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In my former life (before I became a Yoga Therapist) I was a Hair color specialist. Because of this, I had my arms lifted on and off all day, so to say I know something about tight shoulders might be an understatement.
I have made a habit of collecting poses and tricks that relieve tight shoulders. Sundial Pose is one of those. It can be surprisingly effective for such a gentle pose.
That being said you should always work within your pain-free range of motion, we don’t want to hear any snap, crackle, pop when practicing this so if your circles are smaller than mine that’s fine.
Also if you are dealing with a recent shoulder injury please check with your healthcare practitioner before doing this.
Ok grab some Yoga Blocks or folded blankets and let’s get to it!
If you know someone who could benefit from this post please share it.
Here’s To Happy Shoulders!
I’m about to embark on a big challenge….I’m about to commit to buying ‘noThing’ for a year.
I know. To most people, this sounds crazy, or at least most of the people I have mentioned my plan to “what about food, skin care… makeup” and don’t worry I’ll address all of those obvious questions below but first, the “why”.
Buy Nothing Day
I first heard of Buy Nothing Day via social media about seven years ago. Socially Responsible minded friends (as a protest to Black Friday) reported that not only would they not be having any Black Friday Sales But they would instead be closing their Etsy shop that day, in protest and spend that day with those they loved instead.
As a Canadian, I hadn’t even heard of Black Friday up until that point. This was before Canadian retailers had started jumping on the “Black Friday Bandwagon”. So I needed to research what this Black Friday business actually was. Needless to say, I was horrified.
The sheer consumer materialism, the violence, my disgust at big box stores lack of ethics, all of it left me feeling ill to my stomach.
The History of Buy Nothing Day
Buy Nothing Day was founded in Vancouver, Canada by artist Ted Dave in September of 1992. And then promoted by Ad Busters magazine. For the first four years, it was observed in September but eventually made it’s way to being recognized on the Friday after American Thanksgiving (the day is infamously known as Black Friday).
For anyone who has seen what happens in the US during the Black Friday sales, it’s pretty clear why it’s time that we take a step back and look at ourselves, our behavior, our consumerism and contemplate, all of the Black Friday madness.
So I have been observing Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday in protest for several years now, but honestly, it’s not much of a challenge for me. It’s pretty easy to go one day without buying anything.
Plus, I have already done more extreme challenges in the past.
– Buy nothing new
– Buy nothing made in China
– Buy sweatshop free
– Buy no books
All of which lasted over a year and once I got into the swing of it, actually weren’t that hard.
So why now? Why not just do another Buy Nothing Day?
Well, to be honest, I’ve been a bit complacent lately with my mindfulness around consumerism. I think it started when I first moved to Victoria, and needed different clothing for this climate than I had for the cold Calgary climate (hello rain gear). That coupled with the fact that I was working retail part-time while I built up my Yoga classes.
You see, I had to buy a certain amount of ‘things to wear that were sold in the store’ as part of my job, and then there were all the extra cute things that I didn’t ‘need’ but got a discount on so I indulged in knowing ‘I would never get a deal like that again’ (hello boots). Not to mention the weak Instagram moments (hello skull leggings)!
One day after doing my laundry and putting away all my socks and leggings I realized I actually didn’t have enough drawer space!
So it hit me, I have more than I need and could easily go a year without buying clothing.
So here we are… about to do a buy noThing for a year challenge.
Now technically this isn’t not going to be me not buying anything or spending any money for a year that would actually be impossible.
So here is my pledge and caveats:
What I can buy:
Vitamins, supplements and medical needs
Cosmetics (although I may not need to for a year)
Toiletries (I make a lot of my own anyway)
Textbooks for school (which I will try to buy used)
The final caveat is IF any of the electronics I need for work (phone, laptop, iPad or video camera) die before the year is up (touch wood) I can replace them ideally with a second-hand version.
The challenge for me isn’t about not spending money or not having things I need.
Instead, it’s about excess THINGS… the unneeded stuff…consumer goods…materialism.
So other than the list above It’s a Buy Nothing Year for me November 23, 2018, to November 29, 2019.
I plan to take photos of ‘all the stuff’ that I see and want to buy over the course of the year. Then add them to this Pinterest board to look back on at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see which items I actually still want/ need and which I have forgotten about.
So there you have it my public Buy Nothing For A Year vow.
Not ready to join me for a whole year, why not try one day on Black Friday Buy Nothing!
Wish Me Luck
Sciatica is a bit tricky and can be persistent. In all my years of teaching Back Pain Yoga, I have found more than anything else Sciatica often used as a blanket-term which students cover a range of symptoms they may have. So if you think you may have Sciatica please see a health professional to get a proper diagnosis.
Sciatica causes pain which travels down the leg from the lower back. This pain could go down the back, outside or front of the leg. The onset of Sciatica can be often sudden (more often) or gradual. Most often symptoms are only on one side of the body. However, sometimes Sciatica can result in pain on both sides and lower back pain can also be present. Weakness or numbness could run along the nerve pathway into various parts of the affected leg and foot.
The other challenge I have as a Yoga Therapist working with clients one on one is that the Sciatica nerve doesn’t run in exactly the same place in all bodies. So the same Yoga pose that can provide relief for one person may not for another. So there really is no one size fits all here.
Also, there are many causes of Sciatica; spinal disc herniation, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis and piriformis syndrome to name a few. So it really is a case by case basis. If you do this pose and it aggravates your Sciatica then skip it. I’ll have more poses for Sciatica in future blog posts.
In the video below you’ll notice that my knees come to the floor easily in this pose. This is due to my bone structure as opposed to flexibility so your knees may or may not ever rest on the floor in this pose and it’s not important that they do to receive the benefits.
If your knees are up a fair bit lift your bum up higher by sitting on some blankets or Yoga props like a bolster that will allow you to sit tall with less strain. You can also use Yoga bricks or books under your knees to ease into this pose.
In the video below I’ll walk you through Butterfly pose step by step.
If you know someone who suffers from Sciatica please forward this blog post to them.
I’m not gonna lie, very few people like stretching their hip flexors and yet it’s also commonly requested in my classes. This is likely because of our increased time spent sitting in chairs.
Spending hours a day sitting in chairs can cause of time a whole host of problems not, the least of which can be Back Pain. For more on sitting and its problems and some solutions, you can read more here.
It’s not just sitting that tightens up the hip flexors, a lot of our sports and pastimes (like biking, running and hiking) can also have an effect.
So taking a few minutes a day to do a lunge on each side can be an effective way to keep our mobility and support back health.
It’s important to back away slightly from the strongest sensation you can bare here going to your maximum is not necessary for this pose to be effective in fact the opposite is true. Only come forward to a degree that you feel sensation but can perhaps still smile.
Also not shown in the video please feel free to use blocks under your hands to give you more space in the pose which will be more comfortable for many of us (myself included). You can also walk the front leg out to the side a little and bring your hands inside the front leg (my fave way to practice).
In the video below I’ll walk you through basic lunges.
If you know someone with tight hips please, share this post with them.
Here’s to happy hips,
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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