Friday, 18 December 2015

A Five minute Sequence

Sharing a five minute sequence, in real time, from our current sequence.  If you only have five minutes this one is lovely. 

Beautiful Yogis

Levitating Yoga Mascot
 Just wanted to share some beautiful post yoga moments over the past few weeks.  Some of you might not have seen these photos demonstrating your joy, radiance, humour, contentment, and general amazingness.

After 9 weeks everyone has nailed this one!

Some days it has been hot enough for a swim (for some at least)

A drizzly day taking shelter under the High Court.  Can't believe we still needed our icebreaker kit just a few weeks ago!

A bit of practice before class.
We had lots of fun with this posture.  In week one most of us were falling over like dominoes. But by week 9 we were beautiful side lying Buddhas.  

Oh, just me having a bit of fun after class in my batgirl pose. 

Lovely homemade Komboucha by Chris after classes.

Perfect evenings when we just wanted to stay and camp out under the stars....

...and a few stormy ones where we had to trek for shelter!

A very tricky tummy-spine awaking posture.  Great job guys!

Can't wait until the next sequence!  Next week I will have a stand alone sequence made up depending on who comes to class and we will start with a new sequence in the new year.

It has been a joy to teach you guys and see how much you have learned in the past 9 weeks.  Outstanding!

Much metta,

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Forward bend, handstand prep, and backbend

Here I show the transition between forward bend, handstand prep, and backbend that we are practicing in our current sequence.  

Watch the video first then I highlight some key points.  In the video I do a lot of wriggling around.  It took me several takes to complete this video.  I have several rotated vertebrae along my spine which makes arm balances difficult as I tend to lean into one shoulder and it is not comfortable.  A part of my wriggling is me squirming around trying to get length wherever I sense a sense of 'dis-ease'. 


Key points

Bend knees and push them forward.  Push hips down and forward.  Push shoulder blades forward and up.  

Continue to come down by bending knees and pressing hips down and forward.  Who cares about straight legs?  It is not important here. 
Hands to the ground, knees can be bent.  

If possible and comfortable then...
..straighten the legs. 

One hand forward, other hand pressing into back of calf.  Toe tip back (same side as the hand that is forward).  Press the armpits in the direction they are facing (firm them).  Lean forward so the forward leg toes start to grip.  Press the sitting bone of the forward leg down and forward towards the front toes. Knee can stay bent.  

Keeping previous actions, bring knee to chest.  

Keeping previous actions, take knee towards the sky.  Be mindful not to let the sitting bones go up.  I keep an effort in pressing them down and forward.  Even though my knee is going up to the sky I still feel as though I am making an effort to bring it towards my chest. 

Straighten the raised leg.  The raised leg thigh turns in.  The grounded leg thigh is rolling out. 

Bring both hands to ground in front.  Firm the armpits. Keep lower ribs lifted into middle back.

Lean forward so hands come flat on the ground.  Bring knee towards chest.  You can keep more weight on grounded foot if needed and stay here. 

Or, keep leaning forward so more weight comes to the finger tips and the back heel raises.  Keep drawing knee to chest.  Look forward.  Try to bring the grounded leg knee towards your chest.  It probably won't go anywhere but get the feeling.  Stay here.  It is pretty intense.  Or...

Maybe there is a handstand.  Maybe not.  It is all good. 

Back down.  Knees bent.  

Press hips forward to stand.  Armpits forward. 

Keep pressing knees and hips forward.  Armpits forward and up as you raise the body. 

Arms straighten as you continue to press armpits forward and up. 

Begin to lengthen the front of the body without squashing the back. 

Keep lifting and lengthening the spine, hips moving forward.  Find your position.  It may not be the same as mine.  

We have been practicing this for the past 8 weeks.  It is pretty intense.  Next week we will work on it as part of our silent practice.  Until then, happy and safe practicing.  Do not do anything that hurts.  Ask questions as needed!

Much metta,

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Three pronged backbend

This is one to try once you feel confident and stable in a backbend from the ground.  Basically you work with taking one limb off at a time (always having three on the ground) and trying to maintain the integrity of the posture without sinking or dropping or squashing.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

How To Use Shoulders In Postures To Support Spinal Movement

In this post I just wanted to share a single point.  That is, it will help unsquash the spine in a variety of postures if you can push the shoulder blades apart and lift the front body.  

I show three different actions in each position.  

First, the action of squeezing shoulder blades together.  This act in itself has the effect of lifting the front chest but tends to create squashing in the back body.

Second, the action of pushing the shoulder blades apart.  This act in itself has the effect of tending to enhance a rounding of the upper back.

Third, the action of pushing the shoulder blades apart and then lifting the front body.  This has the effect of supporting length in both the front body and the back body.  

I use this third type of combined shoulder/shoulder blade/spine movement in a variety of postures.  It is very important if you are trying to keep the spine long in postures, such as the ones shown here.  

Watch the video below to see me show the three iterations within each posture.  

In Standing: View From The Back

squeeze shoulder blades together

push shoulder blades apart

push shoulder blades apart and lift the front body

In Standing: View From The Front

squeeze shoulder blades together

push shoulder blades apart

push shoulder blades apart and lift the front body

In Virabhadrasana II
squeeze shoulder blades together

push shoulder blades apart

push shoulder blades apart and lift front body

Drop backs
squeeze shoulder blades together

push shoulder blades apart (forward and up)

push shoulder blades apart (forward and up) and lift front body

Spreading the shoulder blades while trying to lengthen and lift the front body (and not squash the back body) can help you feel lifted and lengthened in a variety of postures.  

A sample of which postures you can apply this to if provided here.  In class I give details on other postures where you can use these actions to support length and lift in even more postures.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Wriggling Spine

Here I show a wriggling spine that lifts and lengthens as it comes into a backdrop.  It's fun.

But it is not important to do a backdrop.  Only if you feel it is there.

This wriggling spine can be applied to all poses where you need to lengthen.

Music optional!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Where Are Your Hips?

Just to clarify any ambiguity this photo might provoke, this is a post about hips and not my butt!
In this post I show you how to find your hips and give some tips on how to 'level' your hips in postures like parsvottanasana and parivrtta trikonasana.  I stress the importance of creating an internal body map.  There is a quiz, a video, and some instructions to help!

Figuring out your own internal body map is one of the benefits of yoga (or any mindful practice).

By that I mean understanding where a part of your body is in space without needing to look at it.  You 'feel' it from the inside.

Feeling where your hips are in space is a tricky one, but being able to do so can really enhance your practice.

One of the reasons it is tricky, as I discovered this week, is because some of us have come this far in life mislabelling where their hips are on their own body.

This week I asked all of my classes to put their fingers on their hips and most people put their hands somewhere else.

That was a great realisation for me because I have been cueing hips for a while and if your own internal body map of where your hips are is different from where your actual hips are then you will not be thinking about the body part I want you to.

For fun, let's start with a little guessing game.

Have a look at the photos below and see if you can tell me which photo has me with my fingers on my hips.

A: Are these my hips?
B: Are these my hips?
C:Are these my hips?

 The answer is C.

From my informal class survey it seemed the most common responses were to put the hands in position B, somewhere at the top of the pelvis, or A at the waist.

That likely means if I give an instruction about moving the hips your brain will think about the waist or top of pelvis and you will be moving from a different place.

Asking the question in the first place was inspired by a question from one of my students who was having a trouble knowing whether her hip position was correct in parsvottanasana and parivrtta trikonasana.

These two postures are ones where having a good internal body map of where your hips are is important.

A lot of people try to 'feel' a level pelvis in those postures by putting their hands on the back of their pelvis.

But that relies more on interpreting the position sense of your arms as they touch the pelvis when you might be better off trying to interpret the position sense of the actual hips and direct your awareness there.

How to find your hips
The first important step is to be able to locate your own hips.  Take a look at this video for some thoughts.  Turn up your volume as I speak on this video (a little like a robot it seems!).

In the video I show how if you find the front crease of your thigh and draw an imaginary line to the outer side of the thigh, and/or find the crease under your bottom and draw an imaginary line to the outer side of your thigh then you will be around the hip joint.

Level on a front back plane
Below I show how the hips are not level on a front/back plane.  The forward leg hip has come in front of the back leg hip.  This commonly happens if you are not mindful.  It is less likely for the back hip to come forward of the front hip in these postures.
One of the reasons the front hip creeps forward in this type of posture is because the front thigh starts to roll in, which reduces the lengthening around the outer hip and hamstring.

Allowing this to happen therefore reduces the efficacy of the posture in lengthening the outer hip and hamstring of the front leg.

It tends to happen if you try to come down with your spine more than your body is ready for.

Perhaps consider not coming down so far so you can maintain the hips level on the front back plane.

Another 'feeling' that the front hip has crept forward is that the side waist on that side starts to feel shorter relative to the side waist on the back leg side.

If you feel this is happening you can try to roll the front thigh out or think about moving the front hip backwards.

Level on an up/down plane
The other thing that can commonly happen is that one hip is higher than the other, as shown below.
One hip up and one hip down
One hip up and one hip down

Level hips

In a pose like parivrtta trikonasana (reverse triangle), it is more common that the back hips tends to go down.  As far as I can tell this tends to be due to trying to take the arm across the front leg and get to the ground, which can cause you to turn drop the hip in an effort to get that arm across and down.

If you practice that way you will be turning the pelvis but not necessarily doing any active spinal movement.

It is not necessary to get the arm across the thigh or down to the ground.

The way I teach parivrtta trikonasana is to keep the hips level and to turn the spine.  You take the hand on the inner thigh and only go towards the ground to the extent that you can keep the hips level. Most people will not be able to come to the ground with level hips but you will feel the benefit of haven actively rotated the spine and also of lengthening around the front outer hip and hamstring.

Below is a video that shows the difference between turning spine not hips and turning hips not spine.

Parivrtta trikonasana is actaully a very difficult posture, especially when you maintain level pelvis.

It was tricky to film this on my own and I hope I have at least been able to show you where your hips are.  In class I can help you to find them and feel level hips in your postures.  Learning from the internet is always tough for a practice like yoga.  

The postures I demonstrated in this post are complex and there are many more instructions I could have given but my main intent was to get you to think about hip position rather than overwhelm you with all of the other stuff going on

Hope you are happy and healthy.

Much metta,