Tight Back Muscles? Noodles To The Rescue.

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Tight back muscles are pretty common in my students and most often this is because of our lifestyle. Sitting at desks, driving and even most household chores require a sort of stooped forward posture. This can cause some chronic tightness in the muscles of the back.

Releasing these muscles in Yoga can be a bit tricky, downward dog does a nice job of it, but downward dog isn’t available to everyone and even for those of us who can practice it, it impossible to hold it long enough to get any real lasting relief.

So what is a Yogi to do… (cue music) never fear noodles to the rescue!

NO NO, not that kind of noodle, this kind of noodle!

Yup, a slightly modified pool noodle (like the ones that keep kids afloat in swimming pools) is a great way to spend a little quality quiet time with yourself and release tight back muscles at the same time, who knew!

If you are new to ‘noodling’ at first it can be a strong experience and may be an acquired taste, so grab your Yoga blocks, couch cushion or folded blanket to place under your bum until your body gets used to this.

In the video below I’ll walk you through noodling 101.

If you know someone who could benefit from this please forward this post to them.

Happy noodling,

nyk

Tight Shoulders Try This

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Do you have tight shoulders? I hear ya, I’m also in the tight shoulder club. This particular shoulder stretch has been one of the most effective for me.

 

You will need some sort of strap for this pose. If you don’t have a Yoga strap you can just use a belt or an old necktie, anything to extend your reach as long as it’s not stretchy.

Since we all have different bone proportions in our shoulder joints we will each need a different width on the strap for our grip, so experiment with the width that for you feels like a stretch without being extreme.

Always make sure as you practice this you are only moving within your pain-free range of motion. You should feel better and more open after this and not worse.

And of course, if you are recovering from a shoulder injury you should always check with your health-care practitioner before attempting this.

In the video below I’ll walk you through this step by step.

 

Here’s To An Open Heart and Happy Shoulders!

nyk

Back Pain Yoga- Cat pose

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Cat pose is a simple movement that is a great way to nurture our spine, increase blood flow, circulation and release back tension and Back Pain. Sometimes the simplest poses can be the most therapeutic.

I love to do this first thing in the morning to gently wake up my spine, or before bed.  You can even do it at work if you are sore from sitting.

 

If your wrists are an issue for you, this can still be practiced by putting your forearms on a bolster. I also like to put a folded blanket under my knees if your knees are sensitive you can try that.

Sometimes this pose is also called cat/cow, cat/dog or spinal waves.

Either way, this pose by any other name still feels as sweet.

In the video below I’ll walk you through the how-to of Cat Pose.

If you know someone with a tight back forward this post to them

Happy practicing meow, purr purr.

Nyk

Tight Hips – Deer Pose To The Rescue

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Deer pose, or Mrigiasana, can be practiced with a focus on stretching the hips or as a twist. This post is about using Deer pose as a release for tight hips, you can see how to use Deer pose as a twist here.

This particular hip opener can be practiced with a short (Yang) or long (Yin) hold depending on your needs. Although I demonstrate this pose briefly in the video, you could spend anywhere from 1-5 min in the pose on each side.

Depending on your particular bone structure, one or both knees could be unhappy so if you feel discomfort in either knee, try sitting up on more height. If that doesn’t take care of the discomfort then don’t do this pose and find a different Yoga asana to release your hips. You either have the bone structure to practice this safely or not. Don’t suffer through it hoping that ‘someday’ when your hips open your knees won’t suffer in this pose. Instead just listen to your body and choose another pose.

This particular hip pose is pretty unique in that you get to explore both internal (back leg) and external (front leg) rotation of the hip joint in one Asana.

In the video below I’ll walk you through the ‘how to’ of using Deer pose as a hip opener.

You could hold each side for 1 min in a more Yang practice or for up to 5 min in a Yin practice.

Here’s to Happy Hips

ox nyk

Back Pain – Twist it Out

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If you have Back Pain or tension twists can be a powerful tool to help release tight muscles in your back.  The twist we are going to explore in this post is pretty deep so if you are currently in acute pain you may want to skip this one and practice twisted reclined deer pose instead which you can find here.

 

 

However, if you are not in acute pain, have been practicing Yoga for a while and need a deeper twist this one may fit the bill.

Have some Yoga blocks and/or bolsters on hand for this one (or blankets and books work in a pinch too) to bring the floor up to you or fill space between your knees. Because this is a deep twist many of us will need the support of props.

 

Happy Twistin’

ox nyk

What Does Namaste Mean?

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Saying ‘Namaste’ with hands and palms touching each other at the center of our hearts is sort of a staple in Yoga classes. Sometimes a few brave students ask about it and its meaning but many students just automatically do it, without knowing the meaning behind it.

So it can become sort of a meaningless gesture that people just automatically perform at the end of class.

So what does Namaste mean? And why might we choose to do it, other than trying to look like one of the ‘cool Yoga kids’?

 

According to senior Yoga teacher Aadil Palkhivala:

“Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means, bow me you or I bow to you.”

This bow is not bowing down in servitude or lowering oneself, but instead, this bowing is in recognition and reverence for each other as fellow travelers on the path and an acknowledgment of our interconnectedness.

The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is an all-pervading oneness within each of us that is located in the heart center. This gesture is a way of honoring that connection and oneness within each other.

 We place the hands together at the heart center in Anjali Mudra (palms touching together), close our eyes and bow our head to our heart. In some traditions it is done by first placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is a deep show of respect.

 In the Western Yoga circles “Namaste” is usually said aloud with the gesture, but in India, the gesture itself means Namaste. There is no need to say the word while bowing.

In a Yoga setting whether it be a teacher and student or students practicing together, Namaste allows us to come together energetically to honor that place of connection and reverence.

We bow our heads to our own hearts and the heart connection with the others in the room. If it is done with that intention in our hearts, it can serve as a reminder that we are all one and that everyone is our teacher. To bow in humility to our own heart and the hearts of others.

Typically Namaste is done at the end of class because the mind is calmer and the energy in the room is more cohesive and resonant. Most often the teacher initiates Namaste as a symbol of gratitude and respect for their students and a way of honoring their own teachers. This is then followed by an invitation to return the gesture to the teacher, then the other students they practiced with.

Namaste is a reminder of this universal truth that we are all one when we live in our hearts.

 

My heart to your heart, Namaste

nyk

Supported Little Bridge Pose

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This particular pose was one of my most requested videos! Little bridge is another pose that can be done either as a Yang pose to strengthen the body and create energy or a Yin pose using a block for support so that you can hold the pose longer.

 

Many of my students love this pose and have found it very helpful for relieving lower back pain. However, no Yoga pose is good for everyone. So if you have SI joint instability or other SI issues you should always check with your healthcare practitioner before practicing this.

Our Sacrum (the triangular bone above your butt crack) has a very small amount of movement front to back. These movements are called nutation and counter-nutation. When we practice Little Bridge Pose with a block it holds our sacrum in a counter-nutation position which can feel really good for the lower back in many of us once we are out of the pose.

You’ll need a Yoga brick for this pose, often I say books can be used in place of Yoga bricks but in this case you for sure need a brick. Remember there are three heights to a Yoga brick so you can use whichever works for your proportions and flexibility.

As a bonus for many of us if we make sure our feet are Parallel and not wider than your hips you may also get a sweet little hip flexor stretch too. That’s not why we are doing the pose per say but it’s a nice bonus for those of you who get it.

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how-to of Little Bridge pose.

 

Happy Practicing!

ox nyk

Neck Pain – A Gentle Release

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I have experienced chronic neck pain on and off for years so I have learned the hard way what works for me and what doesn’t.

Sometimes when we are experiencing neck pain our tendency can be to do really big neck stretches (I know I’ve been guilty of this) like somehow if we can really get into it it will go away. Sadly, that’s not the case. When we are dealing with chronic pain that is the worst thing we can do.

Staying in a discomfort-free range of motion that feels safe and won’t cause us to feel sore afterward is the wisest way to practice.

Brahma pose is perfect for those of us who experience chronic neck pain. As you practice along with me make sure you are moving slowly, mindfully and stopping each movement long before you ‘feel a stretch’. Less is really more here.

In the video below I’ll walk you through this step by step.

Happy Practicing

ox nyk

Lower Back Pain – Get Relief

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Lower Back Pain is unfortunately pretty common. It can be challenging to find gentle yet effective poses to help relieve lower back pain without causing a flare up.

This lying twist is one of my favorites for times when my lower back is feeling tender or vulnerable.

 

If you deal with chronic back pain it’s important that you only move within a range of motion that feels safe to you and won’t make you sore tomorrow.

So your movements might be much smaller than what you see me do in this video. It’s important to honor where you are today.

In the video below I’ll walk you through this twist reclined Deer pose often called ‘windshield wipers.’

 


Happy Practicing!

ox

nyk

 

Yin Is The New Black

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In this post, I’m going to discuss Yin Yoga in a broad sense like an overview for those who are new to Yin Yoga. If you’re looking for Yin Yoga practice guidelines you can check out this post.

Yin Yoga has been quietly gaining popularity over the last decade or so, but there still seems to be some confusion as to what Yin Yoga actually is.

Because ‘Yin is in’ many Yoga teachers have now jumped on the Yin Yoga bandwagon without actually studying Yin Yoga or Taoism (the philosophical roots of Yin). This has created confusion as to what Yin Yoga actually is despite the increasing number of people practising Yin.

So what is Yin Yoga exactly and how is it different from other styles of Yoga that you may have practiced? Why would someone choose to practice Yin Yoga?

Before we explore Yin Yoga, I feel like it’s important to clarify that there is nothing that is 100% Yin or 100% Yang. Within the Yin Yang symbol itself, there is a white dot of Yang within the black Yin portion and a little black dot in the Yang or white portion of the symbol.

Yin and Yang are always in a state of flux and interdependent on each other. For simplicity sake, I will be presenting these as a list of opposites for comparison but please know that this is not 100% philosophically sound Yin and Yang are spectrums not fixed.

Other than Yin and maybe Restorative Yoga, most of the Yoga practiced in North America is more Yang in nature, some more so than others (Yang being a spectrum not a fixed point), but they do share some common characteristics.

Yang Yoga

Yang styles of Yoga tend to strengthen and stretch muscles. Often times there is a focus on structure, alignment and the aesthetics of a pose. In Yang Yoga, you’re likely to increase the heat, blood flow and circulation in the body due to movement and its repetitive nature.

 

 Yin Yoga

In Yin Yoga, we spend our time deeply investigating our inner landscape. One of  Yin Yogas’ super powers is the effect on the fascia of the body (fascia is the tissue that envelops, separates or binds together muscles and structures of the body).

Yin poses are more free form and there is an emphasis on function. In Yin, we are more concerned with feeling sensation in the intended areas as opposed to what the pose looks like.

We steer clear of our edge and instead work in 60-70% of our full range of motion.

Because the meridians (energy pathways) of our body are believed to be at the level of fascia, Yin Yoga accesses the Qi (energy/ life force) of our body in a deeper way than a Yang Yoga practice.

The energetic goal of a Yin Practice is also different than other styles of Yoga. In Yang Yoga styles the focus is moving energy up and out, the eventual goal to transcend the body.

Taoist Yoga is a nature-based tradition. We try to stay embodied, to cultivate energy in the meridians of the body and the Dantian or gate of life with the goal being to increase longevity.

Because the energetic intentions of Yin and Yang practices are different so are the breath techniques used. In Yang Forms of Yoga breath, techniques like Ujaii (breath with sound) and Kabalibati (breath of fire) are used to move energy upwards.

In Yin, however, we want to cultivate the energy in the belly and lower body area so diaphragmatic (belly) breathing is a foundation, in addition to circulating the breath in the meridians (energy pathways) of the body.

So there you have it, Yin Yoga 101. Yin Yoga is a Taoist form of Yoga which directs the Qi of the body through meridians of the body and cultivates the energy of the body for improved health the longevity.

Yin Yoga is still a quiet meditative form of Yoga which can be deeply restorative to the nervous system. So what I recommend for you is next time you’re heading to the Yoga studio, give Yin Yoga a try and experience this Yin magic for yourself.