Pose Breakdown – 15.07.18 – Standing Mountain (Tadasana)

Standing Mountain, or Tadasana in Sanskrit, is one of the five foundational poses that has evolved for me over time.  In my first ever Yoga class, I remember standing with my shoulders hunched forward and feeling as if time was being wasted.  As I grew in my awareness of my physical body, I began to discover dynamic tension.  Dynamic tension asks us to investigate the pulling of our muscles in opposite directions.  My Standing Mountain went from letting my shoulders hunch forward and my mind becoming bored to a posture that brought beads of sweat to my forehead.

Challenge ourselves to stand upright, feet hips distance apart and spread our toes wide.  Pressing into our mat with our entire foot we begin to activate dynamic tension and disobey gravity here.  Soften the knees enough for a tiny bend (no one wants to be that person at a wedding that falls over from our knees being locked out) and let our belly be pulled in toward our spine.  As our shoulders roll back, let our fingers become active in reaching toward the floor.  The crown of our head reaches skyward allowing our spine to lengthen.  Continue to cycle our consciousness through these different points of emphasis.  Hold the posture for five full breaths.  How do we feel?

Feel free to repeat for fewer or more breaths as we feel necessary.  This posture can also be completed in a chair at home, work or even in our car (please keep both hands on the wheel though if driving).  Always investigate and ask how we feel :).  Who knows what we might learn about our body.

Health Benefits (http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/mountain-pose/

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Firms abdomen and buttocks
  • Relieves sciatica
  • Reduces flat feet

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PERFORMANCE YOGA – 05.25.15 (Love the Grind!)

Grind is defined as “to reduce (something) to small particles or powder by crushing it.”  Crushing it … a phrase that any athlete loves to utter or hear spoken about them.  Whether it is crushing the crux on a boulder problem in climbing, taking an 0-2 hanging curve ball into the seats or that lob in tennis that is at the perfect height to smash, the moment when we get to crush is exhilarating.

Grind is also defined as “to move with difficulty or friction especially so as to make a grating noise.”  With all of the amazing moments listed above, what is not shared is the number of failures.  The number of times we had to move through difficulty to come to the same scenario again and again and hope for a new result.  How do we eliminate from our minds the number of times we’ve fallen at that same move on the boulder problem?  How do we eliminate from our minds the number of strikeouts?  How do we eliminate from our minds the number of overheads that have sailed long or wide?  We grind.

Through athletics and through life, we grind.  Each of us deals with difficulty.  So how do we eliminate the negative thoughts when in moments of despair?  We hold true to ourselves and bring it regardless of the past.  The present is for the grinders.  Those of us that choose to press on in the face of repetitive frustration.  Here’s to the grinders that never give up on themselves.  You are worth it!  Now go do it!  Welcome to the grind …

Love the Grind!

“There is always a way to get the job done – even when you are struggling in one area of your game.  Figure out how to close the deal on that day!

When you are struggling with your driver in golf, win with your short game.  When your shots aren’t dropping in basketball, be a glove on defense.  Step up your game rather than throw in the towel.  Refuse to quit even when a scenario seems bleak or hopeless.

Use these acronyms … UBE – “Ugly but Effective” or GBD “Good Bad Day”

Keep your head in the game and grind it out!”

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 03.02.15 (Body Language – Part 2)

Take a moment to check out these body language statistics.  Pretty cool.  http://publicwords.com/the-body-language-infographic/

There is a motto that states, “fake it ’til you make it.”  It is an interesting motto.  There are a number of us that live by this motto.  I’ll dare to ask … why?  Life isn’t easy.  I agree.  I’ll dare to ask … when was the last time we smiled?  Something that made me smile today was this …

IMG_20150303_111554419_HDR

I’m extremely blessed to be a middle grades educator (in my twelfth year) by day and a Yoga instructor by night.  Are middle schoolers perfect every day?  Nope.  Do they make me laugh, get frustrated, cry, get upset, and get out of my comfort zone?  Yep.  My scholars see me every day.  They see my body language.  If I come into class without a smile, then they know something is wrong.  Their day may be negatively affected by my mood.  I may truly be having a bad start to my day, but the present moment is an amazing place.  In the moment that they enter our classroom, we transform from individuals into a family.  We bring all of us to the room, but we respect that the moments we have together.  So we smile … a lot :).  Not because we are faking it, but because we find the beauty in our moments together.  Isn’t that a beautiful moment above?  #fishface

My point in sharing them with you is that we all have jobs that are hard.  We might have a frustrating boss, a co-worker that can push our buttons to the point of tears, or that person or team that always seems to know how to defeat us.  Do we “fake it ’til we make it” or do we choose our BEST?
1.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-body-blog/201411/don-t-fake-it-until-you-make-it-7-zen-habits
2.  http://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/why-fake-it-til-you-make-it-bad-advice.html
3.  http://darrenhardy.success.com/2014/08/dont-fake-it/

We can challenge ourselves to change the motto.  Perhaps we can roll with “love it ’til we make it.”  Each moment affords us a chance to create so many sweet life pictures.  Our next training session allows us to fall back in love with our sport or hobby.  It gives us that moment to remember why we truly love what we spend hours and hours upon.  We were only able to capture one brief moment above.  Let’s take this brief moment to smile, show our BEST and display the amazing person that we are.  Our body language says more about us than our words can ever say.

Body Language – Make a Golden Impression (Part 2)

1.  Just smile, you’ll feel better.  Findings from a 1988 research study by psychologist Fritz Strack and his colleagues revealed that simply creating a smile by clenching a pen lightly between the teeth will almost immediately make people feel happier about what it is they are doing.  So keep this discovery in mind when you need a quick boost in mood.  Put a big confident smile on your face!

2.  Always give your BEST.  Psychologist John Clabby has coined a handy acronym for giving one’s BEST – “Body Language, Eye Contact, Speech, and Tone of Voice.”  Working on them at practices will make them automatic in competition.

3.  Dress for Success.  Wear your uniform with pride.  Deion Sanders excelled at the highest level in both football and baseball.  “If you look good, you feel good.  And if you feel good, you play good.  If you play good, they pay good.”

Techniques to build your mental strength in practices and games include utilizing the BEST routine, valuing your appearance, and putting on a smile to push you past your perceived physical limitations.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 12.1.14 (MASTER THE MENTAL SKILLS – MENTAL IMAGERY PART 3)

Hmmm … practice?

Years ago I can remember laughing like the majorly of the public did listening to Allen Iverson discuss practice.  In my youth, I found it hilarious.  In my youth, I became conditioned to a game performance being the symbol of attention and acknowledgement.  Mainstream media conditioned me to this.  

We go to our mats with different intentions.  For me, I initially went for vain reasons.  I wanted to be stronger, fitter, more flexible and free from injuries.  I went to full yoga classes because I could feel eyes on me.  I could work hard and have my hard work seen by others.  We’re all human and we want the attention.  However, it is what we do in solitude that defines us.  Michael Jordan had this great quote.

I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.

Michael Jordan

Where a major difference lies between professional athletes and amateur athletes isn’t in the physical makeup.  It rests between the ears.  Our ability to sit down in a quiet place for 10 to 15 minutes at a time is so crucial.  I’m here to tell you how significant it is because I had no grasp of it years ago.  I went through my teens and twenties without any idea of the mental side of life.  We attract what we want (whether we’re conscious of it or not).  If our goals and thoughts are positive, then you’ll see a positive change.  If we stay submerged in loathing and self-doubt, then there is only a negative change to manifest.

Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.

Steven Pressfield

So will you take 10 to 15 minutes today to recharge and focus on what is positive that is and could be happening soon in your life?  Or will you focus on the negative and draw loathing and self-doubt closer to you?  I vote keep life symbol and throw up a huge smile :).

Mental Imagery – Visualize to Actualize

Mentally practice two or three times each week for about 10 to 15 minutes per rehearsal.  Select a specific sports skill to further develop, or work your way through different scenarios, incorporating various situations.

Mental practice sessions that are shorter in length are also beneficial.  Good times include during any downtime in your schedule, the night before a competition, as an element of your pregame routine, and especially as part of a preshot routine.

Let’s conclude our discussion with a mental practice exercise.

Sit up in a chair with your back straight (rather than lying down on a bed or the floor, as this can make you sleepy).  Let your eyes close and become aware of your breathing.  Take a few slow, deep breaths (in through the nose and out through the mouth) to clear your mind and relax your body.

Begin by creating a mental picture of your environment, progressively including all of the sights and sounds.  Pay particular attention to the physical sensations in your body, such as the spring in your ankles and knees, whether your breathing is heavy or relaxed, the weight of the racquet or ball in your hand, and the texture of the ball as you spin or bounce it.

Now fully see, feel and enjoy executing this skill throughout each moment of the movement.

Challenge yourself to do this exercise successfully three times in a row with full focus and a positive result.  If you visualize missing the basket or hitting the ball  into the net or if you lose focus, keep repeating the process until you can visualize yourself doing it right straight through.  This will further anchor your physical self to a gold medal performance.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

Performance Yoga – 7.28.14 (Meditation)

 Most of us do this without consciously being aware.  We meditate.  Whether it is during a mindless routine at work, walking from the restaurant door back to the car or in mile ten of a bike ride.  There are those moments when the brain goes on auto pilot and we begin to think.  It can be a very positive time or it can be a very negative time.  “Meditation teaches patience, acceptance, and equanimity, all important mental skills.” (Yoga for Athletes)

  I know that each of us would love more patience, acceptance and equanimity (defined as mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation).  If there is a situation at work, a rude waiter or waitress at a restaurant or worn out legs on mile twenty of a ride, we all want the patience to accept the moment and build from it.  What can be done in the present moment to keep that calmness and composure in the difficult situation?  I believe that this skill is truly one of the most powerful a person can possess.  All the hard work and dedication of a lifetime can be undone by a single moment of frustration, ignorance or fear.  I’m guilty of letting these three creep in over my lifetime.  Meditation can actively aid you against these negative thoughts in the present moment.  Will you allow yourself the opportunity to see the benefits?

Meditation

  “Meditation teaches patience, acceptance, and equanimity, all important mental skills for athletes.  Sitting quietly for long periods of time cultivates endurance, as you learn to receive feedback from your body and mind while you patiently remain still.  As you meditate, you’ll constantly shepherd your thoughts back to the present moment, which helps you learn to accept things as they are right now, not as you remember them being in the past or wish they would be in the future.  As you probably know from experience, things on the course often go wrong in unanticipated ways.  The longer the race, the more opportunities for mental distractions (lack of focus, negativity, self-doubt), physical imbalance (dehydration, bonking, discomfort that gives way to pain), and equipment breakdown.  Meditation will impart focus and greater body awareness that will serve you well in critical situations when you really need to keep it together.  And while meditation won’t fix a bent derailleur or change a flat, it will help give you a calmer outlook when things go wrong.

  Equanimity – mental balance across various circumstances – is very powerful.  This positive indifference or detachment comes from being completely in the present moment, dealing with things as they are, not as you wish they were.  The less attached you are to the outcome, the more content you will be.  

  One minor way to foster equanimity is not to start your watch.  A bigger one is to be grateful for what you do have – fitness, health, and the opportunity to step on your mat – which puts minor annoyances into perspective.”

BOOK – “The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga” by Sage Rountree.

Performance Yoga – 7.21.14 (Lingering in the Pause)

Breath retention is an interesting concept in yoga.  The first time I really played around with it was during a power yoga class a couple years ago.  During that time, I had no idea what I was doing.  I was still in my “do I really need this savasana stuff?”  So needless to say, I didn’t fully understand what was going on.  I found this …

There are three stages of yoga breathing process…

  • Inhalation which is called (puraka), fills the lungs with air and stimulates the whole body.

  • Retention, is called (kumbhaka) during retention the bodies temperature is raised and the oxygen is absorbed.

  • Exhalation, is called (rechaka) here the diaphragm is returned to its original position and toxic air is released into the atmosphere.

    http://www.yoga-for-beginners-a-practical-guide.com/yoga-breathing.html

The pause between the inhale and the exhale is significant.  It is helping to give the alveoli of the lungs an extra moment or two for absorption of oxygen.  I’m cool with that.  Anything that can help my muscles function and recover quicker.  Check out the meditation below.  Thanks for reading!

Lingering in the Pause

  With your inhalation and exhalation even, you are practicing a simple ratio – say, 8 to 8, if you’re breathing in to a count of eight and out to a count of eight.  Let’s add a slight pause at the top and bottom of inhalation.  It’s not a forced holding of the breath; consider it instead a rest in the liminal space, the transition between the two energies of inhalation and exhalation.  Think of the moment after a wave has lapped on the shore and before it begins to recede.  Breathe in for your count of eight, and pause again for one beat.  This gives you the ratio of 8 to 1 to 8 to 1.

  Notice the energy of the pause.  Is it linear?  Is it evident at all?  Can you relax as you pause?  With time and practice, you can lengthen the pauses, but don’t overdo the breath retention.

BOOK – “The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga” by Sage Rountree.

Performance – 6.23.14 (Injury Prevention)

Injury Prevention – is an effort to prevent or reduce the severity of bodily injuries caused by external mechanisms, such as accidents, before they occur.

The majority of our injuries are overuse injuries, stemming from the repetitive nature of endurance sports. When there’s an imbalance in the body that makes it function slightly out of alignment, piling on mile after mile of training can begin to grate on the body, leading to inflammation and excessive wear on the tissues. Yoga poses facilitate a self-awareness that can help you notice your own skeletal misalignments.
Constant physical, mental and emotional stress overtaxes the sympathetic nervous system (your fight or flight response) and the adrenal glands. Yoga helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system (allowing you to relax and save energy) and restore balance to the body. This helps you sleep better, recover faster and enjoy yourself more.
BOOK – “The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga” by Sage Rountree.