Pose Breakdown – 15.08.20 – Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child’s Pose, or Balasana, is a foundational pose that has so many interesting variations.  If we are tight through the extensor muscles on the top of the foot, then we curl our toes.  If our hips are tight, then we can use our elbows or a block to elevate the hips to comfort.  We can also leave our knees in line with our shoulders or take our knees to the edges of our mat.  Our arm position can be forward … to the side … or to the rear of our mat.  With all of these beautiful variables to fit so many unique body types, child’s pose allows for an opportunity to rest, relax and check in with our physical body.  Therefore, child’s pose should be our pose in the moment and not one that is predefined as we enter.  The guide below from Yoga Journal should be one that we explore rather than submit to.  Enjoy learning about our body each time that we sink into child’s pose, balasana.

Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.

Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.

Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.

Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. Stay in the pose from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.
(http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/child-s-pose/)

Health Benefits (http://www.yogabasics.com/asana/child/)

    Benefits: Child pose calms the body, mind and spirit and stimulates the third eye point. Child pose gently stretches the low back, massages and tones the abdominal organs, and stimulates digestion and elimination.

    Contraindications: Recent or chronic injury to the knees.  Ask for a modification if pregnant.

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).

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!)

TRAUMA RELEASE PROCESS – 03.12.15 (Learning to “Suck It Up”)

We all experience trauma.  The level and degree of our trauma is individual to us.  The world can rate our experiences and compare our experiences to others, but a system of measurement does not do us justice.  Our physical bodies are wonderfully different and, in turn, experience trauma differently.  There is something that we can all do.  Talk.

The video above is an example of the effects of trauma.  The men and women of our armed forces put their bodies and minds at risk for a truly noble cause.  Our freedom.  The statistics of the number of men and women both in the armed forces and civilian that suffer from PTSD is staggering.  We are all holding on to trauma mentally and physically.  To say that the trauma you and I experience is any less is not to slight any of what they sacrifice for us.  It is to say that we all need to talk.

When we carry something, it puts pressure on our physical body.  When we carry something emotional, psychological, and traumatic, it puts pressure on our physical body.  Our physical bodies are effected regardless of the origin on the stimulus.  The only difference is that one can sometimes be seen by others (a cast around a broken arm, scrapes and cuts from a dog attack, or the lose of an appendage) and the other may never be known to the world.  A physical cut may be followed by the phrase “suck it up.”  An emotional turmoil over the lose of a loved one can sometimes be met with that phrase as well.  Love is not the ability to cause physical harm to someone, physically, psychologically or emotionally.  So when we tell someone to “suck it up” then we are telling them to live with the pain.  And the pain grows.  

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”  This quote comes from Brene Brown.  She is famous for her stand on vulnerability and shame.  As we go through life, we will all continue to encounter trauma.  It is part of the human life experience.  What we have choice over is how we choose to deal with the past in the Now.  Will we talk and start the healing?  

Yoga provides a means to talk, but not necessarily with others.  Our ability to feel safe in giving parts of us comes from first talking to ourselves.  In the moments of meditation where the eyes are closed and we are left to our own mind, the ability to feel and talk to ourselves is healing.  We love ourselves and we talk to those we care about.  Take a moment to let our eyes close and have a conversation with the one we love.  Us.

Learning to “Suck It Up”

Psycho-emotional trauma – the kind of trauma caused primarily by social conditioning.  Situations that threaten our social self such as rejection, shame, fear of failure, and negative judgment by others cause us to react in the same manner as if we were being threatened physically.  The body takes up a position of submission and withdrawal, slumping forward with the head down – the precise posture it assumes when threatened by physical trauma.

A case in point.  When an African American girl turned eleven, her parents decided to send her across town to a junior high school in a culturally different neighborhood.  Her experience up to that point had mostly involved middle class African American and Japanese American families.  So when she was put on a bus to attend a school in an all-white affluent neighborhood, she wasn’t prepared for the culture clash she was about to experience.

Her first traumatic experience came when, because her stop was one of the last stops of an already overcrowded school bus, no one wanted her to sit next to them.  Since she was perceived as “shy and nerdy,” they didn’t care to scoot over and allow her to share their seat.  Each day, the bus driver ordered one of the students to move over, and even then the young girl found herself with one three inches of seat.

Each day, for fifteen miles, she balanced herself on the edge of the seat so she wouldn’t fall into the aisle.  Next to her sat a resentful student who had yielded almost no space, but who enjoyed taking advantage of the African American student because she was meek, mild, and non-confrontational.

Unfortunately, kids can be cruel to each other at certain times in their lives.  For the one who is being shunned, it’s a stressful, anxiety-ridden, traumatic experience.  Most days, this young girl cried silently all the way to school.

At school, the culture clash didn’t turn out to be as bad as the girl had imagined.  She found she had much in common with one of the local girls, and they became friends.  The kids in her own neighborhood began whispering and laughing as she walked by.  Soon, they were taunting her, telling her she was a traitor, calling her hateful names that stabbed her heart.

It’s stressful growing up in our schools.  Most of our kids exist in a state of high anxiety.  All they can do is “suck it up.”

BOOK – “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli (BUY IT!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.10.15 (Svadhyaya – Projections)

I began my public education career as a middle grades science teacher almost twelve years ago.  I started with vis-a-vis wet erase markers and an overhead projector.

Now that I’ve dated myself a bit, there is no difference in the technological advances of today.  Classrooms have become equipped with Promethean ActivBoards or SMART Boards (and other competitor variations).  The concept remains the same.  The content that is on the transparency or in the computer is projected from one place to another.  Participants study the material and prepare for an assessment of some sort.  What is in is sent out, what is sent out is taken in.

Let’s apply this concept to ourselves.  What is in is sent out.  Svadhyaya asks us to take time to self-study, self-reflect.  Math, science, language arts, social studies and school in general is relatively straight forward in what is inside.  We can open a textbook and have a pretty idea the content that is inside.  We are quite the amazing variable.  We can look at each other and make inferences about the past, the present and the future.  However, we will never know a complete story.  We will never know each other completely.

What is in is sent out.  Therefore, we are asked to look inward and see our content, our character.  If we see hate and anger and bitterness in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  If we see love and beauty and joy in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  The projections that we see in our world cannot come from the outside in.  They come from the inside out.  Before we move quickly to judge the actions of the world around us, let’s first ask … what is inside us?

Svadhyaya – Projections

Do this experiment now:  without thinking, quickly write down the first five things that come to your mind that describe the world as you see it.

Every comment that you have used to describe the world will tell you more about yourself than about the world.  Every comment you make about the world, about another person, about an event, about life, is a projection of yourself and a clue to your interior landscape.  The world is your autobiography.

The world and others simply reflect back to us what we are seeing, not what is there.  It is as if wherever we look, there are only mirrors that show us pictures of ourselves.

“We cannot love or hate something about another person or the world unless it is already inside of us first.”

The world changes to fit the story you are telling.

As you begin to steadfastly pay attention to what you are saying to yourself about the moment, the other person, yourself, and life, you will get clues about the “boxes” you have wrapped yourself in that create you own little universe.  All of these utterances are projections of the parts of yourself you love, don’t love, can see, don’t want to see, or accept or can’t yet accept.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele (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!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.03.15 (Svadhyaya – Self Study)

We enter into the month of March continuing our study of the Yamas and Niyamas.  Svadhyaya, or self-study, asks us to look inside.  Self-reflection and self-study can be difficult to swallow.  We may find ourselves drifting back into the past and filled with regrets spiraling down into depression.  We may find ourselves looking to far forward into the future and becoming filled with anticipation that takes off into anxiety.  So let’s take a look inside our box …

The analogy of a box allows us the safety of the interior and the unknown of the exterior.  Our physical bodies are represented by the box.  My physical body has many forms.  I am a hockey player.  I am a guitar player.  I am a teacher.  I am a triathlete.  I am a friend.  And I have so many more roles in life.  Our bodies are quite sturdy and capable of withstanding a decent amount of what life can throw at it.  Our box may be kicked, punched, yelled at, screamed at, defaced or covered with graffiti.  The world can see the damage done to the exterior.  The world cannot see our interior.

The safety of the interior can initially seem like a prison.  I am guilty of becoming trapped in my own thoughts and becoming stagnant in my life.  It was not until I became comfortable with what was on the interior of my box that I began to smile more, give more and love more.  As we look deeper into our box, a place where no one but ourselves can dwell, we must become comfortable with what we find.  Do we love ourselves?  Even when the world attempts to destroy us, what beauty is inside the box?

No one will ever truly see the inside of our box.  A family member, friend, loved one, spouse … we will share some of what is inside, but the lid will never be fully open.  We are the only person with knowledge of its contents.  As we take a moment to look in our box, do the contents make us smile?  make us laugh?  make us fall in love with ourselves?

Svadhyaya – Self Study

Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about knowing our true identity as Divine and understanding the boxes we are wrapped in.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

The yogis teach that we, as human beings, are packaged much like this diamond ring.  We are, at the core, divine consciousness.  Around this pure consciousness, we are packed in “boxes” of our experience, our conditioning, and our belief systems.  These boxes are things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences and dislikes, our fears and imagination.  All of these boxes are informed by country, culture, gender, town, ancestors and family history, groups we belong to, and our personal experience.

We suffer, the yogis tell us, because we forget who we are.  We think we are the boxes we are wrapped in and forget that we are really the Divine “holding” inside.  We can find clues about our boxes by watching our projections, by the process of tracing our reactions back to a belief, and by courageously looking at life as it is.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

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!)