Your Spine & Backbends

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:

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens back muscles
  • Opens chest and shoulders
  • Stretches respiratory diaphragm
  • Helps you breathe better
  • Stimulates digestion
  • Counters depression
  • Clears mind and opens heart
  • Boosts energy
  • Alleviates fear
  • Aids in overcoming emotional challenges

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Keys to Well-Being

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
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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.

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Slower Is Stronger

I was ecstatic last week when the blog post, “The Slow Yoga Revolution” went viral in the yoga community. Ecstatic because it made a point I’ve felt for a long time.

Modern life has an unsustainable fast pace. Busy schedules, the constant pinging of email and social media, commuting, and other demands all put immense stress on the body. This stress provokes a fight or flight response, as if you are always running away from the tiger that is chasing you.

So it has always baffled me why one would want to rush through their yoga practice. Fast-paced yoga, with the music blaring and the heat on has become the norm in Western yoga culture. And while this type of practice might have benefits, I believe yoga should be a counterbalance to the fast-paced, outwardly focused life we live.

Yoga can offer you a much-needed reprieve from a hectic lifestyle and help your nervous system rest and recover. Practice is an opportunity to bring your body, mind, and spirit into greater harmony.

Whether you are working on strength or flexibility, there are many benefits to moving slow. To increase the length of a muscle you must maintain a stretch, even if it is slightly uncomfortable, for 30-60 seconds. For better results, contract the muscle while stretching it. And increase the contraction at the end range. That will make a lasting change.

Also, since yoga is an integrated practice, strength is important too. Engagement of the muscles protects the joints and the ligaments from over stretching. Sometimes lack of flexibility is caused by a lack of strength somewhere else. For example, tight hamstrings may be a result of core instability. When you practice slower there is time to nuance the alignment, notice your weak spots, and become aware of the places you bypass. Slow yoga is more vigorous, will give you access to your deep power, and create a more sustainable practice.

A disciplined and focused practice is something ‘you do with yourself not to yourself’ as the author of the blog wisely noted. A slower yoga practice will:
1. Teach you how your body works, because lets face it, we don’t come with an owner’s manual.
2. Help you sit with discomfort, because the truth is sometimes life is uncomfortable.
3. Refine the way you work to open and strengthen your body because that is what it takes to live in balance.
When I practice, my goal is to become my best self. Each day I seek to become better at being me!

I consider myself an educator. Each time you come to my class my intention is to educate and inspire you. To offer you the tools you need to empower you to transform your life. It is my hope that you walk away with a gem you can take into everything else you do.

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Be A Force Of Light

One morning last week I found myself in the in the East Bay without my reusable coffee cup. Reluctantly ordered anyway, you have to know I rarely do that. Maybe it was no accident at all because now I have this story to share with you!

The girl behind the counter took a moment and wrote something on my cup with a black Sharpie marker.  She explained that she tries to write or draw something inspirational on everyone’s cup to help start off their day with a smile!

It wasn’t until I left the cafe that I read the words on the cup… It read, “Light the world up with your nice smile.” 

As you might imagine it did make me smile. And I reminded me that you don’t have to do something monumental to be a force of light in the world. It’s the small gestures everyday make that a difference.

Go ahead, go out and light up someone else’s day, be a force of light in the world.

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Guru Purnima

Today’s full moon is the brightest of the year and has been celebrated in India for centuries as the auspicious moon in honor of the teacher.

The word “guru” means “the weighty one” or “the bearer of light.” In the yoga tradition it is a principle (tattva), rather than a person, that describes the supreme intelligence of life. The Guru Tattva (Principle) is anything that brings the light into our lives, that reveals the shadow, that pushes against us for our awakening.

Today I honor all of the life experiences that have crossed my path and guided me toward my truth. Those experiences and persons who have helped me, inspired me, and showed me kindness as well as the ones who have challenged me, hurt me, and pushed against me. I honor the bumps in the road, the missed turns, and the backtracking, the discomfort and dissatisfaction for it has all helped me to grow and shift and keeps me seeking a brighter light. I honor the guru as the path of life itself.

This time is potent for practice and reflection. I offer blessings of gratitude for where I have come and prayers of hope to continue to see myself with more and more clarity and to offer more and more love. I commit myself to my practice and to serving the light through teaching.

May your shadows be illuminated. May there be light where there has been darkness. May all beings be free. May there be peace.

Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah (To that principle of supreme intelligence I bow)

My Manifesto

Here is my declaration for the Manifesto Movement of May

With my feet firmly on the ground, I root down into the earth and stand for living in integrity and aligning with my most authentic truth.

With my heart wide open, I stretch up to the sky and open to and trust in the force of life that guides and supports me.

I bow forward and humbly recognize the potential that lies in vulnerability, uncertainty, and change.

I bend backwards and affirm the strength of my spirit and the courage of my heart to rise and soar to new heights.

I turn to the right where I am met with like hearts and am comforted in the power that lies within friends and community.

I turn to the left and find compassion and tolerance for those I do not yet know and whose points of view I do not agree with.

I come back to center and embrace this life.  I choose to live fully, to stand in my light, and to offer myself as a guide for others.

Stacey Rosenberg, May 8, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Become part of the movement. Declare what is true for you and post it on Manifesto Movement’s Facebook Page

Standing Together In Our Own Freedom

The letters from students continue to pour in. For most of them, John Friend has only barely touched their lives through the lineage of their local teachers.  What the students care most about is that their teachers keep offering the high quality classes they are used to, the preservation of their local communities, and to continue to use the method to create a better quality of life.

About a month ago it was Chinese New Year and I spoke about the water dragon in my classes.  For some time now, I have also believed that one of things that would happen in 2012 is that old structures of society would begin to break down because they could not be carried forward in this “new world” we are creating.  Wouldn’t you know it? The first thing on water dragon’s agenda was Anusara® Inc.  Like a tsunami, the intensity of the dragon, combined with water, leveled our hierarchical system. Now we all stand together in the horizontal model that the Rajanka tradition, the philosophy that speaks to my heart, states.  A collective of voices and talents.

Back in September I was doing my Brand Thyself session with Jess and working on a new bio. She kept saying,  “speak from your own experience, you don’t need to validate or justify it with your teachers anymore.”  She reminded me that after being a student of yoga for more than 15 years, and teaching for over 10, that I have my own credibility as a student and a teacher on the path. This wisdom has really helped me the last few months and I think it will help us all right now.

Now is the time for each of us to step deeper inside ourselves and stand upon our own experiences.  It does not mean we have to separate ourselves from Anusara, many of the teachers who resigned stated that they will continue to teach the method. But I do believe it is an opportunity to look at the places where we are not speaking from our own experience and truth or simply taking our teacher’s word for it.  It’s time for radical authenticity.  To be guided from within, to speak and act from your heart, and to live the yoga.  We can stand together in our individual freedom.

Each of us can examine our lives, whether you teach yoga or not, and move toward deeper intimacy.  Each time I speak my truth, even if it leaves me feeling vulnerable, I am living from my heart.  This is what the new era will require. Right now we are just in basic training.

There is a saying in China, you can never see the head and the tail of a water dragon at the same time.  We have no idea where this is going, we just have to stay open and present, continue to practice, and flow with it.


My Asana in the Anusara Situation

In response to inquiries from friends and colleagues, I wrote the following after spending three days at the Advanced Intensive in Miami with John Friend.

During the three days I experienced the full spectrum of emotions. As our community broke apart, so too did my heart. I came to Miami because I needed to see things for myself. I don’t make big decisions quickly, and I certainly was not going to make this decision in haste.

My original plans had me staying for the weekend workshop, too. However, after the Advanced Intensive I decided to take a vacation day in Miami and then fly out earlier than scheduled on Sunday; I have never wanted to come home so badly!

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My “vacation day” plans fell through so I have a day in Miami Beach alone. After almost two hours in the sun without sunscreen, I went to seek lunch. As I sit on this wild promenade that is South Beach, Florida, watching vacationers of all walks of life from all around the world, I so wanted my day to be like that today. I wanted to play and have fun after the intensity of these last two weeks but instead I am preparing myself to go back to San Francisco and take the seat of the teacher. So, alone it is, and I embrace this. Many in my community, both teachers and students alike, are awaiting my report. Everybody is asking, What is your stance?” These last two weeks I have been unable to take a stance. I have been quiet. I have stood still, breathed, and done my best to practice the First Principle. I have been listening inside and out, watching and waiting to see what happens, talking to a lot of different people. My feet have felt like lead, unable to make a move in either direction.

I am not going to give you an account of John said this and did that. I am just going to tell you how I feel.

I stand with my teacher John because I can’t fathom walking away from someone when they are in a time of challenge. I DO NOT stand for him continuing to teach right now, or for Anusara Inc. to go on the way it has for all these years. I stand for John finding the healing that he now recognizes is needed due to this situation.  In both public and private conversations I had with John I am led to believe he is going to seek help. I hold him in love and compassion and wish for him to look deep inside himself at his shadows and his wounds and make peace. I stand for him living with alignment between his words and actions; I stand for him to go back to the divine source that brought Anusara through him in the first place and remember his truth and his vision. I stand for him to emerge better in himself than ever before and to find a balanced and sustainable lifestyle.

I stand for the method of Anusara yoga because it has helped me heal and it’s the guide I use to help others. I have seen it work time and time again and I believe in it wholeheartedly.

I stand for the community of teachers (even those who have resigned) that I have grown to love as my brothers, sisters, and spiritual companions, and I want us all to thrive like never before. I stand for continuing to co-create something beautiful – whatever forms that ultimately takes.

I stand for my local community: for the amazing teachers that work so hard; for the students that come to class week in and week out; for the deep bonds of friendship that have been forged through this yoga. We in the Bay Area were really trying to come together in a more powerful way in 2012 and we were off to a great start. I honor our plans.

I stand for myself to find my place within all this mess; a place where I can continue to learn, grow, and expand to my full potential. I have been inquiring deep within myself: Where does the container of Anusara support me and where does it limit me? Who might I be without it? What would it be like to stay without all those who have left? Can I stay in good conscience? Will our “tribe” be able to regroup and form something new, something healthy? Will we all just be individual yoga teachers in the sea of yoga? I do not yet have all of those answers, so still I stand and wait.

For now I am standing steady to see if we can reclaim and resurrect the school of Anusara yoga apart from John. Thank you Ross, Desiree and others for your tireless work and enthusiasm. Will John make the method public domain? Will he let us adopt his child and allow us to nurture and grow it from here? Do we start something new on our own? Will John do the hard work on himself and create a collaborative organization? These answers will not come quickly and for this moment I am prepared to wait.

The last nine years have been the best years of my life and I am grateful to all of my teachers, friends, and students who have supported me. I have found immense healing in this practice and this community and I have created an amazing life for myself, all because of Anusara yoga. Yes, the system is dysfunctional as it is but I believe we all have a hand in that. I want to use this situation to look and see where I am out of alignment and continue to get better in myself. I don’t know what the next nine years will look like but I remember John always telling me, “keep lining up, I promise it will get better.” He was right, and I now delight in telling my students that from my own experience. What to align with right now, that has not yet been revealed, but I am confident that my practice will continue to lead me to my heart.  

There Is Always More

One of the things that I loved about yoga when I first began was that it became quickly clear that there is no end!  In other areas of my life I could accomplish something and then I’d get a bit bored with it.  Somehow, I knew right away that yoga was an infinite world that will always offer more. The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know anything. You are never done.  Now, I don’t say this to discourage you.  No, please don’t stop you dead in your tracks and run the other way; it’s meant to make your mouth water and whet your appetite!

Looking back, I have had many breakthroughs both in my physical practice and in my life.  It’s always a pulsation: Sometimes big openings temporarily lead to deeper contraction, and at other times it pulses closer to the center.  My journey has been arduous, unraveling knots of physical pain and injury in my body, overcoming hurts and disappointments, and dismantling old emotional patterns that at one point helped me survive in the world.   Yes, there were times I wanted to get off the train because it felt like too much, but I knew I would never be satisfied with that choice.  Now, I can proudly say that I am happier and more vibrant than ever, I have been pain free for quite a while now, and feel as though I am living in alignment with my truth.

treesYes, of course, I am still aware of subtle asymmetries, places of tension and holding.  As long as we are in a body we will experience that. But I am aware of them and feel blessed to have the finest tools on the planet to alchemize them into an even better me. (Thank you Anusara yoga!). I delight in how each opening reveals a new path to travel down.

The Upanishads state that for every 1/4 of the Universe that is revealed, there is always 3/4 more that is concealed.  So step on the path, come along for the journey, revel in the mystery, and join me in discovering the inner most depth of your consciousness.  It’s quite the ride!

Living Vibrantly: We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

Happy New Year!  I hope your first week of 2012 is off to a great start.

Personally, I am feeling very optimistic about this year.  Yes, it’s true, our world is not in the best shape and these next several months will determine a lot about where we are headed.  While this is scary, I see it as a great opportunity. I am optimistic because in my world I see people everywhere waking up.  Great beings are consciously deciding to live in greater alignment with spirit, whatever that may mean to them.  The old ways of being simply will not work in our current times.

Inspired by the awakening I am seeing around me, and remembering that we need new ways of being, my theme for the year is LIVE VIBRANTLY!. Your nature is vibrant.  The life force energy pulsing within you is vibrant.  The question is: do you have a means to access your vibrancy?

Yes, our asana practice is one of the ways to access that vibrancy, but asana alone is not enough anymore.  As your awareness increases – which is one of the fruits of the physical practice – you must make choices in all areas of your life that serve and support you.  Vibrancy must be lived.  When your entire being is radiant, your every word, your every action reflects and offers that radiance.  We must consider how we are showing up in our relationships, in our jobs, and the way we treat the planet.  You are an extension of the earth and all beings that live here. When you tend to yourself, you tend to the collective.

As yogis we can be a bridge to all of humanity. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  It’s up to us to step into living vibrantly: for ourselves, for our community, and for our planet!

In the spirit of this year’s theme to LIVE VIBRANTLY, I’ll be posting more tips over the upcoming weeks and months on how to live our yoga and access the vibrancy that is our true nature.

Radiant Earth