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Tight Neck? Yoga To The Rescue!

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Whether it be in a public Yoga class or in my private Therapeutic Yoga practice, the neck is a much-requested area of the body to release.

This delightfully simple neck stretch is easy to do as part of your Yoga practice or anytime throughout the day. It can also be done at your desk if you need a little stretch break.

 

It’s important when you are practicing this pose that you do so gently, stop right when you feel a little stretch and pause there. Often I notice students are a bit pushy when it comes to this stretch and less is more here, we don’t want to be sore the next day. This is especially important for those of you with a neck injury or chronic issue, be gentle with yourself.

Practicing this regularly instead of waiting until you are in pain strong is key.

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

If you know someone with neck tension please share this post with them.

Happy practicing,

nyk

Back Pain Yoga-Baby Cobra Pose

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As a Yoga Therapist, I work a lot with folks who suffer from Back Pain. Because of our more sedentary lifestyle, and with all the desk work we do, our back muscles can become weakened and this can lead to injury.

There are a couple simple prone backbends we can add to our regular routine that can make a big difference to the strength of our back muscles, improve our posture and hopefully prevent back injuries.

I have found both in my own back health and in my Yoga Therapy sessions with clients that Baby Cobra Pose is really effective at strengthening the muscles of the back.

Although this pose can feel quite challenging when you are new to it, be patient with yourself it will get easier with time. When practicing this pose it’s important that you only work within a range of motion that won’t leave you sore the next day.

In the video below I’ll walk you through Baby Cobra Pose step by step.

If you know someone who suffers from back pain please share this post with them.

Here’s To A Strong Back

nyk

Shoulders Tight? – Sundial Pose

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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!

nyk

Buy Nothing Day…..Or Buy Nothing Year.

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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.

Challenges like:
– 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?

Original Image Credit: Ad Busters

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:

Food
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

nyk

Tight Hip Flexors? Lunges To The Rescue!

https://nykdanu.com/tight-hip-flexors-lunges-to-the-rescue/

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,

nyk

Tight Shoulders Try This

https://nykdanu.com/tight-shoulders-try-this/

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

https://nykdanu.com/back-pain-yoga-cat-pose/

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

What Does Namaste Mean?

https://nykdanu.com/what-does-namaste-mean/

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

Neck Pain – A Gentle Release

https://nykdanu.com/neck-pain-a-gentle-release/

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

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.