To Round Or Not To Round – That Is The Question

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This post could stir the pot a little and maybe even cause a wee Yoga uproar. Believe it or not, Yogis just like everyone else can be pretty attached to ‘their way’ of practicing being the ‘right way’.

So if you are a Yoga teacher or a long time practicing Yogini and you are reading this, I encourage you to keep an open mind on this and try it out for yourself.

My first 300 hour teacher training was taught almost exclusively by Iyengar teachers and it was such an amazing training as it had such a diverse group of seasoned teachers. In addition to our traditional Asana training it included a strong therapeutic foundation, as well as a good degree of Restorative Yoga training.

sportswear sitting in head to knee forward bend pose, doing Janu Sirsasana variation with strap, studio full length isolated shot

I’m so grateful for that foundation and I look back on those days with such a fondness and reverence for my teachers. During my time in the Iyengar circles it was drilled into us that all forward bends should be practiced with a flat back period, no questions asked.

A couple years after graduating I discovered the work of Paul Grilley. I felt like the anatomy training I had in my teacher training barely scratched the surface and so I bought Paul’s Anatomy For Yoga DVD as a means of extra self study. Needless to say this DVD literally pulled the Yoga Mat out from under me! So much of what I had learned didn’t ring true and for the first time what was happening in my body made sense. That DVD changed the way I saw my body and my students bodies forever (and for the better).

Before studying with Paul I had never considered that someone could choose to practice a forward bend with a rounded spine or what the benefits of that might be (let alone how good it feels). Now I alternate practicing with a flat spine and a rounded spine depending on my needs and intentions at the time.

 

In the video I’ll go over this in more detail including why one might choose whether or not to let their back round in a forward bend.

Please note: If you have bulging or herniated disks it may not be a good idea for you to round your spine in a forward bend so please check with your health care practitioner before attempting this video.

 

Here’s to happy hamstrings and spines!

ox nyk

Vedic Astrology and Yoga

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The following is a guest post by my Vedic Astrologer Lorae Marsten. I was highly sceptical about Vedic Astrology at first since I tend to have one foot in the woo woo and one firmly planted in practicality. I thought getting my chart read was a bit out there for me but Lorae and I have a mutual friend who raved about her so I gave it a chance. I was blown away …no joke by how accurate and useful the information Lorae gave me was, and so she has made me a believer 😉  So with that in mind I’ll hand this post over to Lorae.

 

Vedic Astrology and Yoga

You may wonder, ‘What does Astrology have to do with Yoga?‘ Actually, the answer is Plenty. The two are deeply entwined and each adds to the other. Vedic Astrology and Yoga, along with Ayurvedic Medicine, are three sister sciences that can provide a framework for a healthy and worthwhile life. Here is a simple example of the connection between Yoga and astrology: Ganesha, the great remover of obstacles, is a representation of the intelligence and wisdom of planet Jupiter. So….. if you have ever chanted the Ganesha mantra in class (or any other mantra) you were calling forth the higher energy frequencies of a particular planet or an energy associated with a planet. Pretty cool!!

 

 

The intention of Vedic Astrology is to help you grow and evolve and to point you in directions that will lead to a happier life. It provides an accurate picture of your tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, and can point out areas of success or difficulty in your life. A good astrologer can predict when, or if, events will take place in your life. The best part of this is that, just like a great Yoga practice, you can feel more relaxed in your life, have more clarity, and you can also receive guidance on things you can do, to make good situations better, and improve difficult ones.

 

Horoscope circle

 

Differences Between Western and Vedic Astrology

Western astrology is often seen as an entertainment but Vedic Astrology is taken very seriously. Called “Jyotish”, or light, in many parts of the world, no one starts a business or gets married without consulting the wisdom of Astrology. Important festivals and meetings are all timed with the celestial rhythms as well.

Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac, which is lined up well with the seasons, whereas the Vedic, sidereal zodiac, is accurate with what is happening in the sky at the moment. Therefore, some of your planets may change signs if you have your Vedic chart done! We also recognize a number of powerful, distant stars and star groups, called Nakshatras, and their influence; the Moon’s cycles; and the Dasha Cycle which determines when your planets are most active in your life.

Planets in the space and stars with galaxes

Why is Vedic Astrology could be important for you?

This Astrology is practical, accurate, and aims to help you grow in consciousness and have a good life. It is not meant as entertainment. Here are some examples:

1. We provide remedies for problems, to strengthen weak areas, and reduce or avoid difficulties as they arise. One common remedy is prescribing mantras, sacred sounds which create powerful creative vibrations. It would be very practical and beneficial to know which mantras would be most effective in your life. Other remedies can include prayers, wearing gems, helping the poor, and more.

2. Depending on your chart, certain career paths will be more suitable and successful for you than others. Also, some times are much better than others for taking a big step, eg. going back to school, or starting a business. It can be extremely useful to know when and how to move forward!

3. You can learn about the various Moon phases, and use them to improve time management: some are good for removing obstacles, some for celebration, wealth creation, romance, etc. Some other moon phases are best for resting, planning or meditating. Using knowledge of the Moon Phases, you live more in the natural flow and don’t have to second-guess yourself about decisions.

4. Relationship astrology can help you choose a good romantic partner. Find out if this person will be faithful; if the relationship is likely to last; if you will feel valued, loved and respected; if you will prosper together; and if you will be sexually compatible. Relationship astrology is also very useful in choosing a good business partner too.

So, Astrology for Yogis?

You bet! You can learn more about yourself, manage time wisely, avoid difficulties and stress, and make better decisions. Astrology can even help you improve your Yoga practice by pointing you to types of practice most in line with your unique life path.

How the sessions work: You start by contacting me with your request and forward your birth information: date, time, and place of birth. Then you agree on a time for the session – which lasts about half an hour. Many of these sessions are by phone. Other clients prefer their sessions to be in person.

I will explain where your planets are in the sky, and what that means about you, also the Dasha period and what it might bring to you, as well as your Nakshatra or birthstar, and its gifts for you. If appropriate, I will suggest a remedy for you.

I also offer full, more in depth readings, Transit Readings (what is happening this year), and Relationship Readings.

I have an intro mini session for promo for you (Nyk’s community) for $30 until the end of 2016. This is a great gift for friends or family members, as well as yourself.

Namaste,

Lorae

 

unnamedLorae Marsten is a Certified Vedic Astrologer, meditator, healer, mentor, and a long-time Yogi. After a life-changing encounter with a Vedic Astrologer in Kathmandu, Nepal, she began learning about the myths and legends surrounding Vedic Astrology and Yoga, and later with the encouragement of her teacher, Dr. Baskaran Pillai, began training as an astrologer. These days Lorae is on a mission to help bring more happiness, health, and meaning by using the power, beauty and practicality of Vedic Astrology to Westerners.

You can learn more about Lorae, Vedic Astrology and book a session here.

Yin Yoga – Sleeping Swan Pose

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Sleeping swan pose is a variation of swan pose only folded over the front leg. Folding over the front leg will increase the sensation in the hip, butt, IT band area and is a pretty sweet hip opener.

sleeping swan pose

If your front knee doesn’t like this pose, sometimes moving the knee towards the mid-line of the body can take the pressure off. If it still hurts you’ll want to skip this pose and choose a different hip opener like shoelace pose.

If it’s the knee of the back leg that is the issue, a small rolled up towel or a blanket under the thigh of the back leg will often do the trick or curling the back toes under to take pressure off the knee cap.

Once you’re able to settle into this pose it is quite soothing for the nervous system so is a great pose to do before bed. Feel free to have blankets and pillows near by for comfort.

 

Sleeping Swan

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how to, including how to use props and modify sleeping swan.

 

Here’s to happy, healthy hips.

ox nyk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yin Yoga – Swan Pose

http://nykdanu.com/yin-yoga-swan-pose/

Swan pose is great as a back bend on its own, and a great pose to lead into Sleeping Swan Pose (more on that in a future post). Of the Yin Yoga poses Swan is a bit more on the Yang side so the hold time isn’t as long. In general 1-3 min is good, but of course if you are an experienced ‘Yinnie’ you’re welcome to hold for longer.

Swan pose is a great backbend and also awesome at opening up the hip, butt and IT band area of the front leg, even in its upright position. It’s also a sweet little stretch for the hip flexor of the back leg.

If your front knee doesn’t like this pose, sometimes moving the knee towards the mid-line of the body can take the pressure off. If it still hurts you’ll want to skip this pose and choose a different hip opener like shoelace pose.

If it’s the knee of the back leg that is the issue, a small rolled up towel or a blanket under the thigh of the back leg will often do the trick or curling the back toes under to take pressure off the knee cap.

 

Yin Yoga Swan Pose

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how-to for Swan pose, including variations and modifications.

 

 

Happy Practicing

ox nyk

Neck Pain? Get Relief!

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I have a few neck pain poses in my Yoga tool belt and they are all helpful, but this one is the granddaddy of all neck stretches. For some of you, it may even stretch out some little hidden muscles you didn’t even know you had and it can even get into tightness the shoulders for some of us.

So this is the neck stretch I do when I need some serious neck love and have a little more time.

How you get in and out of this one is pretty important especially when exiting the pose. So watch the whole video once first before you try to practice on your own.

In the video below we’ll practice this together.

If you know someone suffering from chronic neck pain why not share this with them?

Here’s to relief

ox nyk

Foot Pain? Yoga To The Rescue!

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Plantar fasciitis, foot pain, fallen arches, flat feet and bunions oh my! These are just a few foot problems that affect so many people. I’ve got some pretty strong opinions on why this is and what we can do about it.

We can blame most of our foot issues on shoes! Now you might be thinking ‘oh no not me I wear good supportive shoes’ and that I’m afraid is exactly the problem. The more support we have in our shoes, insoles and orthotics the tighter and weaker our feet become and this can become a vicious cycle.

Our feet are sore and weak so we get orthotics, insoles and more supportive shoes, then our feet become weaker and tighter and so on and so on.

Of course occasionally someone actually needs orthotics or custom insoles because of an injury or a problem from birth, but this is very rare. Most foot issues are because our feet are weak and tight. We have been wearing thick shoes and walking on pavement, we are meant to be barefoot or very close to barefoot. We are designed to walk and run on the earth which naturally keeps the muscles in our feet strong and supple.

So if this resonates with you and you want to improve the health of your feet, I’ve got general stretches and strengthening exercises in the video below to help you. But don’t burn your orthotics just yet. This video addresses some of the common foot problems and because every case is different, if these don’t work for you I would recommend seeing a physiotherapist to get exercises specifically for you.

To happy healthy feet,

ox nyk

From Skeptic to Believer: A Yoga Journey- By Liana Bakker

http://nykdanu.com/from-skeptic-to-believer-a-yoga-journey-by-liana-bakker/

It was 2005 and I was in the middle of training to become a Registered Massage Therapist. One of our courses was “Therapeutic Exercise.” Not only did we learn about specific rehab exercises, but we learned a little bit about other exercises that could also benefit our patients.

When we got to the Yoga section I remember thinking, “It’s basically just over-rated stretching.”
And of course, stretching is good but really, what is all this fuss about?
We also had an in-depth class on breathing.  While it was interesting, I wondered how this was going to help anyone?

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The problem was that I couldn’t see the benefits from only 15 minutes of Yoga. I was still in good shape from the Kickboxing I had done for the past 2 years. I thought had learned all about it. I thought I understood Yoga, but couldn’t see it actually working.

Once I was close to finishing school, all hell broke loose!

I didn’t make time for exercise and even if I did, I couldn’t actually do anything. Moving too fast or holding too still would make my arms go numb.  I had horrible headaches and neck pain. All the time I’d been spending hunched over studying, was finally taking its toll.

 

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I also suddenly became a business owner. Sure, I’d held a part-time job since 16, but now owned a business and was supposedly an “Adult.” My body was exhausted from final exams, and I had accumulated some major student debt.  I felt so overwhelmed and started to experience anxiety attacks.
My doctor prescribed medication. Meds? Really? (Yeah, because it was obvious that I had a severe SSRI and Ibuprofen deficiency.)

But I knew better. For me, medication would be the last resort.  I had just learned all this wonderful stuff in school, and my first patient was going to be myself!
I found a local Yoga class for beginners. I signed up to attend one class a week, for 8 weeks. If I didn’t notice any difference after that, I would try the medication.

 

Full length of sporty people stretching hands at yoga class in fitness studio

The class was slow moving and gentle. VERY different than the competitive Kickboxing classes I once took. And after 6 weeks I was shocked! No more anxiety attacks. My headaches and neck pain were at least 75% better. From then on, I was sold! And I’ve been doing Yoga ever since.

Now, I tell people that if they can’t commit to doing a few preventative exercises every day, then they should commit to just 1 hour of yoga a week. Often it’s easier to do it all at once than trying to do a bit every day on your own, without support.
I must admit, I still slack a bit every now and then ( I am human). But when I start to feel my breathing quicken, my fingers tingle, or my neck crick, I re-commit 8 hours to my therapy, to my health, to my life.

 

11066724_799300256790108_37923214_o Liana Bakker is an entrepreneur and author with a background in health care. She wants to show people that they can live a life that’s true to who they really are.  She shares stories to inspire and information to help people take care better care themselves.  Looking to feel happier and less stressed? Check out www.lianabakker.com for a free E-book on ’67 Ways To Help You Get Happy’

Tight Shoulders? Best Shoulder Stretch Ever!

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I have some crazy tight shoulders. Before I was a Yogini I was a body builder and a hairstylist and both of those activities led to some really tight shoulders. Those tight shoulder muscles in my case also led to wrist issues.

So to say that I have focused a large amount of my Yoga practice time to stretching my shoulders would be an understatement! Thanks to this stretch, my shoulders have become much more flexible and my wrist issues are completely gone.

So if you suffer from tight shoulders or wrist issues, this is for you. In the video below I’ll walk you through step by step my favorite shoulder stretch.

Once you are familiar with this pose you can even practice in “Yin Style” by increasing the length of time you hold this working your way up to five min holds. This will really help you get into the fascia as well.

If someone you care about is suffering with shoulder or wrist issues please share this post with them.

Happy Practicing

ox nyk

Yoga For Your Neck

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If you’re like me and suffer from neck stiffness then you’re  going to want to add this stretch to your daily routine. You can even do it at work at your desk.

Because of the nature of our western lifestyle and all the sitting at desks we do, it’s pretty common to have some neck drama. Taking just a couple min once or twice a day to do this pose will make a big difference to your quality of life and amount of pain you have.

505-one-reason-you-may-suffer-from-headaches-forward-head-syndrome

In the video below, I’ll walk you through one of my go-to neck poses. If you can do this at least once during your workday and once before bed, you’ll notice big changes in your tension and could even improve your sleep.

 

Happy Practicing.

ox nyk

 

What Is Yoga Nidra – By Allison Goundry

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Yoga Nidra is a guided relaxation/meditation practice where the practitioner is led through a creative exploration of the 5 Koshas (layers of being): physical, energetic, mental/emotional, intuitive and bliss.
We lay down get comfortable, we become still. The brain gears down, the body drops into healing mode, and the mind starts to quieten.  The aim is to stay awake throughout, though falling asleep is common, or to get a sense that you were aware, but not remember the practice entirely. Time and space disappear, leaving you to experience pure consciousness.

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What makes this practice transformational is when the practitioner takes advantage of the slower, more receptive, relaxed brain state to plant (when guided) a single, positive, personal “I AM” statement  (Sankalpa). Here, we can access the wiring of our subconscious mind to release and reprogram beliefs and perceptions that are no longer serving our growth. With dedication to a powerful sankalpa, we can create new, positive pathways within, accessing the inner resources readily needed at this stage of your evolution.

Life Before Nidra
I took my first Yoga Nidra class in 2007 when I flung myself into Yoga to help me recover from a breakup (with the man I am now gratefully and happily married to). I was angry, sad, hurt, resentful, and had become dispassionate and lacking the spark for life that I had previously possessed.  I sought out Yoga as a healthy “hobby” for healing. I had taken asana classes in the past and they made me feel amazing, so I bought an unlimited pass and committed to going to class daily. My weekly Nidra class, however, felt like the missing piece – quiet, deep and introspective, it was quality time focused on my soul and healing my heart.

Falling In Love With Nidra
It only took one Nidra class to fall completely in love. The way I felt afterwards was indescribable. Each Tuesday I would float home, grounded and clear. The first Sankalpa I ever worked with was “I am the embodiment of joy & light.” I lived and breathed that affirmation of who I knew myself to be underneath the heaviness. Day by day, I began to see the light I was beginning to stoke within me being reflected back. I saw beauty even in the darkest moments – a perspective I continue to hold, that life’s hard knocks are actually an opportunity in disguise.

Sharing From The Seat Of The Student
I never intended to teach. I walk into class as a student sharing their imperfect exploration of a limitless, life-long practice. I took a training in Bali in 2011 to deepen my personal practice, and that’s where everything changed. I taught for 7 minutes (it was terrifying!), but what I taught surprised me: Stillness and Peace. I remember thinking, If I were ever to teach anything, it would be Yoga Nidra. I still feel that way.

 

My Life, My Nidra
This is the practice I love and prefer to give wherever and whenever I can. I get oddly protective of it because it has given – and has returned to me – some of the most valuable pieces of my heart and soul. It holds some of the most potent medicine I could ask for; its wisdom keeps me coming back, even when I shy away from turning inward and diving into the depths of what I am processing. It has helped to piece together a heart continuously opened by love, loss and change, to find healing and patience in times of illness, injury or uncertainty, to weather storms, and to gather strength when I’m running on empty…
It is a strong tool to access authenticity and truth. It’s impossible not to call my own bullshit now. It has shown me that we are not the naggings of our physical bodies or the steady stream of thoughts running through our heads. We are not as limited as we believe. We have a lot of choice in not only how our life shows up, but how we face what we feel we didn’t choose.
Nidra is perfect for our chronically over-tired, over-stressed culture, but just as the physical practice becomes more than just about the body, Nidra beckons us to become still – that elusive golden key that unlocks big change.
Diving deeper into this practice over the last 4 years, in particular, has been the biggest game changer. I feel both like a different version of myself and a woman who is more of the person that she has always been. I have greater ownership over the parts of myself that help me be truthful to myself, what I need and don’t, and a stronger mirror to my imperfections which serve to help me grow.

 

Fascinated by the power of breath, stillness and intention as a gateway to wholeness and healing, Allison Goundry shares the quiet-yet-transformative practice of Yoga Nidra to willing souls looking to become more deeply acquainted with the inner landscape of who they are. You can learn more about Allison her classes and private sessions on her website www.allisongoundry.com

 

Images of Allison: www.brentcalisphotography.com