I'm reading an excellent book by Robert Holden called Be Happy. It was one of those random pick ups from the library from the shelf of recommended non-fiction reads. I partially think its the cover that drew me to it - colourful dots in a circle. Nonetheless, it has been an excellent read about his happiness course. My favorite quotes are:
"Your ego can desert your heart, but your heart cannot leave you. Thus, the enduring qualities of the heart - such as love, wisdom, courage, strength and hope - are available to you the instant you make yourself available to them."
"You do not deserve happiness because happiness is free - there are no conditions."
"...the more grateful you are, the more present you become."
"Sometimes in order to be happy in the present moment you have to be willing to give up all hope for a better past."
"To be happy is to love. To love is to be happy."
There has not been one mention of yoga in Holden's book yet, to me the connection is obvious. The ideas in his quotes align with what my understanding is of the philosophies of yoga. Has anyone EVER left a yoga class unhappy? I harbor the guess that the percentage is low if not insignificant. It has been a pleasure exploring my happiness with his book and as I read, my yoga practice almost always pops up in my head.
Now I alluded to the fact it is "my understanding" of yoga philosophy. And with that, I just started to crack the spine of another book - Yoga Sutras of Patanjai. I know very little about Patanjai and thus, have one of the many interpretations of his Sutras. Thank you library, again.
I dove in head first with my eyes searching for the word happy or happiness. I didn't have to go far to find it...
"By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards happiness, compassion towards suffering, delight towards virtue, and equanimity towards vice, thoughts become purified, and the obstacles to self-knowledge are lessened."
I, 33 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Happiness, as individual as it is, fits well with yoga in my books. It is one of the main reasons I do it and want to share it one day with others as a teacher.
This weekend's practice was full of yawns. I have to admit it was on Saturday night in my mostly dark basement. To give a perspective of how many yawns occurred, I lost track counting at 10! Was I not interested in practicing, was I bored with the DVD I was trying for the first time (Yoga for Beginners II by Patricia Walden), or was I just down right tired???
I can recall that Judy spoke about yawning in yoga class and if memory serves, it relates to listening to the bodies cues for oxygen? She welcomed yawns in her class with a chuckle and a smile! I had to explore more...
In most of my yoga inquiries, Yoga Journal always pops up and with good reason. It seems they cover all the topics I am curious about. And without fail, the first site that came up with my search was from the Yoga Journal website. The author I know well (not personally though) as I've read his book and perused his website. Timothy McCall writes about yawning during yoga. He states:
"...the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), associated with the "fight or flight" response, is more activated [during the day] than the parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of the ANS associated with rest and relaxation...Yogic breathing or practices that lengthen the exhalation relative to the inhalation can pretty quickly lead to parasympathetic dominance, and that's probably why the yawning occurs."
I couldn't have wrote it any better. That totally makes physiological sense!
Other commentary on yawning during yoga includes the need for oxygen, stretching the mouth in a yawn is just like stretching the body during asanas, and that if a yawn occurs during yoga it is due to lack of sleep!
It all seems reasonable for explanations. Later on the weekend I chalked up the yawning to needing more sleep. My Sunday nap just fit the bill.
To many more ZZZs and a few less yawns,
Side note: Interestingly, I found a book called Yawning Yoga. I'm on a hunt to find a copy for a what sounds to be a good night read!
The more I practiced yoga, the more I find areas of my body that have been neglected. Three previous car accidents have left my cervical spine (neck) in a bit of disarray. My focus has been on my hip and back for years and the neck just didn't get the well-deserved attention that it needed.
Lately, I've been working on limbering up my neck as the pain and tightness has increased. More formal treatment through chiropractic and physical therapy have been my main forms of repair; however, I've started to be watchful of my neck during my yoga practice and day to day activities. Much similar to my focus to stand straight!
This past week I borrowed the book, Yogabody: Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Asana by Judith Hanson Lasater, from the library and the first chapter I jumped into was the neck. I found two very interesting things in the chapter. The first being how the cervical spine rotates and the second being a safety precaution that is a "need to know" for an aspiring yoga teacher. Here are the details.
1. The General Rule of Side Bending and Rotation of the Cervical Spine
The Hanson Lasate writes:
"In the cervical region, side bending and rotation occur to the same side, regardless of the position of the cervical spine at the beginning of the movement. For example, when you side bend to the left, the bodies of the vertebrae also rotate to the left. In other words, as the bodies rotate right, the spinous processes [rear portion of the vertebrae] are pointing left."
Photo Credit: Yogabody: Anatomy, Kinesiology and Asana
I contemplated this idea for some time by palpating my spine and bending and rotating. The really great thing about this book is that each chapter ends with suggested asanas to try. This chapter ended with triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana) which was interesting to explore.
As the body rotates to the right in triangle pose, the natural tendency is to have the cervical spine body rotate to the right as well. Yet, in this pose the face is cued to look upwards and thus, the cervical spine is rotating in the opposite direction. Hanson Lasate writes:
"We can override this law by purposely choosing another action. But it is likely that when we do, there may be discomfort."
That's why my neck feels so awkward in triangle pose. Interesting! Next time in triangle pose, I'll listen to my body and look forward or down once the neck starts to ache.
2. Caution: Protect the Vertebral Artery
As I was reading the chapter, I came across a crucial safety precaution when moving the cervical spine in asanas. Hanson Lasate writes:
"The movement of the cervical spine can directly affect the blood supply to the brain. This artery [the vertebral artery] can be occluded [blocked] by a combination of rotation and extension...if you rotate to the right and backbend to the right you can occlude the right vertebral artery."
This makes total sene when yoga teachers are cueing a seated spinal twist. They always say keep the chin parallel to the floor because if I extended my neck backward, I would block off my main artery to my brain. A key thing for me to know when I begin to teach!
So, the neck, as many other areas of life, needs some attention. And it will be getting the care to reduce its irritation in the upcoming days and practice.
I practice yoga because personally it provides me with physical and mental benefits. I have some concrete evidence to support these benefits and at times the scientific side of me wants more.
This week I found a glimpse into what I'm looking for - scientific support for a yoga practice. The National Centre for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) produced a video showcasing a snapshot of yoga research. Interestingly, one of the researchers noted she started this work in 2005 so this area of research is relatively new. How exciting! Take a watch below:
One additional resources that is my go to for sound scientific work is Timothy McCall's book, Yoga as Medicine. As a health care professional and former graduate student, I thrive on evidence based best practice. These are two resources to keep in the back of my lulu yoga pants pockets!
It is a dream and ambition of mine to include yoga therapy in my practice as an exercise physiologist. One day...
I got it!
My comments last week led well into this week because I got to participate in corpse pose (Savasana) at a hot session at Yoga Central. And what I wrote last week completely holds true - it's both physical and mental relaxation.
Now, I'm lying there, in corpse pose, thinking WAY too much because I've started to intellectualize the pose.
However, the great thing about (some) thinking is that when in corpse pose, is it better to be in complete silence or be guided through a relaxation sequence?
I jump back to my initial practice with my home DVD (Ali MacGraw Yoga Mind and Body), where Erich Shiffmann, talks through corpse pose using wonderful words ("Keep it simple. All you do is relax everywhere and be aware how you feel...Let the relaxation spread."). So, I had the early experience with gentle talking during corpse pose. But during my last practice and many other times, teachers have left you in silence with no guidance.
Silence for me can cause my mind to be distracted and the "heavy thinking" or introspective talking starts to roll. It's not really ideal for the relaxation. I wonder, what are opinions as to what is "suppose" to happen during corpse pose.
And off I go exploring to find out....
What I find is actually not totally what I expected. I was wrong in thinking it is one or the other. But in fact, based on what I found on the Yoga Journal website, corpse pose is to be practiced in silence. But it is the preparation or the lead up to the corpse pose where some talking can occur. I also found a great article for teachers about how to incorporate corpse pose which gave me further insight.
With some self-reflection, I think I do need a form of transition into corpse pose (i.e., guided relaxation) so that the voice in my head is calmed and quieted as I relax into the pose.
With my exploring, I found a great piece on corpse pose etiquette here. I got a good chuckle from this one! And a quick tips list here.
Oh so very interesting this journey. And it continues...
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.