Category Archives: Asana

Constructing Yoga Postures Properly

Yoga postures (asana) provides a lifetime of healthy physical movement when performed with proper construction.

A Yoga posture, or asana, is a guide for strengthening the body’s ability to move, function and heal. Yoga postures are in perpetual motion. The motion, however, is usually microscopic. At a neuromuscular level, the motion is muscle tissue, heart rate, and bone in constant adjustment and alignment. There is never a static moment. This is the way asana reconstructs our body. A “picture” of a yoga posture is like a snapshot of motion in time.

Viewing a photo of a yoga posture and creating it, is like photographing an automobile and labeling it “how to build a car.” To put it another way, viewing a yoga pose and attempting to replicate it is not as easy as it seems.  What the photo shows is a result of something that has gone through a construction process. There are many details involved in the process. There’s more than meets the eye. Therefore, construction without proper instruction can create a less than beneficial experience, whether building a car or a yoga asana.

The quality is in the construction

The quality of the construction of a yoga posture is where the quality of your results lie.  “How to build an automobile” would show detailed instructions of every aspect of the process. It would take into consideration, details related to durability, functionality and style. The same goes for yoga asana.  There are many details in the process. Details can be microscopic. Details that can only be discovered and experienced by the creator, you!

The power and magic of yoga posture is in the details of how to construct it. If you are constructing it with poor quality parts, the longevity or benefits will not be as noticeable.  So a photo of a yoga posture is only a veneer of what’s underneath. You can put a Mercedes emblem on a K-car but it won’t change the quality. This is to say that the picture is not the experience. Similar to a Hollywood movie where the store front is only a prop. There’s nothing behind it.

OR

I have a  video here,  to share more about this concept.

Many people today get fooled on how difficult certain physical feats can be. They’ll watch a video and see how easy the person makes it look. However, we all know there’s more to the process than meets the eye. Like Olympic champions, there’s a process far deeper than the race itself.  It’s like the “People are awesome VS Fail Army” videos.

Actors can pretend to be superheros and dancers can pretend to be yogis.  However it’s important to remember yoga is about the details of construction, not snapshots in time.

How to build your car

In the scope of yoga posture, this phrase is important to remember: “Yoga is not about standing on your head. It’s about standing on your own two feet.”

To be able to stand tall is a monumental feat. Knowing how your feet are placed and how your muscles support your posture is a profound step in knowing how to build an asana. When standing, feel all edges of your feet embracing the earth. Allow your toes to spread open to support your stance. When bending forward, allow the spine to lengthen throughout the entire movement.

There are little elements in each posture that make big differences. Little adjustments in alignment can make for a more painful process, but bring the benefits that might have been missed. I can make a slight adjustment to a student’s pose that may take months for them to perfect.  Without knowledge of the adjustment, they would build a poor quality structure.

YOGA asana proper alignment

Example:

A young woman in class is comfortable sitting on her heels with her toes pointed outward and her buttocks on the floor. This sitting posture created a lateral twist of the knee and excluded the alignment for stretching the foot.  I gave her the task of keeping her foot in-line with her leg in order to sit over the feet and help open up the muscle and tendon tissue in the top of the foot. Therefore it allowed stretching the flexors of the foot. This was painful experience for her, but eventually she created greater ROM (range of motion) in her flexion and extension of the foot.

As you build your masterpiece, think of structural alignment. Play with your movements and expand your capabilities. In doing so, you will progress much smoother with greater confidence.

Where are the instructions?

While it’s nice to have a great guru by your side, sometimes all you need is your mat. Each pose has attributes to its design you must follow.  Therefore, attend a class with a knowledgeable instructor or attend my Online Classes opening this spring. Until then, get a good book like my favorite, Total Yoga.

A book can describe alignment in detail. This can be better for comprehension than trying to listen to an instructor. Remember, each posture reconstructs your body for maximum movement and function. The key to success is performing the asana correctly.

Remember to cultivate mindfulness of alignment while you practice. The practice of Iyengar Yoga, BKS Iyengar, is known for its detail of alignment.

How does your body react? When in a pose, stay long enough to look at your posture. How is your breathing? Are you relaxed or stressed? Is your heart rate even? Are you engaging the posture enough to warm the body?

Align with your reflection

A mirror can help you discover alignment. Is your foot straight? Are your arms straight? Are your knees bent, locked, etc? After awhile you can feel the alignment from within and will need the mirror less and less. So you will begin to feel the pose more clearly.

A yoga mirror can help align what you feel about your posture and how it really is.

Yoga is a method of exercises to strengthen all aspects of our lives. It’s not a sporting event or race. Yoga can prevent injury and enhance your physical performance.  Yoga is the “practice.” Remember the reason for the asana is the time to strengthen the body, mind and spirit.

Yoga Asana building space
Create an inspirational yoga workspace.

For more instruction, please attend my online yoga classes beginning this spring. In doing so, you will receive much clarity of the process of health and rehabilitation.

Learn more in my post about Mindfulness in Yoga.

Blessings on your journey!

Elenture Full-Zip Exercise Yoga Mat Carry Bag with Multi-Functional Storage Pockets (Stripe)

 

 

Cardiovascular Fitness with No-impact Yoga

No-impact yoga exercise provides cardiovascular fitness.

When folks speak of “cardio exercise” they usually refer to treadmills, stair-stepping, running, or attending an aerobics class. Many have been programmed to believe this is how we develop cardiovascular fitness. Yoga is cast off as for stretching or meditation. However, cardiovascular fitness can be developed in some healthy No-impact alternative ways.

The truth of cardiovascular exercise is having capable supply of oxygen in the blood. Understanding this can help  develop  cardiovascular strength using low or no impact exercise. We can even develop cardiovascular strength without moving at all!

Read on…..

Developing cardiovasular strength, low impact health yoga
Camelback hiking with YogaDoug,

I was living in old town Scottsdale, Arizona, the quaint little center of Scottsdale with the original buildings from the cowboy era.  Just a short distance from where I lived was Camelback Mountain, a small, but tall mountain in the middle of metropolitan Phoenix famous for hikers and runners. I enjoyed the steep uphill cardiovascular exercise it provided. An average hiker can make it to the peak in 45 minutes to an hour. The fastest time on record is 27 minutes by a local woman. The climb is strenuous and the decent can be dangerous bouncing from boulder to boulder.

My times were above-average, and I had record times on the decent. I could fly down that mountain in 14 minutes. I loved bouncing from boulder to boulder, but the impact slowly took its toll on my already challenged knees. After several months of this strenuous and challenging exercise my knees began to hurt…. a lot. So I stopped.Low impact exercise esier on the joints, yoga for health

I resorted to only practicing yoga.

I went back to Bikram yoga and stayed away from any running and other fast-moving exercise altogether. For months I refrained from any traditional cardiovascular exercise, only Bikram yoga. This series are simple static poses that help rebuild connective tissue and increase blood flow.

Bikram Yoga, low impactexercise, yoga for cardiovascular strength

I practiced these postures with great determination and power. Never did I learn so much about using my breath to get through the strain of holding postures for up to 60 seconds. I felt very strong, but was concerned I was losing my cardiovascular fitness.

After six months, my knees felt great and I had a real urge to climb that mountain! I was a bit afraid that I lost the cardiovascular strength I created in my months of running.

yoga for exciting low impact cardiovascular health.
Tired of high impact exercise

The sweaty, heart pumping exercise of Bikram yoga is the most intense exercise I’ve ever done and continues to be the exercise I default to when I know my body needs rehabilitation, but I felt it was different from the running that traditional American exercise scientists say is what’s needed for cardiovascular fitness.

So early one morning I was fired up, feeling good and full of energy. I wanted to get outdoors and climb. The cross-trainer shoes were dusted off and I fitted myself for the climb. That morning I was expecting to do my best and just have fun.

I got there early enough to find a parking spot, consumed a little more water, tightened my laces and headed for the trail head. My energy was so high I began the flatter portion at the beginning of the trail with a  jog. That jog, however, just naturally became faster…..and faster. When the incline increased and the boulders came into the picture, my speed increased with it! I was feeling natural at a faster pace more than ever before!  In fact, as the hike went on I never slowed down.  I ended up sprinting three quarters of the way up the mountain, a feat I never even came close to before. My heart was under control and I felt stronger than ever.

personal power, cardiovascular strength yoga

Here I was, an avid yoga practitioner, but I was still a newbie to the deep learning experience of yoga. By not running and only practicing the compression and static postures associated with Bikram Yoga, I come to understand the reality of “aerobic” exercise. The key to strong aerobic capacity is the ability to increase the capacity for oxygen in the blood.  Strong breath with heart pumping energy is the key. What I found out is you don’t need the fast-paced high impact sports to do this. In fact, Bikram yoga brought my heart and breath rate up higher than any other form of exercise I’ve practiced, second to motocross of course.  I brought myself to the edge in every posture. It was Vo2 max to the max.

Today, the one thing I do regularly is deep breathing exercise.

Deep breathing, in its own right, raises the heart rate. I have found even today, if I keep up with my breathwork, I can lift heavy weight and maintain an easy heart rate even if I’ve been away from exercise for several months.  I also see how people put extreme stress on their heart by not having the capacity to bring oxygen into the blood. The heart must pump harder to get what little oxygen there is in the blood to the muscles.

Yoga for cardiovascular strength and joint health
Inspirational yoga

It’s common sense. If you want to increase oxygen/blood capacity, practice breathing more. To increase the heart rate, it can be as simple as standing on one leg.  Try standing perfectly still on one leg for sixty seconds without wobbling and tell me how that goes.

“The bottom line is that the intensity at which you perform an activity determines if it’s aerobic or anaerobic.” –MedicineNet.com

The other powerful component to the Bikram series is its compression effect.

Many yoga poses compress the body. They compress the skeletal muscles as well as the internal organs. This compression affect flushes the muscle by squeezing them. Mr. Bikram refers to this as “wringing out that dirty dish rag.” You wring it out and allow fresh oxygenated blood to rush in when you release the compression.  In doing this you are purifying the system and charging the body’s regeneration factor.

Yoga for joint health , cardiovasular power
Bikram Champion yoga rehabilitation specialist

yoga for well being health and personal strength
Be joyful and praise your light

So, between heart pumping, holding your body weight postures, powerful breathing, compression and stretches, you know there is way more to the asanas of yoga than meets the eye. You can build your cardiovascular power without ever running again…. and if you want the outdoors, just practice in your favorite nature spot. You don’t need a mat or any props. Learn to use your body the way the original yogis had shown us. The best thing of all is that the more you practice, the healthier your joints become because we all know what the common results of high impact exercise is (long term injury) and we all want to avoid that. Check out my Natural Health Insights page for more.

Discover an old science and new understanding of our body as a self-contained module for all your health and healing needs.

~YogaDoug

Mindfulness for Greater Benefits within Yoga Postures

Mindfulness is a secret ingredient to achieving greater health benefits within yoga and other healing modalities.

To an experienced practitioner we understand that the yoga postures, even with their specific names, are only guides along a certain path. A yoga pose is not a finished product. The benefits are revealed during the process. The only thing we seek to obtain is to be 100% present within our body as we move through the yoga postures, opening, strengthening, lengthening, healing, restructuring. Learning to be present to how our body transforms, this is Mindfulness.  In any posture, there is always something more that can be transitioned through. Each and every yoga posture holds benefits that exceed our expectations.

yoga alignment and proper movement

What it is we are actually doing in “yoga.” What are the yoga postures all about?

yoga is great for skiers!

Think of yoga asanas, or postures, as a ski hill. We all go down the same hill. Some take the bunny slope and others take the steeper trails. The hill is the same.  This is why you see photos of people in Standing Bow Pulling Pose, some with their back stiff and straight and foot  barely over their hip and others with their back nicely curved and leg way up over their head. It’s the same pose just different levels, same beauty. The beauty is that both can have the same amount or lack of mindfulness.

beginners finding the beauty of yoga posturesAdvanced flexibility in yoga postures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The benefits are the same no matter what level one practices at.

Every advanced posture starts with a basic move. Think of it like the ski hill,  learning to stand on your skis is the first step to conquering the hill. Standing on two feet without falling over must be mastered  before we practice standing on one leg. We think of it as mindfulness creating clarity for where we are in our endeavors.

Standing pose can be of great benefit in yoga

Yoga teachers won’t expect you to reach completion, but rather be conscious/ mindful of your movements. This is why all levels of practice benefit the same. Mindfulness keeps us in check.

Hatha Yoga.

In every yoga posture there are two forces at work, hence the meaning of Ha-tha, sun and moon. There is strength and  flexibility, the agonist and antagonist muscle reactions. One muscle contracts while another, or others in a muscle group, relax. Therefore each pose contains two reactive forces.

agonist antagonist muscle in yoga

Within the yoga poses is also the compression or tourniquet effect. Internal organs muscles and tissue are compressed and squeezed in many yoga postures. The idea is like squeezing and flushing as if ringing out a dirty towel. The compression forces fluid out, and on the release, allows fresh blood to come through. I’ve found these compression aspects to be of very high value in my practice.

low back pain releiver

No matter how in-depth or uncomfortable a yoga posture is, they all become the same when you approach them carefully with mindfulness. So think of mindfulness in yoga postures like  driving your car at night around a blind corner.  Going too fast can lead to collision with an unforeseen obstacle. Therefore the approach to each pose should be done with mindfulness.

Douglas King inspirational yoga teacher

The proverbial man in meditation IS the clear depiction of yoga.

One pointed focus is what becomes meditation.  It’s Inner focus and attention in the moment which provides insights leading to transformation.

I’ve taught beginners who are masters at mindfulness. I’ve also witnessed advanced practitioners become frustrated in their practice from expectation. This becomes our challenge. The path of mindfulness is like a blending of two worlds, of doing and not doing.

Any gymnast or dancer can do “poses” easy. Don’t let people with advanced body movements influence you. It is the process of the pose that defines your level of yoga understanding.

It takes practice….lots of it. By the way, that’s why we call it a yoga “practice.” Keep it up.

For a more in-depth look at this process, please attend one of my new ONLINE YOGA CLASSES  beginning in April! For my first students there will be a significant discount for joining.

Aloha

Coastline Complexity – Our Two Earth Worlds

Our coastline boasts great beauty, but can be something of a paradox.

Coastlines the merging of two worlds, water-world with land, the underworld with the over-world.

the ancient seas and our two worlds
Coastline Complexity

Where coastlines exist, humans find magic.  We ponder life, seek answers and appreciate nature’s magnificence.  While living most of my life within coastal cities, I have found the magnificence of the coastline carries some interesting oppositions. A coastline draws the wealthy to build homes and the homeless to find comfort.  The coastline is also where waste pushed into the sea is returned to  land. On the most isolated beaches we find tons of waste returned from the sea. On warm weather beaches, homeless and the destitute leave waste of their own.

Coastlinesare the dumping point for our misdeeds

All walks of life seek to retreat and vacation on coastlines. We swim in the water where it is safe,  safe from the wild deep and dangerous creatures, but it’s the crust, the outer edge, the dregs of earth’s ripple we swim.

The coastline can be like a kitchen blender stirring and breaking everything up into small pieces including body parts of those using the coastline as a sport. We find treasures and secret messages in bottles sent out to sea in hopes of reaching a magical outcome. Our fantasy with the coastline runs deep. Even the Sirens of Mythology used the coastline to attract and destroy those whom fall prey to the voice of the coastline creatures.

taming the oceans waves  Surfing the edge of our coastline

Coastlines are transition points.

Rogue waves consume land life.  Others leap from the mystery of life on the edge of seaside cliffs. There is a human drive to see and feel the coastlines beauty unaffected by the transitional boundary lines.

Rouge waves on our coastlines

We fall into the fantasy of white water.  As a child this white water was mingled with black tar which took hours to scrub off and fade away.   Many sprinkle the ashes of loved ones on the waters edge, as if the sea entitles them to merge with a stronger force, to spread throughout the planet and travel to distant worlds.

offering ashes of loved ones from our coastlines

On a Santa Monica beach, a rogue wave washed my infant body from the comfort of my mothers arms under our shaded beach blanket. When the wave retreated I was found lying in the arms of earths sandy berm.  To this day I get anxious when I’m away from the sea for too long.  Sometimes I feel my infant body replaced with the spirit of another,  a more watery being. Or did the feeling of our saline earth washing over my new skin possess me to never forget….

we are earths mystery

We are water creatures on land. We are the mystery.

In yoga we seek to always be in the mystery. Surrendering allows us to experience the now. Yoga asanas or postures become an intense experience with the attitude of surrender. We learn to be unknowing. We practice without expectation, for the wave of uncertainty looms in every moment. Seeking to be present allows the subtle energy of life show us who we are.

 Beach yoga, headstands on the coastline

 

Yoga and Your Body Type

Yoga is adaptable to every body type and requires knowledge of how our body is suited for each movement.

Practicing yoga is a powerful way to strengthen and heal.  However, it requires the ability to adapt your body to function within each pose. Our yoga practice requires us to realize the challenges we face in achieving the benefits in yoga related to our body type. Let’s look at your body type today in our blog class for yoga and your body type.

Jay, the Russian fitness trainer strapped me into a leg machine then stopped and said, “I didn’t realize you were so tall. Are you over six feet?” Why do you ask, said I?  He told me that the length of my legs were equal to a body over six feet tall.  It was then I had a revelation about my body type and subsequent excuses for why I couldn’t perform certain fitness or yoga exercises.

Stand me next to the shortest person in the room then have us sit down side by side. Whilst I tower over the short person standing, they suddenly become taller than me when we sit next to each other. With these super long legs comes a short torso. I sometimes wonder how all my organs fit into such a small space and another reason why my rib cage is so large. Point being, my structural uniqueness carries with it some challenges and some advantages.

Structurally speaking leg lifts or boat pose “Navasana” are the most traumatic exercise experiences for me while bike riding is the most structurally easy exercise. In leg lifts my torso has to nearly be on the floor to counterbalance my legs. In bicycle riding, my long legs provide great muscle mass for peddling while the short torso keeps my center of gravity lower.

Many new to the practice get frustrated by body type comparisons.

Why some postures are such a challenge when others can master such postural moves easily. It is really all about our physiology.

I had a friend who mastered a head stand from a wide leg position and other arm balances easy.  Like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, he had a long torso and short legs. He is 6’4″ and our legs are the same length. His extra length is in the torso. He could put his head to the floor easy because of his structure. It was almost as if his legs would naturally come off the ground to accommodate his torso. With such mass in the upper body, inversions are easier. Many think inversions are the end-all to mastering yoga when in fact inversion postures are simply another direction to test the body. Some find it easy some do not.

Here is a visual of the differences between torso body types, the weight and mass of the legs  in comparison to the torso.

Structural differencesDaily movements of our body requires finding our center of gravity.

Gravity is what we work with to move ourselves.  When we begin a practice of yoga we become aware of our structural design and integrity.

Early on in yoga practice people use structural design as an excuse as to why they can’t do certain postures. I tried it, but my teacher wouldn’t buy into my excuses and called me lazy. Over time I simply became more aware of myself, dropped the ego expectation and humbly worked within my framework.

We all have structural differences which make certain activities easy and others more difficult. If you’ve ever played an auto racing video game, before the game starts you get to design your car. The design of the car will provide the parameters from which you get to experience the race.

Select your car

Whatever our structural design we all benefit from the yoga practice

Eventually we will be able to perform all the poses in the class. I see students struggle with expectation and humiliation but the humbling effect brings one further into the benefits of the practice.   Remember yoga is simply a process of understanding.

Whatever your belief or excuse about your body type, it’s the starting point to becoming aware of who you are. All the poses I had excuses for have now become easy.  This is true with any perceived limitation of health or ability. When we release the expectation and ego, we can begin to discover the magic of who we are.

Blessings on your journey. I’ll see you in class.

~Douglas

Injured? Don’t Do Yoga!!

“Don’t do yoga.” It’s something I’ve heard students and clients tell me as their doctor’s or therapist’s instructions. Yoga has a broad based history in supporting injury and healing. Yoga not only helps prevent injury but increases the healing process. Unfortunately our modern medical model doesn’t quite understand what it’s all about. Read on for a look into this issue in today’s class blog.

“Injured? Don’t Do Yoga!!

There is something deep and fundamentally disruptive with this level of intellect. First off  “yoga”  in itself is such a general statement about a system of practices for a healthy lifestyle. Yoga is about the way one perceives life. Surely the doctor didn’t mean: you’re injured, stop perceiving life with gratitude. Of course not. It’s simply our western model of health care. A model which is fundamentally sickness management, and the longer you can manage someone’s sickness or injury, the longer you make money. There is no education regarding the ancient secrets of health within the typical practitioners of western medicine.

What the doctor is referring to, I’m sure, is “do not attend a yoga class.” Another reality is that yoga, like medicine, has been reduced in it’s effectiveness and away from the wisdom of inner self. It’s now an exercise routine performed as an athletic competition. Many classes do not properly train an individual for the greatest accomplishment in yoga, to do nothing and be happy. The state of being is what matters in all circumstances.  So yes, the fast paced or poorly directed classes are not properly suited for injury care.

Yoga in its clearest form teaches the wisdom of doing no harm. Do no harm to the body. Do no harm to the mind. Treat yourself with respect and listen deeply to your inner wisdom.

Depending upon the extent of the injury, yoga can be used to learn the lesson of rest and using healing energy, or used to circumspect the range of injury through gentle movement. Yoga can be used for healing at every level of injury. What is needed is not less yoga, but more education for what is yoga.

In health and prosperity

~Douglas

 

Words of Wisdom from Dear Teachers

Namaste all.  I have put together some of my favorite quotes from the beautiful Douglas and also my great inspiration, Andrey Lappa.  I hope you enjoy! ;o)  (I am overflowing here, so ready to go!) ~Shalyn Bauschlicher, Associate Yoga Teacher

Douglas King:

*The vital understanding of man on this earth and our relation to the heavens is discovered in the practice of yoga, through right living, and steady pose.  

To this I would like to respond with the definition I found when searching “Satori” (what I know to be temporary Samadhi in Savasana, corpse pose): a flash of sudden awareness, individual enlightenment…”It is often said that when you truly need a teacher-or that which will function in lieu of a teacher-a teacher or satori, for example, will fall upon you.”

*Our physical body can heal and regenerate itself through awareness and interrelated support of the earth, sun and sky.

PRANA, Life Force

*We are inherently supposed to be strong, healthy and vibrant through our days, happy and wise as we age.

*Natural living is awareness of nature and living in harmony by nuturing the native environment and utilizing the fruits naturally present for our health and well being.

*While working to perfect the postures, our mind is challenged to be calm and peaceful in order to work through physical and emotional aspects of the practice.

*Synergize the movement into a powerful charge of energy…

This can be especially helpful when breaking through physical and emotion barriers in the individual practice…I am sure you will hear me repeat the words of my teacher in our practice together, “The pose is not easy, it is not difficult…it is what it is.”

*Regret for things we’ve done can be tempered by time. Regret for things we did not do is inconsolable.

(Book of Vinyasas: Creative Flow for Yoga  by Douglas King)

Still one of my favorite books of sequences.  I love Doug’s classes.

Andrey Lappa:

*Your attention is your “wireless” connection to your object of focus.

*Ego is the separation from things and those around you.

*Yoga is non-duality (unification), control (sign of presence of consciousness) and balance (control of energies).

*Using only physical practice with no balance of breath, meditation and purpose can actually inflate the ego.

For beginners the practice can be very good and humbling for the ego, but when only the only focus is asana development without the practice of the main goals of yoga (unity, control and balance) it can lead to imbalance and strong dualities.

*Yoga is technology teaching how to be conscious.

*God is One with many faces…Oneness has unlimited channels.

*When we eat unorganic foods, we are ingesting poison [residues]…eat unorganic thoughts and you have the same problem.

*For many people around the world, wealth and happiness can be found in a handful of rice: it means for one more week they have life.  (And think of the expressions on the faces of people in Wall Street).

Swami Rama:

*…you don’t need much external information, you already have true knowledge within.  You need to learn to apply the knowledge that you have.

Happy pondering! ;o) Namaste

Love, Shalyn