This week I tried something different...
With the kids not napping or shall I say napping shorter, I've come to the realization that for my yoga practice to happen on a weekly basis, I will need to start a morning practice.
Don't get me wrong, I love morning workouts BUT I'm not at my peak intellectual self in the morning. Well, what does that have to do with it?
My mind, body and spirit love the practice yet my brain isn't ready to write or even contemplate the practice like I do in the daytime.
Hence, it will take me a bit more effort to compose a blogpost after a relaxing and nourishing practice before I *actually* wake up!
This week I thought it was suitable to practice an actual morning practice - Greet the Day Yoga. And thank you Adriene!
I love sequences. Maybe its from my step aerobic days or even further back, my synchronized swimming days. Each asana has a particular order it follows and they usually stay in that sequence. But when they DON’T, it really can be a shake up. Like I said, my brain is not in high gear so when Adriene threw an alternate way to sequence the asanas, I really had to stop and think it through!
Let me explain…
Moving on the sagittal plane, I followed the direction into the low lunge transitioning into an overhead arm position. The first sprinkles of the frontal plane movement began as we moved into half moon-like arms. The lower body maintained the sagittal position while the upper body was moving on the frontal plane.
Okay - done that before…
But what was different was how we moved the lower body into a frontal plane. Now simple as it is, it really changes the sequence of the asanas. No critique here, only a reflection on how it is possible to move the body in this way. I had never done this before.
The arms retreat from overhead with the hand on the same side as the front leg coming down to the foot. The back leg then rotates at the knee, which “forces” the hips to open and the body arrives on the frontal plane. The other arm joins in by reaching overhead in a modified extended side angle pose.
Never once had I moved from a low lunge into an extended side angle pose. It had never occurred to me that that was an option.
It was smooth and boy, did I like it! It almost allowed for an alternative way to open the hips while the knee stayed on the ground. Possibly more focus on the upper body too (no longer worried about keeping the leg up and the back foot grounded).
So, for a morning practice, I had to have my motor neurons firing!
Who knew that such a small and simple change could open my eyes into something new.
Contemplating alternative asana sequencing…and switching my hours around,
Remember those shirts?! No Fear!
That was my first thought when I practiced yoga this week. A friendly but in your face brand of the 1990s!
How appropriate to start the 201st week of yoga without any fear?
In my case, I try my hardest to let go of as much fear as I can but it still creeps into my life. My yoga life, not so much. Why? Probably years of yoga practice can build confidence in the poses. Yet, there are some poses that can be scary, particularly the ones you can fall over in.
And that is just what was the challenge in No Fear Yoga.
Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) can be a bit intimidating. Trying to balance on one leg while keep the body parallel to the floor, arms outstretched above the head AND the suspended leg in line with the rest of the body.
No small feat!
Just like flying is scary for some, Warrior III puts your body into space as if you are flying. It was kind of cool to listen to the birds on the video while in the position. I don’t miss the congruity of the sounds.
Warrior III is an excellent balance pose but it also challenges the core and the back body. No fear required to get those benefits!
The second pose in my no fear practice was crane/crow pose (Bakasana). Another pose that elicits fear of falling on your face! Perfect for the no fear yoga!
It always seems that crow pose is left to the end of practice. This week being no exception. Is this because one has less monkey chatter inside his/her head at this point in the practice? For me, fear seemed to have risen at the end as I had kids tromping around upstairs when they were suppose to be having a nap and quiet time. No fear of the pose, more about fear of my yoga practice ending!
Needless to say, my fear got the best of me as I fumbled with crow pose and wasn’t able to settle enough to get into the pose. One foot off the ground, with the tips of the toes of the other foot on the ground.
Nothing trumps the thoughts of fear…even though it was a made up fear in my head! Perfect illustration via this pose.
Oh well, another day, another chance to suspend myself off the ground with crow pose!
Continuously throwing fear by the wayside,
If you have ever felt your muscles shutter with the shakes, you’ll understand the challenge that is this week’s yoga practice.
I was ready for a “yoga workout” this week. I scoured videos and landed on the glorious Yoga with Adriene’s Deepen & Flow practice. It sounded like the right fit as the summary listed “cultivate some heat!”. Heat equals hard working yoga in my world!
The practice took me through some challenging low lunges and quick(er) flows of downward facing dogs and planks. I had thought most of the challenge was done when we transitioned into a standing balance sequence. It was unique and novel and I loved it!
Let me spell it out…
I was guided into chair pose by sending the hips back first followed by bending the knees. It felt like more of a traditional squat but was happy to lower my butt towards the ground. The pose transitioned into a single leg stance with the ankle of one foot onto the thigh/knee of the supporting leg. Kind of like a figure four position or modified pigeon pose. If that wasn’t challenging enough, without touching the raised foot down to the floor, move the lifted foot back by pressing it back into Warrior III pose.
Maybe if you do it once.
But we repeated it three times!
By having the hips and knees flexed, it allowed the body to be “closed” initially then transitioned into an “open” position into the Warrior III. The gluteus maximus of the support leg plus the core needed to be engaged to allowed the flow of the poses together.
And where was the shakes, you may ask?
By the third and final repetition, “crazy prana [was] running through the body” and the support leg shook! So much so that the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings all had a fun dance together!
I haven’t felt that muscle shake feeling since participating in a Barre class…if you don’t know, that is was happens in barre classes! Fighting it doesn’t work, moving through the shakes is what works the muscles best.
Now this sequence was a "full body experience”!
It was a combination of balance, strength and stamina all rolled up into one! Something to keep in mind for future teaching as a “simple” way to challenge a class - combine three poses into one and repeat, repeat, repeat.
I know I sure got the work intended!
Lift your arches.
I've heard it.
I've processed it.
But let's be honest, I've never really got how to do it until NOW.
This weekend I was privileged to attend multiple sessions with yoga therapist, Suzette O'Bryne at the Provincial Fitness Unit of Alberta's Fit Rendezvous conference. I was happy to get up at 6:15 am on Saturday morning as I headed to the first conference session, Yoga Therapy: Restoring Function. Suzette led the group through multiple body compensations that are common in practice.
Although there were many excellent insights from the session, the one I grabbed onto was the whole idea of lifting the arches. Let's be frank, my mountain pose always needs work. I try my hardest on standing straight but over the years of shifting my weight towards one hip, it is a constant struggle to get my posture correct.
I've practiced narrowing my focus to my feet, it's my foundation no doubt. Yet, never could quite get HOW to use my arches along with my toes.
No more questions now!
Drum roll please….it’s the talent of the big toe!
It's amazing to me how textbook knowledge, when not practically applied is lost. I went straight back to my anatomy to figure out just what was going on with my lifted arches.
To my surprise, when I found the muscle at work, flexor hallucis longus, it made total sense! Of course when pressing down on the big toe (hallux) I would be using a flexor! Did I remember that fact from Anatomy 100?
But now it has application!
Essentially, Suzette had us watch our arch when we pressed down or flexed the toe into the ground. Flexor hallucis longus can be seen moving upwards in the arch. Tension can also be felt. Now go on and try it!
I continued to be curious, as all good students of anatomy are, to ponder what other muscle groups are at play with the arches of the feet. Low and behold, tibialis posterior is at work to help keep the arches lifted. I chuckled to myself when I found this information because I’d always wondered how to activate my tibialis posterior. Interesting, as I wear orthotics to support my arches. Maybe my tibialis posterior is lazy and needs some work!
All and all, what a fantastic start to my conference weekend! I constantly was activating my arches all weekend long…on the indoor cycling bikes, during lectures and while throwing around a moveBALL.
To make my week complete, I capped it off with Yoga for the Feet (from you know who, Adriene)!
Keep on lifting my sweet dear arches,
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.