All entries for December 2011
Confucius said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” What a profoundly simplistic concept worthy of a big, “DUH!” Nonetheless, this is truly one of the fundamental tenants of yoga. It’s about being present and seizing the moment to, of course, tighten your gluteus maximus-ly!
Wherever your body goes, yoga is available to you. If you can move and breathe, you are fully equipped to make your body better and more vital. Yoga is portable and accessible. It doesn’t require a facility, a membership, or a machine. You can get your Lengthen, Strengthen, and Decompress, also known as LSD, anytime, anywhere simply by posing challenges to your body that create these effects within your muscles, joints, organs, glands and mind. Practicing yoga helps you becoming a better inhabitant of your body. Yoga creates more space between your bones so that more of you can be, wherever you are. I know… Read that sentence again.
Thousands of years ago, the yogis in India would practice yoga “asanas,” which in Sanskrit, translates to “poses,” prior to meditating for hours without moving a muscle. Think about this. Yoga, as the fitness modality we know it to be, was a practice developed to satisfy the body’s need for movement and physical activity so that the spirit could be satisfied in stillness and inner focus, which was deemed a higher level of yogic practice. Imagine how the ancient yogis must have worked their “asanas” to literally expend their strength so they could surrender willingly, to meditative bliss.
With this ancient concept in mind, let’s work our “asana” (you like that word, don’t you?) in another LSD pose. This is a very dynamic posture for your body - Triangle Pose:
On a mat or non-skid surface, step out to a four or five-foot straddle stance. Turn your right toes forward. Turn your left toes in at a 45-degree angle to your ankle. Take a deep breath in and on your exhale, bend your right knee stacking it directly over your ankle and lower your quadriceps parallel to the ground. Stacking your knee over your ankle keeps your leg muscle engaged and avoids tension in your knee.
Zip-up all the muscles of your back leg and press them to the bones. Roll out and press down into the outer blade of your left foot. With this action, you want to feel as if you’re pulling your mat apart with your legs by creating horizontal tension.
Take another deep breath in, and on your exhale, lower your right elbow to rest against your inner-knee wall. Raise your left arm to the sky and press your fingertips tightly upward. You want to create vertical tension in your arms with the opposing force of feeling as if your right wrist is being pulled downward, and your left wrist is being pulled upward.
Gaze directly up at your thumb, or down at your big toe to keep your head aligned with your spine. Breathe deeply drawing the air down your windpipe, and forcing the air by using your diaphragm and ribcage back up your windpipe. Your mouth remains closed. Your jaw relaxed. Draw air in for a count of 6, and press air out for a count of 6. Take 5 inhalations and exhalations. Turn on your heels and start all over on the other side.
Tighten and tone every muscle to the bone as your pose this challenge to your body and meet it with the ease of your steady, deep breathing. Feel length, strength, stability, and equanimity in your Triangle Pose. Gain revitalization for your kidney and adrenal glands, a stimulation of your lymph nodes in your neck, armpits and groin, and stretch through your ribcage cavity creating space for better heart and lung function, and gain a better-looking toned body all in this pose, and all of your own body’s creation of opposing forces.
Yoga poses can be done as your LSD fix in the break room at work or in the basement away from the in-laws at that family gathering. You are your own piece of equipment, and when you learn to create opposing forcing within your muscles while practicing yoga, your body begins to crave these kinds of movements. It’s like adding onto your house. You want to live and enjoy the extra room you’re created. Yoga allows you to move into your own space – space you didn’t know existed within your body, and live there better.
Sounds a little far out, right? It is. Yoga will take your body to new heights creating expansion, toning, and agility. It’s yoga’s LSD effect that takes you to the edge! It’s a great addiction to build into your body.
When you simultaneously stretch and strengthen your muscles, your create space and when you breathe into that space, it becomes “alive,” you become better aware of your body’s capacity to bend, stretch, tighten, tone, and mostly, breathe by fully inflating and deflating your lungs. This is the key to vitality. By creating a relaxation response with steady, deep breathing, while challenging your body in poses like Triangle, you absorb the benefits of the lengthening, strengthening and decompressing effect. You’ll wear the result! Yoga is a “work-in,” not a “work-out.”
During this holiday season, take time to enjoy your loved ones, count your blessings, spread joy, laughter, and peace to all, and do some LSD. You’ll love the effect it has on you and those around you, and that little black dress or tailored black jacket you’re planning to put on for the office party or your New Year’s Eve celebration will look even better, worn over your yoga!
Be happy. Live healthy ~ Karen Cutrona Underwood, E-RYT, RYS Director,
Owner of Blue Moon Yoga and Fitness, Inc.
When patients are diagnosed with atherosclerotic disease (plaque in the arteries) they frequently ask me if this can ever get better. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine sheds some light on this subject.
Investigators from the Cleveland Clinic studied over 1,000 patients with coronary artery disease using a tiny ultrasound probe which fits inside coronary arteries and can measure the amount of plaque very accurately. Patients underwent an initial measurement of their “plaque burden” and then were randomized to one of two statin medications – either atorvastatin (Lipitor) 80mg daily or rosuvastatin (Crestor) 40mg daily. The ultrasound was then repeated about two years later to see if there was any change in the plaque levels.
At the beginning of the trial, the patients in both groups had an average LDL (bad cholesterol) of 120mg/dL. After two years of therapy the LDL had gone down significantly – the Lipitor group had an LDL of 70mg/dL and the Crestor group was slightly lower at 63 mg/dL. The HDL (good cholesterol) was 45mg/dL in both groups to start and increased to 49mg/dL in the Lipitor group and 50mg/dL in the Crestor group.
Regarding the amount of plaque in the coronary arteries, both groups saw an average decrease in the amount of plaque by about 1%. Looking at it another way, 63% of the patients in the Lipitor group and 69% of patients in the Crestor group had regression of their plaque burden in the coronary artery.
Despite the high doses of powerful cholesterol lowering medications, the incidence of side effects was quite low. Nonetheless approximately 20% of patients in both groups discontinued the study medication.
It should be noted that this study was not able to prove that reducing plaque results in less heart attack, stroke or death. However, it is encouraging to know that the majority of patients that achieve an LDL less than 70mg/dL using Crestor or Lipitor will experience a regression of their atherosclerosis.
Downward Facing Dog is perhaps THE BEST pose in all of yoga to stretch and tighten every muscle to the bone. Everyone could benefit from a few deep breaths in and out of their lungs in this total-body toner. I like to consider yoga poses like this one in the LSD category - Lengthen, Strengthen, and Decompress...With the holidays at hand, I know you are ready to do some LSD with me!
Place your hands down on a mat or any non-skid surface shoulder distance apart. Walk your feet back to where your heels are barely grazing the ground. Take up as much space as possible.
Now do some refining to create an opposing force within your body:
Press your palms flat and firm against the ground to hollow-out your armpits. Feel the muscles in your arms hug the bones.
Lift your tailbone up to the sky by sucking in your belly, and extending your spine. Feel the muscles in your back engage as your shoulders press away from your ears.
Press your heels downward toward the ground and feel the back of your legs lengthen, the front of your legs tighten. Feel your leg muscles hug the bones.
You're pressing your palms away from the mat and drawing your heels down toward the mat to create that opposing force.
With your head loose - shake it "yes" a few times to be sure you're not holding tension in your jaw or the neck area, BREATHE... You should sound like Darth Vader by drawing air down your windpipe with your mouth closed for a count of six - inhale; and pressing the air back out the windpipe using your diaphram for a count of six - exhale. Every inhalation like this revitalizes your body. Every exhalation detoxifies your system. Hold your Downward Facing Dog for five deep breaths or for at least a minute. Now you know and feel the affects of what I'm talkin' about! That's LSD - I'm just sayin'!
When your head is below your heart, you create an inversion. Inversions, according to Yoga Master B.K.S. Iyengar, purge the body of impurities and bring calmness to the mind. Other benefits may also include better sleep, improved digestion, and regulated hormones, not to mention a stronger, straighter spine.
In the hubub of the holiday season, it's time to drop down and do some LSD! Lengthen, Strengthen and Decompress your body, mind and spirit. Do yourself some GOOD so you truly can spread peace and joy to those you love.
Warning: LSD, in this sense, is addictive and amazingly revitalizing for your health!
Be happy. Live healthy.
Karen Cutrona-Underwood, E-RYT, Certified Yoga Teacher Trainer and owner of Blue Moon Yoga and Fitness, RYS.