Issues in our Tissues

We all have issues in our tissues. It’s where our life story is housed (happiness, sadness, scars, trauma, blockages, etc.). Our tissue is our connective tissue and that’s a broad term that means our fascia, tendons, ligaments, bones, and even blood.

What’s really interesting about our tissue is that it both separates AND binds together muscles, organs, and other tissues of the body. It’s made up of ground substance, elastin, fibroblast cells, collagen, and more. And our fascial system (also called the interstitium) is now classified as its own organ. The interstitium is the source of lymph fluid. So when we move and stretch, we’re moving lymph which makes for a healthy immune system.

Have you stretched your tissues today? In yoga we move our tissues in all directions for optimal health. Come practice and feel the peace!

Every Day Asana

Yesterday’s Yoga Clinic was about recommended asanas (yoga postures) to practice every day. Please note, this is a personal opinion explaining which pose along with a short explanation as to why.

1. Tadasana and Raised Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

-Good for balance, anxiety, and a preparatory pose for balancing poses. Good for postural awareness, creating a neutral pelvis, elongating the spine (pushing up, rooting down). Good for generating strength for difficult times as you’re channeling the strongest structure you can. Beautiful, expansive, rooted and stable. In raised Tadasana, you rise up from your heels as you expand and lift your arms while focusing on a drishti (focal point).

2. Balasana (Child’s Pose)

-This is a pose where magic happens when the breath is engaged. It’s a resting pose during a vigorous practice, a transitional pose or segway-going from belly to back or to standing, a Yin pose with thighs touching or wide and also a restorative pose. It brings gentle length down to the tailbone, balances out backward bending poses, stimulates/activates the digestive system and is an inversion (heart above brain). In balasana, the student is folding forward so it’s a good pose for anxiety.

3. Salabasana (Locust or half locust pose)

-Locust pose is a back bend and backward bending poses stimulate and tone the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response in the body). It energizes the body and helps to improve focus. Practicing locust pose involves core strength when practiced on the floor. As we engage the core muscles, we’re also lengthening and extending the entire spine, thus strengthening the back muscles, particularly the low back. Some other amazing benefits of this pose are that it opens the chest, which we all often collapse during the day due to our posture and how much time we spend sitting. Locust is great for strengthening the gluteal muscles in the butt that support the back, and it tones the inner thighs, hamstrings, adductors and calf muscles. When we put our body weight and balance into our abdomen (if practicing the mat version) the internal organs get a massage and we activate our digestive system, getting everything moving along effectively.

4. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)

-Stretches the chest, neck, and spine. Builds butt muscles that support the back, specifically gluteus maximus. Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression. Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid. Bridge pose rejuvenates tired legs and improves digestion. It helps relieve the symptoms of menopause, relieves menstrual discomfort when done supported, reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia. It is therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis

5.  Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall or legs up the chair)

One of the best yoga postures to use for back issues and overall relaxation. While not considered an inversion, it benefits the body by helping the blood circulate toward the upper body and head, thus creating a feeling of restoration. It helps realign the body after prolonged standing or sitting and is particularly nice if you’re feeling stressed, fatigued, or even jet-lagged. It’s a posture that promotes the feeling of the myriad of positive results of doing less, not more. It creates a paradigm shift in the mind and activates the relaxation response in the parasympathetic nervous system (a countering of the fight or flight response in the sympathetic nervous system).

In Yin Yoga, a more passive and meditative form of yoga, this posture targets the kidney and benefits the urinary bladder meridian. It helps to reduce swelling in the body and tempers overall anxiety. It’s also effective for fatigue and insomnia. Note: Another variation of this posture is legs up the chair. Contraindications: Glaucoma, Hypertension, and Hernia.

6. Surya Namaskaram (Sun Salutation)

-Considered a complete warm up for the body and a regular practice promotes balance in the body/mind. It improves blood circulation, strengthens the heart, tones the digestive tract, stimulates abdominal muscles, respiratory system, lymphatic system, spinal nerves and other internal organs. Tones the spine , neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, back and leg muscles prompting overall flexibility. Psychologically, it regulates the interconnectedness of the body, breath, and mind, thus making the student calmer and boosting energy levels.

7.  Cherry pick body segments from Yoga for Arthritis practice (taught twice a month) based on what the student is feeling in that particular body part. But also keep in mind that everything is connected and what might be, for example, the shoulder, could be the neck so good to look at the “neighbors” too.

A Mindful Launch

I was recently asked about the best yoga poses to start the day. It got my engines revving! What’s a good way to launch into the world we live in? After giving this a bit of thought, here are my recommendations:

In Bed:

1. After waking up I love 9 very slow and very deep yogic breaths. In my yoga therapy program it was 36 breaths, but that is throughout the day, so you could insert 4 more sets of these breaths into your day and do the 9 at the very top of your day. This is very effective for helping to quell anxiety and promote wellness.


2. On your belly in bed, practice a few 1/2 circles with your ankles. Tops of the feet on the mattress, shift both big toes in toward each other and then shift them away from each other to your range of motion. Use the breath as it will enhance your range.


3. Press your shoulders into the mattress and release them while still on your belly. Inhale press, exhale release.


4. Bring your hands next to your chest, spread your fingers, forehead is on your mattress, inhale and lift the head, neck, and chest coming into Bhujangasana (Cobra). After a few rounds you may want to push in a little deeper and raise up higher coming into a raised cobra.


5. With your hands next to your chest, press down and lift your body up, widen your knees and bring your big toes toward each other and sit your bum back toward your ankles into Balasana (Child’s Pose). While enjoying this, wiggle your fingers and maybe circle your wrists. You can also do the same movement with your hands as you did with your ankles by shifting side to side into your wrist joint.


6. Make your way to your back, bend and widen your knees, soles of the feet on the mattress and windshield wiper your knees from side to side moving comfortably and in your range of motion within your hip sockets.

Edge of Bed:


7. Sit on the edge of your bed. Point and flex the feet. Spread and splay the toes. Fold the toes in and out (toward the soles of the feet).


8. If your feet reach the floor (depends on how high the bed is), do the pumping movement with the feet rocking from heel to toe on both feet. Sends blood, oxygen, lymph to upper parts of the body as the “circulatory system below.”


9. Extend each lower leg out and in – this lubricates the knees with synovial fluid and stretches the calves.


10. Bring hands to tops of thighs and do a few seated cow/cat movements for the spine. Inhale cow (belly and belly button moving out) and exhale to cat (rounded back and belly button moving in and back toward the spine).


11. Lower right ear to right shoulder relaxing both shoulders and breathe, close eyes, and soften for a count of 30 or for however long you have time for. Slowly come back up and repeat on the other side. Look over your right shoulder, inhale center, and look over left shoulder.


Slowly make your way to standing to launch yourself into a spectacular day!


*Feel free to print this. Keep it next to your bed and follow along!*

A Locust a Day…

One of the very best yoga poses to do every day is locust (Salabhasana). In my gentle mat and chair classes, I teach a few variations of it. Here’s why it’s so great:

Locust pose is a back bend and backward bending poses stimulate and tone the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response in the body). It energizes the body and helps to improve focus.

Practicing locust pose involves core strength. As we engage the core muscles, we’re also lengthening and extending the entire spine, thus strengthening the back muscles, particularly the low back. Keep in mind while trying this pose that it’s mostly about the lengthening versus the lifting and keeping the neck long (because every body is different, we’re not going to necessarily look like the picture above).

Some other amazing benefits of this pose are that it opens the chest, which we all often collapse during the day due to our posture and how much time we spend sitting. Depending upon the version of locust (arms behind and parallel to the mat), we’re getting some nice retraction of the scapula — a good movement for the rotator cuff. Locust is great for strengthening the gluteal muscles in the butt that support the back, and it tones the inner thighs, hamstrings, adductors and calf muscles. For these reasons and more, it is often “prescribed” in PT for low back pain and improving posture.

As we move into this asana or posture, we put our body weight and balance into our abdomen (if practicing the mat version) so the internal organs get a massage and we activate our digestive system, getting everything moving along effectively.

Are you ready for a locust a day? It may keep the doctor away.

Effort versus ease

By Guest Blogger: Eva Montalvo

Sthira Sukham Asanam

We may think that ease (sukha) is better than effort, because it just sounds so, well EASY.  Yet without effort (sthira) there is no strength or stability.  On the other hand, we can overdo effort and feel as if we are straining and stressed.

In yoga we come into poses (asanam) that may be relaxing, and others that feel more strenuous.  Practicing Sthira and Sukha really isn’t an either/or, though.  It is balancing both at the same time

For example, even in a relaxing stretch like child’s pose we can find a steadiness in our breathing and thoughts.  In a stronger pose such as Warrior II, even while feeling the effort of the body’s muscles used to hold the pose, we can still look for a lightness and comfort by letting the shoulders relax down away from the ears and softening the muscles of the face.

Often, we can find ease or contentment simply by letting go of expectations – what we think “should” be – and simply acknowledging what IS.  We can feel the pose and use the breath as a guide to that sweet spot of harmony within.

As you step off your mat and into your life, can you find this same balance of effort and ease?  For example, even while performing a task such as preparing dinner, I find a sense of ease by putting on my favorite music and reflecting on the day with gratitude.  

More about our guest blogger:

Eva is the Owner/Founder of Nourish Yoga & Wellness. Her mission is to inspire adults to live more energetically and vibrantly by helping them incorporate simple changes in their lifestyle, especially in learning how to move and breathe to connect to their body through yoga. She believes strongly in making yoga available for EVERY BODY and specializes in working with beginners and older adults. To learn more click here: https://www.nourishyogawellness.com/

Should?

Just because you CAN do something, does it mean you should? I recently realized while practicing yoga, after years of thinking I can’t do Camel Pose (Ustrasana), I actually can. Imagine that! I felt accomplished, proud of myself. All from a discovery that if I widened the space between my knees, I’m able to bend back just a bit deeper and take hold of my ankles. Prior to this discovery, I’d been priming my back with other poses which created some space. So I was ready at that time for this epiphany.

Fast forward about 2-3 weeks and I decide to teach it in class. First I demonstrate the gentle version of it, which I really like. And then for those who want to try a fuller expression, I demonstrate. The next day, I noticed sensation in my mid-back. The only explanation is that I should have stayed with the gentle version knowing that when I teach, I have a harder time being mindful of myself, because I’m focused on students. I did not, in that moment, have the ability to discern my best course of action. The Sanskrit for the concept of discernment is Vivek. I’d been learning about Vivek in a weekly class through the Princeton University Hindu Life Program. I had discovered the perfect lesson in Vivek (the hard way).

How can we take this lesson into our every day lives? Discerning how much we want to take in. One more news segment? One more Netflix series? Reaching, striving. One more commitment on the calendar? Should? Should not? Pause, breathe, think, weigh, assess…

Read more here about Camel Pose: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/camel-pose

Yoga In Place

While we’re sheltering in place (and even afterward), virtual yoga can be accessed from anywhere. If you’re enjoying the content I share, you may enjoy my virtual classes as well! If you’d like to be added to my email list for regular updates of virtual and in person offerings (some are free), it’s easy. Just email me at: lyn.sirota@gmail.com. See below:

For a limited time, I am offering a free virtual Yoga Nidra and Meditation experience.  Please ensure your account and device are set about 15 minutes in advance and gather your props: mat, cushion, blanket/s, pillow/s. Meet me in cyberspace!

~Remote Yoga Nidra (Deep Relaxation) and Meditation – Tuesday evenings 7:30-8:15 p.m. This can be practiced reclining or seated. Yoga nidra takes the student on a journey within connecting the mind/body through a series of steps to a quieter place for meditation. Ongoing until further notice.

~*New* Remote Mindful Chair Yoga and Meditation  – Tuesday mornings at 10:00 a.m. beginning 5/19 (includes 5/19, 5/26, 6/2, 6/9, and 6/16) Cost: $40. There will be subsequent sessions so please reach out if you’re interested. Registration is now open. Anyone who lives anywhere can join from the comfort of home and even in PJs!

~Remote Gentle Yoga and Meditation – Friday Mornings at 9:00. New session beginning  Friday, May 8th (five sessions: 5/8, 5/15, 5/22, 5/29, and 6/5). There will be subsequent sessions so please reach out if you’re interested. Cost $40. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

~*Hurry* Remote Gentle Yoga for Anxiety and Busy Minds – Saturday May 16th, 9:00-10:30.  In this class we’ll practice poses to calm the nervous system blended with mindfulness practices for anxiety. Cost $10. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home. This class is free for Healthcare professionals.

~Remote Gentle Yoga for Computer Users – Saturday, May 30th 9:00-10:30. Looking to counter the effects of heavy computer/device usage? Are your shoulders, neck, upper back bothering you and maybe even your wrists? Look no further, this Gentle Yoga class is for you! Cost $10. Registration is open. Join from anywhere in the comfort of your own home.

Enlightened Readers Book Group – Lyn/Lilavati leads these discussions on mostly historical fiction titles (with some exceptions). Next meeting TBD in June via Zoom. Princeton Integral Yoga Community Center, 12:00. Book discussion:  The Rules of Magic. This is a free offering.

Testimonials

“Chair yoga is a practice that nourishes the mind, body, and soul! I have found it outstanding “exercise” for arthritis as well. Instructor, Lyn Sirota understands joints and how movement and breath can relieve pain. For me, chair yoga is gentle impact and far better rehab than any physical therapy I’ve done. Give it a try!”

~Lynn R

“I’ve been a student in Lyn Lilavati Sirota’s Gentle Mat Yoga classes for several years now, and can’t imagine a week without this type of yoga practice that stretches my body and mind. During her class I can just focus on myself, learn breathing practices that help me cope with life and stress, practice staying (and living) in the moment, and of course stretch out my body. I feel renewed, less tense, more flexible, for the whole day!”

~Stephanie C

“I just wanted to thank you one more time for that amazing class this morning. You are truly so talented and I feel like this is the class I’ve been looking for all my life LOL! I loved the little extras that you added like explaining what each pose was and the reason for doing it, the reading of the passage, incorporating scents like lavender and eucalyptus. I defuse it with essential oil’s, but I really loved how your house smelled and so many other little things that really made it the perfect class. I look forward to joining more in the future.”

~Joanne H

“Thank you for giving so much of yourself to your students. I feel so calm and safe in your classes.”

~Tamar B

Trikonasana-Triangle Pose

Trikonasana (TREE-kone-AA-SUN-aa) — is an asana (posture) that activates and moves energy through the entire body by stretching the side body and challenging the balance. This asana is named from the Sanskrit words, Trikona, meaning triangle, and asana.

Some of the benefits

Stretches and opens the hips, chest, and lengthens the spine.

Opens the hamstrings, groin, calves, and shoulders.

Stretches and tones the muscles of the legs.

Stretches the intercostal muscles of the rib cage.

Strengthens the neck. Note: ensure the head isn’t droppping down to the shoulder.

Can bring relief to backaches and menstrual cramps.

Gives a deep, full, nourishing stretch to the sides of the body.

Strengthens the legs, knees, ankles, arms, and chest.

Increases mental and physical balance.

Improves digestion.

Reduces anxiety, stress, back pain, and sciatica

Finding Savasana

Savasana, or more fondly, Corpse Pose is not an easy pose to find. According to the yoga masters, the hardest pose to practice. Letting go and being in stillness is a tall order. Life gets in the way, but it doesn’t have to.

Take a few moments of your day to connect with the earth through your body. Walk barefoot and really feel the earth with mindful, slow steps. Connect through your eyes, through your nose. Watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly. It’s a great start!