All entries tagged with “Lengthen”
Often when I begin a yoga class, I remind my clients that when the language in their body speaks louder than I do, obey!
The practice of yoga is a unique expression that every body gets to discover on their mat. A posture can become as varied as each body can manifest the pose. With the twisting and turning, upending and balancing, strengthening and stretching involved in a yoga practice, everyone should feel empowered to explore how to inhabit their bodies better.
Whatever your choice for physical activity, be your own fitness expert. Pose challenges to your body and do what you can to meet them. Be fearless in your approach toward fitness because truly, we simply can’t do what we can’t do! However, we can discover all we can do with each attempt.
If we choose not to listen to the language in our bodies while we are challenging ourselves physically, we likely will either injure ourselves at some point, or conversely, never know our full potential. Who knew that a lift of a leg could lead to wearing it like a scarf! Always have a sense of wonder about what you can do.
If we choose to let go of a prescribed notion about what we should accomplish, we will not fail in accomplishing what we can! If we choose to let go of a prescribed notion about how we should look, we have accomplished looking how we should! Build success into your workout and hone into the message of your body language. Go when it says go. Stop when it says stop. Challenge yourself as much as your body allows, and then surrender as much as your body needs.
In yoga there is a continuous theme for each participant to meet challenge with ease. There’s an ancient Sanskrit term for this: “sthira sukham asanam” which translates, ”The posture is challenging but steady.” Sthira speaks of strength and fortitude. Sukham speaks of joy, happiness, feeling satisfied; and asanam speaks to the practice itself.
Incorporate this theme into your daily active life. Empower yourself as your own fitness expert. Gain confidence in your abilities as you listen to the language in your body, and your level of fitness will grow. Your body will establish a new a craving for more and more challenge when you can manage yourself with a sense of equanimity through it all. Enjoy your workout for what you can do today, and you’ll look forward to your workout for what you can do tomorrow…
Love the journey toward building your strength and stamina, and you’ll love that your body will speak for itself!
Live to discover more.
Karen Cutrona, Body Language Specialist
Instructor/trainer/Owner, Blue Moon Yoga and Fitness, Inc.
Who doesn’t want to be happier, healthier, sexier…? It’s a new year. That’s a tall order. Here's a standing challenge to help make it happen:
Start by slimming up. Yes, up! When you stand tall, you inhabit your body better. The very act of stacking your shoulders over your hips, your hips over your knees, your knees over your ankles, makes you consciously aware that you are taking ownership of all of the space God gave you within your skin and bones. You become longer and leaner. You’ll feel sexier. If you want to look thinner, stand straighter and taller and you’ll appear to have dropped 5 pounds instantly.
In yoga, standing tall is called Tadasana or Mountain Pose:
Your body is engaged and active. Your feet are rooted into the ground, your leg muscles are fixed to the bones, your fingertips are pressing downward tightening triceps, chest and back muscles, and with your head in line with your spine, the crown of your head is reaching for the sky. Grow yourself an inch by creating vertical tension this way. And, who doesn’t want another inch, especially when it’s already yours to claim?
Our daily activities such as driving our cars, working at our desks, using our technological devices, lifting and holding young children, carrying items, preparing meals, washing dishes, reading, etc., all create a forward-reaching, head-tilting downward lifestyle. Before we know it, even standing is not all the way up any longer. Re-claim your body territory!
Here’s a pose to help strengthen, lengthen, and straighten your spine to counteract the forward-reaching lifestyle we live, called Salabhasana or Locust Pose:
Lying on your belly, exhale all of the air in your lungs, then inhale lifting your shoulders and your heels. Keeping your head in line with your spine. Press your arms back. Fingers are ignited reaching toward your heels. Your legs are engaged and your pointed toes are reaching in opposition of your collar bone.
This pose is a great one to practice to allow you to press into your spine and open your chest cavity. You strengthen all of your back-side muscles in the process. Stretching and strengthening in Locust pose also allows for better heart and lung function by creating space in the ribcage area. Building this pose into your body will allow you to stand taller and firmer as well.
Take your stand, firm and tall like a mountain, for a new you in 2012, and then breathe. Fill your lungs fully, and empty your lungs completely. With your mouth closed, draw the air down your windpipe, filling your ribcage area with your lungs. Squeeze the air out using your diaphragm and ribs to empty your lungs. You should feel your upper abdominal muscles press together on your exhale. Your lungs help support your spine, easing tension and also massaging internal organs when fully inflating and deflating. Let them fully inhabit the space they’re allotted within the boney walls that house all of your internal organs. When fully extended, they can take up the space from your collar bone to your hip bone. Breathing this way allows your body to “memorize” your long, lean, straight posture. Let even your breathing become an exercise for your body. Practicing Mountain Pose will build integrity to your posture.
Stand up for yourself, fully. Be all “in” to your body and you will create a firm foundation for a happier, healthier sexier you. You’re more approachable, more confident, and you’ll be “on” when you’re all “in.” Inhabit your body better simply by standing taller. You’ll even look smarter!
Happy New You everyone!
Be happy. Live Healthy. ~ Karen Cutrona Underwood, E-RYT, RYS Director, and Owner, Blue Moon Yoga and Fitness, Inc.
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.
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.