Yoga And Self-Care.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Self-care is very much a part of the YogAlign method. And taking care of yourself during your in-class or home practice is necessary on so many levels. 

  • Drink water during your in-class or home practice

I recently just had a conversation with a longtime student/ friend about this very topic. We were discussing the importance of drinking water during our YogAlign class/ practice. And that we both agreed that in many yoga classes we had attended there, was simply no time to take a water break. The yoga instructor and students were moving along so quickly through posture after posture it was already a challenge to keep up. I began to think about most yoga classes I had attended in the past. And having anything beyond your yoga mat was discouraged regarding space constraints. The instructors always made it clear they needed space to move about the room without obstacles in their way. I subbed a class for my teacher Michaelle Edwards at her yoga studio here on Kauai and saw firsthand how lack of water affected a student. 

This student had traveled to Kauai from another country and attended her first YogAlign class with her mother. Upon reading her and her mother’s release form, they both were in good health. They were both interested in learning the YogAlign Method to combat the effects of sitting too much. We began with the instruction of the SIP Breath. Which in itself can be very intense when you are not used to breathing so efficiently. I had noticed mom had brought a small plastic bottle of water for the both of them to share. And I always inform students there is water available and cue during class when to stop and have a water break. 

As we continued, I noticed the mom finding her rhythm while the daughter was struggling. I locked eyes with her and, I could see she was going to fall to faint. And sure enough, she collapsed to the floor. Gently she floated to the floor and lay there with her eyes open. Not sure what just happened? Of course, the entire class paused and came to her side. 

Water was the first thing offered and, she quickly became more comfortable. I placed a bolster under her knees and had her lay there while continuing to drink water. As I spoke with her and her mother, I learned the time difference had thrown them off their eating (drinking) and sleeping schedule. Not drinking enough water mixed with sweating from the high humidity air was not a good combination. The more water she drank, the more vibrant she became and ended up rejoining the class for the floor postures. I encourage you to practice self-care in your yoga class by drinking water during your practice (you matter).

  • Take the time to use yoga props when you need them

I am a big fan of yoga props. Yoga props can come in many different forms. The yoga props I use in my home practice and while teaching

  •  yoga blocks (various sizes), yardstick, yoga strap the yoga mat itself, chairs, balls (all sizes) and, bolsters/blankets

I make it a point to keep my YogAlign classes small. So I can be aware of every student in the room and their needs during yoga class.

If you need more support in a lunge, getting your heel higher using a yoga block and be a great solution.
Getting yourself comfortable and in proper alignment is key to a successful practice and, a yardstick can accomplish that goal.
Rolling on an 80% inflated ball moving up and down the spine, neck, and shoulders can be very relaxing, releasing tension during practice or before savasana.
Yoga Props
  • Take a moment to rest and feel the effects of your practice

I also think this statement and suggestion rings true in our everyday lives as well. Life is moving fast and, we are moving quickly right along with it. I find some yoga classes are also keeping with this pace. I find myself constantly apologizing for not always getting the phone, responding right away to the text, or making things happen right that minute. Our in-person or personal home yoga practice is supposed to be the one place we can slow down. Take advantage of this time to stop in the moment and take a full-body stretch or pandiculate (stretching and yawning). It is necessary to stop and feel the effects of your practice to know what is working and what is not create a reset from the day from your mind and thoughts. As you lay on your back, feel the natural curves in your spine, notice the space between the chin and your chest and let your belly be full and soft. When lying on your stomach, bend your knees and let your legs make small circles massaging the low belly and feeling your diaphragm expand and contract against the floor. Place your fingertip onto your scalp and into your hair, massaging your head and earlobes. These are all simple ways to stop, feel good, and be in the moment.

Scalp Massage
Full Body Stretch

Creating new habits such as stopping to feel the effects of your practice or the effects of your day is a great way to come back into the moment. And to check in with what is working and what is not working. Self-care is not just a buzzword its a priority and, you matter!

Aloha

When You Think Of Your Body, Do You Think Of It In Pieces Or As A Whole?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

When you think of your body, do you think of it in pieces or as a whole? Imagine a puzzle that always needs putting back together, especially after an injury. Or a pulley system that engages entirely when the body moves or stands upright. 

I used to think of or refer to my own body in pieces. I can think back to exercise, yoga, and fitness classes that almost always separated my body parts during practice. What does that mean exactly? Phrases like today is a leg day or, we are only going to work on these muscle groups today. Does this sound familiar to you? I never realized how disempowering these phrases and movement programs were. 

And, then I was taught to view my body as a whole and not in pieces. I cannot tell you what a game-changer moment that was for me. I went from pulling my body apart to its end range like Stretch Armstrong, a toy of my youth. Who, by the way, does not always go back together so quickly after so many pulls. To putting myself back together in what we refer to in YogAlign as a full-body stretch. The end range can be very misleading for most people, especially those who tend to be hypermobile. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.

I have a student who is hyper-mobile in her hip joints but not necessarily strong in this area. Does hyper-mobility affect strength? From what I have read and seen while teaching there, is sufficient evidence that hypermobility may be associated with strength deficiencies. An injury waiting to happen would be for her to continue to pull herself apart just because she can. We need to think about how this affects the body as a whole. Hip strength is necessary for the stability and prevention of injuries. 

My goal is to guide students through full-body movements creating balance, health, mobility and, strength. By reprogramming your movement patterns from piece to, whole we get the benefits of all body support, balance, strength, and mobility. Hanging in joints and ligaments to go a little deeper may feed the ego for a moment but does nothing for the rest of the entire body. Cons outweigh the pros in that movement programming or regular practice. 

A lunge, Ashta Chandrasana, or Crescent High Lunge Pose is a posture when hanging in your joints or ligaments can happen. I cue students to identify this possible hanging by checking in with the pelvic floor during a lunge. Is it hanging down like a hammock? With no support? To go deeper or closer to the floor. Are your shoulders lifted to your ears, making it hard to breathe? Is your ribcage flaring up, creating a backbend? In practicing this, way you are compromising pieces of the body and not benefiting the whole. Now let’s take that same posture and tweak it a bit.

  • Step your right foot forward and wiggle your back foot to get balanced between front and back bodyweight.
  • You will know if you are balanced by checking in with your hip alignment. Is one hip twisting to accommodate the unbalanced spread?
  • Make sure you are high up on the toes of your back foot.
  • Check-in with the pelvic floor. Does it feel unstable (hanging)?
  • If, so engage your inner thighs slightly and get the glutes firing. In doing, so you will feel to the touch your IT band fully engaged.
  • Again check hip alignment and think of your hip bones as two flashlights shining forward.
  • Draw your arms down and out into a V shape on either side of your body. With your palms facing forward and fingers spread.
  • And slightly press your hands forward like you are pushing against a wall firing the back muscles. 
  • Draw the sternum slightly down if the rib cage is starting to flare up.
  • Eye gaze is eye level and straightforward. Look side to side and stick your tongue out, relieving your neck of any extreme tension.
  • Once you are in the high lunge, bring your attention to the space on your sideline. Between the floating ribs and the top of your hip or Iliac Crest. 
  • There is a good amount of body real estate between these two bones. Easier to see on an anatomy skeleton but, you can feel it with your hands. We do not want to lose this space (collapse) on our exhale.
  • Recap – the back foot lifted, inner thighs slightly engaged, firing the glutes, arms in a V, palms facing forward, fingers spread, pushing against a wall, hips aligned, released neck a shoulder tension. 
  • Now SIP in like you are drinking through a straw fill the diaphragm muscle with air (engaging the core muscles). Make fists with your hands and tense your entire body. Pause at the top for a moment (neck and shoulders relaxed). Start your S-hale like a snake with your teeth together, then open your hands and don’t collapse by controlling the exhale. In other, words to the naked eye, from SIP inhale to S-hale there would be no change in your whole body posture. You would maintain your gift of lift, spacious sideline and, not collapse in your S-hale. 
  • Repeat 3, more times, and then change sides and repeat.

In practicing the YogAlign Method Lunge, you begin to move and relate to your body as a whole. Receiving and retrieving all the benefits moving and thinking in this way has to offer. You get to reclaim some of that precious real estate and space back into the whole body without having to pull it apart into pieces. 

I will leave you with this thought you use 200 muscles to take one step (Human Bones, Joints and Muscles Facts).

Aloha

Pool Side, Poor Posture And YogAlign

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I recently was on a work trip with my husband and pulled him away to spend some time down at the pool. As I looked, around I saw various forms and figures of bodies in bathing suits. I know just the thought of putting on a bathing suit can create anxiety and fear. I am no stranger to the harsh criticism I can direct towards myself when looking in a mirror in my bathing suit. But what caught my attention was the posture of people’s bodies. I wondered if their standing and sitting posture are the same in their bathing suit as their regular clothing? I began to see some signs and symptoms of poor posture. Not only to the bathing suit but the lack of confidence in wearing the suit. The most common posture challenge for women when wearing a two-piece/ bikini was a collapsed frontline. This shoulder-rolled forward posture occurred in both curvy and non-curvy women. For men, the challenge seemed to be a difficulty of a full breath while holding in their stomachs to appear slimmer.

As I studied other postural challenges, I saw that bathing suit straps on women were problematic. The tieing around the neck almost always created forward head carriage and rounded shoulders. And the back strap creeping up to the shoulder blades also contributed to forward head carriage/ rounded shoulders. Like men, women also sucked in their belly buttons to their spine trying, to appear slimmer only to inhibit a full breath.

And then we go to the baggy men’s board shorts. All the men I saw wearing baggy board shorts needed to widen their leg distance and stance to keep their shorts up/ on. Their pelvis thrust forward, knees spread wide and, their feet rolled outward. Baggy bathing suits did not seem to be a problem for the women.

There came relief for these aching bodies in the form of a lounge chair. After all, getting to lay by the pool is a vacationer’s dream. Once they were all stretched out on their backs, they could breathe again and rest those rounded shoulders and heavy heads. It took me back to the question is their standing and sitting posture the same in their bathing suit as their regular clothing?

I began to think about my posture before I started teaching and practicing YogAlign. I am a curvy girl and had forward rounded shoulders and sucked in my stomach. Which I am sure was the same posture when in my bathing suit or any other clothing for that matter. Fast forward to today – I am still a curvy girl at 52 but, my posture has completely changed for the better. I now stand confident and tall in my two-piece bikini shoulders in alignment and, I can breathe without restriction.

It is hard to enjoy yourself when your body is in pain and breathing is restricted. For some, living in pain has become the new normal. And I am here to tell you being in pain is not normal. So we ask ourselves did the clothing create the poor posture, or has the poor posture always been there? It takes more effort to hold your body in a poor posture than it does to be in a proper posture. Once you can live your life pain-free in alignment, you might notice your clothes (bathing suit) looks different in a good way. And when your breathing becomes less restricted, you may also feel your mood improve. In YogAlign, we call that reprogramming the motherboard.

When you feel good on the inside everything, seems to feel better on the outside.

Aloha

Imagine The Possibilities In A Body You Can Trust.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

When I think of trusting my, body one of the first things that come to my mind is balance. 

Balance – an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. “she lost her balance before falling”

Similar: stability, equilibrium, steadiness and, footing.

First, of all how and where does balance come from in the body?

The vestibular system (inner ear balance mechanism)

The balance system works through constant position detection, feedback, and adjustment using communication between the inner ear, eyes, muscles, joints, and the brain. The brain sends messages to the muscles to make any postural adjustments required to maintain balance. 

Balance is crucial in our everyday activities like walking, standing, and going up and downstairs. And more important to reduce the chances of falling or even injury. Often we are not fully aware that we may have weak balance until we try balance exercises. Anytime at any age is the best time to improve and maintain strong balancing skills. 

Yoga and everyday life provide many opportunities to practice and improve our balancing skills. Walking, biking, standing, and climbing up and downstairs, to name a few. Funny, the things we need balance for in everyday life are the same things we do every day (well, sort of). 

  • Have the tires on your bike gone flat from not riding it?
  • Are your new walking sneakers still in the box?
  • Do you take the elevator to avoid the stairs?
  • Are you standing up often once you have sat down?

And then there is yoga and Tai Chi. I have not done a lot of Tai Chi, so I will stick to what I know. And that is yoga postures to improve and maintain optimum balancing skills. There are many yoga postures to choose from, simple to extreme. I prefer to keep it simple. Work smarter, not harder. Here are a couple of balance postures I would like to share with you. I practice these postures with my students (one of the many yoga posture balance options).

Heron or Kickstand Posture:

  • Come into a heron posture or kickstand position by placing your right heel up and against your left foot. Make sure not to dump into your hip like you are holding a baby on your hip. If you start to feel wobbly, ever so gently engage your inner thighs to fire the glutes muscles and check that your knees are not turning too much inward or too much outward.
  • Draw some weight into the heel of the standing leg, in this case, the left heel. And then lift your left arm straight alongside your ear while keeping your shoulder down. The palm of the left-hand faces inwards with your fingers spread. 
  • Lift your right arm bending at the elbow and hook your fingers into the little valley right below the bulbous part of the back of the head. You can massage the area, which can hold a lot of tension, making sure you can see the tip of your right elbow at all times.
  • Now take your SIP to inhale like you are sipping through a straw and keep your shoulders relaxed. Pause and make a fist with your left hand and pull down like on a rope. Start your S hale sounding like a snake with your teeth together, release your fist back to spread fingers, and create a bit of traction with your right hand in the valley. Remember not to collapse in your S hale keep, the space between the floating rib and the top of the hip bone (Iliac Crest).
  • Practice this posture two more times on this side of your body. And when finished coming back to heron or kickstand posture starting position moving right into Tree Pose or Vrksasana (on the same side).

Tree Pose or Vrksasana:

  • From heron or kickstand posture left foot is still anchored with weight in your heel. And your right heel is up and against your left foot. 
  • Arms come out on both sides of your body in a V. Palms facing forward with your fingers spread. Like you are pressing against a wall turning the back on.
  • SIP inhale like you are sucking through a straw and slowly slide your right foot above or below the knee. I suggest staying below your knee when starting this practice. Pause at the top of the Sip inhale and feel your ribcage expand (shoulders down and relax).
  • Fist your hands and then S hale like a snake with your teeth together (don’t collapse). Open your fingers and continue standing tall.
  • Repeat two more times on this side and come back into heron or kickstand starting posture 

Try not to judge yourself when it comes to practicing balance postures, remember every day is different. Stresses, distractions, and even a poor night’s rest can cause you to feel a bit more unstable than usual. 

Aloha

Asking For Help In Yoga And Everyday Life.

By Renee’ Fulkerson


Help – to give assistance or support. To make more pleasant or bearable improve, relieve and rescue, save. To be of use to

I find it difficult to ask for help unless I am at my wit’s end. And from my experience, I believe others also struggle with asking for help. On the other hand, I have no problem with offering and giving support to others. Which I also find to be true of others around me. Why is it so difficult to ask for help but so easy to give support? I guess no one wants to feel like a burden to another.

Burden – defined as making heavy with a load or with emotion. Something carried a worry or sadness, or a responsibility.

I think this rings true in yoga practice. In a yoga practice, students have experience with the postures. In a yoga class, there is more time and instruction per posture. I enjoy teaching both and encourage students to stop me and ask for help or support in both cases. And sometimes help is needed in everyday life situations too.

Recently a long-time YogAlign student began having some challenges with her knee. She did not want to miss her regular YogAlign classes and continued to show up for classes. Of course, I was thrilled to have her and knew she would need to adjust some of our regularly practiced postures. When getting up and down off the floor, she would need some assistance. These were all easy adjustments I could support her with and, I felt good about doing them. She would always comment not to give her special attention. Or hold up the practice but, it never seemed to be a problem. After all, even though she had temporary challenges with her knee. It did not mean that she would not benefit from the yoga practice. Not showing up for her regular YogAlign practice and connecting with her body, breath and friends would have been a disservice to her healing process. We also added bi-weekly full-body massages to keep her spirits up and relieve her from aching knee pain. I hope you have found a yoga practice/ class where you can ask for help when needed. We all need a little help sometimes.

On my last trip to the mainland, my mom was suffering from debilitating back pain. She had twisted and jarred her back weeks before my visit. Upon arrival, I could see and sense her frustration with limited mobility. I knew she needed help but, would she ask for it? My mom lives alone and, so everything falls on her to do. She had not been able to take care of everyday tasks. And all of the things she likes to accomplish before I arrived. She had been spending most of her time lying down and feeling bad about not feeling good. Even though I am an advocate for moving, she needed to rest. Back pain is no joke! And usually, sleep is unattainable during a back pain flare-up. Without good sleep, coping skills and positive attitudes begin to decline.

When helping someone who suffers from back pain a, pillow under the knees is crucial because a good portion of their time is lying down. And without the pillow or wedge, there is more pressure on the low back. The support is also helpful for knee pain. Pain that occurs in the knee when the knee is kept straight.

Another way I could help my mom was by moving everything up. All of the things she regularly used got moved higher up. So she would not need to keep bending down to retrieve them. The constant pulling on the back from bending over was only going to prolong the healing process. When bending over you, want your knees soft and not locked out utilizing all the gluteal muscles and when coming up pushing: through from the bottom of the feet. With a bit of help, my mom was up and moving more comfortably. She began with short walks in the neighborhood. She began to enjoy lying down with a pillow under her knees and was getting some much-needed rest. When I left, I was confident she was on the road to recovery and, her spirits were up. A little help goes a long way.

I learned the benefits of asking for help recently. I had a pressing task I was not ready to face. I leaned on my husband for support. After a few weeks of my regular meditation, YogAlign practice, and space. I was able to complete the task.

Nobody wants to feel like a burden to themselves or others. Let’s keep showing up for our yoga class/ practice. And ask for help when we need it. We are worth it!

Aloha

Grieving, YogAlign, And Hope.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Some say the only for sure things you can count on in life are taxes and death. I have found another for sure in my life. And that is my beloved YogAlign practice. It has provided me with the tools I needed to cope with my father’s passing. Death is never easy and, a sudden death makes it that much more challenging. And then enter grieving. Grieving is a process that affects everyone differently. And there are no right or wrong ways to grieve. I want to share my experience in hopes it may benefit another in a position of loss. Loss can come in many forms.

Some of the emotional symptoms I felt:

  • sadness
  • hopelessness
  • fear
  • anger
  • overwhelmed
  • regretful
  • shut down

Some of the physical symptoms I felt:

  • body tension
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • shortness of breath
  • no appetite
  • nausea
  • shut down

For me, all of the above mentioned emotional and physical symptoms were all intertwined. And I dealt with them as a whole. I view the body as a whole and not in pieces. And because the YogAlign Method works with the body as a whole. I had everything I needed to get through this difficult time. 

Emotion is a conscious mental reaction or state of feeling. I knew I had to approach my emotions from the inside. To be able to function in my everyday life. Feeling shut down emotionally and physically makes it hard to live. Enter YogAlign.

I can’t be for sure, which pushed me to the mat more? My emotional or physical pain. I will say one could not help but ease the other. The outcome was always a sense of relief. My approach to the practice was different than my usual beginnings. 

I begin by: 

  • laying on the floor with my knees bent at a distance from my belly
  • arms out to a wide V, palms facing up and, fingers spread
  • shoulder blades draw together and away from my ears

In this posture, I feel safe and, my body feels supported. I have created space for my belly to relax. There is space between my chin and my chest. I can surrender a bit and breathe. Once my breath begins to flow freely. Everything else starts to follow. The tension in my body starts to unravel. At times I will cry. And I honor that. My body becomes more receptive to feel better. I then move into self-massage.

  • start by crossing an ankle over a knee
  • press each nail bed and gently roll up the toe joints
  • massage top and bottom of the foot
  • back of the leg, inner and outer thighs 
  • taking a few inhales through the nose and, lion roar exhales

From here, I begin to massage my belly, starting at the costal arch below my sternum. I move with gentle to medium pressure in clockwise circles. Then I place my hands on either side of my ribcage. And breathe in like sipping from a straw. Feeling my ribcage expand into my hands (holding for a few seconds). Then I stick my tongue out and begin the lion exhale. And feel my ribcage move away from my hands. As my body begins to trust this good feeling, I start to feel the negative emotions subside. And that emotional break can last an hour the length of my practice or day(s). Either way, I am grateful for the reprieve.

 Onto hands:

  • press each nail bed and gently roll up the finger joint
  • massage wrist, arm, and elbow up to the shoulder
  • across the pecs and above/below the collar bone

From here, I knead my chin and place my hands on my cheeks. Push my cheeks up as I breathe in and lion breath out. Knead around my eyebrows and move out to my ears. I end the self-massage with a nice scalp rub. By this point, I am breathing freely and feeling cracked open.

Sometimes this is all of my practice I need. I can then go about my day and responsibilities. Maybe have a lite meal and go to bed and get some sleep. Other times I move on with the practice. Usually in more challenging moments. I continue on the floor with the leg tuner series, YogAlign SIP ups, and pandiculation. Pandiculation is the act of yawning and stretching simultaneously. Like that first good morning stretch before getting out of bed. By this point, I have moved out of my emotional thinking body and moved into my physical feeling body. YogAlign postures have allowed me to breathe, gain space, and feel good. 

I want to keep this good feeling going. I come to standing slowly (no head rush). I give myself a moment to adjust to being upright. Have a couple of drinks of water and feel the effects of my practice so far. I can move through the YogAlign arm tune-up series, tree posture, and high lunges. And into a soft knee forward fold grabbing elbow to elbow. Checking in with the backline of my body and release tension in the neck and shoulders with the gravity. All of this breathing and movement have, on more than one occasion, brought me to tears. I embrace the release and know grieving is a process. That could signal the ending of my practice. Again no right or wrong or, I may finish up with some low lunges and YogAlign full-body recalibrator (supported splits). More water and standing pandiculation with some lion exhales. For a moment being in the moment has brought hope. And then the dread returns when I realize my dad is no longer in his physical body. I honor this human experience of pain and sadness. Continue to breathe and work my way back down to the floor on my tummy. 

I finish my practice:

  • laying on my tummy and resting on a cheek
  • knees bent 
  • gently moving my legs in a clockwise circle 
  • massaging my lower belly
  • switch cheeks

In this posture, I can relieve any last tension in my belly. And then prepare myself for Savasana or the final resting pose. 

Rolling onto my back with my knees supported with a bolster, rolled blanket or, blocks. I can return to my starting posture and get a sense of how my body and heart feel from start to finish. No judgment, just observing. I have moved through my practice with breath and space. I have practiced YogAlign postures that bring me into proper alignment while supporting my natural curves. This practice allows me to engage my body as a continuum from head to toe (including my tongue). 

My grieving has and does include a fetal posture, lots of sitting and sheet therapy. But that is only some of the time and, it is getting less frequent. I don’t apologize for my feeling of grief. I turn to my beloved YogAlign practice to release and move through those moments. And to balance the aches and pains that come from being more sedentary than usual. Grieving has not been an easy process for me and, it has only been over a year since I lost my father. But I am beginning to see and feel him in a whole new way. A way that brings a smile to my lips and fills my heart with love.

Aloha 

Joint Stability And Mobility.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

One easy way to keep your joints healthy, pain-free and what YogAlign is all about is good posture. Standing and sitting with proper posture protects our joints from head to toe.

Recently teaching the Whole Body Recalibrator/ Hanumanasana, Monkey Pose, splits. A long-time student voiced she was not comfortable in the posture. Which I could appreciate, given she had been having some hip discomfort. We always use yoga block support during this posture. And also move through the preparatory sequence building up to the Whole Body Recalibrator. I would not consider her hypermobile. And she has practiced this posture with me so many times I could not count. But on this day, it just was not working for her. She usually has two yoga block configurations for support. I recommended we add another yoga block to make three. And for her to engage her inner thighs to fire her gluteal muscles and start her SIP breath to engage her core. That gave her the lift she needed rather than hanging in her hip and lumbar spine joints. She was more comfortable physically and able to reap the benefits of the posture. The tuning, toning, and balancing from the inside out. However, her ego took a hit. She replied with frustration that she felt she was moving backward in her practice.

Joint stability and mobility are topics that come up in almost every YogAlign class I teach. On that day, I had to remind her to practice posture and proper alignment and not just a pose. The definition of a pose is to assume a particular attitude or position to be photographed, painted, or drawn. Stable Joints give you the ability to remain or promptly return to proper alignment through a balance of forces. Joints that provide stability are your elbows, feet, knees, and lumbar spine. Mobile Joints give you the range of unrestricted movement around a joint. These include the ankle, hip, and thoracic spine. And then there is hypermobility. Meaning some or all of a person’s joints move way beyond the normal range of movement. And could put them at risk of injury during stretching and bending. If their bodies don’t have enough strength to stabilize their muscles as they stretch and bend. We must be equally strong as flexible. And be mindful of our end range when practicing postures like Hanumanasana/ Whole Body Recalibrator. Remaining active with muscle engagement allows us to reap the benefits of this posture.

By the way, most anyone can practice Whole Body Recalibrator with proper support. I find for me when I have sat too long (blogging) this, is my go-to pose. Tuning, toning, and balancing me from the inside out!

Aloha

YogAlign Bird Dog A Weight Bearing Movement.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Some weight-bearing movements where your bones support your weight are walking, dancing, stair climbing, and gardening, to name a few. I love to do all of these activities. Well, maybe not stair climbing so much. I also find when using my 5lb weights for 20 minutes at least twice a week. My arm, back, and chest muscles stay toned. By stressing our bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Men can also get osteoporosis. To learn more, click on https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/men

We all come in different shapes and sizes and find enjoyment and various benefits in different ways of moving our bodies. Even something like weight lifting plays a different and unique role for each individual. For some, weight lifting is serious business. Men and women of all ages going to great lengths to achieve a competitive body ready for competition. And those more mature using 5lb free weights to fend off osteoporosis. We can use our body’s weight to our advantage. Did you know the femur is the longest/ strongest bone in the body and the heaviest? An average human being weighing 150lbs leg weighs 26lbs. Much heavier than a 5lb or 10lb weight. And the weight in the arm is 8lbs. Three more pounds than a 5-pound weight. And just under 2 of a 10-pound weight. 

Bird dog is a posture you can use your leg and arm weight to your advantage. Bird dog promotes proper posture and increases range of motion. Improving balance and stability and strengthens the core, hips, and back muscles. Anyone can do the bird dog including, the more mature set. (and lean muscle does diminish with age)

YogAlign Bird Dog:

  • Begin by starting on all floors also, known as table pose. Be sure to distribute your weight evenly front to back. This balance will take the extra pressure and weight off your wrists.
  • Next, focus on your head/ neck posture. Imagine putting a marble in the long crease in the back of your neck. Place it right between your hairline and the top of your shoulders. When you begin to drop your head too far forward (chin to chest). You will lose your marble. If you lift your head too much, you will also lose your marble. The goal is not to lose our marble. 
  • Extend your right leg back with the top of your foot gently touching your yoga mat. Toes pointed, begin your SIP inhale (breathing through a straw), and slowly with purpose, raise your leg. Bring your leg only as high as the rest of your body, not higher. Making sure you are not lifting/ twisting your right hip towards the ceiling.
  • Smile and start your sss-hale like a snake and slowly bring your leg down and back to starting position. You can begin moving from side to side with conscious breath, posture, and pointed toe. Taking it to your edge and then come down and rest on your forearms. 
  • Take a nice inhale and exhale through the nose.
  • Now add the arms (jet plane arms) with palms facing down and fingers spread. Create gentle resistance by pushing your arms down towards the floor. Be mindful not to let your shoulders creep up towards your ears. Left leg/ right arm and right arm/ left leg.

It is more important to move slowly with proper alignment with less number of times. Then, rushing through the posture with more times and little to no benefits. After all, can you imagine the possibilities in a body you can trust?

Aloha

Fitness, Movement, Health, and Fun!

By Renee’ Fulkerson

What words would you use to describe your fitness routine? Everyone seems to have their vision of what fitness means and what it looks like; Fitness, movement, health, and fun are the four words that come to mind when describing my YogAlign practice/ classes. In my opinion, the YogAlign method meets my definition of fitness. The postures put me in proper alignment. And create a good physical shape for my body and structure. I can trust my body when performing a specific task or purpose. I want my fitness program to support and enhance my abilities to perform daily activities pain-free. Have you clearly defined what you want from your fitness program?

Movement, I love all kinds. I think dancing would be my favorite. I could dance for hours without much thought; I get lost. The movement of walking is also underrated and has endless benefits mentally, spiritually, and physically. To learn more about five surprising benefits of walking. To learn more about five surprising benefits of walking.

When I think about my health, it is not merely just the absence of illness or injury. It is the complete package addressing body, mind, and spirit. I rely on my YogAlign practice to keep my immune system up as my diet. In my everyday life my, mantra is all gain and no pain. Our minds allow us to think and feel. We want and need to feel good during and after our practice/ class to fill up our spirit. To keep wanting to come back. One of the main things we can do to be healthy is to have conscious breathing. Our lungs work all day and night, whether we are awake or asleep. That’s 20,000 or so breaths per day! 

Fun is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “Light-hearted pleasure, enjoyment, or amusement; boisterous joviality or merrymaking; entertainment”. Although particularly associated with recreation and play, fun may be encountered during work, social functions, and daily life. There is something to be said for having a laugh and a good time. I remember when I took my first YogAlign training with Michaelle Edwards (founder and creator). She recommended having a few jokes up our sleeves. And sure enough, jokes and having a good time were encouraged. I know myself and others have commented I did not arrive with a smile but, I am leaving with one. Are you having fun with your fitness?

In conclusion:

  • What words come to mind when describing your yoga or exercise class?
  • Have you clearly defined what you want from your fitness program? 
  • What kind of movement do you enjoy?
  • Do you finish your practice/ class with a smile? 
  • And do you keep wanting to show up for your fitness and health?

Aloha

Does Your Yoga Practice Align You And Build Core Strength?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I have found that it isn’t so important how you perform on your yoga mat regarding glamour poses. But, how those real-life postures you practice propel you into a healthy and active lifestyle. In YogAlign, we practice real-life yoga postures engaging muscle groups that you will need for all of your favorite activities and everyday life movements.

My friend Corrine has been showing up for YogAlign practice faithfully for many years now. She is an avid golfer and plays golf with a group of ladies of all ages and backgrounds at least once a week. Golfing is an activity she enjoys on so many levels. The social aspects, being outdoors, and the challenge of the game. I would not teach or advise her to practice Sirsasana or headstand to improve and enjoy her golf game more. What I do teach her is how to engage and build her core strength. Building strong core muscles will provide ease of rotation, balance, and power. Hitting her golf ball farther and follow through with a powerful golf swing.

It all starts with the SIP Breath (structurally informed posture). Breathing is an exercise that is at the center of all actions in which we engage. In YogAlign, learning to breathe from your core – using our primary breathing muscles, and balancing the muscles of respiration to free the ribcage – is one of the most important skills we can learn. (quoting Michaelle Edward’s creator of the YogAlign Method). When practicing the Core SIP breath, you begin to feel the length from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Not to mention Aligning you into good posture from the inside out.

Natural curves, spine alignment and soft knees.

The above image shows the spine’s alignment with the body’s natural curves. A cue you often hear in some yoga classes is to pull your navel to your spine. You are inevitably taking all of your spine’s natural curves away and restricting your breathing. We also take care not to practice yoga postures that require you to draw your toes towards you. Why? Because you lock out your knees and, we do not walk with straight knees. Keeping your spine’s natural curves with soft knees allows your body’s natural shock absorbers to give you the gift of lift.

Rotation without collapsing.

rotation is a circular movement of an object around a center (or point) of rotation. In yoga practice, we would refer to this action more as a twist. You have heard the claim that yoga poses, especially yoga twists, detox your body. The liver is responsible for your body’s detox and happens mostly on a cellular level. In YogAlign, we think of our body as globally, not in pieces, and maintaining the ability to breathe when moving through the spiral line. What is so great about the picture above is the rotation/ twist is not wrenched. Meaning there is space between her chin and chest. The openness and ability to breathe have allowed her to engage her core. The Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal/ external obliques, quadratus lumborum. That core engagement will support her with the power she needs to hit her golf ball farther.

Powerful connection with the ball.

There is a level of confidence in knowing you can trust your body. Knowing that with every YogAlign practice, you are re-programming your internal software. Software/ habits that are going to bring you back to good posture. It takes more effort to be in poor posture than it does to be in good posture. Other muscles that are equally important are the hamstrings and glutes providing proper posture throughout your golf swing. With postures cues – draw your toes back towards you makes it impossible to engage your glute muscles. You will also have a hard time taking a full inhale. Pointing your toes enlists your hamstrings and glutes with ease. Come to standing and place one foot slightly in front of the other. Come up onto the center of your tiptoes engage your inner thighs to feel your glute muscles follow. Then switch feet and come up on to the center of your tiptoes. To add more challenge pulse, up and down by slightly bending the knees. Make sure to have some fun with it!

Balance and follow through.

In the above picture, Corrine’s balance is spot on! Our balance declines with age due to loss of muscle strength and joint flexibility. We spend our early years trying to achieve balance milestones first steps, riding a bike, hopscotch, cartwheels, and riding a skateboard. As an adult we are still achieving balance milestones in tennis, golf, running, and dancing. Maybe you are not the athletic type? Walking across the room or down the block requires balance. Standing from a chair, going up and downstairs, carrying packages. A balance posture in yoga is Vrikshasana or tree pose. However, there are so many other real-life ways to practice balance. Practice squatting instead of bending over (also protects your low back). Practice sitting down and standing up from a chair without using your hands. In YogAlign, we add limbs/ arms to our tree. Our arms move about at different heights and levels. For more of a challenge, we will also come up onto our tiptoes in tree pose. Try it! It can be more challenging than it sounds.

A birdie was achieved.

From the height of her peak balance back into proper posture with ease. The transition has become instinctual due to the kind of real-life postures practiced on the mat. By thinking of our body globally and not in pieces, movements begin to benefit us as a whole. Recap a squat engages muscles, builds balance, and protects the low back when picking things up. Tree pose a balance builder, move arms about explore proprioception. Then come up onto tiptoes and engage inner thighs and glutes. Don’t be afraid to question some of the postures you practice that do not feel good to you. Avoid practicing postures that pull you apart because you feel tight and possibly destabilizing joints and tendons. Practice postures that put you together create confidence, strength, and power. Point your toes like a dancer during leg circles stabilizing the hip joint. If you feel or hear a grinding stop, and re-adjust posture. Make a bigger or smaller circle, point-toe more or avoid that posture altogether. Evaluate your yoga practice. Can you breathe while in postures, see and feel the positive effects?

Does your yoga practice align you and build core strength?

YogAlign is simply the art of being in your structure and breath. It is pain-free yoga from your inner core. We actively seek out positioning, alignment, and movement that reflects how we move in daily life. To me, YogAlign is movement, health, fitness, and fun.

Cheers to you Corrine!