Now that Spring is finally upon us, it’s time to twist out those cobwebs of Old Man Winter.  This will require a chair and humility.  Let’s first open our back a little before we start.  Go ahead and stand up tall, then soften your knees so there is a slight bend, then creasing at the hips fold over and hang your upper body towards the floor.  Let your head go and make sure you can see between your legs. Take 3 deep breaths.  When you feel ready slowly roll up one vertebra at a time.  Now we are ready for a twist.

You will need a chair with no arm handles so that you can position yourself properly to execute the twist.  Sit so that your right shoulder is facing the back of the chair and your right hand on the far side of the back of the chair.  Your left hand will be across your body and closer to you.  Lengthen your spine from the pelvic floor up through the crown of the head and inhale.

Then as you exhale begin twisting your abdomen first, then your rib cage, shoulders and finally your head.  This twist should move up your spine.  You don’t want your shoulders twisted if your belly button hasn’t moved yet.  Once you have gotten yourself into the pose take a deep breath in and as you exhale twist deeper.  Stay there for 3 more breaths.  When ready release from the pose slowly.

Staying there turn gently to the left to release the deep back muscles.  Now change sides by facing your legs to the other side.  You may repeat this if you like. 

As you are twisting it’s best to close your eyes and imagine your stress, tension and worries literally getting wrung out.  Squeeze out the bad vibes and when you release begin to inhale a new one and feel how your life would be without the stress you’ve been experiencing.

As always let me know how it goes.

Live Simply and Wisely,

Justine

This week we are going to learn how to stretch our neck.  Seems easy enough but there are lots of small movements we can do to make the stretches more effective and long lasting.  Again you can do this seated or standing.  (Hint: I recommend doing this with a friend who can read the instructions to you as you do them.) Start by centering yourself using the Durga Breath we learned last week.  Go ahead I will wait……

Ok to begin, gently lower your chin to your chest.  Make sure you do not let your shoulders slump forward though.  It’s important to keep your spine long and just stretch the neck.  Your head is anywhere from 12 to 14 lbs. and more if you’re stubborn; so let the weight of your head hang forward.  You should feel a gentle pulling on the back of your neck.  Breathe.  Now roll your right ear to your right shoulder NOT your shoulder up to your ear!  Keep your ear in line with the shoulder you should be looking forward not down to the floor or up to the ceiling. Breathe deeply for 5 breaths.  Feel how the left side stretches?  Each time you exhale focus on releasing tight muscles; whatever that means to you.  If you have to imagine a puppy or a happy baby to think light then do so until you understand what it means and feels like to relax.  Now to release roll your chin back to your chest.  There are lots of small muscles in the neck and we do not want to strain them after having taken such a deep stretch.

Lift your head up from center and look straight ahead.  Close your eyes and feel the difference between the right and left sides of your neck.  Pretty cool huh?  Now repeat on the other side.

If you feel tightness in any area of the movement from chin to your chest to ear to your shoulder go ahead and stop where it feels tight, breath and allow your neck to relax.  Be kind to your neck, it has to hold up all that wisdom, intelligence and maybe a little stubbornness. 

Live Simply and Wisely,

Justine

How to Breathe

February 13, 2013

One part of living healthy is knowing how to breathe well. When we feel stressed anxious or even lethargic it can make our breathing shallow and labored.  We limit the oxygen to the brain and short circuit our ability to handle stress.  That’s why knowing how to breathe deeply is so important.  Before we begin notice how you feel right now.  What is your general mood or temperament; grumpy, sad, happy, stressed?  Do you want to change your current feeling to one of being present and calm? Then let’s begin.

Sit tall right where you are, close your eyes and notice your breath.  Is it shallow or deep?  Do you feel it in your chest, back or belly?  Are you breathing more through your nose or mouth? No judgments just notice.  Now that you’ve recognized your normal breathing patterns I’m going to teach you how to breathe more deeply so you can access your vital life force and feel less stress.  This breathing technique is called Durga Breath or 3 Part Breath. 

 Place your left hand on your belly below your navel. (It should be your left hand because it represents the feminine and nurturing oneself as you are about to do right now.)   Now place your right hand on your chest.  Inhale through your nose sooooo deeeeeply that your hand moves out, feel the breath expanding your belly; once you feel your belly expand take a little more air into your body hold it for a moment; now slowly exhale through your nose.  On your next breath take the air into your belly and then let it expand out to your ribs.  Feel the ribs expanding out like wings. When you are full of air slowly exhale through your nose.  This may take a few rounds of breathing to really get familiar with breathing this deeply but when you’ve mastered it you are ready for the third part.  Take breath into your belly feeling your left hand get pushed out as you did before then into your ribs and finally into your chest.  You will feel your right hand rise with the breath.  As you exhale your chest will relax your ribs will descend and your belly will come in.  With your eyes closed repeat this at least 5-8 times.  If you experience the desire to yawn honor that and let yourself yawn. 

This Durga Breath is great because (1) more air is taken in to the lower lobes of the lungs which have a larger capacity than the upper lobes; (2) the diaphragm acts like a second heart. Its piston-like movements expand the base of the lungs, allowing them to draw in more venous blood- this increase in the venous circulation improves the general circulation; (3) the abdominal organs are massaged by the up and down movements of the diaphragm; and (4) low breathing has a beneficial effect on the solar plexus, a very important nerve center which educes relaxation.

Now how you are feeling?  Did it change?  How and in what ways?  Remember breathing is free so use this deep breathing to manage stress and create more health.  Practice Often.

Live Simply and Wisely,    

Justine

If you have questions or comments I would love to answer them email me at info@fulleryoga.com

First of all ultimately yoga is suppose to feel good.  Sure in the beginning it’s painful or uncomfortable during the pose as is anything new or different but we all know that at least after Sivasana we feel better.  However, there are 3 surefire ways to know if you are executing your poses correctly.

1.  You will still be able to breathe slowly and deeply while you are executing the pose.

2. Your mind will want to focus on your body.

3. Your body will feel “aligned”.  Although that word may be elusive in the beginning you will begin to understand how much better you feel when you have aligned your body in the correct way.  It will feel like the damn of tightness has lifted, the light has cracked through the clouds and you are back to being you again.

Enjoy.  How did it feel when you “got it”, when you were doing yoga?

What was your moment and how did you just know? I would love to hear your experience?

 

The Bad Yogi

December 21, 2012

People do crazy things just look in the news. Some people lie, cheat, steal and kill to get their point across and yes even some yogi’s do it too. Just look at the shooting at Lululemon, but being honest with who you are and what you are feeling and wanting may avoid such atrocities or even white lies that insipidly harm ourselves and others.

A yoga instructor accused me of saying things I did not say, made demands she knew I could not comply with and made me out to be the bad guy. As much as I tried to resolve the situation in the best way I could she just wasn’t willing to communicate. So, I accepted my role of bad guy that I was to be to her. Like many others in her life I was one of many people who have done her wrong and so there really was no way of resolving anything as she was determined to be a victim.

What leads us to these kind of behaviors? Fear, lack of courage, low self-esteem, and a whole slew of misguided ideas of ourselves that the ego has projected to keep us in a role or category that we could name “safe” or “comfort zone”. If we could be really honest (satya, what we learn in The Yamas) with ourselves and communicate our findings and feelings to others who would really listen then we might live in a more mature and peaceful world. But when we don’t have that courage we find any excuses to leave, cheat, or begin to view someone as the enemy in order to do what is right in our heart’s to do, the ego’s view of ourselves, get away from a particular feeling or satisfy, if only temporarily, a need. Even if that need is to continue to be the victim or (any other label here).

In traditional yoga school most are taught to set Warrior I up with the heels lining up.  The front foot is facing forward and the back foot is turned to a 45 degree angle but both heels line up with each other.  Not only that we are also taught to turn both hip bones or ASIS‘ to face forward.  However, years of teaching have taught me several things about Warrior I.

First, I had to take into consideration that yoga was practiced by men only.  Since men’s hips are more more narrow than a woman’s it makes sense to have the heels line up and therefore the hips would follow to face forward. 

Second, women’s hips are not as narrow.  This means that when we try to put the heels on the same line in can wreak havoc on balance and if your hips are tight you’d have to take a wrench to get them to both  face forward.  Fuugettaboutttit!

Third, every “body” is different.  I suggest to anyone whose hips are tight or where the hip bones are more wide, to place the feel wider apart.  So instead of having your heels line up with each other try putting the heels spaced apart as if you were on railroad tracks.  This should give you ample room to turn the pelvis forward to the front foot in a very square manner. Now, with the feet wider and the hips able to turn you will find more space for the lower back to release thus giving your abdominal (core) muscles the space they need to contract, lengthen and support the lower back in this pose.

Being able to access your core muscles is key to a dynamic and invigorating practice.  Once you are able to turn the core on in your postures you will find your shoulders, hips and neck release easily as the power of your core supports you.  And a little more core support can translate into radical confidence both on and off your mat.

Breathe,

There are two kinds of people who should not hold Halasana (plough pose); the beginner and the student who says they’ve had a bad back day. Plough pose is a deep stretch for the long muscles of the spine and when they’ve been locked up for a long time putting them in this deep long stretch will have them reacting and over tighten. It’s usually when students spend too long in plough that they experience a sharp pain in the low back upon returning the feet to the floor. Some say their back seized up.
In order to prevent that, I’ve come up with a way to ease into plough that I call “rocking plough”. Here is what you do.
1. Lie on your back with your legs in the air straight to the ceiling if you can. Hands are under your buttocks to support the low back.
2. Slowly lower your feet to the floor as long as it does not bother your lower back and on an exhale raise them back up lifting your hips off the floor and over your head to attempt to touch your toes to the floor behind you.
3. Bring your hips down slowly and repeat. Rocking your plough at least 5 times to open the deep muscles of the back and coax them into stretching.
From there you can take a supine twist or go into full plough or shoulder stand and be quite comfortable as the back has now had some preparation for the full posture. They say necessity is the mother of invention but sometime pain is too.
Try it. Does it work?
How did it feel?

As I teach Vinyasa Yoga classes I continually see students trying to keep up in the sun salutations.  Now mind you some classes are so fast it makes you wonder if it’s even yoga, but when I teach it’s an easy moderate pace that most people can keep up with.  What becomes frustrating is watching students struggle through the plank to chaturanga dandasana to up dog transition because they are trying to keep up.  Either they lack the strength or the patience to do the proper movements that will build their strength and begin to flow.

My suggestion to those of you who want to keep up?  Go sign up for a workshop, take a beginner class, or take a martial art.  Anything that will remind you how to be a beginner again and say to yourself this is yoga and it’s for me!  The other thing I suggest is to learn how to execute the 8 point pose and practice it in the middle of your sun salutations until you are so bored with it you might die.  Eight point pose will build your strength and your body’s understanding of how to execute this challenging transition.  You will also be able to sustain your practice for years to come without injury or under/over developed musculature. 

Like I always say, if you don’t take the time, time will take you.  Go ahead don’t take the time to learn these key transitions, try to keep up with the yogi’s  and see how much time it takes you to recover from the rotator cuff pain. But don’t say we didn’t worn you.

…and I’m blonde and I lived in San Francisco doesn’t mean I smoke pot, hang out at Wanderlust all summer and live out of my car.  Well, maybe eat out of my car but definitely no sleeping.  As a person who seeks to become more conscious of themselves and less judgmental I find it fascinating that once I say I teach yoga and lived in California I’m automatically a pot smoking hippie who is relaxed all the time.  Maybe it’s a Northeast thing.  If I lived in the West would the reaction be the same or would most people I met be in a similar boat?   I’m sure from a corporate office my lifestyle looks pretty grand.  Making your own schedule, having free time in the middle of the day, and helping people feel better on a daily basis.  The truth is most people probably couldn’t last one day, let alone 14 years, doing what I do.  From the constant driving around (both my colleague and I have 14 year old cars) to teaching from the crack of dawn to well after sunset (up to 5 classes a day with a 30 to 45min. commute between each class) no health insurance, 401k or paid vacation it can be a stressful life.  A yoga teacher and studio owner has to be on key, disciplined and meticulous about schedules, pay rates, payroll, covering your classes when you or your teachers are sick, advertising,creating newsletters, accounting, keeping up with social media, the newest yoga techniques and styles not to mention a personal life which consists of laundry, grocery shopping, and if your lucky going to a movie on a Friday night but not too late because you have an 8:00am class in the morning.

So why am I in this game?  I decided long ago I didn’t want to have to change who I am and what I love to do in exchange for a desk, a 401k plan, health insurance and sick pay.  Sounds like suicide doesn’t it?  And believe me the corporate lifestyle has looked very good at times.  I have to admit I was smiling a bit being able to tell myself, huh see how well the illusion of corporate security went for the Enron employees?

It’s a crazy thing to think I should be able to do what I love and afford health insurance, save for retirement and hey maybe even buy a new car to eat out of but someone has to do it.

How to Find a Hot Chick!

August 6, 2012

Now there are a lot of men across the country and in major cities who have figured this out but in our still new studio in the upper middle class, CrossFit, marathon runner town of Glastonbury, CT, the guys have yet to figure it out.  Yoga and Pilates classes are the best places to meet women.  Why you ask?

  1. Higher Standards:  Women who practice yoga and pilates (regularly and power yoga preferred) tend to be more loving to their body.  They want to look good, eat healthy, feel good about their purchases and most importantly they’re looking to keep it drama free.  How great is that?   But don’t think you can reap all the benefits of her consistent practice while you go to class a few times and then quit.  She will have higher standards for you as well.
  2. Prove Yourself: Unlike a bar, nightclub or networking event people don’t talk in a yoga class.  We’ve eliminated the opportunity to do the chest puffing, toy bragging, and one upping the guy next to you to get a great date.  You however will have to come face to face with all of who you thought you were in order to accept that yoga is humbling.  Consistency, dedication and commitment are very attractive.  (tip:  If she sees you are coming to class regularly and you don’t let the awkwardness, sweat and occasional grunts that rise out of your vocal cords stop you from being consistent she will know you are a man worthy of her attention.)
  3. Power It Up:  Heated, Power, and Vinyasa Yoga practices can really turn up the heat and attract women who like to challenge themselves on all levels.
  4. Show Some Skin:  Women who do yoga become more confident with their bodies and have less and less hang-ups about how they look as they work more and more on what their body is capable of.  As they gain confidence they will want to show more skin and curves, not for your benefit but for theirs.  And isn’t confidence sexy?
  5. Great Sex:  Women who do yoga are more in touch with and comfortable with their bodies and don’t forget flexible.  ‘Nuff said.
  6. Young At Heart:  Yoga whether it’s gentle or power attracts women of all ages who are young minded, vibrant and ready for something new.  I can’t tell you how many women I see in the yoga studio that are mature, emotionally aware of themselves, know what they want and don’t look a day over 45. They’re traveling, trying new things, taking on new careers and looking for a quality guy to have fun with.

So guys use the computer you’re now staring at to find your nearest yoga studios and start taking classes.  Try different styles and teachers.  Once you find a studio you not only like but you’re attracted to the women that go there; stick to it!  Give it 6 months to  a year minimum.  You may start out looking for a great partner or friend with benefits but you just may end up with a great life.