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Tag Archives: Benefits

Success with Summer of Core

Sometimes it’s hard to stick with the program. It’s hard to commit, it’s hard to keep it going.

But those times when you do, when you really stick to your guns, the outcome can be more than what you expect.

Katy Mangan

When Katy Mangan signed up to be a part of Summer of Core, she said she did so reluctantly. Though she has a dedicated yoga practice of four to five times a week, she wasn’t sure she wanted to commit more time to working on strengthening her core.

She started getting the emails and dutifully carried out each day’s exercise, and soon she began to notice an improvement not only in her abs and arms but in her attitude. “I feel stronger, so I feel more confident,” she said, sitting outside of Soul Yoga after class.

“Now I can really begin to realign my poses. Like in Warrior I and II, I can work on fine-tuning it,” she said. “Because I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve noticed I don’t have [the poses] down.”

Katy said her balance has also improved as her core strength has grown. She also feels proud of herself that she stuck with the program. In fact, she said, holding plank has become quite enjoyable.

“Plank now is a very reassuring pose for me, instead of being difficult,” she said. “It’s obviously what I need.”

 

Summer of Core Day 16: Side Plank T-Flows

I made this one up. Well, I’m sure I picked some of it up somewhere. But I certainly made up the name. It’s not so much side plank as it is a chance to utilize your obliques in a new way.

Here’s Katy for a second day in a row demonstrating the move.

Thanks again Katy for being a wonderful model and dedicated student!

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in kneeling side plank with your right knee down and left arm to the sky.
  • Inhale, lift from your left arm so your right arm lifts off the ground and both arms form a “T”, palms facing down, arms out to the sides, torso stacked over hips.
  • Exhale, float your left hand to your left thigh. Reach your right arm straight up.
  • Inhale, extend toward the sky, stretching from your right knee through the whole right side of your body up to your finger tips.
  • Exhale, float your right arm back to the ground with control, left arm to the sky, returning to side plank.
  • Repeat this flow five to ten times. Switch sides.

Alignment Tune-Up

  • In kneeling side plank, make sure your bottom arm is stacked beneath your shoulders, so there’s a long, straight line running from your bottom hand through your chest and shoulders and up your lifted arm.
  • Bring your bottom knee directly under your bottom hip for optimal stability.
  • Extend your top leg straight out so the foot is in line with your bottom knee. You should feel like your body is in one singular plane.
  • Engage your extended thigh and keep your top hip lifted, core engaged.

Why Flow?

We primarily practice vinyasa yoga, meaning yoga that flows with the breath. It becomes a moving meditation, which can be very effective in clearing the mind and reducing stress from our hectic, daily lives.

“The Western world has become a seated society, which is why vinyasa yoga is so important: its orientation is breath and movement, and research shows that increased movement in a seated society is absolutely essential for health. Vinyasa yoga gets us moving.” ~ Eddie Modestini, renowned yoga instructor and student of BKS Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

I hope that this flow and yesterday’s flow will get you moving today and you’ll find some joy and freedom in the practice.

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 14: Spinal Balance

Today’s pose, spinal balance, is one that takes core strength in the back muscles as well as the front for stability.


Spinal balance, dandayamna bharmasana in Sanskrit, is also known as balancing table in some yoga circles. It’s often called a beginner’s pose, but in my experience, it takes a lot of body awareness and control to execute and can be a challenge to hold.

I love using it as a warm-up, because it helps you get a feel for elongating your body while connecting to your core. In my classes I often incorporate it into a flow to get the breath linked to movement. But today, we are going to break down this pose and get into proper alignment for optimum benefit.

Let’s Do It

  • From hands and knees (use a blanket or a doubled-up mat under your knees if they’re sensitive), bring your belly button in towards your spine to firm your abs and flatten your back.
  • Keep your gaze at the ground and draw your shoulders away from your ears for length in your neck.
  • Extend your left leg behind you, keeping toes on the ground.
  • Press through your heel to strengthen your thigh and feel strong from hip to heel.
  • Inhale, lift your leg to hip height.
  • Extend your right arm forward, turning your palm to face in, your thumb to the sky.
  • Work to keep your hips level and your abs turned on as you breathe.
  • Hold for three to five breaths. Switch sides.

Options

  • Lift your leg only, not your arm if you feel unstable or wobbly. Work on your balance and strength from here.
  • If your wrists bother you, use fists for wrists or come to your forearms.

Fine-Tune the Alignment

In class, I often see students with concave backs, their bellies dipping toward the ground and their leg and arm coming higher than shoulder or hip height. To maximize the benefits of this pose:

  • Try to keep your leg at hip level.
  • Keep your core muscles engaged to support your back and keep it flat.
  • Lift your arm just to shoulder height.
  • Think about reaching out and back, creating length rather than height.
  • Keep your gaze at the ground, your neck long.

It can be helpful to have someone watch you and tell you when you are in proper alignment or to do this in front of a full-length mirror, though you may know my thoughts on mirrors and yoga.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, if anything’s not clear or if you just want to say hi!

Have a great time with this one. Come see me in class today at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.!

~ Shoshana

 

 

Summer of Core Day 6: Boat w/ Toe Grab

Wrapping up Week 1 of the Summer of Core, we are adding on to Boat pose one more time. Today, we add a toe grab, which challenges our balance, flexibility and overall core strength.

Let’s Do It

  • Start in Boat pose.
  • Reach for your toes or feet, and get a secure grip.
  • Find balance on your sitz bones and get steady.
  • Work to straighten your legs as you lift your chest and straighten your back.
  • Pull your thighs toward your ribs as you exhale, keeping a long spine.
  • Have fun with this pose! It’s easy to roll onto your back or tip over. Don’t be afraid to laugh at the goofiness that can ensue.

Options

boat with toe grab option 2

Full boat with a toe grab.

  • If you’re really flexible, you can bend your elbows and reach around your legs for your heels.

 

 

 

 

Boat with toe grab option 3

 

  • If grabbing the toes or feet are creating too much unsteadiness and you are having a hard time keeping balance and maintaining integrity in this pose, hold on to the backs of your thighs. You still get a great core workout, just a little less intense.

 

 

 

Boat with toe grab option 1

 

  • If you’re less flexible in the hamstrings, keeping knees bent or slightly bent is a great option. Make sure to keep your chest lifted and back flat!

 

 

 

Homework

We won’t have a new exercise tomorrow, Sunday the 7th, so your homework is to go through this week’s exercises and do them in sequence. Or, you can just rest. You worked hard this week!

See you on Monday!

~ Shoshana

 

On Flexibility and Other Matters

At least once a week, a person, upon finding out I teach yoga, says something like “Oh, I can’t do yoga. I am not flexible.”Flex1

I chuckle, then promptly assure that doubtful person that yoga is not about being flexible or inflexible. Like anything—reading, writing, walking, riding a bike—flexibility takes practice, patience and time. But, staying away from yoga because of a perceived inflexibility issue shows this person is not just stiff in the body, but also stiff in the mind.

Take the runner. When someone decides to begin a running program, maybe with the goal of getting in shape or just losing weight, they are not going to go from zero miles to 20 miles in one day, or even one week. They may never even get to a 20 mile run, but that’s OK. That’s not the point. They are putting on their shoes, heading out the door and working toward something positive for their body.

Same with yoga. Grabbing your yoga mat and heading to class, or even just taking a few minutes after a workout to stretch out and calm the mind and relax the body, provides great benefit, and yes, will make you more flexible. Over time.Flex2

I read once that each person is born with a certain amount of flexibility, which gradually decreases as they age. Some people are naturally more flexible than others. Some are drawn to yoga because they can easily bend and contort into pretzel-like poses. And good for them, but most people will never touch the soles of their feet to the crown of their head in cobra pose.

But also, people who are super flexible might not have the strength they need to sustain those twists and backbends. Yoga provides that strengthening, too.

For athletes, tight muscles not only cause pain and discomfort, but can also lead to injury. So it’s important to stretch and to keep limber. The other night, a weight lifter said he couldn’t do yoga because he couldn’t reach his toes. He bent over to demonstrate. I said, bend your knees. Bend them more. More. More.  Then he touched his toes.

So be strong. But don’t forget to be flexible. In body and spirit.

 

LeBron does it, and so can you!

NBA star LeBron James has been doing yoga and improving his health and performance.

NBA star LeBron James has been doing yoga and improving his health and performance.

It seems every day there is an article or video claiming the benefits for athletes to practice yoga—even for NBA stars LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal. From gaining flexibility to calming the mind, there surely are many reasons why any athlete could get an edge doing some sun salutations and warrior poses.

Here are some reasons why:

  • Connection with your body. Nothing is worse than an injury, and being aware of both your body’s limits and depths is powerful knowledge to help you avoid injury and train stronger. Yoga hones in on body awareness, tuning in deep into the subtleties of your muscles, joints, ligaments and posture.
  • Building focus. Training the mind to be quiet and focus one one thing at a time takes work. In yoga practice, we aim to tune out everything but what is going on in the moment. Nothing else matters. There are no expectations, only acceptance of what is happening now. Focus leads to awareness, which can push you toward stability and success, free from distractions.
  • Improving flexibility. You wouldn’t be the first person to say, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.” Throw that out the window. You don’t need to be anything to do yoga. Just be yourself, and be true to yourself. Yoga is practice. If you are not flexible, your body will allow you to be in the pose that is right for your body. And it will eventually open up, and you will find more flexibility. When you are more flexible, you are less likely to get injured. Plus, it feels so good to stretch.
  • Building strength. You’re an athlete. You’re fit. You’re strong. But are you strong all over? You might have some muscle groups that are more developed than others, and that can lead to imbalances, which again, can cause injury. Those pesky injuries. Building strength throughout the body through the integration of yoga poses (asanas) will help bring balance to your body’s strength. Yoga is great for developing core strength in those deep core muscles, as well, which will help not only make you a better athlete, but will protect you from, yes, injuries. Those deep abs help keep us strong all over, protect the back and allow us to have proper form while training.
  • Finding your breath. Breathing is central to yoga, as it is to life and athletic training. When we can maximize our lung function and bring awareness to our breath we can become more in control. Specific breathing techniques (pranayama) are key to a full yoga practice. Practicing breathing and becoming aware of the way we breathe and how it feels will help us notice how we’re breathing when we’re outside of yoga class. Breathing exercises can also calm the mind, reduce stress and lower blood pressure.