What did the preschooler say to his mom at 3 am, 4 am, and 5 am?
You ain't gonna be up for yoga at 6:45am!
That was my night before my planned yoga this week. Funny how my preschooler has no idea what my yoga schedule is the next morning!
Needless to say, I squeezed in my yoga session during the day while the kids had some quiet time. Remarkably, I was able to enjoy a 40 minute session without one interruption…only the pitter patter on the floor above me!
I was drawn to the Yin/Yang Yoga for the Shoulders and Upper Back from Do Yoga with Me as I really enjoy the combination of the two. I seem to get excellent results from the balance of the two styles of yoga. Last week’s practice also demonstrated to me that my neck is super tight so a focus on the shoulders and upper back was a welcomed focus for the week. So much cycling, it takes a toll on my upper back and neck!
Sarah Jane Steele led the session with the Yin practice first. We completed three Yin poses that were meant to open the body, open the body's meridians and likely open the mind to practice. She commented that,
…the essence of Yin is to get deep below your superficial muscles, get right down to the fascia, the area around the joint and the meridians of your body. So the more you can just released your face, take all the muscular energy out of the shoulders and the chest, the more you will be able to release into this posture.
We proceeded into our Yang practice. As I’ve noted before, Sarah Jane has challenged me with new sequences that gave my practice a boost. This week was like no other. As she directed me into the “threading the needle pose”, I thought, “I got this!”
Surprisingly, my main take away was an easy way to intensify the upper back stretch in this pose. No equipment needed, except for my hand. Let me explain…
In hands and knees position, we pressed our hips back to our heels while keeping the arms out stretched in front of the body. Slowly lifting one arm up to the sky, rotate at the torso for a nice opening, then slowly lower the arm and tuck it under the outstretched support arm. Weight of the body is now on the outside of the bottom or “threaded” arm. So - the same movement as usual.
I was cued to actually manipulated the scapula.
How you may ask?
By grabbing ahold of the opposite scapula with the “threaded” arm’s hand and gently pulling away from the mid line of the body. By doing so, the extra pull provided a traction to really open up between the scapula.
All I needed was to use my hand to further open the distance between my two shoulder blades!
As you can imagine, 40 minutes of focus on my shoulders and chest has really helped to open my upper body. I do still feeling tension in the base of my neck and of course down by that pesky left hip but at least a little bit looser in between my scapula!
That, my yoga loving friends, was pretty cool. I've never done that before and the most self-care for the shoulders and back that I given in a long while!
The continuation of yoga in the morning has been a delightful way to start the day but poses (no pun intended!) some challenges in writing about them after the fact.
This week’s practice I was in a state of sleepiness. I closed my eyes for the majority of the first 10-15 minutes of practice. Lovely as it sounds and great way to come into the morning, I hesitate with my recall of the practice. Thank goodness for voice memos on my phone to save my thoughts at the end!
I chose this week’s practice, as it sounded well-suited to my morning self. Or at least my anticipated morning self. Late night and early morning only speaks to the practice title, Deepening Relaxation. I also noted that I had yet to participate in any of Satiya Channer’s Do Yoga with Me videos so I was looking forward to a new voice, new method and new type of practice.
It fit EXACTLY what I needed.
The practised eased in with a comfortable pace where we focused on openers for the hips, leg and shoulders. But initially a much needed focus on the neck and breath was so appreciated. I find not many yoga practices focus on the neck. I haven’t run across any particular “neck asanas” and wonder do they really exist? The varied breath work definitely helped guide me through the tension my neck possesses.
The slow start led to a very relaxed practice yet with concentrated effort. It allowed the body to let go.
Don’t know how that happened but it was blissfully welcomed.
Points of tension cropped up somewhat unexpectedly. My neck, side body and back really talked back. Maybe it was the relaxation that allowed my body to unraveling.
Staff pose was difficult. I sensed that my pelvis was out of alignment and noted to myself, “it’s best to book in to see my trusted chiropractor soon!”
I loved how the practice was calming yet enlightening. Quiet but loud (my body spoke in a very loud tone at times!) And peaceful and grounding.
Who doesn’t want to start your day like this?
Oh, the little gems I pick up every time I go to the mat.
This week is like no other…
I’ve talked about forward fold and it’s “sister”, half forward fold in the past. I so frequently move through these postures that I’ve forgotten my initial physiological investigation (really?) from way back when. This week’s practice, again, shot me back to my thoughts on what is happening between these two poses.
Recall - okay - guessing you haven’t read the post before. Let me recap…
My hypothesis is that the half forward fold is used to activate the golgi tendon organ via Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching. The hamstring stretch increases after each subsequent half forward fold as you move back into a forward fold. Still no answer to be found on my end if this is the case.
Nonetheless, in this week’s practice I was given the gift of another option in the forward fold position.
Adriene’s ("Beach Body Yoga") Balancing Ocean Flow was a sight to be had. The practice was located on a lovely patio looking out onto the ocean. Not clear where it was but absolutely a gorgeous view. If you don’t feel like practicing, watching the waves may be just all you need!
We worked through three variations of the half forward fold, primarily changing the placement of the hands:
1. The half fold with the palms of the hands on the thighs, upper arms parallel to the torso to find length in the spine.
2. The palms stay lower and rest on the shins. Still encouraged to lengthen the spine yet the arms are given more space and the hamstrings are taxed, or shall I say stretched a little bit more.
3. The final version is what left me to ponder even more. Adriene directed me keep the hands on the floor yet lift the hips by plantar flexing the feet or shall I say in more entertaining words, coming up on my tippy toes.
I almost stopped the video so I could keep trying the half forward fold from the tippy toes. I had never done this version before. Adriene alluded to the fact it was more of an ashtanga version so I’m left guessing it is more dynamic and thus likely found in an ashtanga practice. Not sure on that one either…
But it did get me thinking about my hypothesis above. AND it made me realize (duh?) that forward folds are not just about the hamstrings but the calf muscles too! Essentially, coming up on the toes contracts the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) and in effect the same mechanism of the golgi tendon organ is working. Contract the muscle to then relax and let it be stretched further in the full forward fold.
Care to chime in on my hypothesis? Feel free to leave any and all insight below in the comments!
I’ve got so many questions and a few answers. More to learn,
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.