Friday, July 31, 2009

Recommending Boomer Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch

Here is a recommendation for a great book that you might consider reading! I just finished it and found it to be very thought provoking!
As an AARP member and Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance, I would like to recommend the book Boomer Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch. This book is an excellent adaptation for people over 50 of the athletic yoga practice called Astanga Yoga. Mrs. Birch modifies the poses to enable men and women of all ages and body types to enjoy yoga therapy. Teaching yoga has truly revolutionized my own life, and I believe that it will change the members associated with your organization.
Boomer Yoga also delves into the whole teaching of yoga of which asanas or yoga postures are only a part. Pranayama or breathing techniques are discussed, yamas (moral practices) and niyamas (observances) are brought into focus, and most importantly, the teaching on learning to withdraw your senses, concentrate, and live in the present moment. These areas of yoga are not often taught in many yoga books, but they are so vital to us as human beings in an ever-changing world.
Beryl says, "The message from the Universe seems to be: spend less, quiet down, find contentment in simple things, and meditate more." This is truth for our generation as we are learning through our nation's economy, war involvement, and state of crisis to find peace and truth by living in the present moment and by letting go of the attachments we have made to the status quo of living at a level beyond ourselves. I believe the fifty plus adults will be touched by her message and given the opportunity to find what the Dalai Lama considers to be our goal - happiness.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ujjayi Breath - What's up with it?

Many people who take yoga classes hear the instructor refer to "Ujjayi breathing," and they must wonder what the big deal is with this breath. The Sanskrit word "ujjayi" means "expand into victory," and it is often referred to in English as "victorious breathing." Beryl Bender Birch says in her new book, Boomer Yoga, "This is hands-down an incredible and powerfully therapeutic technique that everyone in the world should learn."




Inhaling and exhaling through your nose is standard for yoga practice. However, as you incorporate "Ujjayi" breath, one restricts the back of the throat just above the vocal cords on the inhale and exhale. This makes an audible sound for both the practitioner and the people practicing yoga close to him or her. I often refer to it as making a "so" sound on the inhalation and a "hum" sound on the exhalation.




Breathing this way sounds somewhat like what I consider to be a Darth-Vader kind of breath. It creates a rhythm in your breath which encourages you to concentrate on your inhale and exhale. Heat is created within your body along with this "dharana" or type of concentration. I believe that it helps to calm my mind because I am concentrating so much on my breath. By keeping it in rhythm, I do not have time to think about all the other things that my mind wants to jump back and forth with such as, to - do lists, yesterday's happenings, or tomorrow's agenda.




"Ujjayi" breath can be practiced off the yoga mat as well as while you do postures in class or at home. One can do it while you are driving to work, sitting quietly in meditation, cleaning up the kitchen, or mowing the yard. However, it is a technique that should always be practiced while doing Sun Salutations. The inhale and exhale of each movement that we use in starting our yoga class will help you withdraw your senses, concentrate on a gazing point, and build the heat necessary to create a sweat in the body. The breath should be continued throughout your workout through the standing postures, seated postures, and closing sequence. When you end your practice with Savasana or Final Relaxation pose, return to a normal quiet breath inhaling and exhaling through the nose.



What's up with "Ujjayi" breath? Prana or life energy is what comes up and is sealed with the lips shut. You will feel revitalized and renewed after your yoga practice. This breath takes concentration, but it is worth it! Don't give up if you do not achieve it the first or second time; it takes some perseverance, but you can do it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sun Salutation A and B for Home Practice (modifications provided)

The Sun Salutes are designed to wake up and energize the body and are also a perfect microcosm of the yoga practice as a whole. What is meant by this is that they include almost all the elements of a complete practice: the linking of breath and movement, forward bending and back bending, a bit of strength work, and a mild inversion. Sun Salutations A and B get our breath flowing and warm our joints and spine. Using a steady, smooth breath, we link and enliven our poses into a flow with the benefits of energy, alertness, and increased range of motion to start off our day in the right way! Each breath gets one movement either on the inhalation or the exhalation with the exception of the last Downward Facing Dog which receives five breaths. However, remember you can slow your movements down and take several breaths bringing your attention into the present moment as you stretch and awaken your body. You can also incorporate "Ujjayi Breath" as you restrict the back of the throat (glottis) on the inhale making the sound "so" and exhale making the sound "hum." This helps to create heat in the body and attention to the inhalation and exhalation through the nose with the lips sealed.


Sun Salutation A (5 – 6 times daily) 9 basic poses
· Starting off in “Tadasana” or mountain pose, grounding down through your heels. Your feet are hip width apart or your big toes are touching with your heels slightly apart to bring your outside edges parallel to the sides of the mat.
· Inhale sweeping your arms upward to "Upward Standing Salute" or Urdhva Hastasana - palms touching or hands shoulder width apart. 
· Dive forward, bending your knees until your finger tips touch the ground on either side of your feet in “Uttanasana” or forward fold. Bend your knees to rest your chest on your thighs if you have tight hamstrings. Make sure your hands are resting either on the floor, on your shins, or on a block as an assist.
· Inhale up to a flat back, neutral spine in half forward fold. Hands come up to shins or thighs if touching the floor is not an option.
· Step back with your right foot and then left foot as you come into a full "Plank" position.  (Always feeling comfortable to drop your knees and pull your chest forward into a modified "Plank.")  Rotate your inner elbows to the front of the mat, shift forward on your toes slightly as you exhale down into "Chaturanga Dandasana," hugging your elbows close to your rib cage as your nose comes to hover over your mat. 
· Drop your belly and pull your chest and chin up into a low or high "Cobra," or lift your thighs up off the mat for “Upward Facing Dog.” Elbows are close into your rib cage. Go right into Downward Facing Dog or take this extra step to modify for lower back pain.
· Exhale down as move your hand back alongside your ribcage. 
· Inhale up into "Quadruped" or all fours. 
· Tuck your toes under and rise up into “Downward Facing Dog.” Come up on your toes on the inhale – lifting your hips toward the ceiling, and exhale your heels closer to the mat. Take 5 complete inhalations and exhalations.
· Walk your feet forwards starting off with your right foot until you return to "Forward Fold."  Inhale halfway to "Ardha Uttanasana - half forward fold" and then exhale down into "Forward Fold" once again. 
· Bending your knees and sweeping your arms as you inhale up into "Upward Standing Salute" palms together at the top. Release your shoulders away from your ears.
· Exhaling down into "Equal Standing" or “Sama Stitihi” position hands in front of your heart. 



Sun Salutation B (following Sun Salute A do 5 - 6 times daily) 17 basic poses
· Sun Salutation B starts off with your feet a little closer than hip width. Big toes come together and your heels are slightly apart in order to make your heels and pinkie toe parallel to the sides of your sticky mat.
· Inhale sweeping your arms upward as you sit back into Utkatasana or Fierce Pose. Some people call it "Chair" pose. You can raise your arms to shoulder height or along side your ears.  Pause as you put your weight back into your heels and stretch upward/forward with your arms opening up your chest.  Pull your shoulders away from your ears. I like to raise all ten toes to make sure that my weight is in my heels. Shoulders align over hips, and hips over ankles.
· Dive forward into forward fold hinging at your hips.  (You can always use "Forward Fold" to nod your head or shake it to release any neck tension.)
· Inhale up to a flat back, neutral spine in half forward fold. 
· Exhale down into Uttanasana or "Forward Fold" again. 
· Step back with your right foot and then left foot as you come into a full "Plank" position. You can jump back with a light landing into plank, but be careful if you have knee issues. (Always feeling comfortable to drop your knees and pull your chest forward into a modified "Plank.")  Engage your core by pulling your navel into your spine, shift forward on your toes to make sure your shoulders are over your wrists as you press your heels back towards the back of the mat as you exhale down into "Chaturanga Dandasana," hugging your elbows close to your ribcage as your nose comes to hover over your mat. 
· Drop your belly and pull your chest and chin up into a "Cobra" to modify, or lift your thighs, hips, and belly up off the mat for “Upward Facing Dog” or Urdvha Muka Svanasana. You can always just roll your toes under and lift your hips to move right into "Downward Facing Dog" or Adho Muka Svanasana. If you have lower back issues, go to the extra step of moving into all fours before Down Dog.
· Exhale down as move your hand back alongside your ribcage. 
· Inhale up into "Quadruped" or all fours. 
· Exhale into "Downward Facing Dog" as you spread your fingers widely into a five-pointed star pressing your knuckles down into the mat and stretching out your hamstrings by bending your knees on the inhale and lifting your sits bones towards the ceiling on the exhale as you lower heels to the floor or pedaling your heels downward towards your mat by bending one knee pressing the opposite heel to the mat.  Take one breath here and move into the next posture or slow your practice down by taking several breaths. Honor your body with your movements adjusting your practice to what you need on this particular day!
· Bring your left foot to the mid-line of your mat as you raise your right foot upwards into a "One legged Dog."  You can move right up into Warrior I or use this nice stretch to open up your hips.
· Raise it a little higher, then bending your right knee and flexing your right foot as you drop your right foot over your left buttock and gaze underneath your right underarm for a nice stretch. 
· Square your hips to be over your mat as you keep your right knee bent, and then look up towards your hands as you sweep your foot between them. 
· Keeping your right knee bent into a 90 degree angle, turn your left heel down, and inhale up into a "Warrior I" pose.  Making sure that your hips are turned towards the front of your mat and bringing your arms upwards as you pull your shoulders away from your ears.  Inhale settling into the pose. 
· On your next exhale bringing your right foot and left foot back into "Plank or Chaturanga Dandasana." Inhale into "Upward Facing Dog" and then exhale into "Downward Facing Dog." Taking several deep and even breaths as you pedal your heels and press your index finger and thumb knuckles into the mat. To move more quickly, building heat simply take one breath here and move into the next posture.
· Then, moving your right foot into the mid-line of your body and raising your left leg into a "One-legged Dog."  Once again sweep your left foot forward into Warrior I or for the extra stretch lifting your left leg a little higher and bending your left knee, flexing your left foot as you drop your left foot over your right hip and gaze underneath your left underarm. 
· Squaring your hips after the stretch and looking forward between your hands, you sweep your left foot forward between your hands. 
· Bending your left knee directly over your left ankle, move your right heel down into a 45 degree angle with your heels in a straight line.  Press down into your heel and rise up to into "Warrior I" or Virabhadrasana A on the other side.  Squaring your hips forward as you inhale your arms up into "Crescent" arms or for more sensation, you can bring your palms together, interlace your fingers, as you point your index fingers and thumbs towards the ceiling looking upward.  Inhaling here as you ground into the pose. 
· Exhale forward into a full or modified "Plank" position and shifting forward, continuing to exhale down into "Chaturanga." 
· Inhale up into low or high cobra; or for more sensation with straight arms and straight legs, raising your quadriceps muscles off the mat gazing upward for "Upwards Facing Dog."  Press your toenails into the mat as you only touch the mat with the tops of your feet and the bottoms of your hands. 
· Exhale down, moving your hands back towards your ribcage, and then choosing to inhale up into "Quadruped" or continue the exhale by flipping your toes under and sending your hips skywards into "Downward Facing Dog."  Taking five deep and even breaths.
· Walk your feet forwards starting off with your right foot until you return to "Forward Fold" or Uttanasana  Inhale halfway to "Ardha Uttanasana - half forward fold" and then exhale down into "Forward Fold" once again. 
· Bending your knees, sitting back on your heels, and sweeping your arms as you inhale up into "Utkatasana" or Chair pose palms together at the top. 
· Exhaling down into "Equal Standing" position hands in front of your heart. 
Once you do it on one side, then change the first foot back to the other side to stay balanced.
Namaste’
Jeanne Doss
 
 

New blogspot from Tranquility Yoga

Greetings from Connecticut!
I am enjoying my visit with two precious redheads, Abigail just turned 4 yesterday, and Ben turned one last Wednesday! Jennifer showed me how to set up a blogspot for our Tranquility Yoga Studio. Even though we are not having classes this week at our home studio, I have subs teaching my classes at Thornton YMCA in Tulsa and All American Fitness in Owasso. Once I figure out how to upload my sun salutations and my restorative home practices; I will do so that you can download them and practice at home. Remember yoga is 99% practice and one % knowledge (or ability). The more you practice -- the easier it gets -- the easier it gets -- the more you like it -- the more you like it -- the more you will want to practice.... Have a wonderful day, and I hope to have more information for you tomorrow! Namaste'

Weight Lifting: The Why's, the What's, and How Much?

Dear Friends, Good Friday Morning!  Are you able to tell a difference yet? I am finding that my clothes fit better, my energy level i...