May 7, Sept 10, Nov 5
Yoga Tree Hayes
Yoga Tree Hayes
A healthy spine is the key to a vibrant life. Yogis, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, and many doctors agree that you are as young as your spine is flexible. Unfortunately, back pain has become an epidemic in our culture. This is mainly due to poor posture, weak back musculature, and limited movement in the spine.
The spine has a few critical functions. First, it is your central column of support. It stabilizes your body and holds you up against gravity. Building strength in the muscles that sleeve your spine is important to support good posture, keep you powerful during life’s activities, and prevent injury.
Your spine also houses your spinal cord. Think of it this way – your brain is not just in your head. You have so much brain that it flows all the way down your spine. Nerve endings exit from every one of your spinal bones called vertebras. This system, called your central nervous system, is the highway that carries information to every cell, muscle fiber, and organ in your body. A fluid spine is key for a clear road of communication throughout your body – an open pathway for oxygen and nutrients to flow.
But these days, many people’s spines are rigid, posture is rounded forward, and core is weak. I have good news for you – backbends are one of the antidotes! When you have back pain, it seems counterintuitive to do a backbend. But in reality, it is backbends that will help you strengthen your back muscles, improve the mobility of the bones of your spine, and promote the health of the discs that lie between each spinal vertebra. It is the opposite of the way you spend most of your day. Of course, like anything else, backbends need to be done correctly to be beneficial.
Let’s take a look at your spine. You may notice that you have the most mobility in your lower back (lumbar spine) and your neck (cervical spine). Interestingly enough these are the places you may commonly experience pain. Pain is often a symptom of lack of stability.
Your lumbar spine is meant to be stable and
carry the load of your body as you move through the world. In general we move too much in the lower back simply because we have more access to it. It doesn’t have all those ribs attached to it! The lumbar spine relies on support from deeper postural core muscles like transverse abdominis and multifidus to create stability. These crucial postural muscles tend to be weak.
Your middle back, called the thoracic spine, is meant to move in many directions: forward, backwards, laterally, and it rotates. Unfortunately it is often locked down and doesn’t move enough. A rounded upper back and forward head position is common because life happens in front of you: sitting in front of a computer, behind the wheel, cooking, caring for children, you name it, most things in life are a culprit.
BENEFITS OF BACKBENDS:
Please consider joining me for my next workshop, Build A Healthy and Strong Backbend.
Backbends are empowering! All backbends are rooted in Bhujangasana, Cobra Pose. Learning to skillfully perform a deeper cobra, with strength and support first, is the key to bending evenly and feeling better in your backbends. This is where the fancier poses begin.
If you are intimidated by backbends, this will be a great opportunity for you to focus on your spine and improve your posture. It’s more about YOU and less about any of the poses! If you already backbend with ease, this workshop will help you refine your backbends. You will learn to stabilize your spine where you move too much, and mobilize the places where you don’t move enough.
For everyone, this will help you create a sustainable practice to last throughout your lifetime. And who knows, once you learn the basics, you may just get into that advanced backbend you have been struggling with.
I am a big advocate of stretching and strengthening your diaphragm, just like you would any other muscle in your yoga practice. This gives you access to a healthy breathing pattern. You can start by resetting your breath. It is your first tool to manage stress. I have created a 3-minute video to help do just that.
In addition, a regular yoga practice can help you manage stress further. Here’s how it works.
When you perform an asana (yoga pose), it is meant to take you out of your comfort zone. It becomes the stressor. You can’t ignore or escape it; you have to be with it, breathe in it. And with your breath mechanism working properly, over time the uncomfortable spot becomes more bearable, until maybe you actually even enjoy the pose!
It’s important to realize that I am not just talking about twisted pretzel shapes here. You may find laying still in Savasana (relaxation pose) is the most uncomfortable pose! Either way a regular yoga practice prepares you to meet any stressor your day may unexpectedly bring, with skill and grace.
Happy Equinox. The transition between summer and autumn can be the most challenging time to maintain balance. As we head in to the final quarter of the year, it’s a great time to slow down, check in with your goals and intentions for the year, and nurture your well-being.
|Balasana / Child’s Pose
Come to your mat and take 5-10 breaths in child’s pose to prepare for your practice.
|Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog
Ground your hands and stretch long through all the limbs of your body, including your spine. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
|Uttanasana / Standing Forward Bend
Step forward into standing forward bend. Engage the muscles of your legs and lift your belly. Let gravity release your spine, neck, and head toward the floor. Take 5-10 long deep breaths.
|Indudalasana / Standing Crescent
Stand up with an inhalation and stretch your arms overhead. Catch hold of your right wrist and exhale side bend to your left. Take a few breaths here then inhale to center and repeat on the second side.
|Utkatasana / Chair Pose
Sit back into Utkatasana/Chair pose. Widen your sitting bones, ground your heels, and lift your lower belly while lengthening up through your spine. Breath evenly.
|Phalankasana / Plank Pose
Step back to plank pose and hold for a few breaths toning all the muscles in your body. Resist lowering down as you bend your elbows and lower to the earth.
|Bhujangasana / Cobra Pose
Lift your spine into a little backbend. Move each part of your spine from the lowest part up. Don’t let your head move faster than everything else.
Stretch back to downward dog for a few breaths then step forward into Uttanasana.
|Vrksasana / Tree Pose
Stand balancing on one leg with the other foot pressing against the inner standing leg. Stretch your arms up or keep them in prayer.
Challenge your balance by looking to the right and back to center. Then to the left and back to center.
Can you hold this pose for 60 seconds?
|Virabhadrasana Two / Warrior Two
Step back into warrior two for 5 breaths. Straighten the front leg to move into the next pose, Trikonasana.
|Trikonasana / Triangle Pose
From warrior two straighten the front leg and take your hand to a block or the floor.
Repeat the two standing poses on the second side.
|Warrior Three Preparation
From Uttanasana stretch your right leg behind you. Square your hips and stretch your legs straight and strong. Use blocks to touch the floor if you can’t reach.
Move directly into the next pose, half moon.
|Ardha Chandrasana / Half Moon Pose
From warrior 3 prep open your top hip and your top arm for half moon pose. Make sure to keep your standing foot steady and the hip wrapping underneath you. Lengthen in all directions.
Put your elbows on the floor and clasp your hands. Reach the outer edges of your lower arms and hands into the floor. Press your chest toward your thighs. Keep your knees bent if you need to.
This pose is a great way to open your chest and upper back.
|Malasana / Squat
If your heels come up place a rolled up mat or blanket underneath them. Keep your arches lifted and your knees and your toes pointing in the same direction.
|Navasana / Boat Pose
Find the support of all of your muscles while balancing in this pose. You can use your fingertips on the floor or work with bent knees while you are learning.
|Ananda Balasana / Supine Child’s Pose
Lay on your back and hug your knees in as wide as your torso. Keep a curve in your lumbar spine.
|Apanasana / Wind Relieving Pose
Draw one leg in deeper and straighten the opposite leg. Hold up to 60 seconds. Repeat on both sides.
|Supta Padangusthasana A / Leg Stretch
You can practice this one either directly from the above pose or after. Simply straighten the leg and hold the back of your thigh. It is extra grounding to have your bottom foot pushing against the wall.
Hold 60-90 seconds.
|Setu Bandhasana / Bridge Pose
Lift your hips up to stretch the front of your pelvis and thighs. Ground your heels, engage your hamstrings, and gently tone your glutes. Breath into your open chest.
|Viparita Karani / Legs Up Posture
Let your legs rest against the wall. You can place a block, bolster, or blanket under your sacrum at any height or don’t use a height at all.
Stay here for 8-10 minutes.
|Savasana / Corpse Pose
Lay back and give yourself permission to relax
|Pranayama / Breathwork
Sit comfortably and practice with Sama Vritti or equal breath.
Inhale for 4 counts.
Like a square repeat for several rounds.
Please share your additional ideas in the comments below. Thank you!
Four Keys To Living Better In Your Body
with Stacey Rosenberg
I recently spoke with my friend Patricia Becker on her speaker series, Radiant Wellness for Men and Women Who Want to Feel Better and Develop New Habits. It was the first time I have talked about one of my new passions – the respiratory diaphragm. And it was so much fun!
The diaphragm, your primary breathing muscle, has a powerful impact on your health and well-being. Click the play button below to listen to my talk for FREE. Find out how this muscle and your ability to breathe efficiently impacts your posture and your ability to relax. You will learn tools and techniques you can use instantly to release tightness, breath better, and relax.
If you are interested in the whole series you can purchase all 13 talks here. Don’t forget to let her know I sent you!
In teaching yoga my goal is to help you to to be your best self. That means educating you about your body, helping you to listen more deeply, and empowering you to make choices for your body and your life that are healing and promote well-being.
This is achieved through some basic physical things that all my classes, workshops, and other programming are planned around. Here are four things that I have come to believe are the most important to your health and what I hope you gain from your regular yoga practice:
1. Better, more effective breathing.
Breath is life. Many of us live with dis-functional breathing patterns because of tight muscles, poor posture, and stress. Releasing the muscles of respiration and creating better breathing habits are crucial to the body’s overall health.
2. The ability to shift from states of stress to states of relaxation.
There is no doubt that life is busy. But how effective is your ability to turn off the switch? Being able to down regulate your nervous system to a rest and recovery state is a key to quality sleep and improved health. It also reduces anxiety, improves concentration, slows the aging process, and much more.
3. Improved posture.
Your posture follows you into everything you do. Most people don’t pay much attention to how they are standing, sitting, waiting in line, sleeping etc. But your form impacts how you breathe and is a baseline for all of your movement. Bringing mindfulness to your posture and learning to hold yourself in a more beneficial position affects all aspects of your life.
4. More efficient movement patterns.
Conscious movement is the fastest way to get out of pain. Restricted range of motion (ROM) is usually caused by weakness, instability, and tight muscles. Learning to move with good biomechanics results in less pain, more range of motion, and improved performance in everything you do such as carrying your child, playing a sport or an instrument, or practicing yoga.
How would you rate your ability in each of these four areas? Join me for any of my offerings to expand these capacities and live more vibrantly.
I have a confession to make. When I hear science confirming what yogis have known for a long time, or at least what I know to be true from my experience, I get really happy inside!
Fortunately, this happens a lot these days since much more research is being done about the benefits of yoga. And that science shows that yoga practice works in ways other kinds of exercise does not.
Things we do in every yoga class such as asana, pranayama, and chanting soothe and tone an important nerve in the body called the Vagus Nerve. Scientists are beginning to understand this fascinating cranial nerve which travels throughout the body and responsible for the relaxation response.
When you are in constant stress your sympathetic nervous system never has a chance to switch off. This creates low vagal tone and brings depletion to your body making it feel like life is more difficult to manage. But healthy vagal tone stimulates the relaxation response, regulates the nervous system, and ultimately allows our bodies and mind to be more resilient under stress.
When the vagus nerve is functioning properly, your digestion improves, your heart functions better, and your moods stabilize. You get better at managing the constant changes that life brings. And, it is even believed that strong vagus function can prevent chronic disease. With a greater sense of ease and increased energy you are more likely to live a happier and more fulfilling life.
Here are three ways to tone the vagus nerve that you can do on your own:
1. Ujjayi breath or sound of the ocean breathing.
2. Chant the sound AUM ॐ out loud or simply hum.
3. Reset Your Breath with this video.
And, for even more vagal toning, join me on the mat, or on the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls and Coregeous® Ball soon!
I have been using the word “sensational” in class a lot lately. Not in the traditional meaning of “very good or great” – well that is partly true. When I say “sensational” I mean “lots of sensation” which IS actually great. Even when you perceive the sensation as uncomfortable.
Let me explain. The body can have sensory motor amnesia. That means that some muscles forget how to work. This often results in using another muscle too much or inefficiently. In many cases this bio-mechanic disfunction is the cause of chronic pain.
Pain is actually a great tool. Its purpose is to help you and let you know that something is not right. As a yoga practitioner it’s helpful to learn to discern injurious pain, which your don’t want, from the beneficial pain of strengthening, stretching, or waking something up from this amnesia.
I dislike the word “pain” for that beneficial sensation you get from your yoga practice. So now you can call the intensity from an exercise or posture “sensational!”
Truth be told, there is no way around sensation in yoga. I like to put it on a scale of 1-10. One being not much sensation and ten being a lot of sensation. When you can breathe, relax, and work in an aligned way, while holding a posture for 30-45 seconds, at a sensation level of 7-8, you will make a lasting change in your body. This is how you snuggle up to your boundary with respect and grow.
Please throw out the meme “no pain no gain.” If you are experiencing a 10+ it’s just too much, back off. That much sensation only creates more binding and new compensatory patterns that are NOT helpful.
New science suggests that yoga practice increases the gray matter in your brain and helps reduce chronic pain. Yoga also helps increase proprioception which is a fancy word for mapping your body or turning on your internal GPS. Proprioception is the ability to feel your parts and know where they are in space.
I am especially excited about the work I have been doing with the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls to reduce pain and increase proprioception. Check out my upcoming workshops, Unglue Your Stuck Spots, to experience this sensational work.
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