or neat-o ways to open the side body
Ola dear blogosphere. As promised a small snippet of reflection on Tuesday’s class. Do you feel tight and scrunched even with regular yoga practice, or more likely without? Our bodies are naturally orientated forward and backwards; we can alleviate a lot of this tension by opening into the often neglected side body and peripheral zones.
Our turd bird can count to five all by herself! In honour of this amazing milestone that has me convinced she’s future mensa material, my humble five suggestions for you to consider incorporating into your practice*:
- Banana-fy your asana – if your spine’s orientation is vertical consider putting a gentle lateral curve into it. You can start with something simple like a comfortable cross-legged or child’s pose(arms extended overhead) and work up to high and low lunges as well as warrior 1s, 2s, side angle, triangle and balancing half moon. Not only does this help release or serratus anterior from its’ usual position (these are the muscles that run along the side of our ribcage) it gives extra room for the breath. Take it a bit further and extend and exaggerate the curve in arm(s) that powerfully extend alongside your ear(s).
- Flow – Marry your breath to your new shape – inhale back to the straight spine, exhale with the curved one, start gentle and with time and comfort expand the range and feel the breath, body, ribcage and hips gently open with the flow. Transitioning from warrior 2 to reverse warrior is a fun flow.
- Play – Do you feel like naturally opening a bit further, perhaps twisting or back-bending? If it feels good, go for it. I’ve had plenty a well meaning yoga teacher re-position my arms in triangle back into the in between two-panes-of-glass scenario, which at times feels constricted, especially after lugging her highness around all day. If it feels good to open a bit more there’s no harm if body and spirit are happy and strong. We spend enough of our day playing it straight so don’t be afraid to get curly.
Extending the side body through reverse warrior.
- Give your shoulders some lovin’ – specifically the tension collectors that reside along top of our shoulders and into our neck, the levator scapulae and trapezius. I’ll go into more detail in next week’s class where we explore hip and shoulder opening.
- Don’t forget the sides of your pegs – Release low back, knee and ankle tension pain with two simple postures. Cross one foot behind the other before playing with a flowing forward fold to half forward fold, linking the breath. This releases your IT bands, a radical connective tissue that runs from your knee up to the outside of your hip. Runners will be familiar with the ITB. Bring the sides of your calves and ankles to life with a wide-legged forward fold, holding for a few long breaths to lengthen your lower gams.
Want to go further? Check out these awesome online classes:
- An accessible hatha class with Rod Stryker on yogaglo(I really love Rod’s voice….not like that’s the ultimate criteria or anything but…)
- A sweet Yin practice with Tiffany Cruikshank on yogaglo (Tiffany’s classes are great for you athletic types. I love her accessible and informed approach)
*ok so even though it goes without saying, use your common sense here lovelies. Don’t get overzealous with the experimentation if you’re new to yoga, work with where you’re at, and stay safe! If you have never done yoga before, talk to your doctor to get the all clear before heading off to a local studio where you can get some hands-on guidance from an accredited yoga teacher.
Yoga on, and please share if this post was helpful for your home practice!
(part one of a four-part series on expansion)
We naturally focus from our body’s frontal, or anterior, plane. The bulk of how we exist, engage, sense and interact naturally and logically occurs from this perspective. Nifty things like eyes, mouths, faces and limb orientation might have something to do with it.
With today’s lifestyle it’s no wonder our bodies and minds can get a bit cramped. Us corporate types can sit desk-bound for hours on a deadline whilst tradies like my husband spend the day bent over in weird positions troubleshooting and fixing. As a mum, life feels like its in a perpetual forward bending motion. Add to that time spent commuting, hunched over devices and books plus all the leaning in for the good stuff like a cup of tea with a friend, hugs, cuddles and very important toddler conversations and the front body works overtime.
As yoga practitioners our first impulse is often to counter the forward hunching with back-bending. But what if we started this lengthening and un-scrunching with a more subtle approach? Months of parenting and lugging her highness around have been the perfect yoga lab to test out some different techniques, and I believe our side bodies hold the key to the natural expansion we desire. Come join me Tuesday as we test this hypothesis out together.
We’ll build the foundation on expansion with deliciously simple side bends and rhythmic lateral motion incorporated into basic postures. We’ll also play with modifications and twists that strengthen the connection to our entire periphery. Your body will sing thanks to small tweaks that are easy to incorporate into your home practice.
Once we slip into relaxation and meditation you’ll be attuned to those natural waves emanating, giving a pleasant soft focus point for our closing meditation on the crown. When you walk out of class, my hope is that you feel a natural lengthening and expansion radiating from your beautiful being.
For those of you tuned into the blog, I’ll share a few tips with you later in the week.
Over the next four weeks we’ll look how we can use yoga to bring greater space and openness to our bodies. Please join us tonight at Sevenergy, 7pm for this small suite of classes on expansion, I’d love to see you on the mat.
Yoga on, lovelies. x
The “schedule,” as I loosely call it these days, was more akimbo than usual last week thanks to hubby’s and my work commitments. By the time Saturday arrived I was in a mildly catatonic state. Though I accept the occasional flux, the hectic pace served as a reminder that guarding my time and interests within reason isn’t an option. Though another demanding week awaits, I’m going to be more vigilant about boundaries that free me up for running, yoga practice, meditation and creative time. Without my beloved outlets, I become sub-par at everything else.
Given the nature of this beast we call modern life, how can you restore and resettle when obligations rev to full throttle? We all run into encounters where a simple, “All righty folks, this is fun but I really need to slip away for a little me time” won’t fly.
What can we do when demands press and life starts to feel a little more whirly, stormy and unstable than desired? I reckon it has something to do with reconnecting to the centre, and there are surprisingly simple ways to do this.
So where is the, or more appropriately, your centre? It’s where your unique energy emanates from. When you reside in this place, it enables you to maintain stability and ride the waves of whatever life throws your way. Whether it be demanding work schedules, the big important race or presentation, the pivotal game, a tense conversation that needs to happen, snatching the toddler from dangerous heights on a distressingly regular basis or a glorious melange of all the above, residing fully in your centre fortifies you to absorb, ride, decide and live from an authentic and powerful position.
In Tuesday’s class at Sevenergy, we’ll explore reacquainting with your centre through a series of asanas that help you discover, challenge and restore. We’ll finish off with a meditation I devised that will recharge your body and spirit so you can handle life’s turbulent times, empowering you to confidently circle into the eye of any storm.
For the beautiful blog readers, what are your thoughts on this idea of the centre? Where is it for you? How does life feel when you firmly plug into that place, and what can you do to reconnect when there’s a short circuit?
Well gorgeous people, I hope to see some of you on the mat this Tuesday in South Freo, and don’t forget about the winter special, where you can yoga your way to a private session with me. Keep yoga-ing on and stay healthy! ~Ange
In case you didn’t hear, everyone’s in love with yoga. Walk around any suburb in any major centre practically anywhere in the world and you’re sure to find a yoga studio. Check out the news agents and shops full of ample yoga mags, books, gear and accoutrements. And then online: tremendous online yoga sites like yogaglo, my yoga online and yoga today all offer fantastic classes led by inspirational and renowned teachers.
If you’ve been on the yoga train for awhile, or are thinking of hopping aboard, I’d suggest you consider adding something else to the yoga smorgasbord: private sessions. These are a perfect addition to your practice, whether you have been yoga-ing for years or days, are injured or fit as a fiddle, would like to mix up your practice or explore aspects that I may touch upon in class only briefly.
Here’s why I recommend private sessions:
- I can really get to know you, your body and how it works
During a typical class I am gazing throughout the class at a variety of people and am ensuring there are no major alignment or obvious physical issues. One on ones allow us to check in with how certain postures, alignments and practices affect you, and inform how I monitor you in class in future.
- Adjusting adjustments
As a student, I love adjustments from the teacher. As a teacher there’s a vast spectrum of people’s preferences adjustment and pressure-wise. It takes time for me to provide regular hands-on adjustments, as I need to attune and read each body. During a private session we can talk about this constructively. When you’re back in the weekly sessions, I can confidently adjust knowing we’ve had this dialogue, and you can relax and enjoy.
- To go deeper and address your life
Find yourself wanting to pipe up and ask a question about a certain posture, practice or concern in class but feel a bit intimidated? Though I do encourage open discussion during and after class, sometimes discussing and exploring during a one-on-one session just makes more sense. In one-on-ones we can explore postures, breath, meditation and relaxation that may assist you with current circumstances like stress, insomnia, injury, conception and pregnancy.
- Specific Cross-Training for sporty peeps
Training for a marathon or other big sporting event? I’m your woman. A sporadic practitioner before then, I became yoga-fied when I completed my first, and let’s face it probably last, marathon back in 2004. I’m convinced it’s the reason I ran an injury-free respectable time and also why I recovered so quickly. Yoga’s an excellent way to lift your game and support your body during other pursuits.
- To add a new flavour
Have you had the same home practice for months or years? Looking for some variations or new meditation or relaxation practices? As a vinyasa teacher I believe variety revitalises a dwindling practice. If you’re just getting started, we can determine your faves and work from there, establishing a sequence or two that can be the base of a flourishing home practice.
For those unable to attend weekly classes, buying a block of one-on-ones is the answer. With me coming to you, we can make sure you get your yoga Rx regularly. It’s a worthwhile investment in your physical and psychological health that cannot be replicated by logging on to a yoga class site.
So you can experience these benefits, I’m offering a special to students attending Sevenergy during the winter months. Stay tuned to this space, I will be making an announcement early next week!!
Oh, and p.s. I’m playing with the look of this site – would love your feedback! Happy Yoga-ing luvlies! xo
The other day I drove to a meeting and ended up stuck in traffic where I: one, was supremely grateful for the great tunes they were playing on triplej, and two, thanked my lucky stars that a daily commute is not part of my life.
While I and fellow travellers crept along the freeway at breakneck speed averaging 25 kilometres an hour I noticed a few drivers who decided where they were going was more important than the hundreds of other drivers stuck in a mid-morning jam along with them.
Mostly to my amusement I saw the odd driver duck out of the freeway lane and try to get ahead a few hundred metres by cheekily jutting over to a merging lane if it wasn’t all ready occupied. So a few people in a really big hurry got ahead by about a minutes’ worth of travel time. Which I guess more power to them, but really, wouldn’t it just be nice to give your neck and blood pressure a break and wait while respecting everyone else? Even if there was somewhere that you “needed” to be, would the world keep turning if you showed up 20 minutes late?
Alas, there will always be people determined to get to where they want to be and willing to endanger themselves, and sometimes others, to create the illusion they are “getting ahead.” It reminded me of what I like to call sticky-beak-itis that we can all be prone to in yoga class. Admit it, you’ve raised your eyebrow a time or two maybe admiring someone’s asana practice, or felt a twinge of jealousy seeing someone’s strength, or even smugness in noticing another student hasn’t quite gotten to where you’re at in this or that posture.
But how does comparing yourself to others actually serve you? Some might say a little bit of healthy competition is a motivator, but why compete with someone who has a different history, body and set of life circumstances than you? It reminds me of something that a fitness educator said to me years ago: There will always be someone “worse” than you and someone “better” than you. Instead of getting caught in the comparison game, the drishti, or focus as we say in yoga, should reside within and on yourself. This focus, though sustained, should be soft, pliable and realistic.
Pushing your practice too far beyond comfortable limits on a given day, and especially on a regular basis, can cause injury or permanent damage. If you are not attuned to how your body is feeling in a given moment because you’re sticky-beaking it before speeding into the wrong yoga lane, you can’t respond to its’ needs appropriately.
So use your yoga practice as a time to develop compassion and reverence for what your body does and how it feels, instead of keeping up with the yoga Joneses. The majority of us don’t practice yoga for the modelling gigs over at Yoga Journal. We come to feel better, have functionality in our bodies and stability in our minds. Devote your energy to that, and watch your yoga practice flourish.
The next time you’re in class, see if you can keep your focus on yourself; yep, stay in your own lane. Observe what really feels right for you, and respect that by modifying your practice to work with any limitations or goals. Of course it is natural to check out what is going on in our surroundings, but true depth comes with self-observation.
Broadly speaking, poke yourself in the backside the next time you feel those familiar twinges off the mat. So your friend just moved into a bigger house, your colleague just got an incredible promotion, a Facebook acquaintance just posted a pic with Ryan Gosling. Sop comparing, and instead assess and be grateful for all you’ve been blessed with.
I believe we all have a unique path that is ours alone. It is easier to find it if you’re not wasting energy measuring your achievements against anyone else. Instead, respect where you feel the natural zing, joy and ease in whatever you are doing in each moment and keep your focus there.
Out of curiosity, when was the last time you were figuratively doing a sneaky lane change, and what did you do to soothe the symptoms?
On Sunday I spent a few hours in a workshop with Eoin Finn studying blissology; it was a glorious day of embodying a fun, challenging vinyasa practice that will be reflected in my upcoming classes. Much of what he said resonated. As a yoga teacher who wants her students to love their bodies, a mum who is constantly thinking about the world Turd Bird will encounter as a woman, an environmental fundraiser who can at times be overwhelmed by the state of our planet and equally inspired by the people working together to mend it I think Eoin’s hit the nail right on the head.
The time to really change our perspective on what equates to success is right now. If you have time, do have a read, or a listen to what he says. I think the more we can embody Eoin’s powerful blissology philosophy into our lives, the better chance we and our children will have of authentic prosperity in the future.
Which brings me to my favourite part of the day – well there were a few – I was the lucky recipient of an Eoin back massage in the group close; nice strong yogi hands I tell you, but I digress.
There was one goofy exercise that sparkled me. Eoin started chatting about running. Being a former avid runner, I got the “running” imitation he did up at the front of the room; the serious expression, rigid head, arms in solider mode in precise rhythm with legs. He then instructed the class to join, everyone pretending that we were running along the path on Cottesloe Beach, our responsible adult selves getting in the allotted elevated heart rate for the day.
Next, we were instructed to imagine we were three-year olds running to the beach. The room erupted into bubbling laughter, arms flailing, heads lolling and legs zig-zaggedly making the way to nowhere in particular. It was a simple yet profound reminder. Despite being accompanied by my own little joy-bot everyday, (Have you ever witnessed a young child in day to day action, life is all about finding the fun!) I have been in a bit of a funk.
For whatever reason, I’m in a space of getting things ticked off the list, moving along to the next thing, as adult life requires. I realised I’ve not been making room for real joy. What happened to my inner goof-ball?
Thankfully I have a beautiful source of inspiration in her highness. The pre-bedtime routine is a simple joyous one for us all. Counter to the “advice” out there we like to ring darling’s last bit of energy out of her, and she relishes it. We dance together, admire her twirls that give her the dizzies, help her with somersaults and have a good wild run around the house. When she’s tuckered out she let’s us know with a wave and a wander to her room. It’s such a fun way to end the night, and I think a nice memory for her to snuggle up to before she goes to dreamland. The great thing about being a parent is being a goof-ball really is part of the job description, one that I just need to open myself more to for sweet pea’s sake.
In tonight’s yoga class we’ll explore feeling joy in things that might not feel particularly joyful at the time. Perhaps the after effect yoga buzz will get the joy bubbles fizzing for you. But I would never suggest it ends there; this week I am going to propose students reconnect with that joyful, buoyant feeling of unfettered happiness. Not a conditional experience, but a spontaneous, organic burst.
My hope for you is that it’s easily found in the beautiful things that lay before you; family, friends, pets, nature. I believe most joy is in life’s little moments today, not necessarily the big ticket items we anticipate.
When did you last feel this? Who were you with and what was going on? How can you bring little joy drops to each day in the mix of your obligations and routines and pass it along to others?