This past week, I completed a wonderful detox diet that I discovered in Yoga Journal several years ago. Because the reference is difficult to locate on the web nowadays and I have had so many requests, I will link it here as I address this week’s subject of detoxification.
Tool #1: Diet
Scott Blossom, practitioner of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and yoga has developed an effective and balanced cleansing diet that I have tried numerous times over the years. It was originally presented as part of a Fall Detox program. Since summer is officially winding down, now is the perfect opportunity to share some of his recipes with you.
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”→
The interesting thing about sharing through blogging is discovering others who are on the same trail. Similar points of view can really clear the brush, making the path that you are on so much clearer.
I came across another blog post recently that describes the Scorpio energy of this month’s full moon and how it’s all about transformation. How exciting to learn that I literally gravitated to this concept when I chose to focus on transitions in May. My existential Scorpio sign must have sensed my need for this quest!
But, now I’m wondering if a transition can be synonymous with a transformation? To me transformation is a big word. And, can we ever really be transformed? You read about how a person can be significantly changed by a life altering experience. But a transformation sounds super human – like one of those Marvel characters.
A transition feels more subtle – like it happens gradually over time. Despite the fact that we can move through these phases fairly quickly when trauma occurs or when we experience abrupt changes. That’s why I look to balance in times of transition. It tends to soften the roughness associated with change.
Transformation, on the other hand, needs no interference. It’s magical. And when it occurs I would think that you would just want to ride the wave.
Lately, I have sensed that there are big changes on the horizon for me. Although I am excited to see what’s ahead, I don’t expect to wake up with x-ray vision or wings.Give in and merge with the flow!
Strength building can be a frustrating process. But if you are looking to get stronger smoothly and safely, yoga is the ideal system for laying down muscle. There are three key factors to remember when building strength through yoga.
1.) Get Lean not Mean
Although it seems to be a contradiction that muscles can be both strong and slender, the basis of yoga is all about opposition. Yoga is different from weight lifting or other forms of strength training in that the actions connected to yoga alternate between lengthening and contracting muscle fibers. If you merely shorten muscle fibers through unopposed contraction, you will generate bulkier muscles. This brings to mind the typical muscle man who cannot lower his arms. These shortened fibers, although strong, are inflexible and unwilling to support the joints.
If you proceed in a yogic manner, building muscle strength through asana is safe. As you learn to support your body weight, you can adapt a challenging posture to make it more accessible. Use a chair or a bench to develop your plank or downward facing dog. Start on your knees when you begin side plank or use the wall to support more of your weight for any standing/balance pose.
Also, apply the “48 hour rule” as you progress through yoga. Take a more rigorous posture and gently work with it three times a week or every 48 hours. It takes approximately 24 hours to break down old muscles and another 24 to remodel new ones. With commitment, you will see a significant change in progress that leads to a strong, healthy and confident body.
3.) Play Dead
Every yoga session usually ends with corpse pose or Savasana. Although most of us love this pose for its relaxation factor, the posture is strategically placed at the end of practice for a reason. As the ultimate cool-down, Savasana gives the muscles the opportunity to completely relax so that blood can circulate more freely. When circulation increases, lactic acid can be released from the body alleviating future muscle soreness.
I could have titled this Friday Focus as “Maximizing Your Glutes” or even “Glute Camp”. But I really want to generate a positive, more yogic vibration. No calisthenic connotations here. Then came the idea “Glutton For Glutes”. Although the word “glutton” most often refers to a glutton for punishment, a glutton can also be someone who is extremely eager for something, whether that be food or adventure…hmmm.
Lately, I am a glutton for glorious glutes. Because I have come to realize how vital this set of muscles is to my strength, alignment and overall well-being. Also, I am discovering that as my backside slackens (yikes), my quadriceps tighten. There is always a give and take within the body.
Here are some of the ways that the strongest muscle in your body, the gluteus maximus, and its supporting actors, the deep rotators, help with developing the overall best picture.
stabilize hip joints
allow you to stand straighter
ease strain on knees and low back
support entire back, pelvis and legs
All great points for ranking these muscles as number one for strengthening this month.
As we addressed in class, many of the one-legged standing poses do this job nicely. Vrksasana (Tree Pose), Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III), Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon) and Natarajasana (Dancer’s Pose) all assist with activating the glutes as does Salabasana (Locust Pose).
However, there is one other posture that we didn’t have time for in class today. It is the One-Legged Bridge Pose or Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. As you practice this pose, an important thing to remember is to push downward through your shoulders as well as your grounded leg. As you hold the posture, try to interject tiny pulses upward through your extended leg. The trick for persevering with this is to focus on your breath. Extend upwards as you inhale and ground down as you exhale. Remember if it’s not with the breath, it’s not yoga!
To finish off this month of purification, our classes for the week were geared toward clearing out the old to make space for the new – in a compassionate manner.
From this intention, the Compassionate Vinyasa was created. A twist on last week’s flow, this sequence focuses on the region of the heart to remind us to move with kindness in our pursuit of revitalization. Just in time for spring!
Again, be sure to do a little warming up first with Cat/Cow, Side Stretching &/or Child’s Pose before transitioning to the flow below:
Anjali Mudra to Standing Cactus to Uttanasana to 1/2 Uttanasana to High Lunge to Crescent Lunge to Virabhadrasana II to Wide Angle Urdhva Hastasana
Pivot to the left and reverse the sequence:
Virabhadrasana II to Crescent Lunge to High Lunge to 1/2 Uttanasana to Uttanasana to Standing Cactus to Anjali Mudra
Once again, I have included a visual diagram (by popular demand) here.
As you glide through your sequence, keep in mind this beautiful quote by Wyatt Townley:
“Take this opportunity to begin to shed your outer layers, your coverings…Find the way back to center, flesh, muscle, bone, to the river that underlies us, solid and fluid…”
During our Cultivating the Core class this week, a discussion of the postural muscles came up. I mentioned how the psoas muscle was the hidden performer in our core strength and stability. And, because it plays such a large role in many of our yoga postures, I promised to address it in our Friday Focus this week.
Pronounced “so az” (the letter p is silent), the psoas is the only muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body. Basically, it is fundamentally responsible for your posture and regarded as the most important skeletal muscle in the body.
Technically, the psoas is made up of two muscle groups, the minor and the major psoas. The major psoas is attached all along the lumbar spine and travels deep from the back of the body to the front of the body where it inserts on the inside of the femur (or thigh) bone. The minor aspect, being smaller and nearly function less (since we are now an upright standing species), joins the top of the lumbar spine to the inside of the pelvis.
To make things more complicated the psoas is also part of a larger muscle group called the iliopsoas which includes the iliacus. It stretches from the iliac crest (top of the hip) to the femur. Together the three muscles are integral to hip movement.
Needless to say the psoas’ involvement in body function is immeasurable. Physically, it is essential to our balance, critical to healthy alignment and a major stabilizer. It functions along with many other muscle groups to move the hips, lumbar spine, and legs.
Within the subtle body, the psoas is credited as the mover of energy and related to the actions of the third chakra. Because it is located so deeply within the body, the psoas is also known to be linked to the nervous system and many emotional functions.
Want to Learn More?
Here is an excellent book for you to explore: The Vital Psoas Muscle Although it is only 128 pages long, it is filled with valuable information regarding anatomy/function and the emotional/spiritual qualities of the psoas.
Yoga Nidra or “yogic sleep” is an ancient yoga practice that can be described as a combination of meditation and mind-body therapy. It is actually defined as the state between sleeping and waking. A true session can take more than one hour. The intention is to bring about a reduction in stress and better sleep.
It is also psychologically cleansing and can evoke a deep sense of joy and contentment. In the words of Richard Miller, “it awakens a seventh sense that allows us to feel no separation, only wholeness, tranquility, and well-being.”
The audio practice that I have included for this Friday Focus is a modified yoga nidra or deep savasana – similar to what we experienced in class this week. It allows you to look at your body, part by part, as you descend into a state of total relaxation. The particular recording that I have created takes approximately 20 minutes. To produce the track, I have relied on my faint expertise with the Apple App Garage Band. Hopefully, it comes across as I intended, a soothing method by which to release into the present moment.
I have dedicated this month to restoring my body. Revitalizing the body is for everyone. A gentle, unhurried yoga practice permits us to nurture ourselves and establish a relationship between our breath and body that feeds us and brings new energy to our lives.
I am finding that the deepest restoration work, for me, is accomplished through twisting postures. Twists are basically a way of giving yourself an internal massage. But be warned, in the process of healing, a twist is capable of releasing toxins into your blood stream that could give you flu or cold-like symptoms. So, if you are focusing on twists – drink extra water to dilute those contaminates.
And, now for the really good news. Twists target the Manipura and Anahata chakras. As we have learned, these are important chakras that rule over your metabolism and breath mechanics. Esoterically, they are the centers of power, purpose, love and compassion. No wonder I feel so much positiveness when I restore via twists!
For this Friday Focus, we reiterate a pose performed in class that I have termed “lifted twist”. Its unique quality is that it supplies us with a truly effortless release.
Be sure to keep the twist initiating from your torso and stabilize the knees via some firm support.
If you do not have a bolster or want to decrease the “lift”, use your blankets (1-2 depending on your comfort level) to stack underneath your hips and add a block between the knees.