Mainstream: Yoga

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Yoga.

It has slowly become a household term. When even 5 years ago, this may not have been the case. Most people have some connection to yoga….either you practice currently, have practiced in the past or know someone who practices.

I stumbled into yoga accidentally when I was 12. Then, it was only Bikram and light stretching yoga. Now, there are so many types of yoga, that it is difficult to keep them all straight. Yet, if you’re like me, as you practice and practice yoga, you realize that there is more to yoga than just holding a Warrior 2 correctly.

This is where I stumbled into Yoga Teacher Training. Through this journey, I realized yoga is so much more than doing poses and getting a healthier body. Yes, this is part of it, but was never the intention of yoga.

The early Sutras of Patanjali state that yoga is:

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the removal of all the misconceptions of the mind. This in turn, leads you to finding your true self. Lately, my heart has been for living a life of yoga. It has been for being a part of true and lasting change in individual’s lives.

It’s fascinating, because I wanted to leave an impact on the world in some big way. But, I am realizing that teaching these principles alone can truly make that impact. Principles such as the 8 Limbs of Yoga, which guide all yogis (or hopefully they do). Principles that I am learning more and more about every day.

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“practice and all is coming,” -Patthabi Jois

A little over 10 years ago, I stepped onto my yoga mat regularly. I was going through a time in my life that had little direction, I was quite lost. I had stepped on my mat to ‘work out’ and instead found myself healing. From that moment onward, I began to see transformation. The transformation started in my body (my upper body gained strength) and unbeknownst to me, the practice of yoga began to heal the lost parts of me as well.

Fast forward, and I teach yoga on a really regular basis. Approximately 5-8 times a week now. I have trained in the traditional 200hr program and in addition, just recently to become a Buti Yoga teacher. I have studied with Patthabi Jois’ son, Sharath, Tim Miller, and Eddie Stern. My yoga career has been short, but brave, beautiful and strong.

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Personally, I step on my mat most often and practice the Ashtanga Primary Series, or Buti. I teach the majority of my classes in the style of Ashtanga, as it is truly what I have studied most. Over the last 3-4 years, I have worked alongside of Allison Bradley in Knoxville, to develop my personal practice and to grow myself as an Instructor.

My style of teaching is a pretty hand’s off experience, as I have had several uncomfortable experiences of being unnecessarily pushed into an uncomfortable yoga pose. When I studied with Jois, Miller, and Stern, obviously this was not the case, they were gentle and kind. These poor experiences, however, have led me to keep adjustments off of my clients, unless I am familiar with them. Traditionally, I know that Ashtanga teachers work a lot with adjustments, however, it just is not where I am. I also do not spend a lot of time correcting posture, because I truly believe the quote above that says, Practice and all is coming, by Pattabhi Jois. Jois also says, Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory. The more you practice, the more it will come to you. I do agree that if someone is super out of alignment, however, or in danger of hurting themselves, that it would be an appropriate time to step in and assist, and I often have in these cases.

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Practicing an assist, with Allison.

Wherever your yoga practice leads you, I highly recommend practicing, practicing, and practicing. Then, truly, all will come.

Yoga, Mountain Biking and Nutrition.

 

18010699_1313078538779572_5901946677605887716_nA couple of weeks ago, I was asked by my friend and fellow shredder, Lisa Gifford Mueller of ALM Photography to participate in the Trek Women’s Advocate/Cedar Bluff Cycle event, Women’s Night: Fitness, Injury Prevention and Nutrition. She asked me to sit on the panel as a resource for women mountain bikers for nutrition, injury and prevention.  The topics that were discussed were centered around the following questions:

1.What Can Riders do to Increase Strength For Riding (especially those newer to mountain biking)? As far as yoga is concerned, yoga is strength training, some of the most easily accessible yoga poses for strengthening your body are:

  • Plank, Side Plank, Boat Pose (core strength and arm strength)
  • Chair and Chair with Twists
  • Locust Pose
  • Bridge Pose, Wheel Pose

2. What Can I Do To Increase Endurance For Riding?

  • hydrate properly (it is recommended to drink 18-24oz of water per hour of activity, in addition to your normal daily amount {drink your weight, divided in half in oz. of water})
  • eat properly (I recommend whole, natural foods, limiting “treats”)
  • increase time on saddle slowly (this applies to other exercise venues as well)

3. Preparing for Longer Rides (and taking time for Recovery)

  • know your body, practice the longer distance and food/water intake before a race, event or long day

4. What Are The Benefits of A Structured Fitness Program?

  • this is where endurance and strength are built
  • conditions are not always keen to ride, but the yoga studio and gym are open
  • mentally preps you for race day-training is a commitment-as is race day

5. Why Is Stretching Important?

  • reduces injury risk and able to bounce back from injuries quicker
  • lengthens muscles
  • ease of movement
  • longevity of being able to work out as we age
  • connective tissue (fascia) is restored and aids in recovery/healing process

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There were two other panelists, Susan Finney of KyBRa Athletics and Michelle Kenick of Health First Fitness who had a wealth of knowledge and information to share with all involved. I learned so much from these ladies!

Prior to this panel, I upped my research with several articles and podcasts.

…with any cycling event over 90 minutes, aim to drink 18 to 24 ounces of liquid per hour containing 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium (with an additional 100 milligrams coming from food), says Kelli Jennings, a registered dietitian with Apex Nutrition. If you weigh more than 180 pounds, aim for 24 to 32 ounces.

As for food:

an athlete can burn 1,000 calories per hour or more, the body can’t process that much nutrition while exercising. For efforts over five hours, Jennings suggests between 300 and 400 calories per hour that includes a mix of carbohydrate sources (glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin), but experiment to see how much food your body can handle.

This is the tricky part. My body is different from the next rider. I have learned on long trail rides (and road rides) that my I need more protein and fat and that my typical grab of a bar does not always do the trick, making me sluggish immediately, as my body works  harder to process the food (there can be a lot of hidden sugars in bars, goo and electrolyte supplements).

Today on a long ride, I took an orange and gluten free crackers. I have been playing around with nutrients in my own body, using my self as a test facility. This week has been fun watching my metabolism increase in large amounts and feeling my body rejuvenate at a cellular level.

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Some of my personal perspectives:

Food is fuel.

FUEL = food uniting energy + longevity

In research for top athletes, a LOT of technology is used to calculate caloric export vs. input. Even to the cellular levels. It’s kind of like your FitBit on steroids. However, without having lots of money to pay for this type of technology that can even show your mineral bone density, we have to rely on our mental awareness and wisdom from science. This is where yoga is beautiful and perfect. Yoga is not just the poses that you do to stretch, tone and strengthen your body. The practice of yoga actually has 8 limbs-meaning 8 parts total, including the poses, they are: Poses, Breath Control, Concentration, Meditation, Keys to Living with Self and Others, Enlightenment, Removal of Senses/Distraction.

Training mentally has become one of the newest and increasingly fundamental aspects of athletic training. Perhaps your mind even has more control over your body than you think. For example, the Spartan diet/races have included mental training into their regime.

As a yogi, this is one of the 8 Limbs, or foundational cores, of yoga, as mentioned above. In dharana, we work on focusing our attention on a single point. This single-pointedness is what clears your mind, and keeps you in-tune with how your body is functioning and even noticing the lack of nutrients. What are you craving? (Besides beer, pizza and ice cream?) Once I was at work and noticed that I felt really odd, like I was vibrating. I realized my electrolytes were dangerously low. After a quick gatorade (not my favorite choice, but what was available) fix, I could feel my body sorting itself out.  How I knew that, it was intuitive to me. What I credit the intuition to: constant attention to my physical, mental and emotional body. Meditation has been increasingly prevalent in the news. This limb of yoga, dyana, is where we focus singularly on one point, then add being aware but not focused. It’s focusing on breath, something that is automatic. Or the sound of your tennis shoes hitting the trail on a run, or the rhythm of your pedaling on your bike. I truly believe the repetitive motion of cycling (or running, swimming, etc) can be a meditative practice. One where dharana and dyana (single pointed focus and awareness) combine to create a beautiful harmony for your training.

A breath practice is a huge key. It keeps your organs flowing. Keeps you grounded, cleans the mind, and body. In Ayurveda, clear breath assists in all organ functions. The lungs are the wise judge. Liver has to do with emotion of anger, but also the free flow of the body, liver is general. Spleen is mind. Finding ease in life, rest, recovery days, meditation can actually increase the longevity of your athleticism. Pause and check in, slow your breath.

Food is performance and recovery. It is meant to have function. Look at your urine: completely clear is not the best. You want your urine to look like lemonade. You can actually deplete your electrolyte supply. Look at your poop, too. Eat with the seasons, eat clean.

In Summary:

  • Learn to listen attention to your body.
  • Hydrate (one ounce per 1/2 your body weight: i.e. 150lbs = 75oz. H20 per day-without exercise. With exercise, add with any workout over 90 minutes, aim to drink 18 to 24 ounces of liquid per hour containing 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium (with an additional 100 milligrams coming from food).

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References:

  • Resource: Outside Online
  • Physical Preparation, Condition and Recovery for Elite MMA Athletes, Sigma Nutrition Podcast.
  • Sports Nutrition 237: How Much Fat Can We Absorb Per Meal?, Endurance Planet.
  • Sports Nutrition, The McCarthy Project.
  • The Mystical Powers of Your Inner Organs A Chinese Medicine Perspective, Brodie Welch. The YogaHealer Podcast.

Yoga + Art Huddle

img_7081-800x600Not going to lie, I am grateful to Leslie and her work at Aum in the Arts. I have been lucky enough to have been featured in several of her articles. Wanted to send another shout out to her for this lovely feature. Our Yoga + Art Huddle is THIS Sunday. Let me know if you want to make it. (Space reserved to 50 people).

We will start our day with a yoga session led by Tracy (all levels welcome); please bring a yoga mat. We will then have a chance to create postcards with a variety of art materials and have a chance to write and prep them for mailing! During this time we will have a chance for conversations and ideas of what to do next.

Date: February 26th, 2017

Time:2-6 pm

Location: Center for Creative Minds, Knoxville

Check out: Aum in the Arts for more information!dsc_0085-685x1024

Bind:

From Dictionary.com

bīnd

verb

  1. tie or fasten (something) tightly.

    “floating bundles of logs bound together with ropes”

    synonyms: tie (up), fasten (together), hold together, secure, make fast, attach

    2. cohere or cause to cohere in a single mass.

    “mix the flour with the coconut and enough egg white to bind them”

    noun

    1.a problematical situation.

    “he is in a political bind over the welfare issue”

    synonyms: predicament, awkward situation, difficult situation, quandary, dilemma, plight, spot, tight spot

    2.formal

    a statutory constraint.

    “the moral bind of the law”

At class on Thursday night, we worked on binds. Binds add an extra element to a yoga session by adding additional challenge, perspective and/or strength and balance. My plan was to teach Compass Pose | Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana towards the end of class, so I developed a sequence to prepare students to enter the pose as safely as possible. Each student was given a strap, to assist in each bound pose.As always, the binds were given assists options.

We worked on binds in: Uttanasana, Triangle, Extended Side Angle, Standing Half Lotus Forward Bend, and Marichyasana. From Bound Angle Pose, we worked into Heron Pose, and then gently easing into Compass, by bringing the arm around the inside of the extended leg and gently lifting and twisting the torso to the opposite direction.

The class looked somewhat dismayed, but by the second side, students were easing into the idea of the pose.

It worked a lot better than when I taught Bird of Paradise, to which the class mostly stopped to watch me. I am pretty sure that someone even said, “Nope” outloud.

Teaching these postures, which very few ofhave tried or even seen, has been rewarding and super challenging for me. I question my ability to explain them. Then, I notice students modifying without my guidance even-teaching ME!

What a rad experience.

I am continually amazed by my need and thirst for knowledge, as I am for my desire to teach safely and accurately. I am continually humbled by my students and their hard work and tenacity.

on Community Yoga.

16409937_10208197834892665_577689761_o 2.jpgThis week, a friend and fellow yogi, Leslie Ann Ellingburg, wrote an article about the community yoga that I have been working with in Knoxville. Her site is aptly named Aum in the Arts, as she works to bring yoga, artists and community together in our small area of Tennessee. You can find the article on her blog.

On Wednesdays, at Norwood Elementary School, three teachers and I alternate teaching free yoga to the community. As instructors, we are different in personality and style of teaching, and I think the blend is a great way to introduce yoga to the area. The concept started by the Norwood Community Schools Director, Jordan Frye. She and I met early this year and talked about the idea of having a place in Knoxville where people could attend yoga classes who could not afford them. Our collective idea was to create a space and home similar to the vision of the Asheville Yoga Center, where teachers from all over Asheville come together to teach and learn. Jordan says, “an important piece of achieving a healthy community is creating spaces within the community that promote wellness.”

After this initial conversation, we started the weekly classes. Things have been going well, but our numbers are very small. This week, we were written in two local venues, the Aum in the Arts and the local Shopper magazine.

The local Shopper magazine article can be found here. The article features yoga instructor, Jessica Dalton-Carringer, who teaches locally at The Birdhouse and has been pursuing her PhD in Anthropology. She believes that yoga “…offers many health benefits, including stress relief and building lean muscle.” Another instructor, Nikki Lambent-Nitzband, is “dedicated to bringing yoga off the mat and into daily life.” Veronica Carmazzi, a certified Athletic Trainer who works with clients all over the Knoxville area. She provides wisdom and careful alignment to each student as she leads classes. Veronica also teaches yoga at Glowing Body and Alliance Brewery. Tracy Riggs (the writer of this blog) of Zephyra Yoga has felt the stress relief and calm that yoga offers daily. She started practicing yoga daily after a very difficult time in her life. The difference in her life was extraordinary. Tracyd88b908701885c501e9fc85ff7251d09 teaches at Glowing Body on Thursday evenings, and at Alliance Brewery.

If you are in the Knoxville area on Wednesdays, join us at Norwood Elementary School from 6-7 pm, as we assist in bringing peace, calm, stress reduction and strength to the community.

 

 

 

Mindfulness.

Tonight I taught a community yoga class. Before and during this class, I felt completely unworthy and inadequate to teach yoga tonight. Negative energy flowed through my work place today and although I had kept the negativity at bay in days prior, today, I could not. I was weak, tired and my patience had left somewhere.

I wanted to run away. I should have taken the day off.

My game has been pretty high lately, I have felt a renewed sense of positivity and happiness. I have been teaching with patience, energy and wisdom and reaping the rewards. So today felt like a huge blow. When I had a student say, “This is my first time to yoga, ever” it threw me for a complete loop. I had not taught beginners in a long time. The poses that had become my plan started to slip from my grasp and my teaching of the class felt disjointed.

This evening, I taught a definition of mindfulness to the class as a friendly, non-reactive attention focused on experiencing the here and now without judgement. I taught this in relationship to how our bodies are and what they can/cannot do for us. Yet, as I repeated this mantra during class, I realized it was applicable to me. I needed to not-judge, be friendly and pay attention to the here and now, on my mat, in the space. I needed to not-judge and be friendly toward myself, practicing self-compassion. As this shift took place, I  recod88b908701885c501e9fc85ff7251d09gnized another facet of yoga that I love.

It meets you where you are.

My class was diverse-ranging from a yoga instructor to a brand new student of yoga. It was a beautiful opportunity to break through my preconceived ideas of how a class should go, and to play attention to the room and the students in front of me.

I learned mindfulness in the midst of teaching tonight.

A friendly, non-reactive attention focused on experiencing the here and now without judgement.

And I shall take this mindfulness into my evening and day tomorrow.

 

 

mindfulness.

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.

The founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn, reminds us that we are not defined by the thoughts that go on in our head, which he adds are mostly centered on “Me, myself and I.” I came upon mindfulness last year in my yoga teacher training in the form of the book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Naht Hanh. This book came at me as does the Japanese language: I recognize what is being spoken, but cannot translate it.

2016 became some of my busiest times. I continually think to myself how much I need to “just say no” to social and other engagements. If I do, I find myself feeling guilty for not participating-guilty because my friends might not like me if I don’t show up (and other silly things). I would like to say it is because I am doing so much good in the world-and that may be true-but as a result, I do suffer. I teach yoga 3-4 times a week on top of my full time visual art teaching job and work a promotion that I received in my job. I also attempt to maintain friendships and a relationship with my husband and family, all while working out and trying to plan healthy meals.

I am tired.

In the midst of the busyness, my yoga practice lessens and my meditation, although daily became an opportunity to think creatively and plan a to-do list. 

I am missing the point.

Yoga should guide one, meditatively by bringing awareness to the now. Each asana/pose should be guided by breath, thus mindfulness should be inherent in yoga. Often in our hurried world, I see myself and students rushing through a vinyasa to get to the next pose. This rush is even present in yoga! The rush to be stronger, fitter and onto the next thing-which we think might be better.

Lately, I have noticed in my teaching a desire to slow my students down. To notice the sensations they feel as they lower into chaturanga, where the shoulders go, and maybe where they should go. After doing multiple vinyasas in a class, I know I personally get sloppy. This is where mindfulness needs to be present to protect one’s self from injury. (In yoga, we call it  ahimsa-non harming.)

A dear friend gave me this mindfulness book for Christmas this year:

It is an amazing way to slowly process the gift that mindfulness can be. It is a reminder to me this busy season to 

slow 

                      down.

I read recently that it takes 40 days for a habit to stick. I find that pretty profund, as it rained for 40 days and nights on Noah and Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. Researching on the number 40, I see that it often signifies a transition or change. The number 40 in numerology is said to elevate a spiritual state.

Maybe by starting right now.

Bringing mindfulness into your days is not that difficult. It requires slowing down and paying attenion. It requires stillness of mind, body and soul. With this stillness comes pure clarity. I firmly believe the age old saying that if you look inside yourself, you will find all the answers you need.

Lower Back Yoga.

Ahhh, the sacrum and lumbar spine20121230-173252. This may be the number one area that I hear students talk about when referring to physical discomfort. Mostly, I hear the complaints from mountain bikers that I ride with, but lately, I have been hearing people in almost every area of life talk about this region of their backs. I do suggest yoga for this area of course, but I am highly cautious with students. I do not want students to overstretch their lower back and create even more trouble.

Maryjaryasana/Cat Pose is a most excellent warm up, especially when attached to the famous Bitilasana/Cow pose. My two favorite, which relieve pressure on the lumbar are Downdog and Puppy Pose. An entire list of these poses with examples can be found at here at yoga journal.

Some of the poses that work for me when my lower back is tight and even in pain, which occurs only while I am mountain biking are the twists: Bharadvaja’s Twist, Half Lord of the Fishes and Marichi’s Pose. I highly recommend Supta Padangusthasana/Reclining Hand to Big Toe for lower back and IT Band issues (I also recommend a strap with this series of poses, as outlined here).

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An entire sequence for lower back can be found here. The poses are highly recommended to loosen your fascia (Fascia, which means “band” or “bundle” in Latin, surrounds, connects and supports our muscles, organs, bones, tendons, ligaments and other structures of the body. Similar to the membrane around each section of an orange, fascia both separates and connects body parts at the same time. Containing nerves, these tissues also serve as a layer of protection and body awareness.)

 

A yoga sequence I created for a student to work with the lower back:

Lower Back Sequence.

Recommended hold time is one minute-one minute and 12 seconds. This holding/slower pace is conducive to opening the tight spots. I recommend once a day or every other day for noticeable improvement.

Great reference for specifics on poses in this sequence: http://www.yogajournal.com/category/poses/anatomy/lower-back/

Easy Pose/Sukhasana

Cat Pose

Cow Pose (these two poses in sequence are a warm up for the back)

Uttkatasana/Chair Pose (for strengthening lower back)

Utthita Trikonasana/Extended Triangle Pose.

Virabhadrasana 2/Warrior 2.

 Padangusthasana/Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose.

Malasana/Garland Pose.

Bakasana/Crane Pose. (pillow on floor in front of face )

Uttana Shishosana/Extended Puppy Pose.

I find the twists help me most when I am IN pain to alleviate pain in the lower back area, especially due to mountain biking.

Marichi’s Pose/Marichiasana 3.

Bharadvaja’s Twist/Bharadvajasana.

Ardha Matseyandrasana/Half Lord of the Fishes.

To finish, bring both knees into the chest, squeeze and gently rock from side to side. Finally, come into Savasana/Corpse Pose.

((**I also highly recommend doing abdominal strengthening poses as well to increase strength in back:  Navasana/Boat Pose)) 

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Inner Thigh Yoga.

Right before Thanksgiving, a student asked me about poses to open the inner thighs. This student commented that this area was very tight. I did some research and am posting my notes here.

This video helped me to find these poses, which the instructor recommends staying in each pose in for one minute. During yoga teacher training, a guest lecturer recommended holding the pose for 72 seconds.The first pose is the yogi squat pictured here:

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The second pose is an extended leg squat, which I have been incorporating into my daily yoga classes:

extended-leg-squat3

This entire visual contains poses that are useful for opening the inner thighs and the remaining information can be found on this page:

The three poses that I personally recommend are Upavista Konasana/Wide-Angle Forward Fold, Bhekasana/Frog Pose Agnistambhasana/Firelog Pose. With these poses any additional modifications can ease you into and out of the poses. Over time, you will notice an opening of your inner thighs. I personally recommend practicing at least two of these poses on a regular (daily or every other day) basis.

A sequence to loosen the inner thighs and increase mobility:

Inner Thigh Sequence.

Recommended hold time is one minute-one minute and 12 seconds. This holding/slower pace is conducive to opening the tight spots. Do these poses and your inner thighs will begin to loosen. I recommend once a day or every other day for noticeable improvement. 

Baddha Konasana/Bound Angle Pose.

Yogi Squat.

Extended Leg Squat (right and left sides)

Upavistha Konasana/Wide Angle Forward Bend.

Bhekasana/Frog Pose.

Instruction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBb65G6NuYo

Supta Baddha Konasana/Supine Bound Angle Pose.

Bound Angle with a support (bolster or folded towel/blanket)

Bound Angle Pose without a bolster

legs up the wall Bound Angle Pose

Upavistha Konasana/Wide Angle Pose at wall

Finish in Legs up the Wall, or in Savasana/Corpse Pose.

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