YogAlign Bird Dog A Weight Bearing Movement.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

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

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

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

YogAlign Bird Dog:

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

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

Aloha

Fitness, Movement, Health and Fun!

By Renee’ Fulkerson

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

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

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

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

In conclusion:

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

Aloha

Does Your Yoga Practice Align You And Build Core Strength?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

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

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

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

Natural curves, spine alignment and soft knees.

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

Rotation without collapsing.

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

Powerful connection with the ball.

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

Balance and follow through.

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

A birdie was achieved.

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

Does your yoga practice align you and build core strength?

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

Cheers to you Corrine!

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary Might Be The Fountain Of Youth.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I recently traveled from my home island of Kauai to Oahu and then onto the island of Lanai. My solo mission was to reach and then visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary located just minutes from the airport. This adventure is something I have wanted to do for some time. There‚Äôs no admission fee, but if you love cats, your tax-deductible donation will help them continue their rescue work and provide lifelong care.

If you know me or follow my, blogs then you know I am always observing body posture. And the visitors coming into the sanctuary were not immune. Although not a first because I was taken, with the beautiful property and all the cats. I did not start really observing or thinking back until I started looking at the photographs I had taken. Then all that joy and goodness came rushing back to me. I remembered how much I enjoyed watching the guest’s faces lighting up once they were inside. You do not need to be a cat lover to appreciate the endless hours and kindness it takes to care for over 600 cats. Now onto my incredible findings, thinking back and observing the photographs I had taken.

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary might be the fountain of youth. When I walked in the main entrance, a mature couple was bouncing from cat to cat. Gracefully, bending over easily feeding the cats treats. As the gentleman was bending over, one of the cats jumped on his back. And he could not stop laughing with joy. That is when I noticed how at ease he was in his mature body. He looked stable, balance, and pliable all at the same time. I thought this experience is bringing out the best in this couple in terms of their physical prowess. I became even more excited when I saw how he engaged his entire leg muscle instead of this low back to continue to bend and feed all the cats. If he had any physical limits he certainly did not show it during his adventure on that day!

I continued exploring the grounds when I happened upon CB. One, of I believe, ten full-time caretakers. He was moving about quite freely amongst the cats and visitors. I had a moment to sit and speak with him. I learned he was not yet a full-time resident on Lanai. He was from a mountain environment where it was cold and not short of hard physical work. His face looked heavy when he talked about the life he was leaving. When he spoke about being at the sanctuary full time, he lit up like a child on Christmas morning. As he continued his daily work, he had a spring in his step, bending, twisting, and even getting down on the ground with the cats. He was moving with ease and purpose in a child-like body. I could not help getting caught up in his love for what he was doing and how it affected his body mechanics.

I continued to visit with the cats petting them and feeding them with much-anticipated treats. I noticed a large-sized van pulling in with a full load of visitors. Everyone jumped out except for one gentleman who moved a bit slower with a cane. I later learned they had come over on the ferry this morning from Maui to go snorkeling. They had sometime before heading back to Maui and decided to head over to the cat sanctuary. Again they appeared to be of a more mature crowd. They entered the gate and, several of the ladies plopped themselves right down on the grass. Twisting, turning, and crawling to get to the various felines in front or behind them. It was a sight to see they looked like toddlers crawling on the ground in their playground. They laughed and smiled but mostly just moved with ease and grace. At one point, they all came to standing and began their exploration of the property. I sat fascinated with the way folks were using their bodies down on the grass and while standing, walking, and bending. Again I thought if any of these folks have physical limits, they were not visible to me. Not even a moan or groan on the way down or on the way up only, pure excitement.

The day was drawing to an end and, I felt full of goodness on so many levels. I will never know if these folks I observed had a regular yoga or exercise program in the daily schedule. If they did, I hope they saw and felt the results of their practice like I did. But if not, I believe they found and experienced some of the fountains of youth that day. Even the gentlemen with the cane rejoined his group and got into the van with a bit more ease. I learn a lot about body mechanics by being aware of my own body and how it moves and observing others. Usually, you can tell when someone has an injury or something is hurting them. Just looking at the way they walk or lack of movement is a sure sign of possible limitations. I see many people who appear to be in pain when I am out and about in the world. On this particular day, that was not the case I saw and felt nothing but inspiration!

Aloha

Yoga Milestones.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

We are fast approaching the end of 2019, and this has me thinking about milestones: an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.

Which then got me thinking about my yoga practice and yoga in general. I consider my yoga practice alive and connected it, can change from day to day regarding what is going on in my life. Every day is a different day full of various challenges, victories, and levels of flow. Yes, in general, I practice YogAlign postures in every practice but, I may add or take away poses depending on what I have going on that day. When I teach a YogAlign class, I teach to the student’s needs. And that may vary from day to today.

Does this mean that you cannot have milestones in yoga? Even if you do not practice the same set of postures every time? I guess this would depend on how you interpret your development with your yoga practice. One way I can see a difference is through sustainability in my everyday life. Noticing I can walk/ hike longer without my feet or back aching and needing a week’s recovery. I can keep up with housework, yard work, and my 16-year-old son without exhaustion. Participate in all the physical activities I enjoy in a comfortable, strong, and stable manner. When I see that I am performing beyond my previous physical abilities during and after a long trek, I consider this a YogAlign milestone. Another way I can result is when I have a YogAlign Aha moment. That could be finally feeling that core connection engagement during a posture that I had practiced many times. Building from that Aha moment allows me to dive a bit deeper into my practice enhancing the benefits.

As for my students, I see them transform, develop and become more sustainable regularly. One student enjoys golfing and wants to be more powerful and in proper form while playing to avoid injury and enjoy her activity. Another student has had full-back surgery, cares about her bone density, and enjoys walking daily with a proper stride and no aches and pains. And lastly, a student before she began her regular YogAlign practice who was in pain. She would schedule a chiropractic adjustment on a weekly/ monthly basis. And, she has recently been suffering from mild headaches. She is now at a place where Chiropractic visits are far and few (YogAlign milestone) and is getting the headache relief she desires through her YogAlign practice.

My students and I share the desire to see these milestones in real-life. Some may want to track their development by practicing to achieve a headstand and, I say to each his own. That headstand milestone may allow them to build on a particular set of postures they desire. Milestones may also develop during one’s meditation practice. Sitting quietly for any length of time can be challenging while clearing our minds and experiencing pleasure when doing so. I see it happen all the time in savasana/ resting pose a fidgeter becomes still and peaceful. Building from that milestone, they can dive deeper into the practice and enjoy the effects. Yoga milestones are like a gift you receive without expectation. You keep showing up and participating in the practice and, then some unexpected goodness comes your way. The tangible results of the pure-hearted effort. Unlike goal setting where levels of expectations can play against you. In regard to levels of commitment and follow-through.

Like you, I also look forward to the coming year and the next Aha moment. That moment where everything seems to make complete sense. When You feel as though you have gained some much-needed confidence. Gained another level of insight that can allow for a more meaningful yoga practice. To all of this, I say cheers to this year’s unexpected goodness.

Aloha