Tag Archives: yoga props

Trigger Point Relief for Athletes

Using a cheap tennis ball, find relief in common ‘knotty’ athletes’ muscles like the glutes and hamstrings. I often share these with athletes, especially runners, as part of a full yoga class. In this video, we have shared a simple dynamic sequence for self-massage, bringing tension release to the legs and hips.

It is simple enough to complete within 10 minutes and you can do it at home. Start with the rolling dynamic versions for each movement, then settle the targeted area on the tennis ball and stay for a few minutes, breathing and easing into it. The intensity of the sensation should fade to something more soothing after a while. If you’re grimacing, you probably shouldn’t keep at it. Come off the shape if that’s the case.

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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’!

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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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How to Sit Tall

Don’t compromise your spinal elongation in your yoga asana practice.

Tight hip flexors and weak back muscles can cause us to constantly hunch over while we are practising many yoga seated poses, continuing a vicious cycle of poor posture created from sitting at the desk all day (the more you sit, the tighter your hip flexors, the tighter the hip flexors, the less easy it is to sit upright).

Here’s how to bring awareness to centering the pelvis and strengthening the core (front and back) muscles, in order to find a long spine, working with tight hips (which most of us live with!) Explore props and variations for four yoga asanas. ENJOY!

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Balancing Squat (Hips and Core!)

This is suitable for those of you who already have a comfortable malasana (squat pose) as part  of your physical practice. With a yoga wheel, you can add in stabilization work, firing up the whole core while maintaining hip opening, balanced weight distribution and mental focus.

See video on Spice Yoga’s Youtube Channel

Courtesy: @DharmaYogaWheel

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Strength and Length in the Hamstrings and Glutes

Runners alert! Dynamic working of hip extensors (hamstrings and gluteus maximus) –  strengthen and lengthen with the support of a yoga wheel. Ideal for those who are tight.

Don’t have a yoga wheel? Options:

i. Walk from side to side holding a yoga block in each hand

ii. Hold onto parts of a fence in the park

Courtesy: @DharmaYogaWheel

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