heart disease. It is a likely explanation for hormonal imbalances, chronic pains, diabetes, allergies, etc. As long as we don’t give our bodies the chance to heal, we’d be depleting our overall immunity and wearing down the other essential functions of the body over time.

Restorative yoga is not optional, it is essential to our continued vitality! We all need these self-care therapeutic sessions. Try starting your week, or day, with it.

If short on time, practise ONE restorative poses for 10 to 15 minutes as a pick-me-up anytime your energy feels like blah…).

Like most skills, relaxation takes practice! Start with some guidance, and include it as a conscious time out in your schedule. It’s your weekly ‘Top-Up’!

Sign up now if you want to receive more love from Spice Yoga to you. Our Mindful Monday newsletter (sent approximately on the 1st Monday of each month, no spam!) features highlights of the month’s video tutorials and original writings to take you deeper into your personal practice. As a welcome gift for a LIMITED time only, receive a beginners’ mindfulness audio podcast too.

[After signing up, add ask@spiceyoga.com to your email address book to ensure that you receive the gift.]

Reverse Boat Crunch – Get Stronger in Your Headstand!

The headstand is notoriously challenging, and a lot of the times, the challenge for students lies in not having a strong, stable foundation. The opportunities to work the right muscles are missed when often in class we are asked to “kick up”. When you use momentum to fling yourself into a headstand, you don’t learn the principles, and your muscles don’t benefit from the work needed to get into the headstand properly.

CAUTION: do not attempt this without first having attempted the headstand and learned the technique with a teacher.

Here’s an excellent prop to play with to help lift the hips higher so that you can practise getting into the hips-over-shoulders alignment and work the core to maintain it.  There’s no need to kick up. You simply walk – and roll – the yoga wheel closer towards you and keep lifting the hips high. Keep the navel pulled in so that your abs are firm to maintain balance and steadiness through the torso, and keep grounding towards your forearm tripod position.

Check out this video on how to do what I’d like to call the “Reverse Boat Crunch” to strengthen the hip flexors and overall core. Remember to keep your foundation steady with minimal movement. There is also a fun intermediate option to challenge yourself with!

Strong abs, shoulders and psoas guaranteed!

Prop courtesy of @DharmaYogaWheel

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Do Your Own Twist

Twists are great for keeping suppleness and tone in the trunk and for stimulating detoxification. But  are you doing them right? Are you creating long-term instability in your hips when you twist?

Your spine starts from your coccyx and sacrum, which fit snugly in the bowl-like pelvic girdle, the two structures connecting together at the sacroiliac (SI) joint. Soft tissue, ligaments and tendons further connect the two.

So it makes a whole lot of sense when you do twist, to allow your spine and pelvis to move in the same direction. Some poses, like the extended side angle twist, create too much torque as the two are forced by the nature of the shape to move at cross purposes to each other – the pelvis opening one way, and the torso moving in the opposite direction.

If this pose has never felt good to you in any way, there is no need to include it in your practice. Instead, work with these variations in this video tutorial. We want to minimise the pulling apart – and potential destabilization – of the SI joint. This way, you’d enjoy all the benefits of twisting, and for a long time too!

If you found this useful, please share it with someone who needs it!

Sign up here to receive alerts on more original yoga tutorials! As a welcome gift, I’d also like to offer you a full length beginners’ guided mindfulness practice audio for free.

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Study Yoga For Free

I have to tell you…  I am actually not a teacher; I am a student!
I’d tell you why I prefer to be a student. Student benefits rock, and you should not miss out on them too. Want to improve your yoga practice? I discovered how to learn yoga for free!

Learn yoga for free

The other day, a man came to practice in my class. He had shared about a tight IT band issue. I offered some variations to help him in his practice. I noticed that for some of the asanas, instead of taking up what I had offered, he started to make his own variations, which were innovative and new to me, and he looked completely comfortable while practising them. We had a chat afterwards, and I learned so much about IT bands! He had lived with it for years. He had read a lot of articles, researched strength and stretch exercises, and experimented with them on his body, and knew what worked and what didn’t. He was quite the expert on IT bands. I exchanged notes with him and we both left the conversation with more knowledge about this condition.

At the studios, they call me a yoga teacher, but I am a perpetual student! I learn a lot from my interactions with others daily. I improve my practice and my teaching, and its all grounded on evidence and real people with their unique bodies.

Want to improve your yoga practice and without any course fee? Ready to sign up?

I am going to tell you how to apply this!

….

It goes back to mindfulness.

…      …      …

Listen with curiosity and an open learning mind.

…   …   ….   ….
Try this ‘Be a Student’ challenge this month!

1. Ask someone what they enjoy doing (keep it general or specific – it can be on their yoga practice or health regimen, or anything else!).

2. Listen keenly and let the person do most of the talking. Resist temptation to comment, layer on your interpretation or examples from your own experience.

3. Really, just listen, and let the conversation and your curiosity about the topic lead you into the topic. Ask the “how”, the “why” and all relevant questions to explore the topic as if you’re preparing for an exam! If you have doubts, challenge and query further.

4. After that, immediately make notes about the one main thing that you’ve learnt from that conversation.
Being a “student” simply means bringing consciousness and an inquiring mind into everything that we do. It is about bringing yoga into our workaday lives. In the midst of a challenging project and looming deadline, take a pause, observe yourself, ask yourself what you are learning from the process.

So this month, I challenge you to treat everyone around you as study mates. Be open and present to what you might be learning from your bosses, your staff, your interns, your clients.

It’s exciting! Do tell me what you’ve learned from this month!

I would LOVE to hear all about it and have a conversation with you over your experience! Email me!

@SpiceSadhaka

Sign up here to receive original Mindful Monday letters like this one from me! As a welcome gift, I’d also like to offer you a full length beginners’ guided mindfulness practice audio for free.

 

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