Pose Breakdown – 15.07.28 – Knees to Chest (Apanasana)

Knees to chest, or Apanasana in Sanskrit, took patience for me to realize the benefits.  As an athlete turned Yogi, I wanted to feel strength being built in each posture.  Warrior 1, Warrior 2 … Warrior YES!  It wasn’t until I connected with my breath that I started to feel my erector spinae (long group of muscles traveling down our back) lengthen.  In my body, as with most of us in Western society, as we lean forward at a desk, in a car or holding a cell phone, we strengthen our back but become deficient in our core.  Knees to chest offers us an opportunity to take our tight back muscles and release tension.  This allows for the removal of chronic pain and the chance for us to build a more helpful core.

Start with a sitting position on the ground with your feet flat, spaced at a distance greater than your hips-width. While inhaling, bring your arms forward. While exhaling, let your torso fall slowly to the ground and lie flat on your back.

Now increase the length of your torso by extending your arms further. After that, pull in your knees close to the chest and clasp them with your extended hands. You should look as if you are hugging your knees. Your shoulder blades should be relaxed and collarbones should be spread wide.

Now rock your body from one side to other as your relax your lower back. You should insert your chin in between your knees in order to protect your posterior neck. You may also use a blanket beneath your head if you experience a bit too much discomfort during the rocking portion of the pose.
http://www.lovemyyoga.com/knee-to-chest-pose.html 

One modification that can be helpful for those of us with sore knees is to place the hands behind the thigh instead of on the front of the knee.  I usually cue this in my classes as it is a safer approach.

Health Benefits (http://www.lovemyyoga.com/knee-to-chest-pose.html)

  • Eliminates painful lower back.
  • Helps alleviate gastro-intestinal pain and the physical pain associated with menstruation.
  • Relieves constipation.
  • Reduces tension in the lower back and aids in removing the sciatic nerve pain.
  • Helps resolve Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
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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 – 06.08.15 (Do What You Have Been Coached to Do!)

Who drives our performance … spectators or us?

Modern society does not like to accept us for who we are.  It will constantly distract us from who we are to build a persona that does not fit us.  It would like for us to fit it’s perceived reality and consequently destroy our authentic self in an attempt to appease the masses.  It will yell and scream at us in our moments of failure and display jealousy in our moments of success.  Is there a way to appease the world around us?

No.  An answer of “no” to that question drives a stress response in our bodies.  We want to be loved and admired.  When we cannot meet the requirements of others, we become stressed and our bodies suffer.  It is our deepest fear that we are powerful in who we are, but the world will not accept who we are.  So a different question should then be asked.  Should I do what I have been coached to do?

Throughout life we have mentors and friends that allow us to bring our authentic self out for the world to see.  We all receive coaching to find the depth of ourselves.  Re-frame the thought process and our intention.  Our performance and life are not for others.  They are for us.  Step out, be who we are right now and let our abilities define us.  Embrace our abilities, our role and give weight to that which we can control (Interval pace, stick handling, cross-over, training, etc).  The reactions of others are for them.  Look in the mirror … what have you been coached to do?

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow
Do What You Have Been Coached to Do!

“Your job when you play is not to win or please others – that’s beyond your control.  Instead, your job is to do what you have been coached to do by carrying out your specific assignments with the right attitude to the best of your abilities – that’s within your control.

Know what your job is and do your job.

Knowing your responsibilities and doing your job is how you can magnify the relevant aspects of your performance while shrinking everything that is irrelevant.

Embracing your role on the team is how you can be true to what it is you are doing.

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 – 03.09.15 (Intensity – Own Your Zone)

Life is full of ups and downs.  Yin and yang.  We ride along waves.  There are moments of absolute zen that we wish could last forever and then there are moments that seem to last an eternity that we wish we could destroy.  The moment during a 5k where it feels like we’re in mile one but we’re heading toward the finish line.  We throttled up and are about to set a new PR!  The moment during a basketball game where we come off the bench nervous, anxious and promptly dribble the ball off of our foot.  We throttled down and lost our focus on the moment.

The balance of intensity is where we find the zone.  We look to athletics as a means to find that balance.  The moments that exist in the present are opportunities to see if our training and practice of managing intensity can help us perform at a peak level.  There is a moment prior to a contest where a team will do one of two things.  They or the person may get so pumped up and excited with the crowd backing them that they come out making careless errors.  They’re way too far up on the throttle spectrum of intensity.  They or the person may come out already looking defeated with poor body language.  They’re way too far down on the throttle spectrum of intensity.  

The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA provide a gorgeous example of finding their place on the intensity spectrum.  Their bodies and minds are engaged in what they are currently wanting to achieve, but there are no extremes.  What is absent is the over-the-top hype that is believed necessary to intimidate an opponent.  Each play down the court is an opportunity to find the balance.  The body language of players does not show a disinterest or dislike for one another or the game they are playing.  There is no absence of love for the game of basketball.  The Spurs are a beautiful example of the balance of intensity.

We go up and then we will come down.  Let’s work to make our movement along the intensity spectrum less extreme.  Let’s work to find balance and see shifts that are small and controlled.  This is where we find “the zone.”

Intensity – Own Your Zone

“Don’t get psyched up, get psyched right” – Anonymous

When athletes are “flowing” or “in the zone,” they are maintaining a certain intensity level while being mindful of the moment, which helps them achieve their peak performance.

Consider the following strategies to increase or decrease your intensity levels to meet the demands of the situation.

  • Throttle Up
    • Take three to five forceful breaths.
    • Create a powerful image such as  battleship, a fierce animal or a volcanic eruption.
    • Make powerful movements such as pumping your fist or clapping your hands.
    • Repeat energizing thoughts such as “Yes, I can!” or “Get my A-game on!”
    • Recall your favorite up-tempo song.
  • Throttle Down
    • Take three to five calming breaths.
    • Imagine a serene scene such as a cool mountain lake.
    • Perform light stretches.
    • Think calming thoughts such as “Clear mind, relaxed body.”
    • Recall your favorite relaxing song.

The next time you are practicing or competing, ask yourself, “Is my intensity level too low, too high, or just right?”  Adjust accordingly to achieve your ideal zone for peak performance.

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 – 02.23.15 (Body Language – Part 1)

A key topic in the business world is a term called “power pose.”  It’s all about body language.  It’s all about the persona you project.

The TED Talk above does a great job of explaining the detail to which body language has been studied.  And it has been researched to quite a deep level.  The speaker explains how these postures can truly change our body chemistry.  It is incredible to see (literally) how our physical posture can either aid or damage our body.

1.  Increase in Testosterone – http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/benefits-testosterone (Benefits of Testosterone)
2.  Decrease in Cortisol – http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/cortisol-adrenal-function (Dangers of Sustained High Levels of Cortisol)
3.  Study Proving Data – http://www.people.hbs.edu/acuddy/in%20press,%20carney,%20cuddy,%20&%20yap,%20psych%20science.pdf

Tonight in class we took the time to hold postures a little longer than we typically do.  We were very powerful.  Airplane, Warrior 2, Side Angle and Reverse Warrior asked us to be strong, open and powerful.  Why did we do this?  Because we knew the benefits, internally and externally, that our bodies would absolutely thrive on.

Western culture asks us to hunch over our computers, curl in to look at our phones, and slouch down in our couches.  I’m guilty of all of these (even as I sit here typing this).  Am I saying that we should refrain from all?  No.  “Everything in moderation, including moderation” is the popular phrase from Oscar Wilde.  So let’s hunch over our computers in moderation, curl in to look at our phones in moderation, and slouch down in our couches in moderation.  With amazing benefits of increased testosterone and decreased cortisol, how will we let the world see us?  

Pregame is always an interesting time in a sporting event.  Players and coaches usually do the “eye test.”  They watch one another closely for information.  Incredible to think that posturing prior to games isn’t “show-boating” … there’s science here that proves that it has profound positive effects.  So it’s fourth and goal … game is tied and you have one free throw left … penalty shot is called and the goalie looks on … what will we show the world?  Show power!  Nothing can beat us … no matter what!

Body Language – Make a Golden Impression (Part 1)

Body language is a two-way process:  Your own body language reveals your thoughts and feelings to others; and other people’s body language reveals their thoughts and feelings to you.

On game day, what is your body language saying?  What image do you want to project?

Positive/Upbeat Body Language – Smiling, Chin up, Shoulders back/Chest out, Standing tall, Walking strong.

Negative/Glum Body Language – Frowning, Shaking your head, Eyes downcast, Shoulders hunched, Dragging your feet.

When you are gassed at practice, stand tall and walk strong.

Your body language will send the right message to the opposition:  You can’t be mentally beaten or fazed – no matter what happens.

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