MIND-CENTERED TECHNIQUES THAT CAN HELP YOU HEAL YOUR ARTHRITIS

The Arthritis Foundation says on its website that, ‘by conservative estimates, about 54 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.’ Furthermore, they start off their How to Prevent Arthritis section by stating, ‘The fact is, there is no sure way to prevent arthritis.’
If you already have arthritis, they do offer a few specific examples of things you can do to manage it. For osteoarthritis, they recommend that you maintain a healthy weight; for rheumatoid arthritis that you do not smoke; and for gout, they advocate that you eat a healthful diet, low in sugar, alcohol and purines. They add the following at the end:
Right now, because scientists don’t fully understand the causes or mechanisms behind these diseases, true prevention seems to be impossible. However, there is real hope that someday some or all types of arthritis and related conditions can be prevented.

Gee whiz. Perhaps we simply haven’t given enough money to Western Arthritis Researchers to enable them to ‘understand’ what’s going on. Oh well–at least in the meantime, they have mountains of pharmaceutical drugs, enough for everyone, to fill the void of ignorance.

For arthritis sufferers, little of the ‘insights’ of Western medicine are truly helpful. The lack of clarity about the causes and effective treatments for arthritis is obviously frustrating. And when pharmaceutical drugs are the main line of treatment for arthritis sufferers—drugs which serve only to suppress the immune system and block some of the pain caused by arthritis, and do not offer the possibility of a cure—it is understandable that having arthritis could lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression.

Links Between Arthritis and Mental Health Issues

In fact, this lines up with a new study conducted by the Medibank Better Health Index that shows that Australians living with arthritis are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr. Linda Swan further drills down on this as follows:

While arthritis is a physical health condition, we know it can also take a major toll on the mental wellbeing of those affected—with chronic pain, mobility loss and a reduced ability to take part in physical and social activities all playing potential roles. These findings confirm how essential it is that people with arthritis take measures to not only manage the physical symptoms of the condition, but also their mental health as well.

The first recommendation given by the study is for sufferers to ‘learn mindfulness and relaxation techniques.’ Certainly, the notion that we should have strategies to mitigate the mental health problems brought on by arthritis is a positive step; however, this still leaves us with a disease, arthritis, that is seen as fundamentally incurable and a constant pain we just have to live with.

An article entitled ‘Use Your Mind to Beat Arthritis’ goes a step further in suggesting that perhaps mind-centered techniques have the ability to actually alleviate some of the pain brought about by arthritis on their own. Here is the science they point to:

A recent Norwegian study followed 68 people with painful joint inflammation, half of whom participated in mindfulness training in a group setting. Over several months, they were able to reduce their emotional stress and improve overall well-being compared with the other half, who received routine medical care and simply followed along with a CD of mindfulness exercises at home.

Unfortunately, the article is very careful to present its claims in deference to Western medicine, disclaiming on several occasions that mind techniques are not substitutes for Western medication, and calling upon an MD for his authoritative take on it:

How does this “mind over matter” approach help arthritis? “If it works, we don’t understand why,” says Robert Shmerling, MD, a rheumatologist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. But dissecting the mechanics may be unimportant if the end result is a better outlook on life. “It’s possible that anyone with chronic pain can be helped with some of these approaches,” Dr. Shmerling says. The only caveat is that they should not be used as a substitute for medication or other therapies, including those aimed at treating joint pain. “You can get joint damage and functional disability if you stop your medications,” he warns.

Again with the ‘we don’t understand why’ business. Why? Because Western medicine only concerns itself with physical processes, and so is disqualified from being an ‘authority’ on what the mind can do since they don’t even actually investigate the powers of the mind!

The article goes on to describe 4 different methods:

Meditation. Meditation helps you focus your attention, reduce stress, and improve feelings of well-being. There are different types of meditation to consider. In mindfulness meditation, you concentrate on your breathing (or another physical process) without reaction or judgment. With transcendental meditation, you repeat a mantra — a word or phrase — over and over to keep any thoughts from distracting you. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that people with arthritis who underwent eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy that included meditation experienced a significant decrease in their pain intensity and achieved improved quality of life.

Relaxation techniques. Sometimes, taking steps to relieve the stress of arthritis can bring about positive physical changes, like decreased blood pressure and slower breathing, which in turn can lead to less discomfort from chronic joint pain. One technique, called progressive muscle relaxation, centers on purposely tightening and then relaxing each muscle group in your body while following a breathing technique. A study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice found that a small group of people with rheumatoid arthritis who practiced relaxation techniques in addition to taking their medication had less anxiety and depression than those who only took medication.

Biofeedback. Biofeedback therapy involves the use of a simple machine that measures blood pressure, muscle tension, and other physical markers. By watching the measurements on the machine as you use various calming techniques, you can learn how to better control these physical functions. You can even shop for a biofeedback machine and books on the topic online.

Cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of psychotherapy helps you change negative thought and behavior patterns by replacing them with more positive behaviors. If your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are making you tired, this approach could be particularly helpful — two British studies found that group sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy reduced the impact of fatigue.

Belief Is The Key

After listing these 4 techniques, the article goes on to state that ‘the best therapy is one that you truly believe may help. Going into it with a lot of skepticism may reduce its effectiveness.’

Aha. There it is. Belief is the key. The problem is that this article, and Western medicine as a whole, do not provide us with a body of knowledge that would give us good reason to believe in the powers of the mind, and our innate abilities to heal ourselves. And why? Because if we really believed in our own ability to heal ourselves, the entire Western Medical Establishment would be out of business, save for a small area of health care dealing with acute traumas to the body.

Holistic Paradigm

For chronic illness, especially if we want to test the full effectiveness of mind-centered therapies, it becomes important to adopt a holistic paradigm of healing. A holistic approach sees the mind and body as one, intimately connected in the manifestation and perpetuation of chronic disease. Rather than being seen as an arbitrary event, diseases such as arthritis are actually manifested and maintained by the mind, the ultimate source of intelligence behind all of the body’s physiological processes. It follows that if we are willing to see chronic illness in the body as the manifestation of an improperly functioning mind, then it gives us a lot more confidence that we can heal ourselves through mind-centered practices such as the ones described above.

This does not negate the need for proper nutrition, rest, activity, or other physical processes; indeed in the holistic paradigm these are all part of the overall health of the organism, and would be included in any holistic treatment program for arthritis.

The unlimited power, though, is founded in the mind. To get really clear on the mind’s role in both the manifestation and healing of chronic illness within the body, books such as Bruce Lipton’s ‘The Biology of Belief’ or Louise Hay’s ‘You Can Heal Your Life,’ are excellent resources. Once you gain a full understanding of this paradigm, you will bring confidence and optimism to your experimentation with various mind-centered therapies, gaining more confidence and certainty in your ability to heal yourself with each sign of success.

How to make a long walk work. 20.3 miles goes by pretty quickly, especially with good company, relaxing stretches and a lunch break halfway.

A 20-MILE WALK sounded long. I’ve hiked up to 14 miles before, but 20 miles, even on flat ground, felt intimidating. I’m not usually interested in endurance events, but here I was, committed.

The idea came from Katy Bowman, a biomechanist in Sequim. She leads long walks during movement retreats, training other teachers, and also for herself. She is an advocate for the lost art of the long walk, something people do in countries around the world, and Americans once did as well.

I met Bowman at the 7 Cedars Casino on the Olympic Peninsula. She had mapped out a pathway with a midpoint stop at her house, finishing at a movie theater in Port Angeles.

20.3 miles.

Bowman estimated it would take us eight hours, with a break.

I wondered whether I should have trained. Bowman told me the only way to prepare for a long walk is to do one. Your body uses different muscles at 20 miles than it does at five or 10. As muscles tire, your body adapts by recruiting different parts. If your feet or ankles are stiff (true for most people), your body has a hard time recruiting other muscles, so you might feel challenged there, or in your knees or hips, she said. Stretching your feet or ankles beforehand helps.

I quickly learned it’s more fun to walk with a group. Michael Kaffel, a teacher with Bowman and a veteran of many walks, and his friend Owl Chrysalis Medicine (and his dog Ki) walked with us. Bowman’s husband, Michael Curran, joined us the last 10 miles.

I wondered whether we would run out of topics to talk about — I even had a list of questions stockpiled since I interviewed Bowman last year. This was unnecessary.

For the first few miles, clouds spat light rain as we walked a paved trail close to Highway 101. We chatted about work, life histories, books. Soon, we were five miles in.

Around eight miles, Bowman moved her pack to the front of her body. Your body gets tired holding a backpack, she said, so change position to use new muscles and rest others. I slung my backpack to one side, and noticed the other side relaxed.

To rest our feet, we moved off the pavement to the grass. Flat ground is easier for fitness, but more complex terrain is easier on your musculoskeletal system, she said. Don’t do the walk in new shoes — you might find you need to toughen up skin.

We had occasional stops to look at a ravine or taste the cucumber-flavored Indian plum leaf, but our pace was fast, and in just over three hours, we were at Bowman’s house.

Bowman made crepes, and we stretched our legs, squatted and twisted. Get close to the ground during breaks, Bowman advised.

My body felt good after the hourlong break. Soon we were off to the Olympic Discovery Trail, now with Curran. We talked about Ayurvedic nutrition, acupuncture, books, writing books, business. We paused when Medicine pointed out swarming termites, red ants or the shape of a vine on a tree. We looked at books in free libraries. We stocked up on eggs sold by the trail. Bowman took pictures and posted movement tips to Instagram.

At mile 16.5, we stopped to stretch. I asked whether long walks always feel this fast. Kaffel, who has done longer ones, smiled and said, “When it’s only 20 miles.”

Around mile 19.5, my right hip spoke up. It’s often tight from an old injury. But we were almost there.

We finished in eight hours. I thought the walk might feel hard. It didn’t. It helped that someone else planned the way.

It also was so simple: Keep walking.

How you assess posture depends on your objectives and often the assessment tools we are provided with only give us part of the story.

By Carol Robbins

How you assess posture depends on your objectives and often the assessment tools we are provided with only give us part of the story. Assessing static alignment in a given moment tells us about relationships and what we need to do to achieve them determines our current boundaries. I talk a lot about boundaries in my practice as determined by inappropriate tensions or body displacement.

Photo 1: this looks like good posture, ear over shoulder over hip. However, the front of the rib cage is in front of the front of the pelvis and although both are neutral relative to the ground they are not neutral relative to each other, resulting in excessive curvature, where the lumbar curve exceeds the lumbar region (looks like sway back).

Photo 2: I’ve corrected that excessive curvature by tucking the tailbone under and bringing the top of the pelvis back (the pubic bone not seen here would be in front of the ASIS bones). Interestingly, you can see that my neck has responded by hyper extending at the top of the cervical spine in an effort to keep head level (righting reflex).

Photo 3: ribs are back over pelvis and head is level again. This is a better relationship of the head/rib cage/pelvis and the spine and organs (including breathing) are better placed and spaced for functioning.
#alignmentmatters

Inner Breath Yoga Presents Yogalign Thursday & Friday May 17th & 18th at Big Bear Yoga in Big Bear Lake, California

Aloha Inner Breath Yoga~YogAlign Class Pain-Free Yoga From Your Inner Core With Renee’ Fulkerson E-RYT 200| RYT 500 Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider www.innerbreathyoga.com | 909-747-4186

When: Thursday May 17th/ Friday May 18th
Time: 6:00pm to 7:45pm On Both Days
Investment: $15 In Advanced $20 Day of Per Person / Per Class Location: Big Bear Yoga 909-584-5270
421 W. Big Bear Blvd. Big Bear City, Ca. 92314
Contact: http://www.bigbearyoga@hotmail.com

What to Expect
• Breathing from the diaphragm with Core SIP Breath
• Postures supporting natural spine alignment
• Re-setting the tension in the body
• Creating space in the body with self-massage
• Stillness a time to feel the effects of your practice
• Use of yoga props blocks, blankets and straps

YogAlign is Simply the Art of Being in Your Structure and Breath. What differentiates YogAlign from other practices is its focus on rewiring of real-life movement patterning, rather that confusing the body with poses that do not necessarily stimulate real-life function or movement. The basis of the YogAlign practice is to create and maintain posture in natural alignment and therefore the emphasis in on posture, not the poses. Imagine the Possibilities in a body you can trust.

Benefits of Good Posture
Improves and allows for more efficient breathing
Eliminates/ reduces risks of back and neck pain
Improves concentration and mental performance
Feel better, improves mood & boost’s energy
Reduces risk of injury (present and future)
Lifts confidence with improved bodily alignment
Showing up to YogAlign practice will allow you the time and space to get to know and support your bodies authentic needs and enjoy the benefits of good posture.

Asymmetries

By Carol Robbins

Asymmetries – do you got ’em? Do you need to fix ’em? If so, how?

The answer to the first question is yes. You are born asymmetrical, your organs are not centered, you have one foot bigger than the other (and maybe one hand). Your face is asymmetrical, maybe your nose is crooked and you have eyes shaped differently from each other (not to mention eyebrows). It is said that the most attractive faces to other people are the symmetrical ones, but it’s the not-perfect faces that are the most interesting.

You have a preference for one-handedness and even have a dominant leg, foot and eye. More problematic asymmetries can be found in the spine (scoliosis) and leg length discrepancies. You might have far more ranges of motion of joints on one side of the body versus the other. Athletes such as baseball pitchers and golfers are going to be famously asymmetrical. (During a recent workshop, I had attendees throw rocks into the lake with their dominant and then non-dominant hands.) When I screen someone for rotations of the hips, I almost always find that one is more rotated that the other (usually due to a foot position that is different on one side than the other). Ladies, I bet your boobs are not symmetrical!

I recently attended a conference where an asymmetry screen was set up so you could get your assessment and then be referred to an osteopath or a chiropractor. I was on the “normal” side of things, but there was still one shoulder lower than the other, one hip lower than the other. Whether the test was as accurate as claimed is a matter of conjecture; the tester would have to be very good to see below the layers of clothing and tissue (fat) on my hips and the tester was not an osteo or a chiro. To be tested, you stood up against a frame and strings were slid up and down the frame to the level of your shoulders and hips (see photo). You also were standing with each foot on a scale and the difference in how much you weigh one side from the other was noted (a difference of 10lbs or less considered within normal). So what does this test tell us? Not much, other than the fact that your shoulders and hips are unlevel. The bigger question to me would be: why?

IMG_7950-767x1024Note the person taking the photo is not standing directly centre behind me, so it looks worse than it is!

Shoulders can be unlevel because you carry a bag on one side. Or they can be unlevel because of an old injury. They can be unlevel because of a lateral curve of the spine (and which one came first might be a better question). They can be unlevel because one trapezius muscle is longer than the other, or because you work doing different things on each side (creating an unbalanced muscle development side to side). So the asymmetry is noted, but further exploration is of course warranted. Maybe you just spent a week digging a garden, painting the ceiling or long distance driving (an asymmetrical pursuit) and you’ll feel and look different side-side until you get back to your normal activities.

So let’s assume you have a very worrisome or problematic asymmetry perhaps resulting in pain or dysfunction on one side or a very dramatic difference in function side to side. If that were the case, I probably would already know that, and wouldn’t need a screen to tell me. The current method of “fixing” or treating asymmetries (at least in the movement world) is to lengthen the short side, tighten the long side, stretch, strengthen and mold yourself back to a more symmetrical appearance. But that doesn’t address the “why” part. If your job requires you to do tasks that create major differences side to side, you’ll be chasing those symptoms for a long time. What you need to do is create an environment that requires movement on both sides.

Lots of people I see have a problem on one side of their body – hips, knees, shoulders. Which should be a red flag that it can’t be blamed on “aging.”  There is a discrepancy from side to side that created a different load profile on one hip or knee than the other. But now you have a situation where you favour one side and now all your movements will change in a way that permits function within your limitations. That creates new problems, and it compounds. So in that sense, asymmetries are a problem. If a horse is lame on one leg, he will put more weight on the other leg and before you know it, there is a problem in that other leg. So let’s say he has a sore foot on the left hind, and then starts having pain in the right hip for having more weight on the right side (the muscles fatigue). Should you just strengthen the right hip muscles? No, of course not, they aren’t too weak to do their normal job, they are unable to adapt that quickly to a new load profile. The solution is in fixing the foot so the hip can go back to its normal job. If you don’t, the hip will eventually be a bigger problem than the foot. And horses can’t just sit down, so that would be the end of them. People think they can just avoid their problems by changing their behavior, if it hurts, avoidance is often the strategy taken. I may not be very popular for saying so, but you need to move more and move in a more diverse way.

If we were to move in a natural habitat, we’d be forced to function on both sides from the start. We’d have to have similar skills on one side of the body to the other, as we can’t always position ourselves in a way that favours the foot we like to plant first or the hand we like to grab with. If you were climbing a tree, your feet and hands would have to deal with all kinds of varied positions. Unlike, say, climbing a ladder or a rope where every handhold and foothold is predictable.

One of my least favourite symmetrical features of our habitat is the staircase. I would go so far as to say I hate stairs. I would love to replace all the stairs in my house with ramps, but the city code forbids it, and we are held to a safety standard that keeps us moving in very particular ways. The shape of our habitat shapes us! Hills are natural, stairs are a way we can change grades without actually using the ranges of our ankles and hips that hills require.

So my answer to typical asymmetries is to move in as varied and natural ways as possible, within our capabilities in our current culture. I live in the city, but I can always take the hill over the staircase in my park. I can walk on the grass instead of the sidewalk. I can search and seek out textured paths and tree limbs to hang from. And the best tool I know for assessment purposes that gives actionable information is the Bosu® – an inflatable half dome that you stand on and it can show you how you want to load your feet. I often have people just stand on the Bosu® and not do any exercises on it, but see how still they can stand. This shows tendencies to load the front back or one side and they can immediately use that information to correct in the moment (or not, and fall off).

This trail at Tommy Thompson Park was “closed” but I went on it anyway, for the texture of the broken bricks.

Back Pain Surgery Alternatives and Remedies

by 

Back pain is a disorder that affects the muscles, nerves, and bones of the back. It is one of the most common causes of visits to the doctor. It can be classified into the pain of the lower part of the back, the pain of the upper part or middle part of the back. However, the pain of the lower of the back is the most predominant. According to studies, about 80% of Americans have experienced back pain at one point or the other in the lives. Back pain can be due to different reasons. The majority of back pain is caused by injury, such as strains to the nerves, muscle sprains. It can also be as a result of some diseases such as cancer of the spinal cord, herniated vertebral disc, Sciatica, renal diseases, infections of the vertebral spine and so on. Back pain can be classified based on the duration of the pain. There is the acute back pain, which is when the back pain lasts for less than 6 weeks, then there is the sub-chronic lower back pain, this is when the pain lasts for between 6 to 12 weeks, and lastly, the chronic lower back pain, this is when the pain lasts for more than 12 weeks. There is some kind of back pain that might need for surgery to be done.  This piece is focused on nonsurgical ways to treat back pain. However, it’s important to know the causes of back pain before going into how it can be treated.

What Are the Causes of Back Pain?

  1. Strains: This occurs when there is a strain of the muscles and ligaments of the lower back. It could also be as a result of engaging in activities that put excessive strain on the back. Some of the signs and symptoms of strain include pain and rigidity of the lower back. The patient might also experience spasms of the muscles of the lower back. The treatment for a strain is rest and physical therapy.
  2. Vertebral disc problems: Some of the most common problems of the vertebral disc include herniation or bulging of the disc. The discs of the vertebrae are prone to injury. However, this tends to occur more as one age. This is why disc injuries are more predominant in adults. Disc herniation is a condition in which the cartilage that surrounds the vertebral disc pushes into the spinal cord. This might also affect the nerve roots. In this condition, the cushion that normally sits between the vertebrae discs slips out of position, which leads to the compression and crush of the nerve root. Injury to the vertebral disc usually occurs after the individual lifts something heavy, or twists the back. Pain from the injury of the vertebral disc can last for up to 3 days before it subsides.
  3. Sciatica: This condition can happen with a herniated disc, especially if the disc crushes on the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the connection between the spine and the legs. This leads to painful sensation in the feet and in the legs. The patient might complain of pins and needles in the feet.
  4. Stenosis of the spine: This is a condition in which the spinal column becomes constricted. The narrowing of the spinal canal puts some kind of pressure on the content of the spinal column, which includes the spinal cord and the spinal nerves. This would eventually lead to the compression of the nerves and the other components of the column. The patient might experience signs and symptoms such as numbness in the leg, weakness, and cramping. It’s common for patients to feel the intensity of the pain when they exert some force on their back, especially when walking or sitting.

How Can I Reduce Inflammation in my Back?

Sometimes, back pain is caused by the swelling and inflammation of the joints in the spine. It’s advisable to consult a physician if you notice any inflammation in your back. However, here are some things to reduce the inflammation;

  1. Apply ice and heat therapy: One of the easiest ways to reduce inflammation in the back is to apply ice or heat to the affected part. This can be done by wrapping the ice in a cloth, such as a clean towel and placing it on the affected region. On the other hand, heat therapy is also efficient. Heat increases the flow of blood to the area, which reduces the pain signals that are being sent to the brain. Asides from this, heat therapy also relax the body and calm the mind.
  2. Reduce the consumption of food that could cause inflammation: There is some food that helps to reduce inflammation. Examples of this types of food include olive oil, more fish, less red meat and so on.
  3. Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a minimally invasive treatment that helps to reduce pain, especially in the back. This technique also increases the ability of the body to heal itself. Acupuncture is done by lying comfortably on a table, then acupoint areas are located and needles are placed. Patients do not experience any pain. The process is soothing and relaxing.

What Foods Help with Muscle Inflammation?

There are some types of food that help to reduce and eliminate inflammation. It’s best to start consuming this type of food if you notice you might be having some inflammation of the muscle. Examples of these food include;

  1. Olive oil: Olive oil is rich in fatty acids, especially Omega-9 fatty acids. They help to reduce inflammation. You should consider changing your normal vegetable oil for olive oil when cooking.
  2. Consume less red meat, and more fish
  3. Include nuts in your food

What Natural Remedies Reduce Inflammation?

  1. Bromelain: This enzyme can be found in many fruits. However, they’re abundant in pineapple. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
  2. Tumeric: Tumeric looks similar to ginger. It has a strong anti-inflammatory property. It can be enjoyed as a tea.
  3. White Willow bark: This is the bark of the White Willow tree. It’s used for the treatment of pain and as an anti-inflammatory agent. It’s been used for this purpose for many years.

References

Ayren Jackson-Cannady. (2011). When to See a Doctor for Back PainWebMD. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/features/when-to-call-doctor#1

Charles D. Ray, M. (2018). Should I See a Doctor for Back Pain?Spine-health. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/should-i-see-a-doctor-back-pain

Dr, P. (2016). How To Find A Back Pain Doctor Near Me – Pain DoctorPain Doctor. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://paindoctor.com/back-pain-doctor-near-me/

Philip R. Shalen, M. (2018). Specialists Who Treat Back PainSpine-health. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/spine-specialists/specialists-who-treat-back-pain

Hanumanasana: Take a Flying Leap

By Charlotte Bell

In a recent post, I recounted the story of Anjaneya, a child prodigy—part monkey, godson of the wind god Vayu, and reincarnation of Shiva—that got himself into trouble for making a giant leap for the sun without the sun god’s permission. (He thought it was a giant mango and just couldn’t help himself.) Long story short, Anjaneya was not only absolved of his crime, after some wrangling with the sun god, but even elevated to god status. Dubbed Hanuman, he took the form of a monkey-god.

The Ramayana tells the story of Hanuman’s most famous good deed, a heroic leap to save the sensuous Sita from the ravages of the greedy egomaniac Ravana, who had abducted her from her home in the woods with the beneficent prince, Rama. So devoted was Hanuman to Rama that he offered to go to Sri Lanka and rescue her. With the support of Vayu, Hanuman leapt on the wind, legs splayed fore and aft, and in one giant leap, spanned the ocean to rescue Sita. The animated film, Sita Sings the Blues, tells the whole story of Rama, Sita, Ravana and Hanuman with colorful, tuneful brilliance. It is very much worth watching. You can find it online.

The famous asana, Hanumanasana, symbolizes the monkey god’s heroic leap. We don’t need to have gymnastics chops to leap in the yogic sense though. The simple act of extending one leg forward and the other back—any amount—and breathing deeply allows us to expand and be buoyed by the breeze of our own breath.

Hanumanasana is challenging for just about everyone. And that’s the point:  It’s a leap into the unknown. As always in asana practice, what your pose looks like and how close you get to the floor, is completely irrelevant. In the yoga tradition, mastery of asana is defined as the stage when “all effort is relaxed and your mind is absorbed in the Infinite,” not when you reach the most extreme version of a pose.

I won’t claim that relaxing effort is easy in Hanumanasana; it’s not. But rather than pushing to make it to the floor, and being disappointed if you can’t—even after years of practice—it’s more reasonable and actually more powerful to challenge yourself to relax effort and let go into “being” the pose as it is rather than forcing it. No matter how close you are to the floor, Hanumanasana challenges us to leap into unknown territory.

To prepare for Hanumanasana, it’s a good idea to stretch both the quadriceps and the hamstrings. Start with some relaxed forward bends or standing poses such as Trikonasana(Triangle Pose). One of the best preparatory poses is Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose). Anjaneya was an early incarnation of Hanuman, so the two poses have the same relationship to each other. Anjaneyasana precedes Hanumanasana; Anjaneya’s leaps toward the sun were good practice for his subsequent leap across the Palk Strait.

How to Practice Hanumanasana

  1. After warming up, spread out a blanket the length of your yoga mat and place it on top of your mat. Another option is to use two folded blankets. I’ll tell you how to use these momentarily. Have a couple yoga blocks handy.
  2. Start in Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose) with your right foot in front, directly under your knee and left knee behind, with both on your blanket over your mat. Alternately, place one folded blanket under your left knee and another under your right foot (in front of you, directly under your right knee).
  3. Place a yoga block on either side of your pelvis and place your hands on your blocks. Start with the blocks in their tallest position.
  4. Now slide your right foot forward and your left knee back toward what we Westerners call “splits.” If you’re using two blankets, your blankets will slide along the floor under your knee and foot.
  5. At whatever point you feel resistance in your legs, stop, adjust your hand-support blocks to a different height if need be (or keep them where they are), and relax and breathe deeply.
  6. After about 5 to 10 deep, relaxed breaths, return to a kneeling position for a few breaths before switching to the other side.
  7. I no longer suggest trying to keep the two sides of the pelvis lined up with each other, as I don’t believe that the hip joints and sacroiliac joint actually function well that way. However, I don’t suggest collapsing onto the hip of your front leg either. Do try to keep the hips equidistant from the floor, but let the hip of your front leg be forward of the hip of your back leg. Rise out of the pelvis, lengthening both sides of your waist.
  8. If you are close enough to the floor to place a block under the hip of your front leg (as in the photo), this is a nice way to practice, as it frees your hands and shoulders.
  9. I like to practice Hanumanasana at least twice on each side, because quite often the second time feels more easeful.

Hanumanasana stretches the quadriceps, hamstrings and hip flexors. As you simultaneously open the fronts and backs of your legs, your stride becomes smoother and longer, making giant leaps more accessible. As the heroic leap from the known to the unknown becomes easier, the expansive realm of your potential becomes your home.

Updated article from October 14, 2014.

4 Rules for Exercising with Osteoporosis

By Linda Melone

Here’s what you should—and shouldn’t—do to keep bones strong and avoid fractures.

If you have osteoporosis, you may worry that being active means you’re more likely to fall and break a bone. But the opposite is true. Regular exercise with a properly designed program can help prevent falls and fractures. That’s because exercise strengthens bones and muscles, and improves balance, coordination, and flexibility—all key for people with osteoporosis.

The problem is that guidelines for exercising with osteoporosis are not crystal clear. In general, “you want to do exercises that improve or maintain bone density in the way of strength or resistance training and also include impact-style aerobic exercise,” says Karen Kemmis, D.P.T., an expert for the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

But how much impact is safe? And should certain exercises always be avoided?

The answers to these common questions depend on your history of fractures and the severity of your osteoporosis, Kemmis says. “If somebody has had a fracture with no trauma or low trauma, meaning there wasn’t an obvious incident to cause it, then we have to be careful and stick with low- to no-impact exercise,” she says. (See the eight best low-impact workouts for older adults.)

On the other hand, someone who does not have severe osteoporosis and has no history of fractures or other injuries can do higher-intensity exercise. “But that doesn’t mean power lifting,” Kemmis says. It means things like brisk walking or dancing.

If you’re not sure about the severity of your osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about a bone mineral density scan or revisit the results if you’ve already had one. This test scans the most common sites of bone loss, most notably hips and spine. “We look at four segments of the lumbar spine,” Kemmis says, referring to the lower back. “It’s the only part of the spine we can assess because the ribs get in the way of the test, but we assume what’s going on with this part of the spine is also going on with the rest of the spine.”

The type of bone in the spine also tends to change more quickly with age, so osteoporosis may show up there first. “Interestingly, arthritis of the spine can give a false reading on a scan, since a bone spur from arthritis may appear as a denser part of the bone but doesn’t mean the bone is actually stronger,” Kemmis says. So be sure to notify your doctor if you have arthritis to confirm an accurate reading.

How to Choose the Right Form of Exercise

Exercising with osteoporosis means finding the safest, most enjoyable activities for you given your overall health and amount of bone loss. There’s no one-size-fits-all prescription, which is why it’s important to check with your doctor or physical therapist before you start a new workout program. That said, here are some general guidelines to follow when exercising with osteoporosis.

And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check your eligibility for free access to gyms and exercise classes nationwide through SilverSneakers. Check your eligibility and find locations here.

1. Strengthen Your Muscles

Strengthening your muscles can slow the bone loss that happens with osteoporosis and may help prevent fall-related fractures. Your workouts should revolve around functional movements, like squats, lunges, and pushups, and may incorporate free weights, exercise bands, machines, or just your own body’s weight as resistance.

Kemmis recommends lifting in a range of eight to 12 reps and making proper form your top priority. “Using even light weights with poor posture can be dangerous for someone with osteoporosis,” she says. If the back is curved in a flexed posture while a weight is lifted, it can put strain in the vertebrae, which could result in a compression fracture. If you have perfect posture, you can tolerate much more.

“The challenge is you often don’t know you’re injured until it’s too late,” Kemmis says. “Good posture, proper body mechanics, and keeping a neutral spine and not bending forward are most important.” If you’re not sure you should do a certain exercise, don’t. “You’re better to be safe than sorry.”

If you’re new to strength training, click here for everything you need to know to get—and stay—strong through the years.

2. Use as Much Impact as You Can Tolerate

This rule applies to weight-bearing aerobic activities, which involve doing aerobic exercise on your feet, with your bones supporting your weight. These types of exercise work directly on the bones in your legs, hips, and lower spine to slow mineral loss. They also provide cardiovascular benefits, which boost heart and circulatory system health.

Weight-bearing aerobic exercise is an important element of your overall routine, but it’s up to you to select the appropriate amount of impact based on your health care team’s recommendations and your comfort level.

Depending on the degree of osteoporosis and baseline activity level, you might start out with low-impact exercise, like using an elliptical, says David Geier, M.D., a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon in Charleston, South Carolina. “Then you can advance to higher levels of impact, like jogging, hiking, stair climbing, or aerobics classes.”

While swimming and cycling have many benefits, they don’t provide the weight-bearing load your bones need to slow mineral loss. However, if you enjoy these activities, do them. Just be sure to also add weight-bearing activity as you’re able.

Another tip: To spread the stress and impact to different parts of the body, Dr. Geier recommends cross training, or doing different types of exercises in any given week. For example, you could do the elliptical on Monday, resistance exercises on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, and so on.

“And always stop if pain develops and get checked out by a doctor,” Dr. Geier adds.

3. Allow Your Body Enough Time to Heal

Jogging or doing any high-impact exercise daily or nearly every day may not allow your body enough time to heal, Dr. Geier says. “You already have decreased bone density, so the repetitive stress without enough time to heal the microscopic bone damage could build up and lead to a stress fracture,” he says.

Allow at least one full day between high-impact exercise, and gradually increase the number of workouts you do each week. Again, cross training by mixing in different types of workouts helps reduce the risk of fracture.

4. Avoid Forward Bends and Twists

Yoga and Pilates are helpful for stretching and lengthening, but they also include forward-bending and twisting movements that can strain the spine. Any movement involving extreme spinal flexion, or forward bend, creates compression between the vertebrae and can trigger a “cascade of fractures,” Kemmis says. “Hinging forward at the hips is different than rounding your back and compressing the spine, which is more dangerous.”

You’ll want to avoid yoga or Pilates movements that involve bending forward or rotating the trunk:

  • Rollup, rollover, or rolling like a ball
  • Teaser or open leg rocker
  • Corkscrew or bicycle
  • Spine twist or any deep twists
  • Pigeon pose or deep hip stretches
  • Assisted stretching from teachers to increase range of motion

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite classes. Exercises like planks, spinal extensions (cobra pose), and balance moves (tree pose) can be safe and help improve strength. Be sure to arrive a few minutes early to talk to your instructor about your limitations. He or she will be able to provide recommendations or modifications to keep you safe—while still getting a great workout.

Too Much Rain Over Paradise.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

According to the National Weather Service, Hanalei received a record 27 inches of rain in 24 hours. Wainiha got nearly 20 inches of rain in 24 hours. The Princeville Airport got 8.6 inches. The Princeville Airport recorded 12 inches of rain, Kapahi 9 inches and Mount Waialeale nearly 18 inches of rain over 24 hours.

LIHUE — The state Department of Transportation expects to open a one-lane route on Kuhio Highway to Wainiha and Haena by May 7, weather permitting.

Much love, respect and gratitude for all the support, love and well wishes. Namaste

Aloha, With that being said Inner Breath YogAlign Class at Fit Lab Kauai will be canceled until further notice as I am a resident of Haena. Blessings

It Began to rain

and rain

and rain

and rain

 The morning after

Locals and tourist moving to higher ground

Last minute efforts to move vehicles to higher ground

The main road in and out ~ is somewhere under there (12 mudslides total)

They have arrived the military, supplies and nourishment

Blackhawk helicopter evacuation

The calm after the storm

We gather in community and the healing and recovery begins ~ Aloha

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Kauai (52)

Your core impacts everything you do; make sure it’s strong.

By Kim Squire, Lawrence Memorial Hospital

Physical therapists can determine what is contributing to a patient’s pain by evaluating core strength and posture, locating muscle imbalances and assessing harmful movement patterns. A therapist focuses exercises to get the most benefit for an individual’s needs.

Jill just celebrated her 40th birthday. She works sitting at a computer and has stopped going to her Zumba class because she has constant lower back pain.

Friends and family are concerned and urge her to “get into shape.” A quick search on the internet indicates that “core weakness” may be contributing to her problem.

“Core” is a common word to anyone who has had treatment for back pain, exercises regularly or participates in any sport activities. But this word can be confusing: What exactly is my core? Should I be doing more sit-ups? How can I get help with strengthening?

The core has many interpretations. Some people describe the core as a “corset” of muscles that provide stability for movement and protection of the spine.

“The core has everything to do with everything we do,” said Gary Gray, a physical therapist at the Gary Gray Institute in Adrian, Michigan.

Others from his institute describe it as “everything from your nose down to your toes.” Other sources define the core as the torso, which is a long list of muscles that make up the areas of the belly, mid and lower back, shoulders, hips and neck. It also includes the pelvic floor and diaphragm.

The core has more than a few roles in our body. It provides stability to our body so we effectively can move our arms and legs. It allows us to sit up straight and efficiently align our skeleton to transfer forces.

You may have heard the phrase “neutral spine,” which refers to the position of your spine when all three curves are in proper alignment and there is the least amount of stress placed on the spine joints. Your core allows you to find and maintain that position. Weakness or inefficiency in core muscles can lead to inefficient movement patterns, injury and pain — which is the case for Jill.

Listening to the advice of others, Jill decided to hire a personal trainer. But she made some common mistakes during her exercises: she stood with a slumped posture, held her breath during exercises, held her stomach muscles tight during exercise and performed high-intensity exercises before understanding how to correctly activate the muscles of her core.

Although the exercises with her trainer made Jill feel more in shape, her back pain persisted — especially while sitting at work. Jill decided to visit her doctor, who told her to see a physical therapist for evaluation and treatment.

Physical therapists can determine what is contributing to a patient’s pain by evaluating core strength and posture, locating muscle imbalances and assessing harmful movement patterns. They work with patients to make goals and a specific plan to reach those goals. A therapist focuses exercises to get the most benefit for an individual’s needs. For example, active tennis players should focus on exercises that strengthen their cores and give them power when serving the ball.

It’s common for physical therapists to find that a person has a strong core but is unable to activate the muscles effectively. For instance, Jill may have strong muscles as a result of her exercise, but she struggles to find and maintain her spine in a good posture.

Knowing how to correct your posture and “turn on” the core muscles can make a huge difference with back pain. It takes training and awareness to correct your own posture and real core conditioning to hold your good posture throughout the day.

Jill’s physical therapist taught her how to find her core muscles and how to activate them. Once she was able to locate them and hold a contraction, the therapist had her work on using her core muscles while sitting, standing, reaching and lifting.

She also made some changes at work. Initially, Jill started with a lumbar support in her chair to help her sitting posture. She then progressed to sitting on a ball at her desk. She also made sure to get up and stand or walk around the office every 30 minutes.

Within two weeks, Jill was able to use her core muscles without thinking about it or reminding herself. Her back pain improved and she felt less tired at the end of the day. Jill had consciously found her core muscles and engaged them throughout her day, and her back pain no longer stopped her from being active. She was able to be more energetic afterward and rejoined her Zumba class.

— Kim Squire is a physical therapist at LMH Therapy Services. She can be reached at Kim.Squire@lmh.org.