I love learning all the terminology of yoga, from the sanskirt asana names to the different technique names, it is almost like learning a new culture or language. Which I suppose it sort of is.
This week I popped in a newly borrowed DVD, Yoga Journal 21 Day Challenge, from the library (side note: I'm super excited that the Edmonton Public Library now loans DVDs for three weeks!) and started following my new teacher. She took me through an easy to follow sequence of poses and had me challenged throughout. What caught my attention, though, was the way she described a pose. We were "binding". Now I have to admit, this variation on the pose (bound extended side angle [Baddha Parsvakonasana] versus extended side angle [Utthita Parsvakonasana]) was different so I needed to know more.
Let me explain further...
Binding, as it is called (and I didn't realize it had a name) is when in a pose you clasp your hands together to intensify the stretch, clasp the hand and foot together to progress the pose or when the arms or legs work together by exerting equal force against each other. Here is a thorough video with many examples of poses that bind and here is a list of benefits.
In past practice, I had been doing binding poses and just didn't know it...or know how to name it...such as eagle pose (Garudasana), dancers pose (Natarajasana)
and bow pose (Dhanurasana). Now back to my practice.
Initially when my new teacher guided me into bound extended side angle, I felt apprehension. I suppose this is normal, as you think, "you want my hands to connect in which way?" However, I was pleasantly surprised that getting my hands to touch AND clasp wasn't terribly difficult. Whew! The pose was an excellent chest opener, leg strengthening challenge and mental toughness exercise.
This week's practice made me recall other binding poses that I quite enjoy and must explore in the upcoming weeks.
Not really tied up in knots, just "bound" to try more binding poses,
Depending on if you watch yoga class schedules carefully and/or have small children, you may or may not notice that there is an obvious lack of parent and toddler classes out there. I have wonder for quite sometime why they don't exist...and maybe in today's practice, I just found out why.
I've written previously about taking postnatal yoga classes and then a parent and tot yoga class. Some of the classes, particularly the postnatal classes, define what age bracket or physicality of your baby is allowed to attend. For example, it usually states in a class write up that baby should be stationary and once baby starts to move, the class is no longer a good fit. Fair enough both to other participants and to their likely smaller/younger children and to your practice as well.
Fast forward after postnatal yoga, and head into the parent and tot classes. I've had wonderful experiences in this class as the focus shifts a bit more to the tot, and rightly so, with songs and rhymes and play...along with mom doing some yoga.
We haven't attended parent and tot yoga since my son was about 16 months or about four months ago. With my mat in tow (along with monkey backpack and a ball and two trucks), I thought it best to try today. In my brilliance, I really didn't think it would be a big deal. It's in the room my son is in often and he had ample space, snacks, and toys but he hung on tight to my side. In trying to move from our starting seated position to hands and knees position, he outright got mad and tried to push me back up into the seated position. Here we sat for about 10 minutes listening to the teacher's cues. He started to become a bit more comfortable and unglued himself from my side whereby I was able to do a couple forward bends, warrior II poses and triangle pose.
Yet, he wasn't happy to stay put and ran straight out the door. When we tried to close the door and he had a mini fit. Well, that's the end of it as we had been enough of a distraction and disturbance. Out we went and hung out in the building hallways (he watching basketball and I doing poses that we're top of mind, easy to do in a hallway and ones that didn't make me stand out too much!)
Is it unreasonable to run a yoga class for parents and toddlers (approximately 8 months to 2 years)?
Should I just wait until he is old enough for family yoga (as young as 2 years up to 12 years)?
Would the class gone differently if we didn't have a new teacher (who doesn't have children and simply led a class for the moms)?
Do you think a yoga teacher can teach any age group?
Will I try the class again, I'm not quite sure.
Has your life been a bit busy lately? Does it feel like its ramped up a notch? Are you feeling September fatigue yet?
Sad to say it, but I'm feeling it! For whatever reason, the slow paced summer has turned into the scheduled (over scheduled?) September and I don't even have children in school yet! I'm feeling the hustle and bustle and busyness of the Fall.
So this week, I'm venturing into some of the therapeutic aspects of yoga. And asking the question, "what is/are the best yoga poses for fatigue?". Oh google, my friend, don't let me down!
The top three (i.e., most common poses or yogic techniques) are as follows:
1. Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) or Two Legged Table (Dwi Pada Pitham)
I started my fatigue lifting practice this week with bridge. A supine back extension is a back strengthener but also a chest opener. I initially started with my hands on my mid back to support the position but found having my shoulders folded back with my arms straight (under my torso) was a better position for me. In the pose, I had time to contemplate, why was bridge recommended to cure fatigue.
After practice and some reading, it realized that since it is such an opening pose, it allows for unrestricted breathing. And in some respects, taps into the three different locations of breathing considered in yoga (I don't fully understand that to date so I'll explore it in more detail in another post...).
And beyond breathing, in Timothy McCall's book, Yoga as Medicine, he notes that bridge is thought to help with heart disease, via the assistance in developing collateral blood vessels. But of course, this is not necessarily backed by research evidence. Interesting nonetheless.
2. Wide Stance Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
I continued my practice with wide stance forward bend. I have to admit, this is one of my favourite poses. It is in almost direct opposition to bridge so it counteracted well in the sequence I followed.
Being a forward bend, the back and hamstrings are stretched and the release is awesome (especially when you've got the flexibility). The only challenge was in the full pose, one's head rests on the floor. I have to admit, having a block with me would have made the pose better, but as time progressed I was able to get my head to the floor.
Again, thinking about how does this pose relieve fatigue, it dawned upon me that it is all about blood flow to the brain. Gravity is a huge help to let blood come back to the brain in this pose. More blood equals more oxygen which equals energy. Pretty cool how this works!
It's been balmy if not tropical here in Edmonton this week. And all I think about is the crystal blue waters of the ocean rather than the brown ripples of the North Saskatchewan river!
It seemed fitting in this week's practice that I dabble in dolphin (Makarasana) pose, which makes me think of visits to southern climates or tours on a cruise. One of the coolest things I've ever seen is a large pod (yes, this is what a group is called) of dolphins swimming in the waves next to the cruise ship I was on. Such lovely animals that glide effortlessly in the water.
Now, my dolphin pose may have not been effortless or lovely this week BUT I gave it a try!
Initially, I had thought dolphin pose was a variation of downward facing dog. However, with further exploration I soon realized it is actually a precursor to a inversions such as a headstand. The amount of force applied to the upper body, particularly the upper back musculature, is tremendous (try holding the pose for a while!) So, when you don't feel like trying an inversion, dolphin pose might be just the next best thing.
According to Yoga Journal, the benefits of dolphin pose are:
Furthermore, in Timothy McCall's book, Yoga as Medicine, it is recommends to do dolphin pose when one has carpal tunnel syndrome as there is less pressure on the wrist and the weight of the body can be held up by the forearms.
I have rarely done this pose in practice. But from what I've found, it has great value. It might be my answer to inversions for now. As you may have noticed, I've never written about them yet!
I hope dolphin pose will help me move into inversions effortlessly,
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.