Sneak Peek: Furniture-Free Home Style From My Fave Movement Experts

By Petra Fisher A.K.A Petra Fisher Movement

It’s true – going furniture-free is a thing! Getting rid of regular chairs, tables, sofas and beds is one of the easiest ways to add more movement to your life. You get instant movement variety and you build in lots of strength and flexibility opportunities. It’s a serious game-changer when it comes to maintaining your whole-body health and wellness.

But, let’s face it, it also seems a bit weird at first. I can speak from personal experience – your partner might not want to get rid of the sofa! And what happens when you have guests? And what would it all LOOK like?

Well, my friends, I decided to tackle this one head on. I’ve asked some of my very favorite movement people to share photos of their homes! I asked them to show how they’ve created movement friendly living spaces that work for their lives.

I already live with minimal furniture, and I was blown away by how these amazing women have integrated movement into their lives and their style.

Full disclosure: I’m hoping that seeing these spaces inspires YOU to invite more movement into YOUR life by rethinking some of your living spaces. Let’s check them out!
Galina Denzel
I met Galina at my very first training week with Katy Bowman. She’s one of the best (and healthiest) cooks I’ve ever met, and you could never turn around without catching her doing some sort of crazy exercise like standing on one leg. She’s a seriously incredible health coach and wrote one of my fave books too –Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well: 52 ways to feel better in a week. It’s a great book, packed with simple and practical healthy ideas, and Galina truly walks her talk.

Galina and her husband Roland Denzel are both health authors and health coaches. They live in a two-story condo in Southern California. Galina is a Nutritious Movement Restorative Exercise Teacher and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner who specializes in working with people with chronic pain, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. She blends nervous system regulation and restoring whole body and natural movement to facilitate the healing that wants to happen for all of us.

Galina can be found at

Why did you pick these spaces to share?

These are the spaces that I most often find myself in at home. I love the floor and the stairs as I can move my body the most, while still being able to focus.
While I enjoy standing up I do that at my stand up station at work and I stand there all day long, so when I work from home, study, or do creative work, I love to sit on the floor and stairs. It allows me to be centered, while also lets me put my body in positions I don’t get to at work with my students. The stacking tables and Indonesian desk are my favorite surfaces and the “stairs couch” is our morning hang out place to stretch, read and sip on coffee. My step kids also love to sit on the stairs while we cook.



What was hardest about transitioning to less furniture for you?

You know, the hardest thing was that I love snuggling on a couch with Roland. And there is something about organizing the home around a couch and coffee table that I am used to just culturally. We don’t entertain a ton and when we do our guests naturally gravitate towards the kitchen table that has chairs and benches. Being able to invite them on cushions on the floor has worked for some, but not for others.

What do you love most about using less furniture?

We are about three years into this home transition and we both find that it’s easier to get up and down.

My body feels more fluid and more able to get in and out of positions. This ease of movement is just delicious and pleasurable to experience somatically.

I also have tons of space to roll on balls and do other soft tissue work while watching TV (the TV is not pictured here, but it’s up on the wall). There is a certain level of freedom to just be able to plop on and off the floor any time and anywhere.

I also love that it’s easy to clean, there are many ways to arrange the furniture and it looks neat and open. I am a bit of a minimalist when it comes to stuff. I don’t like having many things anyways and we move often, so it’s truly been a blessing for our lifestyle.


What’s your favorite furniture-free space?

My round wool carpet. I love to sit on it, do my movement practice on it, dance on it. We often just clear everything off of it and we dance together.


Do you have any tips for people who want to create more movement-friendly spaces in their own homes?

#1 Be brave and get rid of the big bulky things. If you cannot physically move it easily yourself, then maybe it should not be there.
#2 Pay attention to how you like to move and what kind of space you need at home and create it. Don’t squeeze yourself in a corner between a bed and a dresser – this is no way to create a movement practice.
#3 Your space should be dance friendly, whether you dance or not – dancing is a good way to check a space for freedom and air. Have all of your toys close by (rollers, bolsters, balls, straps, bands, ropes).
#4 Do not be afraid to spend several hundred dollars on pillows and blankets to make your space pretty and cozy, so it’s the colors and shapes you like. It’s always going to be cheaper than buying couches and furniture, and it’s easier to clean.

How does your partner/family/guests feel about living with less furniture?

We wrote a whole chapter in our book Eat Well Move Well Live Well, called “furniture minimalism”, where Roland shares his feelings. He has welcomed it, but we are also very flexible about it, for example we have a regular bed with a firm mattress. My step kids think it’s a bit weird, and joke that even our bench by the window, which kind of looks like a couch is made of copper to discourage one from getting too comfortable for too long. Many of our guests who love to move are happy to roll around and sit and stretch on the floor. Others stick to the kitchen area and chuckle about it. Pretty much everyone finds it quirky, but not so quirky that they won’t play along.

Carol Robbins
My friend Carol actually lives in Toronto but in the Beaches area – which is so far from me that we see each other more often at out-of-town trainings than in our own city! Carol is basically brilliant at whatever she does, and has two of the most lovely and hilarious cats ever, who often join her for movement time.

Carol not only lives in her home but also teaches out of it, so she’s a true example of how you can make your space extremely versatile when you have less furniture. She’s a Restorative Exercise Specialist since 2013, and has been teaching movement since 2000, so she brings incredible depth and perspective to her work and life. As well as her cats, she shares her home with a tolerant husband who has agreed that she can store all his heirlooms in the basement.

You can find Carol at:


Why did you choose this space to share?

I chose this area because it is my living room. I’ve been thinking about the meaning of that description, and how in my suburban youth, the living room was an area where almost no living was done, only on very special occasions. Otherwise, you were in the family room.

I think the whole house should be for living, and I’m fascinated by minimalism and Japanese aesthetic, where rooms and pieces have multi-functions.

I find myself needing less and less by using the same spaces for more and more.

This necessitates movement continually to re-arrange things to serve different purposes. For example, the side tables are stools that I use for class. There are several poufs and buckwheat zafu that I sit on that are also class props. (The cats prefer the chairs.) The light swings away so that I can use the wall for exercises, and there is no artwork for that reason. I am planning on painting a mural on that wall soon.


The living room is also my teaching space, and it only has chairs and a rug in it if I’m entertaining. Most of the time it is empty and we sit on bolsters or cushions near the fireplace.


The Acapulco Chair is an inside/outside piece and it lives in the protected south-east corner of my porch in good weather, where I will sit cross-legged in it in the very early morning to have my coffee. So in that way, my living area is even not bound by the walls and doors, but expands beyond into the private porch and yard, where I have several hanging opportunities, and rock paths. Even my cats go out there with me (and they are usually indoor cats).



We have a permanent floor to ceiling mirror in the space, which is great for teaching but was also an architectural element to fill a dead and dark space between the basement door and the cupboards. It is like an opening to another room, and is an optical illusion.

I keep my work equipment and reference books in the cupboards beside the fireplace.

My clients like the gas fireplace on those chilly winter mornings. The window ledges are wide enough and at a perfect height to place a laptop for standing desk opportunities, as is the railing outside on the porch, which I call my “summer office.”

What was the biggest challenge about transitioning to less furniture for you?

The biggest challenge to transition to a furniture free home for me was getting rid of all the stuff. We still have a lot of stuff in storage that needs to go. It takes up all the room in the basement and the garage, so we have these airy open spaces that make me feel very happy and clear-headed, and then a few steps away there is chaos! Eventually it will all find another home I hope.

The bedroom is my Japanese room, where I sleep. My husband still prefers his more traditional space, so we sleep separately. At this stage in our lives, we enjoy being able to keep our own hours and habits. The cats sleep with me. The rice tatami mats are beautiful and authentic, as is the futon, from Japan. I have another bedroom with a bed that is kind of in between a floor bed and a traditional bed – it’s on a low platform. So there are many ways to transition!


Where do you go to find awesome movement-friendly furnishings?
Tatami mats and futon from
Zafu and poufs from
Acapulco chair from the Bay


Jennifer Gleeson Blue
I met Jennifer in 2014 at my first Restorative Exercise training, and I’ve been a huge admirer of hers since then. She has an amazing soul and deep insight into helping her students nurture positive change in their bodies and their lives. She’s just starting to settle in a new home with her husband and son after a long year of travel and transition (they moved from Philly to Santa Fe with a lot of stops and soul-searching in between), so she’s in the middle of actively figuring out how to integrate movement into her new home space.

Jennifer is a heart-centered movement teacher and Restorative Exercise Specialist. She equips women who are on a journey to stop battling against themselves — their physical and emotional pain, their limitations, their family and even the culture at large — by transforming their fight, embracing their vulnerability and moving into their truth and wholeness.

Jennifer can be found at


Why did you pick these particular spaces to share?

Other than the kitchen, these are two of the spaces we use the most and they are the ones that don’t still have moving boxes scattered around! My husband and I both work from home and we home school our son, so having space to play, work and rest well really matter.



How do others feel about living with less furniture? Your partner? How about your family and guests?

My husband has been totally on board since the beginning when I first made the suggestion to ditch the couch. It’s a choice we made as a family to bring in more movement and we’ve continued to evolve our space together, adding or taking away as we feel best suits our lives and our values around hospitality.

The guest issue is a harder one. I love for people to feel comfortable! In our last home, we had a different space set-up that allowed us to have a traditional dining table that we used with guests and a low dining table that we used daily and I liked that balance. Overall, it’s worked so far, and yet I’d like to figure out how to become even more flexible with space so as to meet varying levels of movement ability and comfort.



What do you love most about using less furniture?

Ah! So much! To start, I love the simplicity of the visual landscape and the simplicity of cleaning and I also love that space can be transformed relatively easily (roll up the bed!).

But what I really love is that I have to work harder in my body. Like most of us, I’m under-moved. Every bit of support I can take away requires that my daily tasks require a greater quantity and variety of movement.

Now that I’m pregnant, I’m really noticing the extra effort it takes to get in and out of a floor bed and up and down off the living room floor. I’m profoundly grateful to myself for having made these choices, knowing how nourishing it is to my body to move more and move differently, especially during this time.

The Freedom Of Going Furniture Free

I have been transitioning to a less furnished life, more movement-filled for at least four years now. Although getting more movement was my main motivation, I’ve found there are many other unexpected benefits.

The biggest ones for me are freedom and flexibility. Our space is easy to re-arrange and I do so every day. Our living room alternates as a movement studio, my office, and our dining room, simply by changing out simple furnishings like our coffee table, my movement props, and my yoga mats. There’s something I cherish about this versatility – it makes me feel very resilient and versatile – like I can deal with the unexpected changes of life itself more easily and with more grace.

As I interviewed my fellow movement teacher friends, I was struck by how we all mentioned how much we love the freedom of going furniture-free. There’s something amazing about changing your relationship with your living space. It’s empowering to both body and soul. For sure we all have very different spaces and very different lives, family situations, and personal style. But at the same time, we all seem to share this sense that a movement-friendly space is one that holds all kinds of opportunities to live in creative ways that nurture our bodies and support our values.

In closing, here are a few thoughts to help you on your own transition.

Furniture Free Isn’t Really Furniture Free

It’s good to remember that ‘furniture free’ is really not the best term for this type of lifestyle. It’s an alternative approach to furniture and space that allows more movement. It’s more minimal, the furnishings are typically smaller and closer to floor level, and they’re chosen to give us comfort, warmth, and options as we need them. The point is to make your life better, not to make it horrible, so pick stuff you love that lets you achieve both your movement goals and your life goals.

Transition At Your Own Pace

You don’t need to do this all at once. Starting can be as simple as getting a yoga bolster and sitting on it while others keep using the couch. Here are some ideas to help you transition.

Feeling The #FurnitureFree? We’d LOVE to hear from you.

Getting inspired? Maybe you already have some gorgeous movement-friendly space in your home? We want you to show us your space – so we’re running a fun Instagram challenge contest. Here’s the deal:

We want to see your furniture-free style!

Contest runs Wednesday March 14 noon EST on until 6PM EST March 17.

#SHOWUSYOURS ~ Head over to Instagram and share a picture of your beautiful furniture-free home! What do you love best about your furniture-free life? How do you make it cozy? How do you make it beautiful? How does it make you feel?

Here are the rules to participate:
– Repost the contest photo that’s going up on Tuesday evening on @movementrevolution
– Share your photo tagged #showusyours #furniturefree #movementfriendly #movementlifestyle
– Tag and follow @movementrevolution, @AlignmentRescue, @GalinaDenzel and @jengleesonblue on Instagram

6 (six!) winners will get their homes featured on my next blog post about furniture free home style so other people can get some serious inspiration! I’ll pick my favourites for style, creativity and movement awesomeness in the hopes of showing other people how easy, fun and awesome it can be to live #furniturefree 🙂

Yoga for Daylight Savings Time Blues

By Charlotte Bell

If you’re feeling unusually tired this week, there may be a good reason for it. On Sunday, we turned our clocks ahead. This means you may be struggling to get to sleep in the evening, and struggling to wake up in the morning.
Any time change affects our bodies’ circadian rhythms. It happens in the fall too, but common wisdom is that the spring time change is more difficult. Some people’s bodies adjust in a day or two, while others can take a month or more. Generally, people whose sleep patterns are already iffy experience more problems adjusting.
The problems are twofold: it’s harder to get to sleep in the first place, and to add insult to injury, you have to get up an hour earlier. Here in Salt Lake City, at 6:00 am last week, there were just the earliest inklings of light beginning to filter through the windows. Now it’s back to total darkness when the alarm goes off. Because our sleep cycles are based on light, our bodies get confused.
Studies show that disrupted sleep patterns associated with time change can increase the risk of strokes. Workplace injuries and car crashes also tend to spike after springing forward. Sleep deprivation can affect our mood and productivity as well. On the plus side, my cats have been pleasantly surprised at being served their meals an hour earlier!
How to Help Your Body Adjust
Like it or not, we do have to adjust to the new time, since the rest of the world has sprung forward. Here are some suggestions that might help:
Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Both these substances can disrupt sleep. It’s best to stop caffeine after lunch, at least for the first few weeks after the time change.
Avoid screen time before bed. Screens are a light source. Light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. For the same reason, avoid turning on lots of lights in the evening. Also, engaging with the news or with social media, can cause obsessive thinking, a huge culprit in suppressing sleep.
Avoid loud music or vigorous exercise in the few hours before bedtime.
Expose yourself to bright light as soon as you can in the morning. This can help reorient your circadian rhythms.
Practice yoga for daylight savings time. Try a restorative yoga pose (or more than one) in the hour before bedtime. There are, of course, lots of choices, but the one below, Supported Viparita Karani, a.k.a. Instant Maui (a term coined by Judith Hanson Lasater), is a classic sleep-supporting pose.
Yoga for Daylight Savings Time: Instant Maui
Gather two or three yoga blankets, a chair, a yoga mat and an eyebag if you have one. Place your chair on top of the mat with the seat facing you. Fold a blanket so that it’s about 12 inches across and 2-3 inches thick. You may need more than one blanket to achieve that height. Place the folded blanket in front of and parallel to the chair.
Lie down, resting your pelvis on the blanket. Make sure that the fleshiest part of your rear is slightly off the blanket toward the chair so that your torso is horizontal. If your torso slants toward your head, Instant Maui will not be very relaxing. If your legs don’t feel comfortable on the chair, you can move it closer or farther away.
Our bodies naturally cool down in Restorative yoga, so you may want to have another blanket handy to place over your entire body, or at least over your torso. If you have an eyebag, place it over your eyes. Set aside your to-do list. Do nothing. Stay in the pose anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
When it’s time to come out, fold your legs in toward your torso, roll onto your side and relax for a few breaths before sitting up.
Restorative yoga is not about stretching. It is about settling and opening. If you feel any discomfort, including a strong stretch, in Instant Maui, you may want to experiment with your props. The ideal Restorative pose yields little physical sensation. This is especially true when you’re using the pose to support sleep.

Lost Art Of Bending Over: How Other Cultures Spare Their Spines

By Michaeleen Doucleff

To see if you’re bending correctly, try a simple experiment.

“Stand up and put your hands on your waist,” says Jean Couch, who has been helping people get out of back pain for 25 years at her studio in Palo Alto, Calif.

“Now imagine I’ve dropped a feather in front of your feet and asked to pick it up,” Couch says. “Usually everybody immediately moves their heads and looks down.”

That little look down bends your spine and triggers your stomach to do a little crunch. “You’ve already started to bend incorrectly — at your waist,” Couch says. “Almost everyone in the U.S. bends at the stomach.”

In the process, our backs curve into the letter “C” — or, as Couch says, “We all look like really folded cashews.”

In other words, when we bend over in the U.S., most of us look like nuts!

But in many parts of the world, people don’t look like cashews when they bend over. Instead, you see something very different.

I first noticed this mysterious bending style in 2014 while covering the Ebola outbreak. We were driving on a back road in the rain forest of Liberia and every now and then, we would pass women working in their gardens. The women had striking silhouettes: They were bent over with their backs nearly straight. But they weren’t squatting with a vertical back. Instead, their backs were parallel to the ground. They looked like tables.

After returning home, I started seeing this “table” bending in photos all around the world — an older woman planting rice in Madagascar, a Mayan woman bending over at a market in Guatemala and women farming grass in northern India. This bending seemed to be common in many places, except in Western societies.

“The anthropologists have noted exactly what you’re saying for years,” says Stuart McGill, at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, who has been studying the biomechanics of the spine for more than three decades.

“It’s called hip hinging,” McGill says. “And I’ve spent my career trying to prove it’s a better way of bending than what we do.”

‘Table’ Bending Versus ‘C’ Bending

When you hip hinge (left), your spine can stay in a neutral position, while the hips and upper legs support your body weight. When you bend at the waist, the back curves, putting stress on the spine.

Rice farmers in Madagascar pan for gold to supplement their income.

Samantha Reinders for NPR

For starters, McGill says, it’s “spine-sparing.”

When people bend with the cashew shape in their back — like we often do — they’re bending their spine. “That puts more stress on the spinal disks,” McGill says.

Disks are little rings of collagen found between each vertebra, which form a joint. But they aren’t made for tons of motion. “They have the mechanical characteristics of more like a fabric,” McGill says.

“If you took a cloth, and you kept bending and stressing it, over and over again, the fibers of the weave of the cloth start to loosen up and delaminate,” he says.

How To ‘Table’ Bend

To hip hinge:
1. Place your feet about 12 inches apart.
2. Keep your back straight.
3. As you bend your knees, allow your pubic bone to move backward.
4. Fold over by allowing your pubic bone to slide through your legs, down and back.

Bending motion GIF

Eventually, over time, this fabric can fray, which puts you at risk of slipping a disk or having back pain.

On the other hand, when you hip hinge, your spine stays in a neutral position. The bending occurs at the hip joint — which is the king of motion.

“Hips are a ball and socket joints,” McGill says. “They are designed to have maximum movement lots of muscle force.”

In other words, your boots may be made for walking, but your hips are made for bending.

“Bending at the hip takes the pressure off the back muscles,” says Liza Shapiro, who studies primate locomotion at the University of Texas, Austin. “Instead, you engage your hamstring muscles.”

And by “engage the hamstrings,” she also means stretching them.

“Oh yes! In order to hip hinge properly, your hamstrings have to lengthen,” Shapiro says. “If you have tight hamstrings, they prevent you from bending over easily in that way.”

Tight hamstrings are extremely common in the U.S., Kennedy says. They may be one reason why hip hinging has faded from our culture: Stiff hamstrings are literally hamstringing our ability to bend properly.

But hip hinging isn’t totally lost from our culture, Shapiro says. “I just saw a website on gardening that recommended it, and many yoga websites recommend bending at the hips, too.”

And the hip hinging is sprinkled throughout sports. Weightlifters use it when they do what’s called a deadlift. Baseball players use it when they bat. Tennis star Rafael Nadal does it when he sets up a forehand. And in football, players kneel at the line of scrimmage with beautiful hip hinging.

Toddlers younger than 3 years old are great hip hingers. They haven’t learned yet from their parents to bend like a cashew.

Whether or not hip hinging will prevent back pain or injuries, doctors don’t know yet, says Dr. D.J. Kennedy, a spine specialist at Stanford University and a former weightlifter.

“We don’t have these randomized trials, where we have people lifting things hundreds of times and see how their body responds to hip hinging,” Kennedy says.

Still, though, Kennedy says he tries to hip hinge as much as possible.

“I think hip hinging intuitively makes sense, just given how the spine functions,” he says. “So I try very hard to do it.”

So how in the world do you do this mysterious bending? Back in Palo Alto at Jean Couch’s Balance Center, she tells me the trick: Find your fig leaf.

“Stand up and spread your heels about 12 inches apart, with your toes 14 inches apart,” she says. “Now, if you are Adam in the Bible, where would you put a fig leaf?”

“Uh, on my pubic bone?” I answer shyly.

“Exactly,” Couch says. “Now put your hand right there, on your fig leaf. When you bend, you want to let this fig leaf — your pubic bone — move through your legs. It moves down and back.”

So I try it. I put my hand on my pubic bone as a pretend fig leaf. Then as I bend my knees a bit, I allow my fig leaf to move through my legs. A little crevice forms right at the top of my legs and my back starts to fold over, like a flat table.

“Now you’re using the large muscles of your hips, such as the glutes, to support the whole weight of your body, instead of the tiny muscles of your back,” says Jenn Sherer, who co-owns the Balance Center with Couch.

And she’s right. My back relaxes, while my hamstrings start to stretch. And boy are they tight!

“Wow! My hamstrings are stretching like crazy,” I yell out, while I’m bent over like a table.

“Yes,” Couch says, chuckling. “That’s why we call it the world’s best hamstring stretch. We find that the bend feels so good for some people, they never want to get back up.”

CorrectionFeb. 26, 2018

Liza Shapiro says many yoga websites recommend bending at the hips. A previous version of the Web story mistakenly said waist.

The 7 Most Common Causes Of Lower Back Pain Lower back pain is the most common symptom presented to GPs in the UK. Read more:

By Oliver Eaton, ProHealth Clinic

Lower back pain is the most common symptom presented to GPs in the UK. According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics almost 31 million days of work are lost every year due to back pain. Treating all types of back pain costs the NHS more than £1billion per year. The costs of care for low back pain alone, exceed £500 million a year. Lost production as a result of low back pain costs the UK economy £3.5billion a year.

According to NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) low back pain results in many problems, including impaired quality of life, mobility and daily function; long-term morbidity; a higher risk of social exclusion through inability to work; reduced income; reliance on sickness benefits; and social isolation through disability. Low back pain represents a considerable burden to individuals, families, society and the economy (for example, loss of working days, and early retirement).

To be able to prevent the occurrence of low back pain it is important to first understand what causes it:

Improper lifting techniques

One of the most common causes of acute low back pain is from lifting something without adopting a proper lifting technique. If you lift something without bending your knees, or twist whilst lifting, then it puts pressure on many of the structures in your lower back that can cause pain. A proper lifting technique ensures all the weight and pressure is distributed throughout your leg muscles.

Tight buttock and hamstring muscles

Even if you do use a proper lifting technique, your lower back can still be left vulnerable to injury if your buttock and hamstring muscles are too tight. These muscles attach into your lower back so play a big role in supporting your back when lifting something up from the floor. Also, these muscles are designed to absorb the force from each walking step we take. If the muscles are tight then that force transfers straight through into the lower back. The average person takes approximately 6000 to 10,000 steps a day, so you can imagine over time it can cause pain in the lower back.

Poor core strength

Your core muscles are responsible for holding your spine and pelvis upright in every movement that is made, preventing us from falling over like a rag doll. It also protects certain structures within the spine from injury. These structures include discs and ligaments. If your core muscles are weak then it can lead to too much force from a particular movement going through your lower back causing either a ligament sprain or slipped disc. Poor core strength can also lead to poor posture in routine activities such as sitting and standing.

Poor posture

Poor posture is one of the most common causes of chronic low back pain, and can be the reason why a low back injury fails to get better. In our busy day to day lives the postures we adopt are often subconscious and habitual. Poor posture whilst sitting can cause muscles and tendons to overstrain, leaving them vulnerable to going into spasm.


Inactivity causes many of our low back muscles to lose strength and forget how to coordinate. If our muscles lose the ability to coordinate then it can leave the low back vulnerable to injuring from simple routine movements such as getting in and out of a car. The age old saying applies with inactivity when people say if you don’t use it you lose it.

Weak mattress

We spend a third of our lives on a mattress sleeping so it’s not rocket science to understand that an old or weak mattress can cause low back pain. Depending on the sleeping position, a weak mattress can put your low back muscles under strain. You may feel as if the position you dose off to sleep in is comfortable but if you are in that position for up to 8 hours then it can leave muscles vulnerable to going into spasm.


Misalignments are the most under recognised cause of chronic low back pain. They can be caused by several things such as limping from a previous injury, soft mattresses, repetitive movements, pregnancy. Misalignments of the spinal joints puts pressure on the low back muscles during every movement you make. Misalignments of the pelvis can often cause a difference in leg lengths. This can cause your body weight to become unevenly distributed between both legs, causing pain on the side of the lower back that is bearing most of the weight.


Oliver Eaton is a qualified and registered osteopath, Medical Acupuncturist and Musculoskeletal Injection Therapist. He specialises in the treatment of sciatica, arthritis and headaches/migraines with patients travelling from across the UK and Europe for treatment. He is one of the leading practitioners in his field on Harley Street, having built his reputation on achieving results with patients who had previously had no success elsewhere.



Tracy Lorenz Coaching

by Tracy Lorenz

“When working a full-time job AND starting my own coaching business meant there wasn’t time for trips to the mountains, I had to look at the adventure around me,” says @tracylorenzcoaching. “I joined a group of open water swimmers at San Francisco’s historic Dolphin Club. The club only started allowing female members in the late 70’s; now we’re almost equal numbers. The ocean doesn’t always look like this; it’s stormy, foggy + windy on most days. But it’s the people that get me to show up. I’ve learned lessons from women thrice my age, and seen girls half my age crush our long ocean races. They leave me inspired + always wanting more. They are my community of adventure, where I am always enough, just as long as I show up.” :: #outdoorwomen

Book Review: Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being

By: Charlotte Bell

Western culture is so continuously bombarded with negative messages about aging that most of us hardly notice it. It is widely accepted that if you’re moving into your middle years—or especially your elder years—your life is pretty much in decline and you—and your voice—become less and less relevant.

Embedded in Western culture as it now is, popular Western yoga has adopted much the same attitude. Sure, there are elder teachers whose voices are still heard and respected, but for the most part, the wider yoga culture has skewed toward youth and fitness.

The proliferation of yoga teacher trainings has unleashed a massive crop of 20-something teachers and bloggers. They bring curiosity, enthusiasm and innovative ideas into the mix, and that can be a healthy addition to a time-honored tradition. But until a yoga teacher has walked far enough along the yogic path, and the life path, to understand the ever-evolving nature of body and mind—especially after age 50—it is difficult for them to understand how to make their classes and writings speak to people outside their own demographic.

That’s why Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being by Baxter Bell, MD and Nina Zolotow is such a breath of fresh air. Founders of a popular blog of the same name, Bell and Zolotow have assembled a comprehensive text that clearly explains the natural changes that take place as our bodies age, and how yoga—the entire system of yoga—can help us to navigate these changes with ease and grace.

Bell and Zolotow explain at the outset that their book does not promise to extend our lifespans. Rather, it is intended to give us the tools that may help us extend what they call our “health span.” The authors define “health span” thusly: “ … your ‘health span’ is equal to your lifespan minus the amount of time you spend in ill health. This is the period in your life during which you are generally healthy and free from serious or chronic illness. When we talk about healthy aging we don’t mean increasing your lifespan or your longevity. Instead, we mean doing what you can to keep your health span as long as possible (and the period of time you spend in ill health near the end of your life as short as possible).”

Many lifestyle factors contribute to extending your health span. In addition to developing healthy dietary habits, these factors include regular exercise and stress management. Hatha yoga, the practice of physical postures and breathing exercises, along with contemplative practices that are part of the larger system of yoga, can directly cultivate the latter two.

In Part One of the book, the authors cite four essential physical qualities that, taken together, must be cultivated in order to extend your health span. These are strength, flexibility, balance, and agility. Bell and Zolotow devote a chapter to each of these qualities. Each chapter describes how these skills can diminish in the process of aging—if we neglect to continue to develop them. The book then describes how yoga practice can help us not only retain these abilities, but can actually sometimes increase them as we age.

Also in Part One are chapters that address heart and cardiovascular system health, nervous system health, stress management, cultivating equanimity and applying yoga philosophy to your asana practice and daily life.

Each of the chapters on the four skills, along with those that address cardiovascular and nervous system health, describes the natural physiological changes associated with aging and how these can challenge the four basic skills as well as the cardiovascular and nervous systems. I particularly appreciate the way in which Bell and Zolotow approach what could be, for laypeople, technically challenging physiological concepts. They obviously know their stuff. But they don’t get bogged down in anatomical minutiae, preferring instead to focus on the big picture—the how and why of the physiology of aging and how it affects our lives. The language is always clear and comprehensible, and the concepts they present clarify the material that follows.

Each physiological discussion is followed by an explanation of how yoga can help mitigate the challenges of aging, which is, in turn, followed by discussions of how to use your yoga practice to cultivate each skill and to strengthen the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Each chapter offers specific sequences that address each particular skill or system.

Classes and texts intended for the over-50 crowd often emphasize “chair yoga” and modified postures. While these can be appropriate and welcome—and Bell and Zolotow do address practical modifications for the poses and sequences they introduce—the physical/mental/emotional conditioning of people 50 and beyond can be wildly varied. Some people over 50 lead sedentary lifestyles, while others run marathons. Yoga for Healthy Aging includes both easy and challenging routines, along with modified and unmodified pose descriptions.

In particular, I appreciate the authors’ emphasis on the fact that none of the skills or systems they describe operate in isolation. For example, when we strengthen the nervous system, the cardiovascular system also benefits. When we learn stress management skills and cultivate equanimity, our physical systems, as well as our minds, benefit.

Part Two of the book includes detailed descriptions and photos of all the asanas pictured in the sequences. Each asana description includes benefits and cautions, as well as descriptions of the “classic” pose and several options for using props to modify them. As with the rest of the book, their language is clear, concise and accessible. They’ve left no stone unturned in their how-to descriptions.

I greatly appreciate the tone of Yoga for Healthy Aging. Bell’s and Zolotow’s language is always friendly and engaging. Their descriptions of the inevitable changes that occur in our bodies as we age are neither fatalistic nor overly cheery. Instead, their approach bespeaks the equanimity they appear to have developed in their own practice. The evolution of our bodies as we age is simply what is true—it’s neither good nor bad. These changes are written into our DNA, and Bell and Zolotow approach them with a dispassionate depth of understanding that is refreshing.

No matter how many years we’ve lived in our bodies, the fact is, we are all aging. Every moment. We may not think much about aging before we turn 40, but that doesn’t change the fact that our biological clocks are ticking away. Yoga for Healthy Aging is highly informative, compassionate and a joy to read. It is the most comprehensive text I’ve yet read about this process we’re all navigating and how our yoga practice can grow with us as we age. Yoga for Healthy Aging is a book that you can turn to for knowledge and inspiration for the rest of your life.

Study with Dr. Baxter Bell and YogaUOnline – Yoga for Healthy Aging: Yoga Tools to Keep Your Blood Pressure Balanced.

Baxter Bell MD

about the authors of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being

Nina Zolotow

Nina Zolotow, RYT 500, Editor-in-Chief of the Yoga for Healthy Aging blog, is both a yoga writer and a yoga teacher. She trained to be a yoga teacher at The Yoga Room in Berkeley, California, has studied yoga therapy with Shari Ser and Bonnie Maeda, and is especially influenced by the teachings of Donald Moyer. She also studied extensively with Rodney Yee, and is inspired by the teachings of Patricia Walden on yoga for emotional healing. Her special area of expertise is yoga for emotional well-being (including yoga for stress, insomnia, depression, and anxiety) and she teaches workshops and series classes on yoga for emotional well-being, stress management, better sleep, home practice, and cultivating equanimity. Nina is the co-author with Baxter Bell of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being and co-author with Rodney Yee of Yoga: The Poetry of the Body (with its companion 50 Card Practice Deck) and Moving Toward Balance. She is also the author of numerous articles on yoga and alternative medicine.

Baxter Bell, MD, C-IAYT, eRYT 500, is a yoga teacher and educator, physician and medical acupuncturist. These days he focuses on teaching yoga full-time, both to ordinary students of all ages and physical conditions and to the next generation of yoga teachers, to whom he teaches anatomy and yoga therapy along with his accessible, skillful style of yoga. Baxter brings a unique perspective to his teaching, combining his understanding of anatomy and medicine with his skill at instructing people from all walks of life and all levels of ability. Baxter is the co-founder and writer for the popular Yoga for Healthy Aging blog, where he shares his knowledge of medical conditions, anatomy, and yoga with practitioners and teachers across the world. In addition to being a frequent presenter at Yoga Journal Alive events and yoga conferences such as IAYT’s SYTAR, he is often quoted as an expert on yoga and health by major national news outlets such as The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. To learn more, visit,, and his YouTube channel Baxter Bell YogaBaxter is the co-author with Nina Zolotow of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being. 

6 Yoga Poses to Expand Your Heart

By Charlotte Bell.

Have you ever been in a yoga class when someone (maybe you) experienced a spontaneous emotional event? Sometimes, especially in intensive workshop situations, a new physical opening may trigger an emotional opening.

The Eastern medical model posits that emotions are stored in specific organs. Here’s a list of organs and their corresponding emotions, according to Chinese medicine:

  • Heart, small intestine: Joy
  • Spleen, stomach: Worry, over thinking
  • Lungs, large intestine: Sadness
  • Kidneys, bladder: Fear
  • Liver, gall bladder: Anger

The theory is, when we stretch and squeeze the tissues around these organs, the emotions stored there can be unleashed. There haven’t been any empirical studies proving this, but it is not uncommon for people to experience emotional release while having bodywork or practicing asanas.

Even though we don’t officially recognize these connections in the West, we have developed language that describes some of them: “my heart has wings,” “butterflies in my stomach,” “got so scared I peed my pants.” You get the idea.

Your yoga practice can support expanding the heart area, and perhaps even unleash some joy into your day. Practicing poses that mobilize and expand the ribcage can help us create space in that area. The ribcage is the structure that houses the heart. Mobilizing the thoracic spine, to which the ribs are attached, is the most effective way to create spaciousness for the heart.

February is Heart Health Month. Deep, abdominal breathing—as opposed to shallow, upper chest breathing—is essential to maintaining heart health. In Donna Farhi’s The Breathing Book, she explains the relationship between breathing and heart health:

“There have been a number of significant studies showing a correlation between upper chest breathing and heart disease. In one stunning report, patients who had already experienced a heart attack were taught how to breathe diaphragmatically and to generalize this behavior in everyday activities. In doing so they significantly reduced their chances of having a second heart attack.”

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing depends on chest and abdominal mobility. In honor of Heart Health Month, we’ll explore four poses that expand and mobilize the ribcage and abdomen to promote free breathing and open-heartedness.


There are many, many poses in asana practice that can mobilize the ribcage. The poses I suggest below can stand for other poses in their class—lateral bending, twisting and backbending. I’ve chosen relatively simple practices because part of expanding the heart is being kind to your body.

Gather together some props, including a nonskid mat. For the third pose, add a couple of yoga blocks and one or more blankets. If you have a yoga bolster, you can use it for Savasana.

  1. Talasana (Palm Tree Pose): Mobilizing the ribcage requires that we mobilize the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is built for lateral bending. In addition, when we bend to the side, we stretch the soft tissue and create space between the ribs on the opposite side. Since the lungs are also housed in the rib cage, there’s more room to breathe. Here’s a post explaining how to practice Talasana.
  2. Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Belly Pose): In addition to lateral bending, the thoracic spine is built for rotation. Any twist will help mobilize that section of the spine. There are, of course, lots of wonderful standing and seated twists. But lying down creates a different relationship to gravity, one that allows for easier breathing, and therefore, more mobility. Here’s a post that explains the how-to of this pose.
  3. Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose): Once you’ve mobilized your thoracic spine in the ways it’s designed to move, you can challenge it with a backbend. The thoracic spine doesn’t actually extend much. The facet joints, the joints between each vertebrae, are designed to put brakes on backbending. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still extend the thoracic spine a bit. Because we all spend so much time hovering over desks, steering wheels and the like, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to practice this pose every day. Here’s a description of how to practice. One suggestion: In order for this pose to be comfortable, your head needs to be level, not tilting back. Make sure to put enough blankets under your head and neck to ensure that your neck is relaxed. Then relax and enjoy!
  4. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): Bridge Pose not only expands your heart area, but it also strengthens your whole back body. It’s a great antidote to spending lots of time sitting in chairs. Here’s a post that explains more about the benefits of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, and gives some practice pointers. If you want to practice a restorative version that uses a yoga block, try this pose. If you prefer to use yoga bolsters, read this post.
  5. Upavista Konasana (Seated Angle Pose): Okay. So this is not really an official heart-opening pose, but it’s important to add a forward bend into the mix. So far, this practice has included a lateral bend, a twist and two backbends. A forward bend is in order. For information on practicing Upavista Konasana, read this.
  6. Savasana (Corpse Pose): What would a heart-opening practice be without Savasana? After practicing backbends it’s nice to put support under your legs to release tension in your lumbar area. The simplest way to do this is to roll up a blanket and place it under your knees. If you have a yoga bolster, try this luxurious option, using a bolster, block and blanket.

Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice, published by Rodmell Press. Her second book, Yoga for Meditators (Rodmell Press) was published in May 2012. She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to schools and to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

Outdoors After Fifty “A New Normal”

By Jean Drummond

I have lived in the Eastern Sierra for 17 years. I am so blessed to live in an area that offers so many world-class outdoor opportunities. This is a place where Olympic and professional athletes train and live.

I am an acupuncturist and I practiced in Mammoth Lakes for 12 years and now in Bishop for 4 years. I have been fortunate in my practice because people who live here are motivated to stay healthy so they can play in the outdoors.

Fall colors at Convict Lake in the Sherwin Range of the Sierras, a calm lake and mountains
Fall colors at Convict Lake in the Sherwin Range of the Sierras

My lifelong love of the outdoors and desire to be outside has not changed. However, my body has. In my mind, I’m 29—I think I can do anything at any time. But my 59-year-old body says otherwise. Everything hurts more. Discomfort and pain from years of wear and tear on the knees, shoulders, back and other body parts slows me down a bit.

I got a reality check this summer when I signed up for a 4-day backpacking trip in Yosemite. I wanted so badly to get out for an adventure since I hadn’t backpacked in almost 8 years. My young mind told me, “You can get in shape in 3 weeks!” But when I did training hikes and added more and more weight to my back, my body rebelled and my back seized up.

My lifelong love of the outdoors and desire to be outside has not changed. However, my body has. In my mind, I’m 29—I think I can do anything at any time. But my 59-year-old body says otherwise.

I had forgotten that just a year earlier I was in the ER with severe back pain from a herniated disk and have been plagued with back pain on and off since.  Needless to say, I had to pull out of the trip and was very disappointed in myself.

Lesson learned: there’s a big difference between hiking and backpacking. I was unrealistic to think that I could get in backpacking shape in 3 weeks—that’s my younger mind taking over and my body not cooperating. And the doubt creeps in that I will never be able to do some of the things I’ve wanted to.

A stripe of sunlight hits clouded mountains
Sunrise at Wheeler Crest

I always struggled with the phrase “I used to…”  I used to hike 10-15 miles easily. I used to barrel down hills on my mountain bike… I used to do this and that…

So I have accepted a new mantra: “A new normal.” What was normal when I was younger is different now. My new normal allows me to still do lots of things, but I have to work a little harder and do it a little slower.

I always struggled with the phrase “I used to…” So I have accepted a new mantra: “A new normal.” What was normal when I was younger is different now.

My new normal has actually been a benefit. I feel more connected to nature now than ever because I have learned to slow down and really engage my senses. You go a little slower, but stop and smell the roses and see and feel things you maybe didn’t notice before.

Since hiking is my favorite form of exercise, I used to power hike. I would just barrel up hills and see how fast I could hike a trail. In doing this, you miss a lot of details.

Now, I go out with intention to enjoy my surroundings. And since I am a photographer, having a camera in my hand is forcing me to slow down, to observe, and I have been getting more incredible pictures.

Jean poses with a camera ready in the California landscape
Jean and her camera – photo by Julianna Weise

Life changes that impacted my outdoor experiences was a breakup from a 23-year relationship which dramatically changed my fitness level. I used to mountain bike a lot, road ride, backpack, ski, camp and travel with my partner who would push me to keep up, to do more than I thought was capable. So, I stayed in great shape.

The breakup coincided with my 55th birthday and it’s then I really noticed changes in my body. Being single, it’s harder for me to get motivated to go out alone and I have to be mindful of where I go. When I hike alone, I tend to stay on trails where I know I’ll see some people for safety reasons. When I’m out with others, we will go off trail, go farther and I push myself a little harder to stay up with others.

Jean rides a mountain bike on the edge of a steep canyon
Mountain biking Rainbow Rim

What advice would I give to my younger self?

Follow my dreams. I wanted to be a forest ranger, but my dad told me I would be sitting in a kiosk all day and scrubbing toilets and not being outdoors like the rangers I saw growing up.

And I wish I had known about trail crews and other summer work I could have done.

I do lament my youth in this respect—I wish I could be out there living in the wilderness for the summer months, but my body now would not take lifting rocks and logs very well.

Living in the Sierras and in my profession, I have met and been inspired by many older women who are still out there hiking, biking, backpacking, and doing what they love. I’ve always wanted to know their secret. As I have aged, I think I might know— never stop moving!

Jean walks through a sagebrush desert
Jean on the move, camera in hand – photo by Julianna Weise

The most important thing for an aging body is keeping fit. These women I meet are being active every day, doing some kind of movement exercise. For me, I’ve realized that walking and hiking is not enough now to stay strong. I need strength training to keep my muscles and bones strong so I can put a backpack on again.

I have accepted a new normal and that still offers me plenty of outdoor experiences to pursue which ultimately makes me the happiest.

When I turned 50, I was in my best shape ever because I trained all year to climb Mt. Whitney. Since I will be 60 this year, I need to find a big goal to train for that will push me and motivate me to get in incredible shape again.

I have accepted a new normal and that still offers me plenty of outdoor experiences to pursue which ultimately makes me the happiest.

Images courtesy of Jean Drummond unless otherwise specified.

Jean Drummond is a wellness expert, photographer and writer with a deep love of the outdoors and the healing power of all things natural. Her mission is to inspire and empower women to connect with nature’s gifts to live life with vibrant health and soul-stirring adventures. Find more from Jean at and her new blog

Yoga after Knee replacement surgery

Yoga can actually be a very useful tool in the rehabilitation process after knee replacement surgery. Carried out mindfully and with awareness of your limitations at any given point throughout the recovery period, yoga can help to minimise or even eliminate bad postural habits that you may have had prior to surgery and which may have even been a contributing factor to your knee problems.

The range of motion in your knee will depend on various factors including; the range of motion you lost prior to surgery, how long ago the surgery was carried out, and if you’ve been following an exercise plan post operation recommended to you by your physiotherapist. The basic indicator of how easily you can get up and down from the floor is a good place to start with when considering what yoga poses you can and cannot do.

Post-op alignment in yoga is very important to prevent recurrence of any knee issues. Avoid torque forces through the knee joint which will affect the cement in the joint (the meniscus). Its really important that you keep your toes and knees tracking in the same direction in poses such as Warrior 1 and Goddess. Also stacking the joints from the base up in standing poses will not only help prevent future knee issues, but will also give you more stability in your standing poses. Remember that you can always pull up and back from poses such as Warrior 2 until you feel that you have the strength to go deeper, never passing the knee beyond the ankle.

Contrary to what you may think though, kneeling is problematic but not necessarily injurious to the new knee. Using props such as blankets or cushions under your knee when doing poses performed on all fours may help ease any discomfort. Be conscious of when the right time to perform poses in which you’re on your knees is, such as camel, remembering that often the pose can be taken standing up or cross legged as a variation if you find that you’re putting too much weight on your knees for comfort.

One of the key factors in using yoga as part of the therapeutic process after a knee replacement is that you’re not just bringing awareness to the knee itself. Strengthening all the muscles that cross the knee will greatly help towards a successful recovery. This means working with the whole area from the hips down to the feet to make them stronger in their supporting role. Strengthening your quadriceps and hamstrings will be highly beneficial, as these are often weakened in surgery. And if you have tight hips or hamstrings make sure that you modify the pose to allow these areas to properly open and stabilize,preventing strain on or incorrect movement in the knees.

Standing poses if carried out mindfully can help to strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings, but make sure you take them slowly and pay special attention to alignment. If taken in small steps these standing poses will help maximise a full range of motion in the knee. Any poses that require deep flexion of the knees can be propped or you can use a chair or wall to help take some of the weight out of the pose, or of course avoided altogether. Also poses that strengthen the hips and ankles will help to further stabilise the knee joint.

Questions to consider with your yoga teacher or therapist before starting to practice yoga again after knee replacement surgery.

1. How long ago was the surgery?
2. Are you still in pain?
3. Are you still in physical therapy?
4. Do you have any hip or back pain (either before or after the knee replacement)?
5. How much mobility do you currently have? Can you get up and down from the floor?
6. Do you have arthritis in any other joints?

Poses for strengthening the supporting muscles:

Warrior 1 and 2 – strengthen and stretches the leg muscles and hip flexors, in particular building strength in the quadriceps,and helps build awerness in proper tracking of the knee. Your knee should be aiming towards being in line with your second and third toe of the bent knee leg.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery
Bridge pose – work with your hamstrings. Stretch your hip flexors and engage the hip extensor. Make sure that your knees are tracking in the same direction as your feet, which are in turn in line with your hips.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery
Tadasana on block with leg lifts out to side and back to centre – building strength in your abductors (outer hip) and adductors (inner thigh).

Yoga after knee replacement surgery
Locust variations – stabilises the sacrum. Stretches and strengthens the hip abductors and tones the quadriceps.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery
Extended hand to big toe with a chair – you dont have to come into the full expression of this pose. Bring a chair to one side to lightly place your fingers on and then use a belt around the toes of the foot that you’re going to extend up.try to keep stability in the pelvis keeping your hip bones in line.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery

Poses with counter indications :

Pigeon pose – take a figure of 4 on your back instead to take the weight off your knees.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery
Eagle pose – place a block by the side of your standingleg and dont wrap your leg. Probably best to avoid all together if too close to surgery.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery
Low Squat – try a higher Goddess pose instead or place a block or two under your sit bones to help take some of the weight of the pose. Make sure that your knees are tracking in line with your feet.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery

Yoga after knee replacement surgery
Hero pose. Sit on a block or bolster or avoid this pose all together.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery
Childs- place a cushion or blanket under your knees to cushion them and also between your calves and thighs to help take the pressure off your knees.

Yoga after knee replacement surgery

Psychological Flexibility: The Other Type of Flexibility That Yoga Helps Improve

| October 4, 2017

Takeaway: Yoga helps improve flexibility, both physically and — perhaps more importantly — psychologically.

While our world has always experienced change, it’s fair to say that the rate of change has sped up dramatically in recent times. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the rate of human progress has been increasing exponentially.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve seen the birth of the Internet, driver-less cars and the emergence of artificial intelligence. The way we live has fundamentally changed, and we’ve had to adapt to entirely new concepts and social interaction. But as humans, are we designed to adapt to such rapid change, especially since we’ve also seen the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety rise by almost 50 percent (according to the World Health Organization)? It’s a staggering figure and raises important questions around why this has happened.

To be sure, these are complicated questions, but one contributing factor is how adaptable we are to change, particularly in a world where there is so much uncertainty. Often referred to as psychological flexibility, how we perceive and manage change is an interesting concept, and how yoga can help is arguably even more intriguing.

Here we’ll share more background information on the concept of psychological flexibility and the ways in which yoga can help build this imperative mental pliability.

Psychological Flexibility Defined

In a 2010 research paper titled, “Psychological Flexibility as a Fundamental Aspect of Health,” Todd B. Kashdan came up with one of the simplest definitions of what psychological flexibility entails. The four main principles are:

  1. How a person adapts to fluctuating situational demands
  2. How a person reconfigures mental resources
  3. How a person can shift perspectives
  4. How a person balances competing perspectives and values

This ability to adapt to a particular situation, to shift our perspective and to choose the best course of action, is the foundation of psychological flexibility. Similar to the principles of Charles Darwin, those with the most resilience and adaptability are often the ones that can grow the most – and this is where yoga can help.

Letting Go With Yoga

Through yoga, we can learn the art of letting go, learning to live with the consequences and challenges that life can often throw at us. By embracing the unknown, and understanding that we can’t have the “ups” without the “downs,” managing or accepting change can be viewed from a different perspective – a perspective of understanding and acceptance that can make the concept of change much less daunting.

(Read more about The Freedom in Letting Go.)

This ability to shift mental states and develop our psychological flexibility turns out to be a fundamental aspect of our overall well-being. Columbia University psychologist George Bonanno found that in the aftermath of 9/11, the most flexible people living in New York City recovered quicker, and enjoyed greater psychological and physical health than their less adaptable counterparts.

The simple premise is that by acknowledging that life is full of change, it can become easier to confront things head on, learning from life’s lessons as you go and using any negativity to either motivate or adjust your own behavior. This mindfulnessapproach of accepting things as they are and then selecting the best course of action can move us toward the things that we value most in life. But it’s not always easy: change, it would seem, is a challenge.

(More on our aversion to change in Exploring Aversion.)

The Challenge of Change

While we’re designed to handle a certain amount of change, problems often occur when we’re overloaded with more change than we can handle. Whether it’s a shift in global politics, our personal life, or challenges in our careers, when the various pressures of modern life are added together, it can create uncertainty. All too often, it can become too much to bare and too much to process.

When faced with a change in our life, whatever it may be, the ability to use yoga to tune in to how our body is responding can give us valuable time to adjust. By focusing on the breath, we can increase the flow of oxygen, which in turn calms our nervous system and reduces our levels of stress almost immediately. Once settled, focused and with a calm mind, we can respond in a more positive manner in the light of uncertainty.

(Learn how to put these points to practice in How to Release Anxiety Using Breath.)

And it’s not just the nervous system where yoga has its benefits. Research by psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz from the UCLA School of Medicine reveals what actually happens in our brains when we experience change. When faced with a new challenge, an area of our brain called the pre-frontal cortex is activated. It’s the area of the brain that deals with planning, complex cognition and decision-making. Essentially, all the tools we need to deal with change.

However, using our pre-frontal cortex uses a lot of energy and when we get tired, our brain would much rather run off its hard drive, the basal ganglia. It’s a much more efficient part of the brain, uses less energy and it’s primary function is to store all of our saved memories and the repetitive tasks we frequently perform. Put simply, doing what we know is physically easier; it’s the path of least resistance and means that we can be less adaptable when faced with new challenges.

Training the Mind With Yoga

The beauty of yoga is that it can be used to train both the mind and body to adapt to new circumstances and new challenges. As you go through a workout, the prefrontal cortex is working hard to maintain your concentration and stillness. As you hold a posture, your mind is countering any response to stress, helping to keep it under control. As you practice, you get better at doing this even outside of the yoga room, and we physically can start to re-wire the brain, altering how we react, think and behave.

The key to flourishing in today’s environment, to be happy and content, is that we must learn how to embrace change. Thriving in a state of perpetual chaos isn’t easy, but yoga has been shown to positively affect ingrained behavioral patterns that are often difficult to shift, ensuring that the concept of psychological flexibility is an important tool that we can all learn and develop through yoga.

Embracing the Change

It’s likely that we’ve all been there before – the embarrassing “trip” as we stumble over an uneven floor, or even our own two feet. Aside from being somewhat embracing, the good news is that our physical dexterity can help us rebalance and recover our poise, hopefully before our “moment” ends up on YouTube.

How effectively we do this is, in part, down to how fit, healthy, strong, supple and agile we are. Through the virtue of physical exercise, we can become better at regaining our balance. And it’s the same with our mental health. By training, practicing and developing our mental health, we can bounce back from the adversities in life much more quickly.

Rising Above Change With Yoga

Through yoga, we can train the mind to be composed, rational and open to different ideas or ways of thinking. Psychological flexibility is all about looking at ideas in new ways or coming up with new solutions; and by using the yogic technique of mindfulness, we confront our thoughts, thereby gaining the ability to change automatic and ingrained responses to those thoughts instead. It inevitably becomes easier to take positive actions toward achieving our goals, even when we experience change in the modern world.