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Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

PostHeaderIcon My Experiment: Applying Yoga breath/Pranayama to Running and Athletics

I like to do hill sprints occasionally to really get my heart rate up. I consider it power and strength training for my heart. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with how changing the manner in which I breath effects my performance.
What truly inspired me was a study I read about in the book “Body Mind and Sport” by John Doullard.
This study consisted of teaching athletes classic yoga pranayma breathing and having them apply it to their sport. This usually took a few months to teach because the athletes had to learn to exert themselves while only breathing through the nose and with very deep diaphramatic breaths.
This study was inspired by top athletes like Roger Bannister who broke the four minute mile. He described his experience as euphoric and not at all torturous. He didn’t feel as though he was working hard, but as if he had found a perfect flow.
I observed this once while watching Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt competing. His sprint looked effortless. His mouth was closed. There was no sign that he was over exerting himself. When it was over, he had so much joy, he ran more laps, waving to fans and celebrating. There was no sign of exhaustion, and yet he beat a world record. Most people in the world couldn’t run that fast if they killed themselves doing it.
What John Doullard’s studies showed was that those who mastered yoga breathing even while performing a seemingly intense, athletic feat felt less stress. Everyone who participated in the study could still perform with high skill. They just didn’t feel like they were working hard. The recovery rate was faster. In fact, many felt they could keep going and they didn’t feel tired after the training if they applied yoga breathing.
So I tried this for myself. First I did the smaller hill which usually takes me between 27 to 30 seconds to complete. I stood at the bottom of the hill and cleared my mind. I started breathing the way I do in yoga class until I felt I had the long, slow and deep breaths down. Then I bolted up the hill. I found that if I could keep the long breaths going, I brought my time down to 26 seconds which is an amazing improvement for a runner. I also realized that it didn’t feel like I was running fast at all. Perhaps it was because I was breathing slow and not panting. The slowness of my breath made me feel as if I were running at a more even keeled pace.
I tried this on the longer hill as well. This hill usually takes me 50 seconds to 1 minute to complete. When I focused on the yoga breathing, I was able to complete it in 46 seconds!

160917_001Another book that inspired me to experiment, not just on how hard I exercise but on what my mindset is when I exercise is “Power vs. Force” by David R. Hawkings M.D. Ph.D. This book is based on thousands of studies using applied kinesthiology to test strength. The book breaks down which mindsets give us the most strength. For example, the mindset of shame makes us weak. If we were to push on a person’s arm who feels shame, their arm would fall right away, but if you were to push on a person’s arm who feels joy, that arm is full of strength and energy. This book concludes that after testing thousands of people, that joy and universal love (that stems from compassion not infatuation) has the greatest energy.
I decided to test this theory on a whim as it was a very stressful week for me and I had so much on my mind. I was running my usual pace when I decided to try clearing my mind and focus on something more expansive than my every day worries.
I managed to quiet all the noise in my head. I don’t remember how I did it. Perhaps my own curiosity motivated me, for I wanted to see if my sprint time would improve if I achieved a  higher state. I think I connected with the spirit of the hawks that built a nest in that area to lift me up. Focusing on the beauty of nature, put me in a different state, and I swear my time improved by at least 3 or 5 seconds! Some things came to mind. I recalled that my kung fu instructor who said that everything happens for a reason and I was able to rise above my worries and realize that its all happening the way its supposed to.

I invite all of my readers who have experience with yoga and pranayma to take what you learned inside the yoga studio and start applying it to your workouts and your life. After all, what use is practicing meditation if we can’t use it to improve all aspects of our lives? Instead of seeing exercise as torture, see it as a meditation, an opportunity to tap into your higher power. Then see if you can apply these breathing and focusing strategies to career and relationships. Lately, I’ve been training more clients and teaching more classes than ever but I’m learning to breath through my work, to focus on the moment and to start applying my practice to my life.

To read more about the benefits of meditation, click here:

Meditation (A running into reality)

To read more about the benefits of breath control, click here:

Don’t hold your breath

For more on applying a positive mindset to fitness, click here:

Yoga, Joy, Gratitude and Prana

 

PostHeaderIcon What Pain Has Taught Me

I was able to move through my childhood unscathed. Maybe a scratch or bruise here and there, shin splints or a pulled groin muscle that healed eventually. There was that minor concussion after full contact sparring when I used to do kung fu. Actually, maybe I did get injured more than I thought I did but when we’re young, you bounce back and tend to forget. Then we get our first chronic injury, the one that keeps coming back to haunt us. That happened the first time I hurt my lower back. I didn’t even know why or how it happened. These days, I have a good idea but I had to experience chronic pain before I could understand some of the underlying causes that we often overlook. I was barely 21 or 22 when the chronic back pain started and I remember thinking that I had finally gotten old and that it might be down hill from then on. At the age of 22, I thought that I had reached old age. These days, I see teenagers who look like they had already reached the end of their lives, backs hunched over from texting and video games and I now know that injuries have nothing to do with age. It could happen anytime to anyone.

The first thing I learned about injuries and pain is that it doesn’t have to be caused by specific trauma like a car accident. The pain can just start unbeknownst to us. We have no idea where it came from or why its there. It could have been caused by mental or emotional stress, a lack of sleep or recovery, overuse; or it may have been there for months but we were too pent up on adrenaline, caffeine or pain killers to notice. Then one day, we can’t hide from it anymore and the pain makes itself known.

My back pain recurred many times in my life, before I made the choice to commit myself to fitness and keep my core healthy for good. It came back again after I worked in an office. Maybe it was sitting in a chair all day that did it. The lower back would get so swollen and I would need to see a therapist or chiropractor but I had no idea why it would become inflamed and lock up on me. It occurred again after giving birth to  my son and that was the worst because it actually took me a few years to recover from that. The pain went away in a few months but my back would still bother me if I sat for too long or witness most forms of stressed. Training myself to be strong and athletic again, despite my weak link was an experimental journey that involved fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of being too weak, fear of resting it and not making it stronger, fear that making it stronger would be too much and finally the faith that came with believing that it will get better. I also hurt my knees and that took about a year or more to recover. This happened when I was teaching over 30 classes a week. My knees became worn down and I finally stopped teaching Zumba.

So I know what its like to be teetering on the edge of wanting to do something and wanting to not do something about our pain. We don’t know when we should be resting or when we should be building. Some people heal up after finally finding the right regimen, some never do and just accept their chronic pain. Some of us rest too much and allow ourselves to atrophy, others pound away at the injury, doing everything they can to strengthen their bodies when they should have just rested that area all along. We all heal at different levels and, unfortunately all the technology we have can’t always detect exactly what we should be doing. A lot of times it has more to do with how we stand, sit, sleep, think and eat.

Despite all the suffering I felt, I have to admit that being injured is one of the best things that has happened to me (knock on wood). I’m grateful because it taught me mindfulness. It made me realize that healing is not as easy as some people make it out to be. I also learned that healing modalities such as yoga, tai chi, pilates etc. may work or may worsen an injury and you have to figure out what is best for you. It also made me realize the true meaning of mind body. It isn’t taking a power yoga class because you want to look like a hot, new age chick in a bikini. The initiation of yoga and pilates into conventional gyms have changed the original mind body approach of these modalities. Yoga is meditation. It’s learning the body’s limits and strengths. We breath and move with awareness so we can learn what works and what doesn’t. Bringing conscious awareness into how we move helps us understand ourselves. It helps us to gauge if we are doing too much or too little, if our soreness is healthy or a sign that we are doing something incorrectly or abusively. This kind of awareness is priceless.

Injuries have taught me to be deeper, to make my work outs an internal art, to meditate, to incorporate mindfulness, mental illumination and emotional reflection into my healthy lifestyle. I have learned to consciously engage smaller muscles that I never knew were there before. My search for a pain free life has opened me up to many ways of thinking and moving and has empowered me to share with others. No one’s body is the same. We all have different sized limbs and muscles but the more we understand, the more empowered we become.

Pain has taught me that I’m not immortal and has driven in me the lesson that I am no better than anyone else. This, I believe, is a good thing because it is the ego that creates judgment, hostility, dictatorships and oppressiveness. Pain has taught me compassion and empathy and these traits are the heart of love.

If you find yourself having to deal with pain, please read my post on the steps you should take in case of an injury:

What To Do In Case of an Injury

Do understand that there is no one panacea for pain. The best advice I can give in our quest for a cure is to be mindful. Pain is just a loud message your brain is sending you that something is not right. It may take you a while to understand the message but the search for an answer will help you in all aspects of your life. The pain may be a call to solve a problem you have been ignoring for far too long. Often, its a bad relationship, job or situation. Sometimes its just the way we have been treating body. Pay attention.  It may be a call to learn more about your body and mind so you can live a fuller or deeper life. Humble yourself and listen.

Here I am with my son turning 40 years old, and feeling less pain now than I did when I was in my 20s.

 

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PostHeaderIcon Yoga, Joy, Gratitude and Prana

It was Friday morning yoga class, the day after Thanksgiving. We were doing some poses on the wall when someone started to laugh. The woman next to her laughed. I don’t know what the joke was about but the more they tried to suppress their laughter, the harder it was for them to stop. Eventually, the whole class start bursting into spontaneous laughter. Looking back, it reminded me of the time I was taking a hip opening class and we all started bursting into tears.

The deep, yoga breathing makes our emotions more intense because we are connecting with ourselves on a deeper level. We are not blocking what comes out. Yoga breathing makes us laugh hardier and sob harder. It makes us tune into who we are, where we are blocked, where we are hurt, where we are strong and where we are happy. Our emotions are a sign of us dealing with it and letting go.

That Friday, the joy of yoga filled the room. Is it a coincidence that this happened the day after Thanksgiving? During Wenesday’s class, the day before Thanksgiving, we practiced breathing in everything we were grateful for and breathing out all of our gratitude. This positive meditation recycled the feeling of joy deep within us which positively charged our energy. It is practically impossible to be unhappy while breathing in everything we are grateful for.

Often, people approach their health from a place of poverty. We tell ourselves we must eat right and exercise because we are not enough. We are not skinny enough, strong enough or beautiful enough. We approach our practice from a place of desperation rather than a place of gratitude. We make our practice into a chore that we must push through. However, when we approach our practice from a place of gratitude, we find a great rush of positive energy that moves us effortlessly. If we approach our practice with appreciation that we can move at all–that we have the resources to even get on a mat and do something–that joy creates passionate momentum but it can’t be done until we accept and love who we are.

I have written a couple of posts about the yoga of letting go, regarding the suffering that sometimes comes with facing our pain. You can read them here:

  Yoga and the Art of Letting Go  

Be Kind, for Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

Joy is a letting go as well. It is a letting go of our obsession with what we don’t have. It is a letting go of an attitude that focuses on emptiness and depression. The sheer act of standing straight and thinking of something we enjoy creates energy and confidence. Bring your hands close together, close enough to feel the biolelecctric energy emanating from your palms. The yogis call this energy “prana”. Practitioners of chi kung and kung fu call it “chi” but it is spelled different ways. You may find that if you think of something that saddens you, the energy diminishes. If you think of something you love, something you are grateful for, you will feel a surge of heat or electricity. Joyful and healing hormones fill the body with life supporting energy.

Try this the next time you come to workout, do yoga or when you have a moment to yourself. Think of everything you are grateful for as you inhale. Recycle that joy inside you and breath out all the gratitude. Notice how this changes your energy or mood.

Happy Holidays everyone. Thank you for your stories and for sharing your journey with me. Thank you for the magic of your presence. Thank you for being amazing and inspirational.

For more outpouring of gratitude, click here:

You Inspire Me

Namaste

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PostHeaderIcon My Interview with Raj Kumar, Author of “Create your Own Future Through Body Mind Programming”

I’d like to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Raj Kumar, who has helped to write a fascinating book which uses classic yoga and body mind programming principles in order to teach the reader how to take charge of his/her future. Raj has worked as a professional engineer and research scholar. After experiencing how holistic medicine changed his health, he became a yoga and meditation instructor in India. I am excited to announce that he and his colleague, Professor K.N.Krishnaswamy, have recently released “Create Your Own Future Through Body Mind Programming.” This post is my interview with Raj about how and why he came to write this fascinating book which I have had the pleasure of reading.

Rhea: In your book called “Create Your Own Future Through Body Mind Programming”- Can you give some example of how a person can create their own future?

Raj: BMP is a tool of ‘Self Transformation’(ST) which means bringing about desired changes in the behaviour – habits , attitudes, belief, perceptions and learning. In BMP we also make use of the inbuilt ‘Goal Striving Mechanism’(GSM) by conveying our goals by BMP vehicles developed by us. The programming is done at deeper levels of consciousness. A person can create their own future by changing their habits, attitudes, beliefs and acquiring knowledge and skills etc. In our book we have given real cases where people could become what they wanted to be.

Rhea: What is BMP ?

Raj: BMP stands for Body Mind Programming and it is about tuning the resources we possess – body and mind – to create a new way of living. In this new way of living we accomplish our goals whatever they may be. The path of BMP has a basic rule: know what you want and have the conviction that you need only to transform yourself  to get what you want. Normal changes take a long time. BMP speeds up the process of change. The systematic seven step procedure is highly effective and efficient and takes a fast track to the desired changes by changing the impressions or programmes. BMP is coupling of Yoga and Science and is a new paradigm for self transformation. BMP is also a scientific way of prayer to our inner divinity which has infinite knowledge and capability. Our studies and research in the art and science of self – improvement led to the concept of programming the ‘Inner Human Computer’ and we named it Body Mind Programming

Rhea: How does BMP relate to Yoga/ NLP ?

Raj: In BMP we have used the tools of Yoga like Pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation for reaching the deeper levels of consciousness and to convey the goals through affirmations and visualization to the supraconscious mind. We have developed four vehicles – Rhythmic Balance, Pacific Harmony, Implantation and Synthetic Nurturing.  These vehicles make use of relaxation methods, breathing, affirmations and creative visualization for accessing the ‘Inner Computer’ and conveying our goals and burning desires to it. BMP is a whole brain approach and uses both the hemispheres of the brain for programming our inbuilt inner computer. The methodology is systematic and consists of well defined seven steps. Through repeated ‘Synthetic Experience’ over a period of time the existing programmes or impressions stored as engrams are changed to the desired one enabling self transformation resulting into changes in behaviour- habits and attitudes.

BMP is quite different from NLP in basic approach however both BMP and NLP uses anchoring (mudras), neuro associative conditioning and pain and pleasure principle. Further BMP makes use of the inbuilt Goal Striving Mechanism of our brain. In BMP mind cleansing to overcome negative attitudes and habits is inbuilt.  BMP also helps in making the goals more clear if the goals are not clear and visible

Rhea: What kind of studies have been done on this method?

Raj: Our experiences are deeply embedded in our brain similar to the stored programmes in the computer. This aspect is well established by the neuro sciences. The central issue when applying BMP is that the human nervous system cannot distinguish between a real experience and a vividly imagined experience and the stimulus passed to the body – mind complex from the brain will be the same in both cases. In the application of BMP for every aspect of living, this basic characteristic is exploited in bringing about the desired changes. The research studies on this aspects have given rise to ‘psycho motor activities’ and ‘psycho neuro immune system’. In BMP we have developed the methodology of creating the desired synthetic experience to make use the above researches. Many of the tools and aspects used in BMP have a scientific basis and we are also planning to have scientific studies on the effect of BMP. At present one of the leading chain of hospitals in Bangalore has invited us to train their people and patients referred to Integrative Oncology department. We are regularly going to the hospital and there is good response from the patients and doctors. In collaboration with them a research study on the effect of BMP on Health and Wellness is also planned.

Rhea: Can you give me some examples of BMP practices? What are their stories?

Raj: Gita (name changed) who had passed engineering with distinction could not get any job for a long time. She used to pass the written examination but due to her getting nervous during the interview failed to get selected for the job. BMP helped her to overcome the interview fear and succeeded in getting the job. There are many success stories for overcoming depression, anxiety, fears, back pain, respiratory and cardiovascular problems. It has helped people in becoming what they wanted to be like engineers, doctors, chartered accountants and lovable teachers. Our book gives number of real stories.

Rhea: What motivated you to create the system?

Raj: I would like to share with you one incident which motivated us to start thinking, working and researching which gave the birth to BMP. In one of the International Conference on Holistic Medicine a leading neuro surgeon during his key note address narrated an incident. A fairly young lady had a brain tumor which was tested malignant. The neuro surgeon opened up her skull for the operation and found multiple tumors spread over a large area. In a distracted state if mind, he told the lady the operation had been performed. Later the doctor told his juniors that the chances of her survival were very low whether or not she was operated upon. After a few months a bright and healthy lady met the surgeon with a bouquet of flowers and thanked  the doctor as she was perfectly feeling well. The doctor did the scanning and was amazed to find all the tumors have just vanished.

As he narrated this, I got lost in the thoughts – what made the tumors vanish?  What was it that was better than the great surgeon? After a couple of days of contemplation and sleepless nights, I met my Prof. K.N.Krishnaswmy and discussed this case. He had a similar information to share. He recounted how he had come across a case of miraculous self cure of cancer (Leukaemia), which he had read about in Reader’s Digest. Both the authors started enquiring into these issues and started researching which consisted of going through lot of literature particularly the cases of great and unexplained phenomenal, achievements in various fields psychology, parapsychology, physics and  medicine. We read about Yoga and Vedantha ( both the authors being Yoga Practitioners and students of Vedantha for decades). This finally resulted in the development of the concept of programming the inner computer and gave birth to BMP.

Rhea: Tell me a little about your background. How you became a self help advocate and a Yoga Practitioner?

Raj: Professor K.N.Krishnaswamy has several years of executive experience in defense and has done masters in Aeronautics Engineering and Ph.D in Operations Management and has been teaching as Professor of Management Studies at I.I.Sc, He has keen interest in Yoga and Spirituality and has studied Gita and other Upanishads deeply and practiced Yoga. He has interest in creativity and research in general. Taught privately Yoga and meditation to a number of people.

I (Raj Kumar Dham) am from a middle class family. My early years were spent in refugee camp. Through sincere hard work and by winning scholarship I did schooling and college education. I completed my bachelor in mechanical engineering and post graduation in Industrial Management by securing first rank. For sometime I was a research scholar at Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore and also published papers in national and International journals. I started my professional career as an Industrial Engineer at Bharat Electronics Ltd. In 1982 I became an entrepreneur and started small scale Industrial Unit. In 1986 due to some business problems my health deteriorated very much and through a ‘Holistic Healer’ I got the quantum relief. I got associated with him, learned and started helping others through free sessions, camps, lectures etc. I found Yoga having a great potential in healing and Self transformation. I started conducting free Yoga and Meditation classes at my Atamabodh Canter. Thousands of people have benefited and the most encouraging thing is doctors have also started recommending people to do yoga.

Rhea: Are you working on any future projects?

Raj: A leading group of Hospitals have shown interest in our BMP based on Holistic Health for the patients especially Cancer and Cardiology. We have developed “Heal Your Heart” – A Cellular Level System based on BMP. We are teaching this to patients in the hospital itself. The main objective is to provide deep relaxation of body and mind, to reduce anxiety levels, to improve quality of sleep and quality of life with a view to enhance the inbuilt defence immune system. We are also training their staff consisting of psychologists, counsellors, social workers, physiotherapists and staff nurses etc with a view that they can help the patients with this. The initial response to this is very positive and encouraging. This project will continue and the research study to evaluate the impact of this is also planned. We also plan to start a scientific study in a school to study the impact of BMP on their personality and performance.

We are also working on BMP for executives, managerial staff and IT industry, for increasing their work, performance and improving their quality of life . We intend to motivate researchers from various walks of life to do research in BMP and we are ready to provide them guidance. We have developed a basic frame work of programming the Inner Computer but a lot is to be done now and we call upon interested people to join us in this endeavor for taking it further.

You Can Order Raj’s book at lifepositivebooks.com or click here

PostHeaderIcon Much a do About the Hips

The Kinetic chain

The human body and mind is an amazing machine that can move in many directions and achieve amazing tasks. It can climb, run, walk, crawl, swing bats, perform complex martial arts and dance moves, lift heavy loads and perform acrobatic feats. In order to move in this way, our body is like a machine, linked with complex joints, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and fascia. It is moved by bones and muscles and a complex network of nerves. The many tissues have to support, counter, contract and extend in order to perform these tasks successfully and without injury or strain. We call this beautiful harmony of movement that includes all the tissues responsible for it, the kinetic chain. Like a chain in a machine that requires spokes, wheels, breaks, pulleys, belts, wires and energy; our body requires a cooperative link of many types of fibers.

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Most people hold their pain and tension either in their shoulders or hips. I addressed the shoulders in my neck and shoulder release blog which you can click here:

RELEASE NECK AND SHOULDER TENSION
Today, I would like to address the hips because dysfunction in this area can create pain and tension in the lower back and knees. The many muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia and joint tissues in the hips also connect to bones in the spine and legs. When these muscles are out of balance, they can create tension in the knees, back and even the shoulders, neck and feet. Not to mention hip pain. In this blog, I will address some of the more common hip dysfunctions. Many people suffer from these issues without even knowing it.

 

Hip Flexors

4239R-8517At some point in history, someone invented the chair and this has been the cause of many muscle imbalances. It stopped people from squatting and using the floor. Our sedentary lifestyle based on mostly chair sitting has put us in a posture that compresses our spine and keeps our hip flexors in a constantly flexed position. Because the hip flexors attach the lower back to the upper thigh bone, a tight network of hip flexors (the illiopsoas group) can compress the lower back and limit movement responsible for walking properly. If it hurts to lie on your back with your legs straight, you mostly likely have tight hip flexors. Stretches where you have one foot behind you such as lunging or warrior I can help lengthen tight hip flexors.

Sciatica

The sciatica nerve is the HUGEST nerve in the body. It travels from the spine and through the back of the leg. When the deep muscles in the hips, particularly the piriformis muscle (a deep muscle under the gluteus group) is tight, this nerve can become compressed. The pain can run through the lower back and down the back of the leg. Massage or myofascial release with a massage ball or roller can plus, outer hip stretches such as pigeon pose or any variation of lotus can help release sciatica pain that stems from tight hips.

 

IT band

The StabilizerMuscles3Illiotibial tract or “IT band” is attached to a muscle that sounds like a favorite barista’s drink, Tensor Fasciae Latae. This attaches to tendon and fascae that runs down the side of the leg, from the hip to the knee which is responsible for stabilizing the hip. It gets tight from overuse and causes a pulling in the knee. This pulling can cause the knee to track incorrectly which can wear the cartilage in the knee the wrong way, causing arthritis. Relieving, massaging, resting and releasing the IT band helps release knee pain and imbalances. This imbalance is common in athletes who over exert themselves.

 

Internal rectus obliquiest

This thin muscle runs from the hip to the knee on the inner side. This muscle stabilizes the knee. If it is weak, it can cause the knees to track incorrectly creating degeneration and arthritis. Lack of strength in this area also stems from our sedentary lifestyle and too much chair sitting. It can be strengthened by performing deep squats or squeezing a ball between the thighs while extending the knee

The mind body connection

Adept yoga practitioners would say that our problems are not physical but spiritual and mental. The energy and impulses that run through our body can be blocked by karma. A real world example of this is to look at what happens when a dog is afraid. It tucks its tail between its legs. We do the same thing. When we sense fear or stress, we tense our hips.

Sigmund Freud coined the term “anal retention” when he described people who’s parent’s were too controlling. My yoga teacher has told me that the tighter a person’s butt, the more they try to control their life.

The hip area represents the first and second chakras. The first chakra represents where we hold our fear, stress and issues regarding survival. The second chakra deals with creativity, sex, shame and guilt. These are the darker areas of our life, the parts of us we hide away. When we finally release blockages in our hips, we are sometimes filled with great emotional waves. As I went deeper into my yoga practice, I started to experience this but it took me a while to finally let go of what I was holding in my hips. Often, we hold our own mental stress in our body and learning to relax the mind can also alleviate and heal pain in the body. This is why yoga and meditation has become so popular.

For more information about the chakras, click this link:

DEMYSTIFYING THE CHAKRAS

Hip Balancing Workshop

I will be holding a hip balancing workshop in Chatsworth CA, if you are interested, click here:

SPECIAL EVENTS

PostHeaderIcon What is Traditional Yoga? (The Original Styles of Yoga)

Every once and a while, my students will ask me questions such as, “What is better Pilates or yoga?” I have a very hard time answering these types of questions because Yoga is a practice that has layers and depths to it. It takes lifetimes to master and it has a rich history, spanning thousands of years of philosophy, tradition, culture and eras. All yoga schools take different approaches and many people will go to one yoga class, only to find that it is nothing like another yoga class because it might focus on a different aspect of the extremely large world of yoga.

The word “yoga” means to “yolk”. It means union. It is a holistic practice that helps us become whole with ourselves and our environment. Another traditional definition of yoga is any practice that helps us become a better person. Therefore, yoga consists of practices such as healthy living, exercise, meditation, study, prayer, and doing good deeds so we can stay connected to our higher selves. It helps us determine truth from illusion and live in the highest state of happiness.

Today I will attempt to explain what traditional yoga is. I will break traditional yoga down to four main styles. These styles are:

Hatha yoga: Yoga of posture and physical health.

Jnana yoga: Yoga of knowledge and truth.

Karma yoga: Yoga of right and selfless action.

Bhakti yoga: Devotional yoga that brings us closer to a higher power.

Each style of yoga helps us become better in each very important aspect of our lives. Hatha yoga helps us with our physical health.  Jnana yoga strengthens our mind and mental will. Karma yoga helps us build healthy social connections.  Bhahkti yoga helps us cultivate our reverence for God if we are religious; or our deep love for our higher selves or for the grandeur of the universe, if we are secular. This holistic practice helps develop a healthy mind, body, spirit and community. It creates a balanced lifestyle.

Examples of Hatha Yoga is “pranayama” or breathing exercises that help us understand our posture or “asana”. Asanas consist of postures such as, “Adho Mukha Svanasana” or “Downward Facing Dog.” This posture is an inverted V. We do this pose to master our posture and alignment which helps us create more strength, flexibility, deeper awareness of our body and more energy. Most yoga that is taught in gyms teaches asana or posture. Posture is very important for our health and well being because it helps unblock places where we are holding tension which creates a better flow in energy. Many studies have showed that our posture affects our hormones and our psychological well being. When a person is standing straight, they automatically become happier. If a person is slouching or cowering, they tend to feel more depressed. Yogis understand how our postures relate to our emotions and use posture to help us control and understand our internal selves, psychologically and physically.

Jnana yoga consists of study, awareness and meditation. It is taught in many yoga studios, ashrams, self actualization institutions and meditation retreats. Sometimes it is taught in conjunction with hatha yoga. For example, when I first started practicing yoga, it was in a studio where we spent the first fifteen minutes of each class studying yoga texts and meditating. Some hatha yoga teachers teach from the yoga texts while you are practicing a posture.
Learning to control our mind helps us become more focused, happier and content. Jnana yoga consists of silencing the mind so the voices in our head do not make us crazy and so we can differentiate what is important from what is not important. It also consists of stepping outside of our selfish ego so we get the bigger picture. It consists of contemplating and reflecting on life or dissecting our problems. It consists of reading, learning, science and even chanting mantras in order to create positive patterns in our subconscious.  At its highest level, jnana yoga helps us understand and accept our place in the universe. It helps us overcome our fear of life and death, master our emotions and have a greater perspective of the ups and downs of life.

Karma yoga is all about action and social responsibility. It consists of being a good teacher, parent, grandparent, daughter, son, friend, etc. When we give or volunteer at a local charity or community, we are practicing karma yoga. When we realize that healthy living goes beyond ourselves and that we all need to do our part to make the world a better place, we start practicing karma yoga.
Great examples of karma yoga gurus are: Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela. These were people who put social responsibility above their own needs. Karma yoga creates happiness by practicing the act of making others happy. It fosters love, gratitude and a more harmonious society.

Bahkti Yoga or the yoga of faith or devotion consists of chants, prayers and singing. It is a cultivation of a deep love and reverence of God or a divine power. When you go to church, a mosque or a temple, you are practicing bahkti yoga. Anytime you are praying, praising or connecting with a divine power, you are practicing bhakti yoga. Although this is a religious or spiritual aspect of yoga, secular people can still practice yoga because of its many other aspects.

In conclusion, I have described the main traditional styles of yoga. This is the foundation of yoga. You might ask about many other styles you have heard of such as Iyengar, Anusara, Bikram, etc. These are usually derived from or are named after a particular guru (teacher) or lineage. Since yoga has evolved for thousands of years, there are some philosophies that have branched off. However, it is still yoga if it incorporates the ideals stated above.

For more information about this many thousands of year old practice, check out these links:

Yoga and The Eightfold path…. http://heroestraining.com/?p=17

Meditation, A Running Into Reality…. http://heroestraining.com/?p=206

Meditation, The Illuminated Perceiver vs. The Afflictive Mind…. http://heroestraining.com/?p=653

Demystifying the Chakras (From a Hormonal Perspective)…. http://heroestraining.com/?p=50

PostHeaderIcon Science, Yoga, and Free Will

A popular study done by David Libet showed that when we make a decision to move, unconscious parts of the brain are activated before we even make a decision. This tells us that most of our actions are not determined by our rational conscious mind, but by our subconscious. Does this mean that we don’t have a choice over our actions? Is everything predetermined? This study brought back the age old question, do we have free will?

I wouldn’t jump on the determinism band wagon right away. As a personal trainer, I have learned that if a person doesn’t believe in their ability to change, they have nothing to motivate them. A large study in New Zealand showed that people who believed in their own free will were much more likely to be successful in any undertaking.

The truth is, much of what we do is determined by our subconscious, but if we force ourselves to be aware, it becomes conscious. For example, some clients come to me with incorrect muscle movements. For any number of reasons, they move in ways that can be harmful to their bodies. While they may not be aware of this, something in their subconscious makes them think it is okay to let’s say, hunch their shoulders while doing a deltoid lift. When I try to correct them, their first reaction is to say, “This is the way I am. I can’t change.” Unfortunately, being content with this line of thinking will lead to shoulder impingements later on in life. I know many older adults who have shoulder issues because they have been doing exercises wrong for so many years.

When a person trains with me for a few more weeks and I make them concentrate on ways to use the correct muscles so they can change their incorrect and dangerous movements, they succeed in moving a different way. With practice, they start subconsciously moving the correct way. This proves that even subconscious movements can be changed to conscious movements if we apply awareness. Once we do this, we change our subconscious habits. This is good because we can change negative habits that sabotage our health into positive ones that feed our health. We can change our habits.

Even the act of breathing, once thought of as an involuntary movement can be made into a conscious movement. The yogis have proven that control of the breath can even give them the power to change their own heart rate and blood pressure.

More on breathing here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=318

The other day, I was listening to a lecture by Bruce Lipton on epigenetics. This is a new science that explores how our genes react to our environment. For example, if we feed our cells certain foods, they either become healthy or intoxicated. How we breathe, move and think greatly affects our health and our genes. Many times, it is our attitudes and perceptions that make us healthy or unhealthy and we can see this when we look at how stress affects our body.

Stress is caused by perceived fear. When we are afraid, our body secretes hormones that cause us to fight or run from the danger. All the blood in the body is rushed to our arms and legs for survival purposes. The body takes blood away from digestive organs and the organs that are used to fight disease. While this helps us survive a dangerous environment where predators lurk in every corner, our body was never meant to be stressed on an ongoing basis. Taking blood away from other functions makes our immune system weak and more susceptible to all diseases. It also takes blood away from rational parts of the brain and puts it into more primitive parts of the brain, lowering our I.Q. Stress seems to be a catch term in our modern day society and people are constantly complaining about it.

People perceive dangers in every corner. Is there someone at your job who rubs you the wrong way? Does she bring you stress? If we think of her as an evil witch who can take away our personal power just by looking at us, then yes, she will. She will make our stress hormones release every time we see her, markedly lowering our immune system. But if we realize that she is just human and has no power to hurt us just by saying the wrong things, then we won’t be stressed. We can brush off her attitude and move on with our lives. So, our perceptions have a great influence on our health.

We may not be consciously aware of the reasoning behind our perception. Perhaps we were abused by a family member who looked like her or said the same things that the person who rubs us the wrong way does. Maybe we were bullied by a kid that said the same things she did and whenever we hear her words, we want to run or fight. Subconsciously we see her as a threat and become stressed by her even if we don’t want to. Unfortunately, many people can’t help the way they react in life because of how they were conditioned growing up. People ask themselves, why can’t I change my situation? Why can’t I stop the negative thoughts in my mind? Why can’t I end my addiction to food, drugs, television or video games? The reason is because they are subconscious reactions to how we were taught to perceive the world. We never made a conscious choice to be stressed, overweight, addicted or weak in the wrong muscles. We are just reacting to our environment.

This is where awareness comes in. If we can end the chatter in our minds that is nothing but a subconscious recording of how we were conditioned to act in life, we can start to consciously make changes. Yoga teaches us to still the mind and bring awareness to what we are doing right here and now. Even doing physical yoga poses, and teaching ourselves to bring awareness to how we feel in the poses teaches us to use our conscious thinking to guide us. When I teach my regular yoga classes, I try not to preach. What I have to say doesn’t matter. My main goal is to help the students still their minds, be aware of their breath and bring awareness to how the poses affect their bodies, so they can be aware of their own habits and tendencies. Only then will they be able to change anything.

Taking the time to practice awareness can literally change a person’s life. It teaches us to stop reacting to what is going on in the outside and pay attention to who we are on the inside. What do we want? How do we want to live our lives? What makes us happy? What feels good? What doesn’t? Why?

So in the end, yes, much of what we do are just subconscious reactions, and if we were ever raised on any negative ideas, that isn’t very good news. However, through awareness, we can change those patterns in our muscles, our brains and in our cells. There are many resources out there to help us do it. Guided meditations help because they help us tap into that subconscious state so we change our unconscious patterns of thinking. In fact this is the idea behind hypnosis and this is why it is often used to help people lose weight and end addiction. We can take yoga or pilates class that emphasizes awareness of the body. We can find a personal trainer who will make us aware of how we move our bodies and help us change our habits. We can also learn to meditate or try neurolingquistic programming techniques. These are coaching and psychological techniques that teach us to ask specific questions and replace old perceptions and habits with new ones.

For more information on relieving stress, check out these posts:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=256

http://heroestraining.com/?p=169

For more information on using meditation to help change our habits check out these posts:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=206

http://heroestraining.com/?p=653

PostHeaderIcon Should I Sacrifice Sleep for Training?

Over the years of being a trainer, I have noticed a marked difference between people who achieve the results they want and the ones who have a much harder time. Much of it has to do with how people eat and sleep on top of how they train.

Today I am bringing up the subject of sleep because I heard a motivational speaker say that you should sacrifice sleep in order to get the things you want. As a health professional, I do not agree with this statement due to the evidence I have collected over the years. You can sacrifice mindless television watching, video games, negative thinking and junk food, but one thing you should not sacrifice is sleep. A large number of studies have linked lack of sleep with obesity.

Proof of How Lack of Sleep Can Make you Fat

According to a study from the University of Chicago, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to indulge in candy, cake and other sweets than they are in eating fruits and whole grains. Another study that appeared in “The Annals of internal Medicine” measured hormonal levels in people who do not get enough sleep with those who do. They found that sleep deprivation decreases levels of leptin, a hormone that tells you that you are full. It increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that makes you feel hungry and makes you crave sweets. Additional studies followed how many snacks people who aren’t getting enough sleep eat. The conclusion was that people who are sleep deprived are twice as likely to eat unhealthy snacks.

Lack of sleep also causes stress, releasing the hormone cortisol which also causes us to crave high-fat foods. Cortisol also triggers survival mechanisms in the body that causes us to store fat in our abdominal area.

For more information on how stress leads to belly fat, check out this post:   http://heroestraining.com/?p=417

A study from Case Western University tracked the weight fluctuations and sleep habits of 680,138 women for sixteen years. They found that the women who slept five hours or less per night were more likely to become obese and the women who only got six hours of sleep a night were more likely to be overweight than women who got seven hours of sleep.

Researchers from the University of Warrick, England followed thousands of children and adults and found that sleep deprivation almost doubles the risk of obesity for adults and children. Another study from Stanford University found that people who sleep less have higher BMI (Body Mass Index) levels. In conclusion, there are a huge number of studies that show that lack of sleep can make you fat.

What is just as remarkable is a study conducted by Glamour Magazine to see if sleeping more will help you lose weight.  They enlisted seven female readers and asked them to sleep at least seven and a half hours each night for ten weeks. They were not allowed to change their dietary habits for those ten weeks. All of these women lost weight.

It is very difficult to train clients who are sleep deprived. They have absolutely no energy. I usually train them as a lesson and tell them that they need to get more sleep if they want to get results. When they experience how poorly they perform and how much they struggle, they realize how important sleep really is.

Sleep is Nature’s Steroid

Some recent studies are being done on HGH (human growth hormone) and how this helps people recover, stay young and gain muscle. When we sleep, human growth hormone is released. This is when injuries are healed, when children grow, when cells in the body are restored and when muscles are repaired to gain strength. If athletic performance or strength gains are your goal, then sleep should be on the top of your priority list. Sleep has also been called “nature’s steroid” by many health professionals for this reason. Before you start your intake of experimental HGH, see if you’re getting enough sleep first.

Sleep Increases Athletic Performance

Mah, Mah and Dement studied college swimmers. They tested their athletic performance for two weeks during their usual sleep-wake cycles. Then they tested them after they extended their sleep to 10 hours a day for 6-7 weeks. The results showed that the swimmers swam the 15-meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds sooner off the start blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds and increased kick strokes by 5 kicks.

They also did a study on 11 male college basketball players. After extending their sleep for as much per night as they could, their timed agility sprint improved by 0.07 seconds; their free-throw percentage increased by 9%; and their 3-point field goal percentage improved by 9.2%.

They also studied seven Stanford University football players. They were tested before and after the sleep extension and their 20-yard shuttle run times decreased by 0.10 seconds. Forty-yard dash times also decreased by 0.10 seconds and daytime sleepiness and fatigue scores fell significantly.

Sleep also helps with memory, strengthening the immune system and alertness. This increases athletic performance, work performance, school performance, and wellness. It also makes you less cranky which should help with your relationships.

How Can I Get More Sleep?

–One of my favorite cures for insomnia is exercise or yoga. This helps release stress and burns energy that can lead to a better night’s sleep. Excess exercise can lead to burn out and insomnia so make sure you are getting just the right amount

–Get your life organized. Set aside time for checking emails, spending time with the family, eating dinner etc. so that everyone can get to bed on time.

–Take a warm bath or shower

–Try chamomile tea, which is known for its ability to calm the body, before going to bed

–The smell of lavender is known to calm the senses and release stress, making it easier to go to sleep.

–Instead of sacrificing things that are good for you, such as sleep, how about cutting out things that are bad for you such as excessive alcohol. Though it can make you feel tired, too much alcohol can mess with your sleep cycles.

–Tobacco is a stimulant that can make it hard to sleep

–Too much caffeine is a stimulant that messes with your sleep-wake cycles.

–Overeating can make it hard to sleep so give your digestive system a break. Also, don’t eat too much processed carbs or sugar right before bed

–Sometimes it is hard to sleep while hungry so a healthy snack like a fruit might help. Just don’t overeat.

–Too much television or video games can also lead to inability to sleep. Try reading a book before going to bed, meditating or listening to soft music. Even cuddle with a loved one.

–Take power naps if sleeping at night is not possible. If you have a hard time sleeping at night, limit nap times.

–Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable

–Turn out the lights. Bright lights can fool the hormonal system into thinking it is still day time so avoid the television and other lit screens. Let your body know that it is time for bed.

–If you feel your inability to sleep might be a medical issue, check out AASM (the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.) Here is their website:

http://www.aasmnet.org/

How Much Sleep Should I Get?

These are the sleep guidelines according to the National Sleep Foundation:

AGE DAILY SLEEP NEEDS
NEW BORNS (0-2 months) 12-18 HOURS
INFANTS (3 to 11 months) 14-15 HOURS
TODDLERS (1-3 years) 12-14 HOURS
PRESCHOOLERS (3-5 years) 11-13 HOURS
SCHOOL –AGE CHILDREN (5-10 years) 10-11 HOURS
TEENS (10-17 years) 8.5-9.25 HOURS
ADULTS 7-9 HOURS

PostHeaderIcon Meditation: THE ILLUMINATED PERCEIVER VS. THE AFFLICTIVE MIND

Often we will be told to find “awareness,” but what does this mean? Yoga teaches that we can separate the parts of the mind. When we meditate, we find ways to observe our own reactions, subconscious impressions and emotions.

Some translations of the Yoga Sutras call the part of our mind that is able to observe itself, “the perceiver.” To me, the perceiver is the part of us that has common sense, a knowledge and acceptance of how things truly are. When we meditate, the perceiver is the accepting friend and counselor in our head. Someone once told me that common sense is not so common, but I think we call it “common” because deep down inside, we know the truth. The hard part is accepting it. Only when we are in touch with the perceiver, or our illuminated mind, will we react with common sense. If we are confused or overwhelmed with “afflictive emotions,” we will react in a destructive manner.

In this post, I will attempt to describe the difference between the perceiver and the afflictive mind in a way that we can relate to in our modern lives. I will also offer suggestions on how to tap into the perceiver while meditating or dealing with life’s problems.

The difference between the perceiver and the afflictive mind:

The perceiver is our true self. It is our higher state of awareness. The perceiver is enlightened and when we tap into it, we are in touch with what religious people call God. Non-religious people call it a higher power that can see and accept the way of nature.

The afflictive mind is not our true selves. It is simply the toxins that confuse us into being someone that we are not. The Dali Lama described it in a wonderful way. He said that our true selves are like pure water. The negative emotions such as pride, anger, hatred, jealousy etc. are toxins that cloud the water. However, pure water is still there. We simply need to rid ourselves of toxic emotions and we will find peace and knowledge.

If you are having difficulty tapping into the perceiver during meditation, simply tell yourself that you are not your anger and you are not your jealousy, etc. If you were not emotional, how would you act and how would you feel?

Pretend that you are talking to an objective friend, mentor, adviser, family member, or spiritual leader. What would that person say if you came to them for advice? If you were God or an omniscient being, how would you look at the situation?

The perceiver is detached from prejudice emotions such as greed, lust or hatred. Yet, detachment doesn’t mean that the perceiver is a sociopath or doesn’t care. It is the perceiver’s supreme love and compassion that makes it understand that all life is important and that we are all interconnected. Knowing this makes it want to help all living things and refrain from harming ourselves or others.

The afflictive mind identifies and clings to its emotions. When it is enraged, jealous, confused, or violent, it may say “this is who I am.” It may hang on to hatred for another country or person. It will unfairly side only with people who are like him/her. It cannot see how we are all connected. It grasps on to identities such as race, religion, politics and pride.

During meditation, focus on how we are all alike. We all live. We all suffer. We all feel pleasure. We all have bad days. We all get angry or frustrated. If you are having a hard time understanding someone who is being ignorant or rude, think of a time that you made a mistake and acted ignorant or rude and try to see yourself in that person.

The perceiver seeks peace.

The afflictive mind seeks trouble and drama.

When meditating, ask yourself if your thoughts and actions are bringing you to a state of peace, or if your actions and thoughts are creating more drama, confusion or trouble.

The perceiver spreads good karma. The definition of “karma” is actions and the result of what we do. Always seeking to do kindness and to spread peace, the perceiver creates success for him/herself. On a small scale, the ability to stay calm and make wise decisions brings the perceiver success in business and relationships. On a higher scale, people may gravitate to the perceiver and his/her wisdom helps people beyond him/herself. These actions also help future generations

The afflictive mind spreads bad karma. The confused mind attaches itself to emotions and reacts with violence, or trouble. This creates drama that could lead to altercations with friends, relatives, co-workers and the law. This bad karma will lead to lack of success and a sad life. On a grand scale, this suffering can spread to others, perpetuating the cycle of war and violence. These actions can be passed on to children and future generations.

Meditating on karma is a very serious matter. Look at how the actions of others have affected you. For example, someone might have insulted you and this has made you angry. In turn, you insult another. If this cycle goes on, it could escalate to more people. Make a choice to become aware and end this cycle.

Choose to smile instead. Say something kind to another. This kindness will spread and will lead to a better environment for you and everyone else.

The perceiver takes responsibility for his/her actions and seeks to find solutions to life’s problems.

The afflictive mind blames everyone and everything else for his/her problems. Passing blame onto others, he/she  relinquishes self responsibility and free will, never finding solutions.

When faced with a problem, take the blame off of others. Instead, take full responsibility. Start brain storming solutions. Ask yourself what you can do and search your mind for solutions. Maybe even research the internet. Write down as many solutions you can.

If we focus on the solution, the universe will reward us with solutions. If we focus on the problem, the universe will react by bringing more problems.

The perceiver is accepting and forgiving of the self and of others. The perceiver knows that the self and others have afflictive emotions. It knows that problems are temporary. It knows that these emotions do not represent who we truly are and it forgives itself and others, choosing unconditional love over judgment and self loathing. By not holding grudges and hanging on to afflictive emotions, peace is easier to find.

The afflictive mind gets angry and frustrated at itself. This makes failures and life’s problems bigger than they really are. It is also hard on others and gets easily insulted when other people have afflictive emotions. The afflictive mind just can’t let go and find peace.

When faced with the ups and downs of life, feeling guilty and beating yourself up will only worsen the problem.

Also, passing judgment on others only feeds the afflictive mind which is obsessed with anger.

Forgive yourself and others.  When you forgive another person, you do it for yourself, so that anger and loathing does not ruin our own life. You’ll be amazed at how much ending a grudge will allow you to focus on bigger and better things.

Ask yourself how the person who has wronged you has made you stronger and thank them for the lesson.

The perceiver understands when there is too much or too little of a good thing. It practices discipline and moderation. It treats the body and mind with compassion.

The afflictive mind may over indulge in pleasurable activities until they become destructive. It might seek to escape in drugs, eating disorders, alcoholism, gambling and other vices out of frustration and self loathing.

Practice awareness in everything you do. Pay attention to how you feel. Take a moment to breathe while you are eating. When exercising, take a moment to see how you feel in order to avoid injuries.

When escaping into drugs or overindulging in any act, ask yourself if this is helping your situation.

If you still can’t stop overindulging, seek outside help.

Because the perceiver has a higher view of the universe, it is stronger in character and principle. It is less easily swayed by suggestion, peer pressure or manipulation.

The afflictive mind is easily swayed by commercials, subliminal messages, insults and psychological conditioning. Some people seek therapy and yoga to find their perceiver because their lives have been controlled by negative conditioning in the past.  The perceiver can stand outside of the mind and see when it has been manipulated.

When you feel strong feelings arise in you, think before you react. Look at your past and ask yourself how your past experiences could have positively or negatively lead to how you react to events today.

When you find yourself wanting to own something just because of commercial advertising, ask yourself you truly need that item and if it is worth the cost.

Turn off the TV and computer now and then to clear your mind of clutter. With the rise of social networking, websites such a facebook can lead to addiction.

The perceiver is the angel on your shoulder. The perceiver is the sensible part of yourself that tells you when you are getting into trouble. It is your higher intuition.

The afflictive mind is the devil on your shoulder. The afflictive mind doesn’t listen to its higher intuition and chooses the lower path which often leads to trouble and regret.

There is an old Native American parable that goes: There is a fight going on inside me between two wolves. One is angry, and full of destructive emotions. The other is happy, calm and full of love.

Which one wins?

The one we feed.

When you feel afflictive emotions rising in you, try not to feed them by seeking council with people who patronize them by perpetuating malicious gossip and hate. Tell yourself that you don’t want these emotions inside of you. Find friends that are objective. Surround yourself with positive influences. Keep practicing awareness. It will come in handy during challenging times. Keep books, poems, essays, mantras, letters or songs of wisdom handy and turn to them when you find yourself feeling negative. Over time, the positive and more intelligent and intuitive part of your mind will win over the negative and destructive part of your mind because you choose to feed it more.

For more insight on how I asked a family member to be “the angel on my shoulder,” check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=607

For more insight on  meditation, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=206

For more information of the wisdom of the yoga sutras, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=17

For more insight on the act of compassion, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=502

PostHeaderIcon Release Neck and Shoulder Tension

Today, I’d like to address a subject that I see a lot in people, shoulder and neck tension. Many have told me that this is getting in the way of their fitness goals. I also see a large amount of shoulder injuries due to lack of strength and flexibility in the rotator cuffs. Another cause of injury is that many people use bad form due to lack of posture awareness or muscle imbalances that have not been addressed. Lack of core strength ’causes people to overcompensate by straining their neck and shoulders. Lifting weights adds stress to an already dislodged area, aggravating the issue. Another reason this has become such an epidemic is because people simply do not know how to relax. Living in a “no pain, no gain,” society has made us tense up, thinking that holding on to stress will somehow get us somewhere.
How did this happen and how can we address these issues?

Unfortunately, many of these problems start in elementary school where children are forced to sit in chairs for long periods of time. These chairs are rarely created to fit their size. They are also forced to carry heavy back packs. Sadly, I see many teenagers enter my classes with the kyphotic hunch of an older adult. To make matters worse, children grow up to be adults who live sedentary lifestyles, often making a living by sitting at a desk, hunched over a screen. A reliance on texting and portable devices has developed a society of people who spend more time hunching over a screen than they do anything else, not to mention the fact that we drive this way as well. If you watch a a toddler or pre-schooler crawl, walk, squat, lunge and pick things up of the floor, you will find they use perfect form. The imbalances start when television, video games, and forced chair sitting creep into their everyday lives.

Until recently we have evolved to move our shoulders, to hunt, throw and dig with our upper bodies. In our modern society, a lack of proper movement has caused the muscles that support our scapulae to weaken and become inflexible.
An average sedentary American doesn’t lift his hand higher than his desk. This lack of movement leads to inflexibility and weakness in our core muscles. Also, many people work in awkward positions, spending all day with their head thrusted forward to read the screen. This puts the alignment of the spine out of balance. The weight of the head (about ten pounds) causes the spine to fuse in an unnatural position.
The tightness this brings to the shoulders and neck can cut off nerves that run down the arm and into the fingers, causing pain and numbness in the wrists. Often, neck impingments are misdiagnosed as carpel tunnel or tendonitis of the wrists.
Shoulder tension can also lead to lower back pain. The misaligment of the upper spine, can cause the lower spine to curve unnaturally. So pain that starts in the neck can radiate into the arms and lower back. Tension in the neck and shoulders cuts of circulation to the brain, causing headaches. As you can see it is absolutely imparative that we address this part of our bodies. Fortunately, with proper movement and awareness, we can reverse this damage. I will be teaching all of the methods below in my upcoming Shoulder and Neck Release Workshop on March 3, 2013
Click here for more information:
NECK AND SHOULDER RELEASE WORKSHOP

How do we address imbalances in the neck and shoulders?

Ergonomics:
Since most imbalances and chronic pain are caused by things we do everyday, we have to look at how we move when we aren’t exercising. Are we contorting our bodies unnaturally in order to fit into our work spaces? We need to make sure that we can lean back on our chairs without curving our backs or stressing our shoulders. Our keyboards should be close enough to us so we don’t have to reach our arms out to type, causing tightness in the front of our shoulders. Are we hunching forward in order to read the screen or do we make the characters on the screen larger so we can see them while balancing our head on our neck where it should be?

Myofacial Release:
There is a sheath of tissue surrounding our muscales and organs known as “fascia.” This tissue gets tighter the more we move in the same ways. If we hold our posture in an incorrect position for too long, the fascia hardens in that position and it is very hard to release it. Also, our muscles can get swollen. This makes it very hard for blood to circulate. We start forming “knots” in our shoulders and neck that can only be released through myofacial techniques such as massage. Fortunately, we have found many ways to use self massage by using foam rollers and small balls so we don’t have to pay for a regular weekly massage. Once we have softened our fascia and reduced swelling in our shoulders, we are more able to move this area.

Add Mobility:
Seeing how our greatest problem is lack of movement, we should start releasing tension by moving this area. This brings energy currents, circulation and neuromusclular connections to a once dormant area. Over time, we start achieving more ease and mobility

Strengthen rotator cuffs and core:
The weaker we are, the more likely we are to get sore. The smallest things will ’cause pain. Most people have weak rotator cuffs (the muscles that surround and protect the shoulder blade) Due to lack of movement, these muscles lengthen and get weaker, making it hard for us to sit straight,with our shoulders back and down. In order to fix this imbalance, we must strengthen our upper back and the back of our shoulders by rowing, pulling down, or just drawing our upper back muscles down. It is imparative that we strengthen these muscles that protect our shoulders if we have trouble standing straight with our shoulders back. Doing advanced weight training with weak rotator cuffs can cause injuries in the lower back and shoulders.
Also, our dependence on chairs and machines has made our core muscles completely dormant. Often, people strain their necks to make up for lack of strength in their torso.

Learn how to relax:
Living in a “no pain, no gain” society has made us create pain for ourselves. Our subconscious belief that pain will lead to gain has caused many people to hang on to pain, thinking it will lead to success. In reality, this tension is an obstacle to health and freedom. Fortunately, there are meditations and stretches we can do to change this pattern.

Breathing

Poor posture can constrict the muscles that allows us to breath deep into our diaphram. Since our body needs oxygen, lack of proper breathing can cause more lack of circulation and anxiety. This leads to more shallow breathing. Instead of using the diaphram, shallow breathers use muscles that lift the shoulders, causing even more strain.
For more information on how and why to breath properly, check out this link:
DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH

During my NECK AND SHOULDER RELEASE workshop, we will learn how to address these issues without relying on a massage therapist or chiropracter. This workshop is designed for people who suffer from chronic tension in the shoulder and neck while at work or during exercise. It is not geared to people who have an accute injury that may require a specialist or surgery.

During this workshop, we will learn to assess our own imbalances by applying techniques using ergonomics, mobility movements, myofascial release, core strengthening, relaxing stretches, breathing and meditation that teach us to let go of our stess and prevent us from being stressed out by others.

I will be providing the best information on this subject after many years of being a personal trainer, pilates and yoga instructor. I will also offer mind/body techniques I have learned from studying the Alexander Technique and chi kung.

If you are interested, please click here: RELEASE NECK AND SHOULDER WORKSHOP