Yoga is a way of using our minds and bodies to feel good (therapeutic effects). Try cow's face (ghomukhasana) arms for shoulder flexibility and care. Use yoga breathing (pranayama) for energy and filtered air. Practice swan-feather pose (pinca-hamsasana) for lumbago and mind/body awareness. Yoga has been anecdotel for me.
Once, while snowboarding I fell off a rail and swiped my shoulder going down. My deltoids felt bruised (bleeding from the inside) and battered, of no use; possibly dislocated. Whatever the case, I was in grave pain.
Usually, I can deal and end up feeling fine. This time, was different; I sat on the deck of the lodge contemplating calling an ambulance. I couldn't drive in this state, I was dazed and confused. Where as, I have driven to the emergency room arm raised, while bleeding because I've stabbed myself, accidently of course, darn avacado seed.
Anyway, my only reprive was sitting in gomukhasana (cows face) arms. The arm of my hurt shoulder hugging behind my back reaching towards my cervicle spine (neck) and the other arm reaching up past my ear bent at the elbow inching down my neck. I grasped my fingers together and held on despite the raging I felt throughout my shoulder.
I sat in ghomukhasana imagining an ambulance driving to the rescue while the pose did it's work. Finally, ten to twenty minutes later I released my hands from the pose (asana). Blood gushed (pumped) through my shoulder; range of motion intact.
I didn't ride the rest of the day. I enjoyed the sunshine and the fact I made it through major grief. I felt happy knowing I could survive and continue to ride another day, a different hour; albeit, more cautiously but still living.
I continued to use cow's face arms diligently. Especially, that day and when I felt pain throughout the week and months ahead I'd reach into pose. Saved by the beneficial (therapeutic) effects of yoga.
The first time I realized yoga was more than posing the skies in Montana were smoke covered; for nearly a quarter of a century the skies had been clear. The first summer of smoke was actually my first summer away from wildland firefighting. Ironically I felt protected from smoke while working to put it out, but had no control over inhaling it as a "civilian". Over the next decade the air was seasonally tainted.
During this time, I jogged in the midst of smoke; I recalled yoga breathing, breathing in and out of the nose only. I began using the technique while jogging. Snot poured out my nostrils, I became self-conscious but resolved to naturally filter the air I was breathing .
Initially, I felt claustraphobic like I wasn't getting a full breath. However, I kept practicing and soon I no longer needed an inhaler for the adult-onset asthma I was experiencing. My difficulty breathing was now a non-issue. Simply, because I focused on pranayama (breathing), literally translated as "life force". The human body is truly its own best medicine.
Swan Feather Pose (Pinca-Hamsasana) a third example of yoga therapy came into my life after many months of misery. I awoke from sleeping unable to get out of bed. I was paralyzed. I literally couldn't walk. I'd been going through some extreme life changes due to a difficult divorce. My life felt like it was caving in on me.
I was living in my parents basement. I moved my home studio to where I was living now, my only reprive from the "no life" I was "living". Grateful, for the square footage and an area of daylight space, for a client or two.
I had a Partner Yoga Session scheduled that evening. My clients entered. I had been crawling to get around and upon their arrival was able to stand, although the pain was debilitating. I greeted my customers with a smile, pretending I was perfectly okay. I sank down into a squat, as I began verbalizing ques.
The session was a relative success for I could stand while squating felt therepeutic. I went to a chiropractor and masseuse. Yet, my body did not feel alive and the sacral pain was prominent.
That year I attended a four day Yoga Therapy workshop. We breathed, chakra balanced, spoke about subtle energy and used hand symbols (mudras) to align and center along with gems, colors and aromas. We spoke about the process of healing and the importance of mind over matter. However, I was still feeling sacral pain and misalignment.
The final day of the Mind Body Conference. We continually worked on asana. I was introduced to pinca-hamsasana. Many of the participants could not move into the pose and some didn't even try. I continued to move in and out of the pose. The sacral pain ceased, I felt cured.
The healing process is amazing. I still use pinca-hamsasana during yoga practice. The inversion helps me feel strong, balanced and flexible. The asana keeps my body alive and mind sane. As the saying goes, "movement (yoga) is medicine..."
Core Strengthening is fun and invigorating. Yoga core strengthening poses are varied and produce excellent results. One core strengthening pose which has become popular in the fitness industry over the last decade is called hover or plank (caturanga dandasana). This pose has been practiced by yogins over thousands of years!
Arm balance poses also invigorate the core muscles and contribute to sleek well-toned abdominal muscles because the abs pull in tight reverberating all the way to the pelvic floor muscles. Crane and Side crane are examples of straight arm core balancers and bent arm versions are called crow and side-crow. Balancing the core by working side abdominal muscles (obliques) and back muscles can be accomplished in side plank (and variations) as well as reverse plank (and variations). Namaste!
A yoga essence is a way of living in communion. Using a yoga essence in conjunction with our energy centers is specific to the symbolism and associations of various parts of our bodies. For example our 1st energy center is located around the coccygeal plexus and incorporates the color red, community and success, the sound lahm and is associated with the essence of inclusion being without judgment of our bodies or others. The 2nd energy center is located around the sacral plexus and is associated with the right to feel, symbolic of the area is pleasure and creativity, the color orange, the sound vahm and the essence of feeling the sensations of our bodies. To be intrinsic without competition or comparisons is connected with the 3rd energy center located around the solar plexus, the right to act on one’s own behalf, the color yellow and the sound rahm. The 4th energy center located around the pulmonary & cardiac plexi is partnered with breathing and is the area symbolic of love and compassion along with the element of air, the color green and the sound yahm. Where-as, the 5th energy center located around the pharyngeal plexus is related to the essence of listening to the body and speaking kind and true, connected to the element of sound. the color blue and the sound hahm. The 6th energy center located around the carotid plexus (brow center) is relevant to intuition being without assumptions, the element of light, symbolic of clarity, the color purple and the sound auhm (om). The 7th energy center located around the cerebral cortex is a symbolic area united to the essence of consciousness being present in the moment, symbolic of universal knowledge, the element of space (ether), the color white and silence.
The Yoga essence associated with specific energy centers can improve our mind/body connection when used in conjunction with yoga poses. Essence 1) Legs Up - includes rest for our feet, 2) Supine Butterfly – feeling flexible and relaxed through the inner thigh (groin), 3) Spinal Twist– for an inner massage to the organs, back (spine) and torso, 4) Childs or Forward Bend - opens the backside of the lungs and hugs the heart, 5) Fish – is an anti-aging pose which expands the chest and neck, 6) Bridge - clears the head and sinuses and 7) Corpse – provides rest and relaxation which rejuvenates the mind and body.
A yoga essence of inclusion without judgment of our bodies and others, feeling the sensations of our bodies and the energy in and around us, along with being intrinsic without competition or comparisons, breathing pranayama “life force”, as well as listening to our bodies, breath, heart and lungs etc., including intuition with clarity and without assumptions and, of course, consciousness being present (a gift) in the moment improves health – physical, subtle, emotional, intellectual and blissful wellness!
Lay down supine (on your back) with your feet placed near your tailbone. Place hands under the arch of your back, about 4 fingers should fit. Remove fingers and feel the neutral spinal position. Then, press the lower back down and round or tuck the tailbone while squeezing abdominals. Next, arch the back and lift the tailbone while squeezing the back muscles. Repeat, you can also do this movement standing.
Posterior and anterior pelvic tilts connect the upper and lower body improving synovial fluid flow, helping the body to be more supple, graceful and flexible.
Begin, by lying in your bed at night settling into final relaxation (savasana) by lying supine (on your back) with your shoulder blades, in back, gently tucked and settled underneath the chest with legs outstretched and palms of the hands facing up with the arms out from your sides about 20*. Next, begin thinking about the colors of the rainbow; red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple evenly spaced from the tailbone to the middle of the brain or brow center. Furthermore, think of those colors as clockwise, rotating funnels emanating front and back indicating a healthy source of the body’s energy. More specifically, imagine the energy centers true location; the 1st (red) chakra is located at the coccygeal plexus (tailbone), the 2nd (orange) chakra is located at the sacral plexus (abdomen), the 3rd yellow chakra is located at the solar plexus (diaphragm), the 4th (green) chakra is located at the cardiac/pulmonary plexus (heart/lung center), 5th (blue) chakra is located at the pharyngeal plexus (throat), 6th (purple) chakra is located at the carotid plexus (brain center) and the 7th (white) chakra is located through-out the cerebral cortex (top of the head). Finally, feel the body as a harmonious whole – physically, energetically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Sweet dreams!
Before getting out of bed 1.) while laying on your back (supine) 2.) do a few pelvic tilts and 3.) pelvic circles 4.) bring your knees towards your chest and hug underneath 5.)open your arms out to the sides and take your knees to one side and then the other - use pillows underneath the knees for support and comfort if needed 6.) roll out of bed and 7.) stand in mountain (tadasana) for a few breaths – grateful to begin a new day.
First, truthfulness (satya), there is honesty in silence; especially if speaking could harm someone. Second, contentment (santosha), feeling satisfied with who you are, what you are, when you are, where you are and why you are – easily knowing who, what, when, where and why. Third, postures (asana) because, “Movement (kriya) is medicine for creating change in our physical, mental and emotional states.” - Carol Welch. For examples of kriya find “triceps and lunges” and other video footage at www.youtube.com/katieacampbell18b Fourth, pranayama literally translated as “life force” is breathing exercise. Bhastrika (energizing breathes) occur by quickly inhaling, expanding the abdominals, exhaling and squeezing the abs, feeling the energy flow. FifthpPratyahara (sensory withdrawal), of taste (food) before practicing yoga and throughout the day can enhance mind/body benefits. Sixth, dharana (concentration) allows us to be present in the moment. Seventh, dhyana (continued focus) improves performance. Eight, samadhi (bliss) may arise in many ways such as warm fuzziness, cool tingles, a deeper mind/body connection and/or enhanced physical, subtle, emotional, intellectual and spiritual states – feeling as One!
Mudras are hand or body gestures – symbols, which evoke understanding and awareness, a way of being kinesthetically conscious. Start with both hands “thumbs up” and think or say, “creator, designer, will-power”. Next, place thumb with pointer finger and think/say, “knowledge, self-confidence, wisdom”. Then, place thumb with middle finger and think/say, “control, emotion, patience”. Fourth, place thumb with ring finger and think/say, “energy, health, vitality”. Finally, Place thumb with pinky finger and think/say, “appreciate, beauty, calm, communicate, create”. This mudra meditation can be done anytime, anywhere. Feel the benefits!
How to do it
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Begin turning your torso from side to side, allowing your arms to swing freely and limply (think of them as empty coat sleeves). Make fists and continue the torso and arm movements. Your fists will lightly bump your hips in the front and back." Say (think) a mantra (affirmation) as your “gong ringing hands” ‘pound’ your body. After one minute, relax your hands and slowly return to the starting position.
"Why it matters
This pose allows your torso to move in a way that increases the flexibility of the spine. The twisting movement can increase blood flow, aid with digestion and the entire exercise helps to warm and energize the body.