Sunday, July 31, 2011

Standing Poses to Add to Your Home Practice

Greetings from South Carolina!
After you do your warm-up postures with the previous blog of How to Practice at Home, consider adding the following standing poses:
Virabhadrasana I, II, and III
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
Utthita Trikonasana
Utthita Parsvakonasana

Let's start with Anjaneyasana or Crescent Lunge pose. Since this is our second part of Home Practice series, I am assuming that you are sufficiently warmed up from our stretching and strengthening series of Sun Salutations.
Step #1: Move back into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
Step #2: Lift your right leg up stretching it towards the ceiling and then bending your knee, bring your right foot forwards between your hands at the front of the mat.
Step #3: Keeping your back (left) leg engaged, wiggle your toe in the direction of the back of the mat to increase the stretch.
Step #4: Lower the back knee to the floor, but endeavor to keep the left toes tucked under for more stability.
Step #5: Your right knee should be directly over your right ankle headed between your second and third toe.
Step #6: Take your hands off the mat and stretch your arms up and over your head with the alignment of your shoulders back and together.
Step #7: If your back knee is on the ground, it is safe to lean forward with the right knee in order to stretch out your iliopsoas muscle or hip flexor on your left side. Engage the thighs by scissoring your legs together as you pull your left shoulder and hip forward to increase the strength of the movement.
Step #8: It is always optional to add a variety of arm movements with this lunge pose. You can bend both elbows and draw your shoulder blades even closer together in a "cactus" or "goal post" position. You can also add a twist by bringing your leg arm forward and crossing it where your left hand is on your right knee. Remember movement in a twist is always on the exhalation. Then, to add to the twist bring your right arm behind you. An advanced position would be to drop the left hand back to the left ankle creating more of a backbending posture as you raise the right arm towards the ceiling.
Step #9: Tuck your left toe under, extend the left leg as you lift off the mat, and step your right foot back to Downward Facing Dog.
Step #10: Do the other side. This time lifting the left leg in Downdog and stepping forward with the left foot. Remember if your knee on the floor or mat is uncomfortable slide a blanket thinly folded under it or double a mat's width for the knee. If the stepping forward is difficult, use the blocks under your hands and pull the knee up into the abdominal area as you step forward.
Benefits: The quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and the vastus intermedius) and the gluteus maximus are lengthened. Many of the smaller muscles, tendons and ligaments in the knee are also stretched. Hip abductor stabilizers such as the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, the adductors magnus, longus, and brevis, the gracilis, and the pectineus all become toned. Muscles in the arms and shoulders are benefitted as well. These include the deltoid group, triceps, a little biceps the trapezius Muscles (Middle and lower), rhomboids and latissimus dorsi. Shoulder elevation is also helpful; however, remember to release any shrugging of the shoulders and tension there. Keep your breath steady and even despite the efforting of the pose. The therapeutical application here would be beneficial for those people who struggle with tight hip flexors, sciatica, and those who desire a thigh strengthening/toning.

Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)
Step #1: From your lunging position, turn your back heel down at a 45 degree angle with your knees and toes going in the same direction towards the front of your mat.
In Pyramid Pose, both legs are straightened with your soles flat on the floor. Your feet are approximately 3 and 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Your hips are turned towards the front parallel edge of the mat. However, do not overtwist the back knee to square your hipbones. Line up your heel of the front foot to the arch of the back foot. If this makes balance difficult, you can always widen the space between your heels so that you feel more secure in the pose.
Step #2: Using blocks is optional, but highly recommended. Use two blocks on either side of your front foot to bring your fingertips or hands to as you lengthen through the crown of your head. Pyramid Pose is a flat back posture, therefore, make sure you are lengthening on the inhale forward and not rounding your back as you fold over the front leg.
Step #3: Inhale to lengthen from your tailbone to the crown of your head, and exhale as you fold over your front leg. I recommend a soft micro-bend in your front leg as you need to do so. Do not over extend and lock out the knees.
Step #4: Hold 3 - 5 breath cycles. Then, as you lift the back heel, bend the front knee, please return to a lunge position.
Step #5: Step back into Downward Facing Dog. Repeat by bringing the opposite foot forward into a lunge, rolling the back heel down into the 45 degree angle with your sole flat on the floor, and repeat this yoga posture on the other side.
Step #6: Advanced yogis and yoginis can always opt to jump switch when changing legs. However, I always caution this move for people with knee issues.
Benefits of Parsvottanasana:
This pose strengthens and lengthens the legs. It is especially beneficial for tight hamstrings, but Pyramid Pose should only be practiced after a thorough warm-up. You can repeat this posture several times and add in the arm variations of hands behind the back resting on the sacrum (triangular section at the top of your hips), forearm clasp, or hands in prayer up your back. Parsvottanasana also strengthens and stretches your back, tones your abdomen; improves the digestive system, massages both liver and stomach, and improves complexion, hair, eyes while cooling the brain.

Virabhadrasana I, II, and III
Do you have confidence like a warrior? Unbelievable to some who struggle with being bold and able to go into new situations without fear, Warriors I, II, and III really do build confidence, as well as, strength. I think that practicing yoga regardless of shape, size, or self-esteem has the opportunity to instill new levels of acceptance and courage in you as a person.
Warrior I or Virabhadrasana (in Sanskrit) I is similar to Pyramid Pose. Your front knee is bent in a 90 degree angle to the floor, right over your ankle, and is pointed towards the dividing line of your second and third toes. The back leg is strong and is the main weight bearer of this posture. The back foot is similar to Parsvottanasana in that it is turned at a 45 degree angle towards the front of your mat while your hip bones (ASIS: Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) are facing forwards.
Remember in yoga, we inhale as we lengthen and exhale as we move, contract, or twist. So, inhale as you bring your arms up and over your head. Palms are facing one another and you extend your hands to the ceiling slightly contracting your shoulder blades together in the back to open the chest. Relax the tops of your shoulders away from your ears with a sigh and exhale. Contract your rhomboids, the muscles that pull your scapula towards one another in your back as you reach strongly upward lifting your rib cage away from your pelvis.
The benefits of Warrior I are physical along with the confidence building. They include the following:
1. Warrior I opens stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and neck, belly, hip flexor and groins (psoas)
2. Warrior I buiids strength in the shoulders, arms, and the muscles of the back
3. Warrior I strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles

Warrior II or Virabhadrasana II
While Warrior I has a distinct squaring of the hips to the front, Warrior II opens the back hip to the side and is a hip/shoulder opening yoga posture. So, lengthen the distance in your feet, open the hips, broaden the collar bones as you bring your arms apart and stretch them out in opposite directions!

Even if your alignment is fine when you're standing with straight legs, you may collapse your front knee inward when you come into Virabhadrasana II, or Warrior I.
To correct this tendency in this static holding posture, you need to focus on two actions by stretching your hip adductors (inner thigh muscles). This large muscle group, which fills your inner thighs and pulls your knees toward each other, includes the pectineus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, and gracilis. Warrior II incorporates an even wider stance, perhaps as much as 4 to 5 feet between front heel and back arch. Direct your front knee towards the pinkie toe side of the foot as you line up the knee to the outer heel. Your back foot is just barely turned to the front of the mat, and it is like a perpendicular angle with a slight edge of the back heel furthest from you.

Your shoulders naturally open as you enlongate your front arm (palm facing down) forward over your front bent leg and your opposite arm (palm facing down) behind you over your back straightened leg. When you open your shoulders, your hips will follow and vice/versa. However, remember the "sigh" and release any tension holding in your neck and upper arm bones. Your gazing point or "drishti" is over the middle finger of your front arm.

Gazing points, drishtis, in yoga are valuable because by keeping your eyes focused helps you to keep your mind focused. Use this technique with your eyes fully opened or partially closed, creating a softer, diffused gaze. Many of the classical yoga postures have gazing points, and the use of drishti is especially emphasized in the Ashtanga style of hatha yoga. Some yoga teachers encourage specific positioning of the eyes, such as gazing at the "third eye," the point between the eyebrows or at the tip of the nose. By concentrating on your gazing point of the eyes and continual flow of your breath, your mind begins to learn to let go of the "monkey-mindedness" of our American way of exercising where we think about a million different things.

Warriors build confidence and tone the back, legs, arms, and core. Don't lean the torso over either thigh by centering the shoulders over hips. Keep the sides of the torso equally long and press the tailbone slightly toward the pubic bone.
The benefits of Warrior II are somewhat like Warrior I in the strength building of the leg muscles. Virabhadrasana II is therapeutic for osteoporosis, sciatica, carpal tunnel, and builds stamina through holding the pose for 5 - 10 breath cycles.

The standing balancing is accomplished with Warrior III by returning to the Warrior I stance of squaring the hips towards the front of the mat and lifting the back foot even to the floor as you bring your arms and legs into a capital "T" like Tom. The arms, torso, and raised leg should be positioned relatively parallel to the floor. Sometimes our pelvis has a tendency to tilt. Release the hip of the back leg toward the floor until the two hip points are even and parallel to the floor. Energize the back leg and extend it strongly toward the wall behind you as you turn your second toe next to your big toe down towards the mat, then reach just as actively in the opposite direction with the arms. Bring the head up slightly and look forward, but be sure not to overdo it and compress the back of your neck.

Fitness isn't just about jumping around to get the heart rate up, or strength training to increase muscle mass. It is about forging a new relationship with your own body...replacing punishment with pleasure...learning how to love your body and your life. SoundBodyMind by Nancy Hammett

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Practice Yoga at Home

Several people who practice yoga with us at Tranquility Yoga in Owasso frequently ask me how to practice yoga at home. My answer is simply, "Just do it!" Find a place where you can move things out of the way, set out your mat, turn off your phone, T.V., etc., and begin. Of course, you can always use a DVD or watch an internet video to help you remember the sequence of poses. However, when I first began teaching yoga over five years ago, I would set out index cards with the yoga postures in stick figures in front of my mat in the order that I intended to teach them. Today, I study for several hours before my classes for the anatomy information, posture and alignment instructions, and flow sequence. I want to give you a quality practice that is different even though it may be similar to what we have accomplished before in one of our many classes offered each week. My goal has always been to inspire you to make yoga and fitness an important part of your life. Now when I teach yoga, I visualize the practice beforehand in my mind, write down the poses that I want to cover, and start the class.

Let's just pretend (since I am in Georgia right now) that we are ready to practice. Take a comfortable seated position on your mat. The first thing I would say is that I hope you haven't eaten right before you begin. In fact, wait from 1 to 3 hours since your last meal to begin your home practice. Morning before breakfast is an awesome time to do this if you are a morning person like I am. However, if you stumble from bed to breakfast to work in a stupor, you may want to add this to the afternoon or evening schedule of your daily activities. Drinking plenty of water is a vital way to start, and it won't interrupt your yoga time the way food does (especially when you turn upside down in downward facing dog).

I personally believe that setting an intention for your practice is a quiet way to set this time aside to do yoga. It gives you 90 seconds of quiet. This brief meditation allows your mind to calm down, focus, and begin to concentrate on your breath. In yoga the Sanskrit word is pratyahara which means "withdrawal of the senses." Wikipedia says that pratyahara is,"Control of our senses requires mastery over the flow of prana, as that is what drives the senses. To stop the scattering of valuable vital energy of the body or prana, we need to seek control over its flow, and harmonize it. This is done through various practices including bringing the entire focus to a single point in the body which is practiced by consciously withdrawing attention from anything that is unwholesome, and distracting for the mind such as by withdrawing attention from the senses, and directing it inwards." Essentially, it is focusing your attention on your breath and setting a self-affirmation for your day.

Now we are ready to begin by inhaling in through the nose and exhaling out through the nose, your hands are in front of your heart, your mind and room are quiet, and you keep your time like a moving meditation with your breath.
Posture #1 - Easy seated pose with lateral flexion
Sit on a folded blanket or two so that your hips are higher than your knees and your ankles are either in a cross-legged position or lined up one in front of the other. The important thing here in Easy seated pose or Sukhasana is to find a position where you can sit still and let go. Baron Baptiste, a famous yoga instructor, says, "Let go and let God." So, relax the tension out of your jaw, relax your cheeks, close your eyes or lower your gaze to the floor. Breathe in; breathe out, allowing your chest to fill up with air, your belly enlarges, and then empty out the breath on the exhale with every part returning to normal.
Inhale both arms up, exhale your left one down to touch the floor right beside you, and bring your right arm up and over your ear pointing towards the ceiling. You are lengthening the right side of your body and contracting your left oblique muscles in your core. Inhale back to the center and exhale your right arm down. Inhale both arms up, and exhale your right hand down to the floor while bringing your left arm up and over your left ear pointing towards where your wall meets the ceiling. Do this sequence twice on each side.

Posture #2 - Easy seated twist
Once again, lengthen both arms up on the inhalation, and then exhale as your right hand rests easily on your left thigh or knee. Inhale up with your left and touch your left hand on a block or the mat right behind your tailbone. Every twist begins at the waist; therefore, inhale as you reach the crown of your head towards the ceiling and exhale twist towards the left. Use approximately three breaths here each time twisting a little more. If you experience any type of pain, remember that is our stop sign. (Stay where you are and then return to the front if you feel discomfort.)
Turn your neck and head last of all to look over your left shoulder. Then, come back to center. Now, do the same movement, but do it on the other side as you twist to the right with your left hand on your right knee or thigh and your right hand behind you. I like to do this pose several times to release my spine.

Posture #3 - Cat/Cow pose
Come to all fours or "quadruped" as I like to call it. Check your alignment with shoulders over wrist creases (parallel to the top of your mat), and your hips over your knees (toes curled under). If you have any type of knee discomfort, double your mat or place a thinly folded blanket under your knees. Inhale in a neutral position to start, then exhale as you drop your tailbone and begin rounding your spine. Bring your navel in towards your spine with navel lock and contract the area between your pubic bone and tailbone with root lock. Arch your back as you pull your chin towards your collarbone. On the inhale, release as you lift your tailbone, letting go of the locks, reaching your chest forward between your biceps, and lifting your head. Continue this sequence several times as you feel your spine release any tension or ache that you may have incurred through the night of sleep or during the daytime hours with stress and tension.

Posture #4 - Spinal balance
As you are still on your knees, come back to a neutral position. Inhale stretch your right leg back behind you as you extend your left arm forward. Imagine that you were a bird dog pointing as you lengthen your body in opposite directions. Keep your gaze down towards the floor and reach towards opposite walls. Exhale to release your knee to the floor/hand to the mat and move to the other side. Your core locks (root and navel) are also important on this yoga posture as it brings strength to protect your lower back. Remember to push through your heel when you extend the leg backwards and reach through the fingertips forwards. Now, do the other side. Alternate the sides, right leg, left leg, right, left...several times. Keep your breath and movement steady and even.

Posture #5 - Child's pose to release your back
Inhale back to neutral position just like you started. Exhale as you sit back on your heels with knees splayed widely apart and the roots of your big toes together. Lower your torso between your knees almost like you were cradling it with your thighs and reach your arms forward to the top of the mat. If it is difficult for you to be in this position comfortably, rest your forehead on a blanket or soft block; otherwise, bring your forehead to the floor. This is a pose that I always encourage you to come back to again and again. It is a good place to check in with your breath and release any tension in your wrists or back.

Posture #6 - Move to Downward Facing Dog
Inhale up to all fours or quadruped with your toes tucked under and feet hip width apart. This is just the same way we began our Cat/Cow sequence. On the exhale, press back into the balls of your feet and raise your hips high towards the ceiling as you begin to straighten your legs as much as possible. If you have tight hamstring muscles in the backs of your legs, keep your knees as soft as you need to in order to lift your hips high. Flatten your palms to the mat especially the index finger and thumb mid-knuckles. Dynamically lift the weight off your shoulders and send it towards your hips and down to your heels. Yes, in the beginning, your wrists will feel uncomfortable until you build the strength in them to enjoy this pose. (An alternative method is to use the Gripitz blocks that are soft like yoga blocks, but they have a bar between the soft squares on the ends. As you hold onto the bar instead of the big flexion of your wrists on the floor, you may be able to find more ease in this yoga posture.)
You can bend one knee in order to press the other heel to the floor and repeat on the opposite side. Some teachers call this "dog pedaling" out your heels. Your gazing point is always important as it helps you keep your mind focused. Thus, gaze between your feet in Downward Dog or up towards your navel center.

Posture #7 - Stepping forward to a Forward Fold
Bringing your big toes together in the center of your mat, lift your right leg to hip height on the inhalation. On the exhalation, pull your right knee into your chest and move your entire body forward in order to set your right foot on the mat between your hands. This may take some effort and experience.
Many people struggle with stepping the foot forward; therefore, use blocks under hands to lift a little higher off the mat or help your foot forward with the same hand. Once your foot is between your hands, bring the other foot forward to meet it.
Standing firmly planted with your feet forward (think of a line right in the center of your ankle drawn towards your third toe for your feet to line up correctly). Keep your legs active by lifting the knee caps and arches of your feet while your torso and head hang over your legs like a waterfall. Take any round out of your lower back by lengthening forward over your legs on each inhale and exhale folding a little more. Keep your knees soft once again if your hamstrings are tight. If you do this stepping forward a second time, alternate the leg lift to hip height with your left leg, then right leg the next time...

Posture #8 - Reverse Swan Dive up to a Standing Position
Inhale as you reach about halfway up and look forward at the floor or baseboard. Do this with a flat back. Make sure your hands are touching something, such as a block or your shins. No hanging hands with air underneath - this just increases backpain. Exhale as you fold forward again. Then, bending your knees as deeply as necessary, bring your arms out to the side as you reverse swan dive your hands towards the ceiling on the inhalation.

Posture #9 - Upward Standing Salute to Mountain Pose
Once you have inhaled up in a standing position, reach your arms to the ceiling and look upward if it is okay with the back of your neck and does not cause any uncomfortable sensations. Lengthen through your side body as you stretch upward and then exhale your hands to heart in "Namaste'" position or equal standing. Release your arms to your sides, your chest open, and your chin held parallel to the floor. Notice the feeling of your feet on the floor and spread your toes widely as you bring your attention back to your breath and your gaze forward down the tip of your nose.

Posture #10 - Sun Salutes A, B, or C
To warm up your body and be able to build flexibility and strength, I enjoy adding one, two, or all three of the sun salutations into my practice. They are like a micro yoga practice all in themselves. Sun Salute A is the simplest form with nine postures as you inhale and exhale each pose. Downward Facing Dog is the longest held pose with five breaths. Sun Salute C incorporates the lunging position with your knee on the floor or lifted and an extra Down Dog before the Plank. Remember to step back and forward with the same foot and change sides each time you do the next one. Sun Salute B is the most difficult salutation because it adds in the Warrior I and Chair poses all the while continuing on with the heat building vinyasa flow of Plank, Upward Facing Dog, and Downward Facing Dog between each standing pose. You can find the sequence broken down into segments by looking into the earlier posts on this blog. It is simply labeled, "Sun Salutations A and B." I encourage you to build your strength with this flowing sequence by adding one to two each day until you can do twelve in a row.

Always end your daily practice with a final meditation time. It will be tempting to just pick up your mat and travel on with your day, but this is the most important time of stillness and quiet. In our busy world, we often are lax about taking the time to build Savasana into our busy lifestyles.

Lie on your back on your mat and get as comfortable as you can possibly be. You can place a large sofa cushion like a bolster under your knees if it hard for you to relax on your back. Lift your head and lay a thin blanket underneath to make sure that your chin is not jutting upwards higher than your forehead. In my yoga classes, I give everyone a soft washcloth to place over their eyes. My cloths are lightly scented with doTerra lavender scent.*
Rest your arms at your sides with your hands (palms up to release your shoulders) several inches from your hips. Sink into the floor as you sink into your breath. The sweet sensation that comes with this pose with practice and with letting go is said to be taste of pure delight. You can set your timer for 5 - 10 minutes to rest here before you continue on with your day. Whenever you are finished, simply roll over to your right side resting here for three breaths and then press your left hand into the floor. Roll up to a seated position just like we began.

"A student of yoga ought to be a follower of truth in thought, speech, and action." Greeta Iyengar

Thank you for practicing with me today!

*doTerra is a company that produces scented oils. I purchase mine from De Fuller. If you would like more information on buying lavender oil from De, please e-mail me at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fall Schedule - August 6, 2011

Cooler Weather Is Ahead!

As an elementary school teacher in Owasso, I will be heading back to work the week of August 8, 2011. Please note the changes in our weekly schedule starting August 6, 2011.

Saturday, August 6, 2011
7:00 a.m. Sunrise/Energize Yoga with a heart opening sequence!
9:00 a.m. Yoga for Beginner's with a practice from the ground up!
10:30 a.m.Gentle Chair Yoga for 40 and up!

Sunday, August 7, 2011
1:30 p.m. Family Yoga - Kids punch; parents practice for free!
2:30 p.m. Pose Specific Yoga for Beginners and Intermediates with a balancing flair!

Monday, August 8, 2011
4:00 p.m. Rock and Roll Yoga for Teens and Adults!
5:30 p.m. Power Yoga for Toning and Strengthening!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011
6:40 p.m. Vinyasa Flow Yoga for Lower Body!

No classes on Wednesday due to personal training.

Thursday, August 11, 2011
6:40 p.m. Vinyasa Flow Yoga for Upper Body!

Friday, August 12, 2011
5:30 p.m. Power Yoga with an Astanga series!
6:45 p.m. Potluck Dinner; Bring a friend, bring a chair, bring a dish to share and a beverage of your choice!
Please R.S.V.P. all classes. You can call 918-371-3841 or e-mail me back at
Thank you! I check my e-mail frequently. If you have a Groupon, remember the fine print says, "Limit 1 per person. May buy multiples as gifts." Please bring in your Groupon UPC number soon so that we can redeem it and make a punch card for you.
Benefits of Yoga for the Young, Young at Heart, or Mature Citizens!
Last night we had a Fudgsicle toast (after yoga) to Cheryl on her birthday. One of the 20 somethings said, "Wow! I hope I look like her when I am older!" It is true! Yoga makes a difference whatever age you are. Consider these benefits...

Less tension and stress
Yoga shows you how to quiet the mind and relax tension in the body; helps to normalize blood pressure.

Improved concentration and awareness
Yoga increases alertness and will power; develops body awareness and intuition.

Increased coping skills
Yoga teaches you how to tolerate stress and create a more balanced outlook on daily frustrations.

Reduced anxiety, irritability, and nervousness
Yoga shows you how to change your moods just by breathing.

Reduced dependence on medications or alcohol
Yoga encourages you to systematically relax yourself so you don't need to rely so much on self-medicating behaviors.

Positive self-image
Yoga improves your view of yourself; stimulates creative thought and encourages self-acceptance.

Diminished fears
Yoga develops greater freedom from fears and worries that tend to incapacitate you; shows you how to explore your full potential.

Openness to new learning
Yoga develops sensitivity and creates greater feelings of connection to others and the world around you; provides encouragement and strength to learn new things.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Fit Are You? 7 Things for You to Consider!

Yoga and Fitness: How do they work together hand in hand for your overall well-being? I personally believe that regardless of our age group, our fitness will either enhance or limit our quality of life. Since our spine is our lifeline and we are as old or young as our spine is flexible, these seven topics are valuable for you to discover your ability to enjoy an active life.

Most people assume that yoga is only about flexibility. So many of them say that they need a stretching class. I always smile and say, "Yes, we will stretch, but most importantly we will build flexibility and strength." After they leave our yoga practice, they usually have that knowing look on their faces as they wipe the sweat off their brows.
The benefits of flexibility are huge! Consider this excerpt from a popular women's health website:
1. Improved Performance, Decreased Injury Risk
A safe and effective flexibility training program increases physical performance. A flexible joint greatly decreases your risk of injury--it has the ability to move through a greater range of motion and requires less energy to do so. Stretching decreases resistance in tissue structures; you are, therefore, less likely to become injured by exceeding tissue extensibility (maximum range of tissues) during activity.
2. Reduced Muscle Soreness
Recent studies show that slow, static stretching helps reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Static stretching involves a slow, gradual and controlled elongation of the muscle through the full range of motion, held for 15-30 seconds, in the furthest comfortable position (without pain).
3. Improved Posture
Stretching also improves muscular balance and posture. Many people's soft-tissue structures have adapted poorly to either the effects of gravity or poor postural habits. Stretching can help realign soft tissue structures, thus reducing the effort it takes to achieve and maintain good posture in the activities of daily living.
4. Reduced Risk of Low Back Pain
Stretching reduces the risk of low back pain by promoting muscular relaxation. A muscle in constant contraction requires more energy to accomplish activities. Flexibility in the hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and other muscles attaching to the pelvis reduces stress to the low back. Stretching causes muscular relaxation, which results in reduction of accumulated toxins, less muscle shortening or tightening, and less fatigue.
5. Increased Blood and Nutrients to Tissues
Another great benefit: stretching increases blood supply and nutrients to joint structures. Stretching increases tissue temperature, which in turn increases circulation and nutrient transport. This allows greater elasticity of surrounding tissues and increases performance. Stretching also increases joint synovial fluid, which is a lubricating fluid that promotes the transport of more nutrients to the joints' articular cartilage. This allows a greater range of motion and reduces joint degeneration.
6. Improved Muscle Coordination
Another little-known benefit of stretching is increased neuromuscular coordination. Studies show that nerve-impulse velocity (the time it takes an impulse to travel to the brain and back) is improved with stretching. This helps opposing muscle groups work in a more synergistic, coordinated fashion.
7. Enhanced Enjoyment of Physical Activities
Flexibility training also means enhanced enjoyment--a fitness program should be fun if you want to stick with it. Not only does stretching decrease muscle soreness and increase performance, it also helps relax both mind and body, bringing a heightened sense of well-being and personal gratification during exercise.

Flexibility can be measured with your shoulders and hamstrings. Shoulders are measured with the reaching behind in "cowface" arms, and hamstrings are measured by a supine "hand to foot" posture.

Muscular Strength
Find out how many modified pushups you can do without stopping for one minute. Begin by positioning your body correctly with your knees on the floor, leaning forward, and placing your palms flat on the floor shoulder-width apart with your torso and thighs in a straight line.

Stand in front of a sturdy chair with your feet hip-width apart and your arms crossed in front of you. Keeping your body weight over your heels, lower your hips towards the chair without actually sitting down, then return to standing. Set the timer for one minute and see how many you can do without stopping.

Strong abdominal muscles help prevent lower back pain and improve your appearance. See how many you can do in one minute with your knees bent and your hands on your thighs. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor as you slide your hands towards your knees, look up at the ceiling as you imagine a small fruit (like a kiwi) under your chin.

Body Fat Distribution
The ratio of your waist - to - hip measurements is another good predictor of health and often a good predictor of heart attack risk.
Measure your waist with a tape measure about 2 inches below your navel. Then, measure circumference of your hips at the widest part. Divide your waist measurement by hip measurement.

Cardiovascular Fitness
Measure your resting heart rate.
For three consecutive days, as soon as you get up in the morning (before coffee or exercise), turn one hand palm up and with the tips of your other index and middle finger, gently press the pulse point on the wrist just below the base of your thumb. Count the number of heartbeats for ten seconds and multiply by 6. This will give you your average resting heart rate when you take all three days, add, and divide by 3.
Measure your maximal heart rate.
207 - (0.7 x age)

Measure your working heart rate.
Find a box or step about 16 inches high. Set a timer for one minute. Begin stepping up and down as quickly as you can without jumping. After 1 minute, stop. Take your pulse for ten seconds and multiply by 6.

I believe that practicing yoga and walking/running have helped me to have good health, and my latest medical checkup proved it. However, I remember being unfit, overweight, and miserable. Being fit enables us to enjoy our everyday life and do good to others especially by sharing our story and God's ability to help them as well. Flexibility, core strength, body/fat distribution, cardiovascular health, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and yoga all work together for our good.

God has so blessed my life, and I want my body, mind, and spirit to reflect the light of His glory. I am not there yet, but I am on my way with a goal before me and my past behind me.

Here is your example: I am 53 years old. 207 - (0.7 x 53) = 170 (my maximal heart rate)
My resting heart rate at the doctor's office the other day for a checkup was 60. 10 beats in 10 seconds x 6 = 60 bpm After my one minute step test, my heart rate is 120 bpm. To find my training zone, I would multiply my maximal heart rate times .75 which would give me 125 bpm. When I am walking or running, my goal would be to keep my heart rate somewhere between 65% - 85% for a good to great cardiovascular workout. Therefore, I need to keep my heart rate between 115 and 145 for my age group.

Take the fitness challenge by finding your scores, and the next posting will be to compare your results. If you stay with me and e-mail me back where you are on the physical fitness scale, I will enter your name in a drawing for a free gift from Tranquility Yoga.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tranquility Yoga Trotters? Are you serious? Yes, I am!

Since your overall fitness is my goal, I want to invite you to join our Tranquility Yoga Team for the Tulsa Run on October 29. Consider it a Saturday field trip! (Some of you have been with me long enough to remember when we took a field trip to a meditation practice in Tulsa years ago.)

What are the benefits of walking and/or preparing for a race? How will a walking schedule improve my fitness? Read on at the end of the newsletter for more information and Tulsa Run details.
Tranquility Yoga Newsletter for this coming week - July 13 - 22, 2011 All classes are for 12 years and up, except for Kid's Yoga on Friday mornings and Family Yoga on Sunday afternoons. Please call or e-mail to reserve your mat space. Thank you.

Today we have a yoga class for anyone who desires a gentle practice. Join us at 9:00 a.m. for Chair Yoga *

July 14 - Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. **
Vinyasa Flow Yoga
Thursday evening at 6:40 p.m. (3 spots left; reserve your mat space as soon as possible) ***
Vinyasa Flow Yoga

July 15 - Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. **
Mommy/Daddy and Me - Kid's Yoga with Parents
Friday evening at 5:30 p.m.*****
Power Yoga - Modified Astanga Practice

July 16 - Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. ****
Sunrise/Energize Yoga
Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. **
Beginner's Yoga - Sun Salute B Focus (5 spots for mats left)

July 17 - Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. **
Family Yoga
Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. **
Pose Specific - Twists for Digestion (1 spot left)

July 18 - Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ***
Rock and Roll Yoga for Teens/Adults
Monday evening at 5:30 p.m. ****
Power Yoga for Toning and Strengthening

July 19 - Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m. (Last one for the summer on Tuesday mornings!) **
Vinyasa Flow
Tuesday evening at 6:40 p.m. ***
Vinyasa Flow (2 spots left)

July 20 - Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. (Last one for the summer on Wednesday; this class moves to Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on August 6.) *

No classes on Wednesday evening - reserved for personal training

July 21 - Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. (Last one for the summer on Thursday mornings!) **
Vinyasa Flow
Thursday evening at 6:40 p.m. ***
Vinyasa Flow

July 22 - Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. (This class moves to Sundays at 1:30 p.m.) **
Mommy/Daddy and Me Yoga
Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. *****
Modified Astanga Practice
Tranquility Yoga Studio will be closed for the summer session on July 23 and will reopen on Saturday morning on August 6. Please forgive any inconvenience this may cause. We are going to see our grandchildren, and I plan to pursue yoga training. Thank you for understanding.

Now, back to walking as a complementary fitness activity to your yoga practice. How will walking improve your life? Consider the following:
1. Walking as exercise improves your mood.
Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. You'll also look better and feel better when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem. Regular physical activity can even help prevent depression.

2. Walking as exercise combats chronic diseases.
Regular physical activity can help you prevent — or manage — high blood pressure. Your cholesterol will benefit, too. Regular physical activity boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly by lowering the buildup of plaques in your arteries. And there's more. Regular physical activity can help you prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.

3. Walking as exercise helps you manage your weight.
When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn — and the easier it is to keep your weight under control. You don't even need to set aside major chunks of time for working out. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk during your lunch break. Do jumping jacks during commercials. Better yet, turn off the TV and take a brisk walk. Dedicated workouts are great, but physical activity you accumulate throughout the day helps you burn calories, too.

4. Walking as exercise boosts your energy level.
Physical activity delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. In fact, regular physical activity helps your entire cardiovascular system — the circulation of blood through your heart and blood vessels — work more efficiently. Big deal? You bet! When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you'll have more energy to do the things you enjoy.

5. Walking as exercise promotes better sleep.
A good night's sleep can improve your concentration, productivity and mood. And you guessed it — physical activity is sometimes the key to better sleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. There's a caveat, however. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you may be too energized to fall asleep. If you're having trouble sleeping, you might want to exercise earlier in the day.

6. Exercise can put the spark back into intimacy.
Regular physical activity can leave you feeling energized and looking better, which may have a positive effect on your sex life. Mayo Clinic

7. Exercise can be — gasp — fun! Especially when you walk with friends. Consider joining our Tranquility Yoga Trotters! You can train on your own or with us as a group.

You will find the Tulsa Run information at the bottom, and the table has a training schedule to prepare you for the 9.3 miles (15 K) that we will race/walk. I personally try to train twice daily - early in the morning and later in the evening when it is cooler. In the past, I have been a runner in this yearly event, but due to a knee issue (from Zumba) I will be speedwalking this year.
Set your intention to do more yoga and more walking (or running -- depending on your knees!).

Jeanne K. Doss
Registered Yoga Teacher - Yoga Alliance
Personal Certified Trainer - Cooper Institute
Certified Pilates, Aerobics Instructor
Zumba Training
"The point is that in your life, unless you make specific time for something that you feel committed to, you will always have other obligations and you will always be too busy." — Dalai Lama

Excerpt from the website.
Congratulations on setting the 2011 Tulsa Run as your goal! If you are new to exercise or are just beginning to create a good walking program, this workout is for you. It starts slowly and works you up to the 15k in October.
Try to time your miles once a week on your Power Walk days to see how fast your mile time is. The race course is open for 3 hours so it’s important to be able to walk a 15 minute mile or less for the entire 9.3 miles. Another option is to mix running and walking for the race.
Walking Program - Beginners - 15K
Week 1Rest20 min E15 min I20 min ERest20 min I1.5miles E
Week 2Rest20 min E15 min I20 min ERest20 min I2.0miles E
Week 3Rest30 min E20 min I30 min ERest30 min I1.0miles P
Week 4Rest30 min E20 min I30 min ERest30 min I2.5miles E
Week 5Rest30 min E20 min I30 min ERest30 min I3.0miles E
Week 6Rest35 min E20 min I35 min ERest20 min I2.0miles P
Week 7Rest35 min E25 min I35 min ERest40 min I3.5miles E
Week 8Rest35 min E25 min I35 min ERest40 min I4.0miles E
Week 9Rest40 min E25 min I40 min ERest30 min I3.0miles P
Week 10Rest40 min E25 min I40 min ERest50 min I5.0miles E
Week 11Rest40 min E25 min I40 min ERest50 min I6.0miles E
Week 12Rest40 min E25 min I40 min ERest30 min I5.0miles P
Week 13Rest45 min E30 min I45 min ERest60 min I7.0miles E
Week 14Rest45 min E30 min I45 min ERest30 min I6.0 miles P
Week 15Rest45 min E30 min I45 min ERest60 min I8.0 miles E
Week 16Rest30 min E30 min E30 min ERest9.3 miles

E= Easy (5 minute warm-up, brisk pace but not pushing it, 5 minute cool down)
I= Interval Training (5 minute warm up, rotate 5 – 10 minutes fast, 5 – 10 easy throughout the time leaving 5 minutes at the end for cool down)
P= Power Walk (5 minute warm up, 5 minute stretching, push to your “race pace” leaving time for 5 minute cool down and stretching.
Tulsa Run - Race Registration
Register Online
To register online, go to* The cut-off will be midnight, Tuesday, October 25, 2011. Team members can register online by entering the exact team name for each registrant. Late fees will go in effect midnight, Saturday, October 22, 2011.
*An online registration fee will be added to your registration total. The fee goes directly to the online registration company for their services and does not constitute part of your registration.
Register by Mail
Download the 2011 Tulsa Run registration form download (PDF) from the Must be postmarked by October 22, 2011.
Entry Fees
$35 for the 15km Tulsa Run if postmarked or received by October 22, 2011. $35 for the 5km. $15 for the Fun Run. An official Tulsa Run long-sleeved T-shirt is included. Late fee in effect after midnight Saturday, October 22, 2011.
Packet Pickup Friday, Oct. 28**(I have mine mailed directly to my home.)
Packet pickup will be located at the Fitness Fair, OU-Tulsa Learning Center, 43rd and Yale, Friday, Oct. 28, 10 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Free parking is available across the street at Promenade Mall. Runners will receive their race packets, which includes their ChampionChip timing chip, t-shirt and other crucial information. Late registration will also be available, allowing runners one last chance to register for Saturday’s race.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Shoulder Opening and Stretches to Improve Range of Motion and Posture

As a person who has experienced a shoulder injury in a car accident back in 2008, I can honestly say that yoga has improved and rehabilitated my left shoulder. Slowly, but surely over the years, my left shoulder has become more flexible, more open without the constant rounding, and more pain-free. Try some of these shoulder poses to improve your shoulders and improve your Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Baddha Parsvakonasana (Bound Side Angle, and Setu Bandha Savangasana (Bridge Pose).

Tight shoulders can be caused by stress, injury, or poor posture. Strengthening and stretching can help increase circulation, range of motion, flexibility, and reduce stress. For shoulder relief, practice these yoga stretches two to three times a week. Modify by using a yoga strap, towel, or robe belt between the hands. Use your inhalation to lengthen and your exhalation to move more deeply into the pose. Remember "pain" is your "stop sign!" Check in with your breath to make sure you are not over-efforting and headed towards pain or too much of a challenge.

Lateral Flexion
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel. Inhale and stretch your arms out to the sides and then over your head with your palms facing each other. Exhale as you take hold of your left wrist with your right hand. With an inhalation, stretch the fingers of your left hand to the ceiling. Exhale as you gently stretch to the right, drawing out your left arm and wrist with the right hand, and move your hips to the left simultaneously. Keep your head and left arm in alignment with the torso. Don't drop your left arm in front of your face. Feel this stretch on the entire left side of your body, from your hips to your fingertips. Keep your feet solidly planted on the floor by pressing firmly down with your outer left heel. Continue to breathe softly as you stretch to the right, particularly noticing the deep stretch in the left rib cage as the breath enters your left lung. Inhale as you come back to center. Exhale and switch hands. Holding your right wrist with your left arm, inhale as you reach up through the fingers of your right hand. Exhale as you stretch to the left. Continue to breathe as you stretch to the left side. Inhale and return to the center. Repeat this sequence on each side.

Shoulder Rolls
Movement is one of the best things you can do for your back if you've been sitting in the same position for awhile. This particular movement helps relieve tension in the upper back and shoulders where the trapezius muscle is located.
Sitting upright, inhale as you lift your right shoulder to your ear. Exhale as you slowly roll your shoulder around and back, dropping it away from your ear. Continue these shoulder rolls three more times, alternating right and left.
Now, inhale as you lift both shoulders up to the ears. Exhale as you release them. Repeat five times and then relax your shoulders.

Neck Stretch
This stretch is particularly good for a stiff or compressed neck. You can really feel how it lengthens and stretches the neck, creating space between each of the vertebrae in the cervical spine.
Sit upright without letting your back touch the back of the chair. Align your head directly over your spine and feel the crown of your head lifting. You may want to hold on to the side of your chair seat with your left hand. Breathe in, and on the exhalation, drop your right ear toward your right shoulder without lifting your right shoulder or turning your head. Take several breaths in and out, feeling the stretch on the left side of your neck. Now, drop your chin to your chest and draw an imaginary necklace to the left shoulder on the exhale. Pause here, inhaling, and then move your chin back to the center of your collarbone. Inhale again. On the exhalation, move your chin to right shoulder tracing the imaginary circle. Pause and return to center as you exhale.

Open Chest Stretch
This pose opens the chest, decreasing rounded shoulders and releasing tightness in the middle back. In addition, it helps decrease kyphosis, extreme forward curvature of the thoracic spine.
Sit near the edge of a chair and interlace your fingers behind you, with your palms facing your back. Leaning slightly forward, lift your arms and rest them on the back of the chair. Inhale and lift your chest. Exhale and relax your shoulders away from your ears. If your hands do not reach the top of the chair, clasp the sides of the chair back and pull your chest forward, relaxing your shoulders and opening your upper chest. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths, feeling lightness in your heart. With an exhalation, slowly release your hands and bring them down by your sides.

Chair Twist
Twists are the antidote to sitting for long periods of time. After twisting, you will feel the release of all the muscles in your back (particularly in the middle back) that have been locked into position from sitting a long time.
Sit toward the front of a chair, then swivel your thighs toward the right side of the chair so you are sitting diagonally on the seat. If you have an arm rest on the side of the chair, bring your thighs as close to it as possible. Inhale and lift your right arm up to the ceiling. With an exhalation, move your arm to the back of the chair on the opposite side, taking hold of the chair back. Bring the left hand to the right knee or chair handle. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale and twist to the right, pressing your right hand against the back of the chair to deepen the twist. Visualize the shoulder blades dropping down as if they were hanging from weights. Breathe into your rib cage. Consciously relax the muscles in your back and gently twist a little farther. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 breaths. Return to your center with an exhalation and repeat on the opposite side.

Back and Shoulder Release
Part One: Sit on the edge of a chair and place your feet about two and a half feet apart, parallel to each other. Lean forward and place your forearms on your inner thighs. Press your inner thighs out with your forearms. Breathe deeply in and out, feeling the stretch in your inner thighs.
Part Two: Make sure your knees are directly over your heels and your feet are parallel to each other. Slowly stretch your arms down towards the floor, resting your ribs on your thighs and your armpits towards your knees. Cross your arms, placing your hands at the opposite elbows. Continue to breathe deeply.
Part Three: For a deeper stretch of the back, stretch your arms forward toward your desk or the floor, reaching through the fingertips and feeling your spine lengthening. Round your back and slowly roll up, returning to a sitting position.
Lengthening your right arm overhead, place your right hand on the left side of your head to gently pull your neck away from your shoulders. At the same time, you can hold firmly onto the chair with your left hand to draw your left shoulder away from your neck.
Visualize your neck growing longer and the muscles along your vertebrae relaxing. Hold the pose for at least five more breaths, then release your left hand from the chair and gently massage your neck and shoulders with your left hand. Slowly lift the head and switch sides to repeat the sequence.

Cow Face Pose
From a comfortable standing or seated position, stretch your arms out shoulder height in a T-shape. Rotate your right hand to face behind you, so that you feel your shoulder joint rotating forward. Reach your right hand behind you, bending at the elbow and finding the middle of your shoulder blades with your palm facing away from you. Now reach your left arm overhead, rotating the palm to face behind you. Bend at your elbow and clasp your right fingertips or hand. If you cannot reach your hand, use a towel or strap so both hands have something to clasp. Release and switch sides.

Clock Stretch at the Wall
Standing next to a doorway or wall with one side, bring the inner arm straight overhead. Imagine a clock-face as you inhale to lengthen through your side body and exhale move your arm (palm away from you towards the wall) to one o'clock (or eleven, depending what side you are on), two o'clock (or ten), and three o'clock (or nine). Your arm should be parallel to the floor at this point. If it feels comfortable to your neck, look towards the outstretched arm and hand to check that it is level with the floor. Your hips are straight forward. Hold each stretch for five breaths. Now, move your arm back up towards twelve o'clock, one breath per movement.

Eagle Pose
From a comfortable standing or seated position, hold your arms out straight in front of you with your palms facing down. Cross your right arm over your left. Bend both elbows so your fingertips point up and then try to cross your forearms and palms. Lift your elbows up to the height of your shoulders and press your forearms forward so your upper back rounds. Release and switch sides. If your shoulders are too tight to cross forearms and palms, grab for opposite shoulders instead.

Dolphin Pose
Starting on your hands and knees, place your elbows on the ground underneath your shoulders. Place your palms together. Tuck your toes under, lifting your knees off the ground. Once your knees are up, begin to push your chest toward your thighs. If your hamstrings are on the tight side, bend your knees to take some of the stretch away from your legs and avoid rounding your back. Try not to let your shoulders push past your elbows. Let your head relax down between your biceps.

Backward Reach
From a standing position with your feet shoulder distance, interlace your fingers at your low back. Stretch your knuckles down toward the floor, straightening your arms, and then begin to lift your hands away from your lower back. If it is hard to interlace your fingers, grab a strap or towel with both hands, keeping your hands shoulder distance. If you would like to deepen the stretch, close your palms together with your fingers interlaced and fold forward over your legs.
It will take time, as with any muscle group, for your shoulders to open up and respond to the stretch. Consider holding each stretch for 30 seconds so your muscle tissues can lengthen safely. Repeat each stretch three to four times, and practice them two to three times a week.

Thanks to Mayo Clinic for some of these ideas.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I.T. Bands and Athletes

If you are a dancer, cyclist, runner, walker, or any other type of exerciser, you may struggle with an issue. What is the I.T. band and what is its syndrome?

Iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS, is due to inflammation of the iliotibial band, a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the leg. The iliotibial band begins at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shin bone (tibia) just below the knee joint. The band functions in coordination with several of the thigh muscles to provide stability to the outside of the knee joint. Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) occurs when there is irritation to this band of fibrous tissue. The irritation usually occurs over the outside of the knee joint, at the end of the femur (thigh) bone. The iliotibial band crosses bone and muscle at this point; between these structures is a bursa which should facilitate a smooth gliding motion. However, when inflamed, the iliotibial band does not glide easily, and pain associated with movement is the result. Johnathan Culett M.D.

Common symptoms of ITBS include:
Pain over the outside of the knee joint
Swelling at the location of discomfort
A snapping or popping sensation as the knee is bent

Endurance athletes are especially prone to developing iliotibial band syndrome. Athletes who suddenly increase their level of activity, such as runners who increase their mileage, often develop iliotibial band syndrome as well. Even if you are not an athlete, these four magic stretches are great for you. Please warm up thoroughly with Sun Salutes or a brisk walk or run before stretching.

Read below for 4 awesome stretches in yoga to help solve these issues!

Four magic stretches to lengthen your legs and release tight I.T. Bands = remember however in case of injury: RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).

Magic Stretch #1 Pigeon Pose (demonstrated in photograph above)
1)Begin on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips, and your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Slide your right knee forward to the back of your right wrist; at the same time angle your right shin under your torso and bring your right foot to the front of your left knee. The outside of your right shin will now rest on the floor. Slowly slide your left leg back, straightening the knee and descending the front of the thigh to the floor. Lower the outside of your right buttock to the floor. Position the right heel just in front of the left hip.
2)The right knee can angle slightly to the right, outside the line of the hip. Look back at your left leg. It should extend straight out of the hip (and not be angled off to the left), and rotated slightly inwardly, so its midline presses against the floor. Exhale and lay your torso down on the inner right thigh for a few breaths. Stretch your arms forward.
3) Then slide your hands back toward the front shin and push your fingertips firmly to the floor. Lift your torso away from the thigh. Lengthen the lower back by pressing your tailbone down and forward; at the same time, and lift your pubis toward the navel. Roll your left hip point toward the right heel, and lengthen the left front groin.
4) If you can maintain the upright position of your pelvis without the support of your hands on the floor, bring your hands to the top rim of your pelvis. Push heavily down. Against this pressure, lift the lower rim of your rib cage. The back ribs should lift a little faster than the front. Without shortening the back of your neck, drop your head back. To lift your chest, push the top of your sternum (at the manubrium) straight up toward the ceiling.
5) Stay in this position for a minute. Then, with your hands back on the floor, carefully slide the left knee forward, then exhale and lift up and back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose). Take a few breaths, drop the knees to all-fours on another exhalation, and repeat with the legs reversed for the same length of time.

Magic Stretch #2 Wide Legged Stretch
1)Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), facing one of the long edges of your sticky mat, then step or lightly hop your feet apart anywhere from 3 to 4 1/2 feet (depending on your height: taller people should step wider). Rest your hands on your hips. Make sure your inner feet are parallel to each other (toes in; heels out). Lift your inner arches by drawing up on the inner ankles, and press the outer edges of your feet and ball of the big toe firmly into the floor. Engage the thigh muscles by drawing them up. Inhale and lift your chest, making the front torso slightly longer than the back. 2)Exhale and, maintaining the length of the front torso, lean the torso forward from the hip joints. As your torso approaches parallel to the floor, press your fingertips onto the floor directly below your shoulders. Extend your elbows fully. Your legs and arms then should be perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other. Move your spine evenly into the back torso so that your back is slightly concave from the tailbone to the base of the skull. Bring your head up, keeping the back of the neck long, and direct your gaze upward toward the ceiling.
3)Push your top thighs straight back to help lengthen the front torso, and draw the inner groins away from each other to widen the base of your pelvis. Take a few breaths. As you maintain the concavity of your back and the forward lift of your sternum, walk your fingertips between your feet. Take a few more breaths and then, with an exhalation, bend your elbows and lower your torso and head into a full forward bend. Make sure as you move down that you keep your front torso as long as possible. If possible rest the crown of your head on the floor.
4) Press your inner palms actively into the floor, fingers pointing forward. If you have the flexibility to move your torso into a full forward bend, walk your hands back until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your upper arms parallel. Be sure to keep your arms parallel to each other and widen the shoulder blades across the back. Draw your shoulders away from your ears.
5) Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. To come out, bring your hands back on the floor below your shoulders and lift and lengthen your front torso. Then with an inhalation, rest your hands on your hips, pull your tail bone down toward the floor, and swing the torso up. Walk or hop your feet back into Mountain Pose or Tadasana.

Magic Stretch #3 Extended Hand to Foot Pose
1)Lie supine on the floor, legs strongly extended. If your head doesn't rest comfortably on the floor, support it on a folded blanket. Exhale, bend the left knee, and draw the thigh into your torso. Hug the thigh to your belly. Press the front of the right thigh heavily to the floor, and push actively through the right heel.
2)Loop a strap around the arch of the left foot and hold the strap in both hands. Inhale and straighten the knee, pressing the left heel up toward the ceiling. Walk your hands up the strap until the elbows are fully extended. Broaden the shoulder blades across your back. Keeping the hands as high on the strap as possible, press the shoulder blades lightly into the floor. Widen the collarbones away from the sternum.
3)Extend up first through the back of the left heel, and once the back of the leg between the heel and sitting bone is fully lengthened, lift through the ball of the big toe. Begin with the raised leg perpendicular to the floor. Release the head of the thigh bone more deeply into the pelvis and, as you do, draw the foot a little closer to your head, increasing the stretch on the back of the leg.
4)You can stay here in this stretch, or turn the leg outward from the hip joint, so the knee and toes look to the left. Pinning the top of the right thigh to the floor, exhale and swing the left leg out to the left and hold it a few inches off the floor. Continue rotating the leg. As you feel the outer thigh move away from the left side of the torso, try to bring the left foot in line with the left shoulder joint. Inhale to bring the leg back to vertical. Lighten your grip on the strap as you do, so that you challenge the muscles of the inner thigh and hip to do the work.
5)Hold the vertical position of the leg anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes, and the side position for an equal length of time. When you bring the leg across the body in a diagonal, you will feel the I.T. Band stretch and lengthen. Remember to push through the heel.
6)Once you have returned to vertical release the strap, hold the leg in place for 30 seconds or so, then slowly release as you exhale. Repeat on the right for the same length of time.

Magic Stretch #4 Eye of the Needle
1) Begin by lying on your back on a yoga mat, clean towel or clean spot of carpet on the floor. Bend both knees so that your feet are flat on the floor in front of your sitting bones.
2) Go through the fundamental steps of any yoga pose, first softening, and then drawing in. Let the breath lengthen the sides of your torso, and fill you up and expand you on all sides. The touch of the floor beneath you can help you to feel whether the breath is expanding in your back body.
3) Place your right ankle in front of your left knee, as you might rest it there if you were sitting in a chair. The knee and lower leg will be pointing out to the right, perpendicular to the lines of the left leg. Flex the foot and make the ankle strong. Let the foot be in standing position, or tadasana foot, with the toes active and spreading. Proper action of the foot and ankle here are crucial to the safety of the knee joint.
4) Keeping the steady action of your feet and ankles, especially on the right side, draw your left knee gently towards your chest. Reach your left hand around the outside of your left leg, and thread your right hand through the space between your two thighs. This is the eye of the needle. Clasp your hands around the left knee, at the top of the shin bone. If you cant hold the shin bone and place your shoulders back on the floor, hold your hamstring - the back of the thigh just above the knee.
5) Go through step one again, gently, even lovingly, hugging in around the expansion of your inner body. Create a safe container for what you are asking your hips to let go of. Then, press the left knee or thigh firmly into the resistance of your hands as you draw your knee slowly toward your chest. The moment that the tension in your hips begins to compromise the action of the ankles and feet, back off one smidge, and hold the pose, and breathe. Soften your jaw. Remember the fundamentals. Maintain the push pull resistance of your hands and left knee throughout. (This is what creates the IT band stretch.)
6) Breathe slowly, through your nose. Deepen the pose by maintaining the steady action of the ankle while moving your right knee away from your right shoulder
Thanks to Yoga Journal for breaking down these postures!

Jeanne K. Doss; call 918-371-3841 to reserve a spot in our yoga practices this week. Go to and search for Tranquility Yoga in Owasso; you will find a current schedule.
Registered Yoga Teacher - Yoga Alliance
Personal Certified Trainer - Cooper Institute
Certified Pilates, Aerobics Instructor
Zumba Training
"The point is that in your life, unless you make specific time for something that you feel committed to, you will always have other obligations and you will always be too busy." — Dalai Lama

Friday, July 1, 2011

Do Not Despise These Small Beginnings

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you to everyone who purchased one of our Groupons to Tranquility Yoga Studio. Our campaign to get the word out about yoga in Owasso/Collinsville ended with 114 groupons sold! Please call 918-855-6459 or 918-371-3841 to reserve your spot today in one of our twelve weekly classes. (If you are unable to reserve, please come early as the mat space will be on a first come, first served basis.)

One of the beautiful limbs in the eight limbed tree of yoga include the yamas or right living. Within that group we find ahimsa or non-violence. I personally think that this is what drew me to yoga originally. The philosophy of yoga teaches us that while we are getting better and better every day, an important truth is learning to let go of our ego-attachments and accept who we are right now. Non-violent thinking builds the important trait of love and compassion for one's self.

I believe that all of us in our stress-filled, overly committed world tend to be wounded, imperfect, and our thoughts are arrogant or self-deprecating. Sidney Solis says, "As adults, the practice of yoga allows us to cleanse ourselves. In so doing, we are able to interrupt that reflex-projection of ourselves (as bad or inadequate) and bestow on ourselves first and then on our children a clean slate free of unfinished emotional business." Yoga can work to heal issues of self-hatred, loathing, and criticism.

Non-violent thinking allows us to accept what is without judgment or fault-finding. Since we tend to think 80% today of what went on yesterday in our minds, the rehashing, critiquing, and judgment of the past can be released. After all, they are just thoughts. We can begin to change our thinking to accept without criticism and try a softer, more gentle approach to becoming a better person in our bodies, souls, and spirits. It all starts in our thought life and before long begins to come out of our mouths in conversation with others or self-talk to ourselves.

The Bible says in Zechariah 4:10, " Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..." Just like our small yoga studio or your steps to a better you, try to let go of the huge timeline that follows your expectations for improvement and simply strive to be a better person one thought at a time. Ahimsa or non-violence, in my opinion, reflects this thinking. First, do no harm should always begin in our thoughts to ourselves and others, then reach outward physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Perhaps, then we can truly love ourselves and others the way Jesus said for us to do.

Riding the Wave with Breathe, Release, Feel, Witness, Allow

My son, Jeff, surfing the waves in California "Riding the Wave requires a lot of energy and can make us fill depleted.  Refill y...