This week I am in Barcelona, Spain competing in Life Fitness' Global Personal Trainers to Watch competition.
Since I am in the learning phase of my yoga training, yoga is always on my brain. Being in Spain made no difference. Thus, in the wee hours of the morning, jet-legged and all, I was up writing a yoga sequence that I could do on the Life Fitness Synrgy BlueSky.
Here is what I came up with!
Monkey Bar (Long)
Dip/Leg Raise Station
Traverse Bar (Long)
Cargo Net (Long)
Having a chance to "play" on a new piece of equipment is always fun for me. This event was an experience of a lifetime and my yoga teacher in training came along for the ride too!
Sprinkling yoga into my day to day life is just how things have to go. No formal classes or dedicated practice, just "hits" of yoga when it works. Here is a list of my current favourite yoga poses and where they fit into my day:
Yoga has to fit. And this is just how it works...for now,
In my early days of yoga practice, I have to admit that I was a bit of a props snob. Maybe because of my age or maybe because my body let me do pretty much whatever I wanted, I thought props were for the weak. But within the last five or more years of practice I have gained great respect for all yoga props.
As my body morphs into the curvy, anterior ball shape of pregnancy, the use of blocks has been essential to my practice. The two most common types of blocks available are unique and each have there own purpose. Harder wood or foam blocks act more like support as opposed to the softer rectangular foam variety that provide cushion and give.
These are my modifications to practice this week using my foam rectangular blocks (still needing to buy wooden blocks for home!):
Easy Pose (Sukhasana) & Revolved Head to Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsana)
As I've stated before, I love sitting on the ground. Yet, to give some relief to my low back, I do like to sit on my block(s). By raising the hips slightly, it causes less tension in the hamstrings and low back. These two poses were much easier with ease in my back!
Triangle Pose (Trikonasan) & Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Since my body isn't able to twist as easily these days nor bend over as far, I used my block to give some height to the pose. Placing my hand on the flat block, allowed the asana to be less strained than if I tried to reach for the ground. Not here to make leaps in my yoga practice, just wanting to maintain!
Deep Squat/Garland Pose (Malasana)
Interestingly, it is a day to day variation as to whether or not I can place my feet flat on the floor in deep squat. So on those days I can't, my best option is to place the blocks under each foot so that my heels have something to rest on. The blocks allow me to feel more grounded in a position that can be very tricky to hold and balance!
Hero Pose (Virasana)
It is nice to have variations for sitting poses. In about 1/8 of my practice do I actually sit in a kneeling position so it is a welcomed change of position. In this pose, I sat on two blocks to minimize the strain on my legs and quite frankly, allow space for the baby!
So, who knew that I'd love my yoga blocks so much. When I bought them for home, I was thinking they'd just gather dust. Now, they are a mainstay of my prenatal yoga!
Blessed to have my blocks,
34 weeks pregnant!
Can you see your feet?
I can't anymore!
But I sure know the importance of focusing on my foundation, my feet as they ache and swell with pregnancy. Twenty-six bones, 33 joints and over a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments sure makes the feet complex!
I was delighted that in this week's practice foot work was included...no, not dance moves...but concentrated yoga poses to relieve tension and strengthen the feet. The new DVD I tried this week is Zen Mama by Rainbeau Mars. Within the 40+ minute practice, we covered many yoga poses that focused on this so neglected area of the body - pregnant or not.
The most outstanding pose was the toe squat. In a kneeling position, hips over knees to start, toes are tucked under and heels are pointing up towards the ceiling. The initial tension starts to resonate down the arch of the foot. By slowly lowering hips down towards the ankles, a superb or shall I say a severe pull is felt. Yikes!
What I love most about how Mars spoke about this pose was she related the tension to the pain to be felt during labour. Being my second time around, I'm not quite sure that anything compares to labour and delivery! But nonetheless, the focused energy on keeping still, calm and relaxed with tension is not a bad habit to work on right now!
Personal question now - do your toes spread apart at all or easily?
We recently purchased a new computer and I had a chance to review some of my old files. I previously posted an old university essay I wrote in my academic yoga class but what I also found was a journal that I wrote for a class assignment.
Rewind 12 years and I was a third year university student taking yoga in my spring semester. If memory serves, I was to practice at home and write about what I did and how it went. In the next couple posts, I am going to following my student journal and complete the same poses I did back those many years ago.
This week I completed three poses at home, as I did for my journal. They include cobra pose (Bhujangasana) which oddly I called snake pose, cat cow pose ( Marjaryasana to Bitilasana) and chopping wood pose (Kashtha Takshanasana). Below are my current day assessments of each pose and the quotes are my thoughts circa 2001 on each pose.
I remember I use to struggle with this pose whereby my lower back would feel "crunched" and some discomfort would occur. I started to "get better" at this pose when Judy would ask the group to only lift our upper torso and use no hand support. This was and is the best way for me prep my spine for cobra pose. By doing a couple baby cobras using my spinal muscles to extend my back, I find my full cobra to be much more supported and less painful!
"...I felt in control of my breathing because of the concentration on the inhaling when lifting the chest and the exhalation when lowering the chest. My lower back slowly was able to lift higher off the ground as I progressed through the movement. I play some relaxation music and it helped me to move in a fluid movement."
It amazes me how adaptations can happen without even realizing it. After years of practicing yoga, I'm not sure if I truly respect how much my body has "improved", or shall I say, my flexibility and strength has improved. Using props for support has been essential to get into poses that seem challenging.
Adaptation isn't more evident than in deep squat/sitting down pose (Upavesasana) or garland pose (Malasana). Notoriously tight calves, particularly the right, have been my greatest weakness in this pose. I've placed foam blocks under my heels for many years just to get into the correct position. But, I'd have to say over past couple years (maybe increased flexibility of my joints during pregnancy), I've been very capable to flex at my ankles which allows me to get so low!
Now that low position has always made me question the pose because of my earlier schooling, is the deep squat not good for the knees? Interestingly, if you ever watch a baby or toddler squat, it is the same position as squat or garland pose. So, with that being said, this pose is probably more innate and natural than a higher positioned "fitness" squat.
In searching out more about this pose, I came across some interesting discussions. As noted above, there are two names for this pose. Not to get into much detail, it seems that there has been debate as to how the Sanskrit name was translated. What seemed to resonate in most places was that this pose is related to digestion and excrement (I see how the pose may have been a traditional position to go to the bathroom in!)
Physically, the squat position is stretching the low back, hamstrings and calves. Strength is required in the thighs and front of the shins to maintain the pose. I find the arm positioning (hands in prayer position with the upper arms pressing into the fleshy part of the thighs) maintains my balance and stability. I can't think of any other pose that releases my low back in the same way and really relaxes the pelvic floor through gravity. Squatting seems to have many health benefits and particularly helpful for preparing for birth.
I recently tried to hold my squat for a minute. Yikes! More time is needed for additional adaptation to occur. The nice thing with the squat is many variations also exist with this pose so options (in a chair, against a wall) and props (blocks, strap, rolled up mat) can help support the pose.
Looking for more adaptation,
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.