Do you trust your GUT?

by Renee’ Fulkerson

We are always looking for an external sign (including myself) to solidify our answer to whatever question is at hand.

Lately I have been pondering alone and with students in YogAlign class the idea and simplicity of trusting our own gut. Literally trusting our own guts aka internal organs.

Which brings me to a recent topic that was brought up by founder of YogAlign Michaelle Edwards. “Do any of you feel there is a difference between yoga pose alignment and postural alignment”? The above question sent me down a rabbit hole of thoughts and research before I could answer the question.

The obvious answer to me was yes I do see a difference between the two. Yoga pose alignment is taught to you and postural alignment is programmed in your brain etc. Having said that Yoga poses taught to a student feel external (judgment and opinions from outside yourself) where as postural alignment comes from within be it programmed (a habit) you have your own judgment and opinion.

I started thinking about how the external and internal judgement affects us be it in our yoga class or pose and how we see ourselves our body image in general. How a yoga practice can support us in letting go of our own judgment (ironic).

I then started thinking about body images and body shapers aka Spanx or corset. I personally have never worn a body shaper myself and do not judge others if they have however, this topic too goes back to trusting our guts. From my research on body shapers men and women alike wear them under their garments for many reasons however, lets face it mostly for vanity.

Body shaper enthusiasts have written about the pros and cons of wearing this type of garment. Some say how they feel more confident, sexy and are made aware of their bad posture habits and adjust themselves accordingly or rely on the garment to keep them in proper posture. Others say the garment felt okay at first but by the end of the day it has cut into their skin, cut off circulation and they cannot imagine another minute in the garment. One comment in particular caught my attention I quote “3. Pro: I’m aware! Because I’m being held in I am naturally holding myself more upright. I consistently think about contracting my core–giving myself a subtle abdominal workout ALL. DAY. LONG! My posture is more erect”.

This is where the GUT comes in aka internal organs brains, lungs, liver, bladder, kidneys, heart, stomach and intestines. The obvious answers delivered directly to us from our guts is simply comfort or discomfort. Michaelle Edwards founder of YogAlign goes on to ask what is a correct pose? To which I give my two cents “I want the body to move as nature intended. “Everything thing has a place and everything is in its place”. Bones properly aligned which then allows muscles, joints and ligaments to follow and preform as intended. Allowing space for the vital organs to function properly keeps the nervous system happy – resulting in creating a sustainable body.

If you guts aren’t happy it cannot possibly be the correct pose. Which brings me back to the body shapers if your guts are not happy it cannot possibly create favorable conditions for your mind, spirit or body. The most likely bodily response you are going to achieve from holding your core in all day is exhaustion. Exhaustion of the sympathetic nervous system responding to the squeezing of your guts triggering the fight or flight response. Not to mention relying on a body shaper to keep you in good posture is counter productive as well as an illusion.

Bringing me to my conclusion trusting our GUT is the bodies way of communicating its yay or nay answer with comfort or discomfort. As my teacher always says “you are never going to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. See you on the mat.

YogAlign or Swimming?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

To the question above my answer would be yes and yes.

Swimming like YogAlign engages the entire body throughout the entire movement this was the perfect solution to our required body movement regime.

Many of you already know my son Joaquin age 15 has been diagnosed with Pectus Excavatum, Scoliosis and Scheuermann’s Disease.

Refer to blog post https://innerbreathyoga.com/2019/05/21/our-journey-so-far/

Quick recap – I started Joaquin on a regular YogAlign practice schedule of three to four times a week starting in January 2019 shortly after his diagnosis.

This was a one on one program, one to two hours per practice with YogAlign teacher Renee’ Fulkerson AKA mom. Needless to say we had a few challenging moments to say the least until we found our rhythm. Joaquin is dedicated he knows YogAlign will be a part of his life for the rest of his life.

After roughly a few months Joaquin began attending my regularly scheduled public YogAlign Classes with a bit of hesitation of course. Then as teens/ mothers and sons start the debate on comprise we started a new dialog on body movement (exercise).

Swimming  Joaquin requested he be able to have the option of practicing YogAlign half the time and swimming the other. Swimming like YogAlign engages the entire body throughout the entire movement it was the perfect solution to our required body movement regime.

Now we are not only seeing amazing postural shifts from the regular YogAlign practice but also from the regular for us Ocean swimming and hey if your going to swim why not swim with the turtles?

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Island Kauai Hawaii (1)

My ConclusionPectus Excavatum, Scoliosis and Scheuermann’s Disease. have many symptoms that can benefit from a regular YogAlign practice and a good swim a few times a week.

See you on the mat.

Definition of swim: propel the body through water by using the limbs.

 Health Benefits of Swimming (web MD)

Intensity Level: Medium
You’ll use your lower and upper body muscles for a steady workout. You can make your swim harder by going faster or longer.

Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. Swimming gives your entire body a great workout, including your core.

Arms: Yes. You’ll need your arms for most swim strokes, so expect them to get a workout.

Legs: Yes. You’ll use your legs to propel yourself through the water.

Glutes: Yes. Swimming uses your glutes.

Back: Yes. Your back muscles will get a workout, whether you’re doing the backstroke or a water-based exercise class.

Type
Flexibility: Yes. Swimming will make you more flexible.

Aerobic: Yes. Your heart will keep pumping as you use your entire body to move through the water.

Strength: Yes. You’ll get stronger from the resistance of the water, which is about 12 times the level of air resistance. Try using hand-held paddles, foam noodles, or a kickboard for extra resistance.

Low-Impact: Yes. Swimming is an excellent low-impact workout. The water gives you buoyancy, so you’ll float through your exercise session without putting pressure on your joints.

A Quick Lesson from Real Life Movement.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I added these pictures for two reasons:

A.  because these animals are beautiful beings we where blessed to have come across on our recent road trip.

B.  because these animals bodies are in perfect balance and alignment.

  • the animals move with grace
  • they remain strong and agile with just the natural movements of their everyday life
  • they move they bodies with efficiency and effectiveness not slouching or slumping

If we where to see any one of these animals slouching, limping or out of alignment we would immediately become concerned for their health however, as humans we see ourselves and others living with all kinds of body miss-alignment that just becomes the norm.

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Kauai Hawaii Island

Which brings me to my conclusion I suppose we would not last very long out in the wild being out of balance and alignment. Unable to hunt for our food or take care of our young – food for thought.

See you on the mat.

Is my YogAlign practice enough?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

The answer to this question is my YogAlign practice all I need to stay healthy and in shape is no and that is what my opinion/ answer would be in regard to any yoga practice.

I will say that my personal YogAlign practice is the foundation that enables me to continue to enjoy all the everyday activities I have participated in as a youth now into my fifties.

I started practicing yoga when I was pregnant with my now fifteen year old son to alleviate some of my back pain and it worked. I continued to practice Hatha Yoga and went on to a five hundred hour teacher training certification in Hatha Yoga.

In my thirties practicing and teaching Hatha Yoga worked with my lifestyle at that time. My regular physical activities complimented my Hatha Yoga practice with hiking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, mountain biking and chasing a toddler. That synergy enabled me to live at a high physical level with great health and mental clarity.

In my forties I transition into a different lifestyle and began co-hosting a yearly yoga festival and retreat. In this new ventures infancy I spent endless hours sitting in a chair on the computer. Although I continued my regular Hatha Yoga practice the synergy I once had was no longer there. The regular activities I was participating in at this time (when I could fit them in) were swimming, kayaking, hiking and walking. I felt I was operating at a lower physical level with poor physical clarity.

I became aware of YogAlign and the method having been birthed on the very Hawaiian Island I was currently residing on Kauai. I enrolled in a two hundred hour teacher training with the founder and started feeling the synergy building between my lifestyle and physical activities once again. The positive benefits were the same however, I was moving my body in my yoga practice a completely different way.

The first thing I noticed when I started my YogAlign practice was the ability to get length and fullness in my frontline with the diaphragm (SIP breath). Which of course felt amazing after sitting at a computer with a collapsed chest and rounded shoulders. This breathing method alone supported bringing back my mental clarity. I then began to learn how to move from my core which immediately created this feeling of full body strength in a solid foundation. My posture shifted quickly and I could start to feel the muscles in my back getting stronger and a feeling of buoyancy when I walked.

After many successful years with the festival and retreat I stepped away and began teaching YogAlign regularly on island when I was not traveling. I began adding some running and a lot of snorkeling into my regular activities and I have noticed I have more breath capacity, stamina and muscle strength. I could feel a huge difference in my bodies performance in every day life as well. Traveling can be exhausting with flying, camping, sightseeing, rails and buses however I did a two week snowboard trip to Japan this last winter and a two week Grand Tetons, Yellowstone adventure this summer and never felt better.

I will be fifty years old in a couple of months and I feel the best I think I have ever felt. What I say to new students and existing students in my YogAlign Classes keep doing all the activities you enjoy doing and let your YogAlign practice be your foundation for life.

http://www.innerbreathyoga.com

Rise of the golden yogi – why the over-50s are embracing yoga.

By 

We’ve become a nation obsessed with downward dogs and cat cows. Britons are now spending a staggering £790 million a year on yoga classes. But you don’t have to be a twenty-something in stretched lycra to benefit from it. Increasing numbers of middle aged people – so-called “golden yogis” – are discovering the benefits of the ancient practice.

These benefits are being increasingly proven by science – and arguably, those who stand to gain the most from yoga’s advantages are the over-fifties. Last week, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found a three-month course of yoga and meditation was more effective than brain training exercises for minimising age-related memory loss; another found it could improve sleep in breast cancer survivors who had an average age of 54. It’s also an excellent way to stay fit and supple in middle age: last year, Nigella Lawson, 56, credited her slim figure to practising Iyengar yoga – a slow form of the practice, with a focus on alignment and posture.

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When Lucy Edge, 53, a former advertising executive, fell into a deep depression, she opted for yoga instead of the anti-depressants she was prescribed. “I took a six month career break and travelled to India to learn yoga and founded the website yogaclicks.com – the website includes a section called Yoga Meds that lists over 300 clinical trials demonstrating yoga’s benefits, for conditions ranging from arthritis to insomnia to obesity.

“Yoga was so beneficial for my depression, I wanted to tell the world about its joys. But as the daughter of a scientist [Lucy’s late father was Professor Gordon Edge, creator of the Cambridge Cluster] I didn’t want to make mad claims, I wanted evidence and found so much of it for yoga,” Lucy remembers.

Here are some of the ways yoga has been shown to benefit mental and physical health, plus how to get started (lycra leggings optional):

Stimulate grey matter

If crossword puzzles and sudoku have been the extent of your memory training to now, it could be time to sharpen up your warrior pose. The recent UCLA research took brain scans and memory tests, comparing the effects of 12 weeks of memory exercises with a course of yoga and meditation on 25 adults over 55. The latter not only had better improvements in their spatial and visual memories, but also more reduced depression and anxiety and increased resilience to stress. “Although this study is small, it suggests that we should be doing more research into the benefits of yoga and meditation as additional ways to keep our hearts and brains in good health as we age,” says Dr Clare Walton of the Alzheimer’s Society.

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Try it:

There’s no need for hours and hours of headstands to benefit. In this study, volunteers did just one hour of Kundalini yoga a week. This is a gentle form of yoga that incorporates breathing techniques, meditation and some chanting of mantras. The latter may feel silly at first but can be easier than other forms of meditation. The study participants also did 20 minutes daily of Kirtan Kriya, a type of meditation involving chanting, hand movements and visualization of light. You can order a copy of a 12 minute Kirtan Kriya mediation CD for $20US from the US Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. Find a Kundalini yoga teacher at kundaliniyoga.org.uk

Protect against heart attacks

We’re often told to plod the pavement with walking or jogging for the health of our hearts, but a large body of evidence suggests the more gentle option of yoga may be just the ticket. In 2014, a systematic review of yoga and cardiovascular disease published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology showed that yoga may help lower heart disease risk as much as conventional exercise such as brisk walking. This is likely to be because yoga reduces stress – a big contributor to heart disease. Stress hormones raise both blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the likelihood of blood clots. “The benefits of yoga on emotional health are well established. It has been shown to help with anxiety, stress and depression, conditions which affect many people who have suffered a cardiac event or have undergone cardiac surgery,’ says Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation. “Previous research has shown that practising yoga is associated with some improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, which are all risk factors for heart disease.

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Try it:

In her book The De-Stress Effect, yoga teacher Charlotte Watts sets out a stress-reducing series of gentle yoga poses, perfect for beginners. Another great way to reduce stress is to practice Restorative yoga, suggests Anna Ashby, a senior teacher at Triyoga Studios in London. “Postures are supported with bolsters and cushions and held for up to 12 minutes,” she explains. “This gives the nervous system a break and is like a fast-track to stress reduction.”

Beat back and joint pain

Sarah Shone, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist and yoga teacher, was so convinced of yoga’s benefits that she incorporated classes for the over-50s into her Primary Care Trust’s rehabilitation programme for back pain. A staggering 87 per cent of participants reported a reduction in their pain. National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines now recommend yoga and stretching as a useful form of exercise for lower back pain. Shone says its benefits go deeper and is now aiming to train more physiotherapists in using yoga in their clinical work with this age group. “The over 50s are the category we’re trying to capture in NHS physiotherapy, to try and treat or even prevent problems in later life such as osteoporosis and arthritis as well as back pain. Its benefits of flexibility, core stability, support, balance and strength have been shown to help those living with chronic conditions. “Yoga has also been shown to help keep incontinence at bay because it specifically targets the muscles of the pelvic floor, along with other muscles in the body and is weight-bearing so can help increase bone density. Plus, it can be adapted in so many ways to make it accessible for all.”

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Try it:

“If you’re over 50 and just getting started, tell your teacher about any health problems and choose a style such as Hatha or Iyengar that is more gentle, rather than some of the stronger more flowing or ‘power’ versions, at least to begin with,” Shone suggests. “If you have a specific condition such as back pain, talk to your doctor to see if you’re eligible for a course of subsidised yoga on the exercise referral scheme.”

Get flexible | What type of yoga should I try?

  • For better sleep: Find Yin or restorative yoga classes, usually done under candelight with the support of blankets, cushions and bolsters.
  • For weight loss: Vinyasa Flow classes are energetic and tend to link postures to breath in a dance-like sequence. Don’t be afraid if you’re a beginner as moves can be adapted, but do tell the teacher.
  • For muscle toning: Try Iyengar yoga, a precise style of yoga that holds poses for up to 20 breaths and focuses on the alignment and detail of each posture. It’s great for beginners as you use props to help you get into poses.
  • For a mood boost: Anusara yoga, a modern form of yoga originating in LA, focuses on alignment but with flowing movements often done to upbeat music.
  • For pain relief: Yoga Therapy is practiced by teachers trained to use yoga to help heal injury or illness.

Taking my YogAlign practice on the Road.

by Renee’ Fulkerson

Once again my regular YogAlign practice has proven invaluable in supporting my body during a two week non-stop action road trip with my husband Peter and 15 year old son Joaquin.

Everyday life can create challenges in showing up for any regular exercise class however, a road trip including weather, camping and ever changing locations has lead me to many insights.

  • My YogAlign practice is beneficial and feels good no matter where or when I practice.
  • My YogAlign practice can adapt to the weather (put more clothes on/ take more clothes off) simple.
  • I cannot be attached to an outcome in my YogAlign practice. (meaning time is of the essence). I maybe able to carve out 20 minutes or 2 hours depending on the day.
  • Prioritizing my YogAlign practice to meet my immediate physical and mental needs. (maybe only leg tuner or only arm turner maybe both) however SIP breath is a must!
  • Some days my YogAlign practice in the physical sense is just not going to happen (and that is okay).

On the days my YogAlign practice did not and could not happen I was able to fill in the gaps with breathing techniques, meditation and mantra (singing/chanting) practice. All of the above mentioned could easily be practice while driving in a car, breaking down or setting up camp, sitting around the campfire and cooking a meal.

Most days my physical needs were met with a variety of physical activities, while having proper posture and breath. My mental status felt more challenged with less hours of sleep than usual, long hours in a car as a passenger in a tight spot and being with my husband and teenage son for two weeks straight. LOL

All in all I love road trips, camping and YogaAlign as well as experimenting with putting all three together. I look forward to my next road trip adventures with a body I can trust my beloved husband Peter and our miracle son Joaquin. See you on the mat!

Yoga keeps the mind and body young, 22 clinical trials show.

Published
A review analyzing the results of 22 randomized clinical trials has found that yoga practice can improve many aspects of physical and mental health among older adults.

Yoga refers to a series of mind-body practices that originate in Hindu tradition.

However, they are growing in popularity across the world as an alternative well-being practice.

Statistic show that in 2015 in the United States alone, as many as 36.7 million people practiced yoga, and by 2020, estimates suggest that this number will have increased to over 55 million people.

People who practice yoga often share anecdotes regarding its beneficial effect on their mental and physical health. Intrigued by such reports, some scientists set out to verify whether the benefits are real.

Indeed, some studies have found that different yoga practices are able to improve a person’s general sense of well-being, as well as various aspects of their physical health.

For example, a series of studies from 2017 suggested that people who joined a yoga program experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression.

A study from 2016 found that practicing yoga correlated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment in older adults, and research from earlier this year concluded that 8 weeks of intense yoga practice reduced the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Now, investigators at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom have conducted a review, analyzing the findings of 22 randomized and cluster-randomized clinical trials that assessed the benefits of yoga practice for healthy older adults.

The trials considered the effects of varied yoga programs — with program durations between 1 and 7 months and individual session durations between 30 and 90 minutes — on both mental and physical well-being.

‘Yoga has great potential’ to improve health

In the review, which features as an open access article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the researchers conducted statistical analysis to assess the combined findings of the 22 trials. They compared the benefits associated with yoga with those of other light physical activities, such as walking and chair aerobics.

The team found that among people with a mean age of 60 years or over, practicing yoga — compared with not engaging in physical activity — helped improve their physical balance, flexibility of movement, and limb strength. It also reduced depression, improved sleep quality, and boosted their vitality.

Also, the researchers noticed that older adults who practiced yoga perceived their own physical and mental health to be satisfactory.

When compared with other light physical activities, such as walking, yoga seemed to more effectively improve older adults’ lower body strength, enhance their lower body flexibility, and reduce their symptoms of depression.

“A large proportion of older adults are inactive and do not meet the balance and muscle strengthening recommendations set by government and international health organizations,” notes Divya Sivaramakrishnan, the review’s lead author.

However, yoga can be an easy, adaptable, and attractive form of physical activity, and since the evidence suggesting that it can be beneficial for health is building up, joining a yoga program could be a good option for older adults looking to stay in shape — both physically and mentally.

Based on this study, we can conclude that yoga has great potential to improve important physical and psychological outcomes in older adults. Yoga is a gentle activity that can be modified to suit those with age-related conditions and diseases.”

Divya Sivaramakrishnan