14 Day Self (love) Quarantine.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I thought that a 14 day mandatory self quarantine was going to be rough however, that was not the case.

Self quarantine: verb – to refrain from any contact with other individuals for a period of time (such as two weeks) during the outbreak of a contagious disease usually by remaining in one’s home and limiting contact with family members.

My father had become ill and left his physical body at the end of March. I spent the next month on the mainland doing all the things one does in an event like this.

When I left the island I had been informed upon return I would be required to self quarantine for 14 days. I had so much on my mind I did not really think to much about it. Turns out it was a time of great healing.

Upon my return back to Kauai I felt depleted.

I found my physical body at this time to be very tired, tense and wanting to curl up into a ball. I found my breathing to be non existent. In other words I was unconsciously holding my stomach so tight I could not take a full breath. My mental state was mostly distracted by anything and everything.

The good news is this was and is all fixable!

I knew I had two weeks of self quarantine and in that moment I felt great relief in knowing I could focus on myself. Let’s face it in our day to day lives the thought of even one day to focus on ourselves seems unattainable.

I began this self quarantine AKA Self Love Quarantine by:

  • allowing my emotions to show up good, bad and ugly
  • not judging my accomplishments or lack thereof
  • sleeping and eating on demand
  • asking for help
  • tuning into my breathing patterns
  • being patient with my tense and tight body
  • letting go

I also participated in all the tangible supportive rituals like – journaling, meditating, chanting and most beneficial for me YogAlign.

I have found in my personal yoga practice and teachings the majority of students can connect to the physical part of their yoga practice first. Why? Because it is tangible and you can feel it. That is what is so amazing about the YogAlign Method you can physically feel the benefits instantly. Once your physical body feels good everything else follows. Your breath flows more freely, your mood elevates to happy and you are back in balance.

Example of this for me during this 14 day Self Love Quarantine was freeing up the frontline of my body so I could breath. I mentioned earlier I could not get full inhales and exhales due to me clenching my tummy. Which then made my entire frontline shorten and my backline stretched out and exhausted. What to do? The YogAlign Downward Dog Series.

This series of postures is going to create space and length along my entire frontline and backline from head to toe. With this newfound space and length I am able feel the balance return to the front, back and sides of my body. Bringing what felt like a C posture collapse in the frontline (chin to chest) back into my bodies natural curves, balance and breath.

The YogAlign Downward Dog Series: when practicing this series use the SIP inhale (sipping through a straw) and exhale either with the S snake sound (with a smile) or lions breath (tongue out). Moving through the sequence taking three breaths per posture and per leg.

YogAlign High Dog

YogAlign High Dog

YogAlign Traction Dog

YogAlign Traction Dog

YogAlign Core Dog

YogAlign Core Dog

YogAlign Psoas Dog

YogAlign Psoas Dog (back)
YogAlign Psoas Dog (front)

Another posture I rely on when I need to create space in my belly is Cobra. Like the postures above- Cobra will balance the fascial forces between the front and back body. The superficial front line is again lengthened from the top of the toes to your head, and the core line is strengthened in length and integrity.

The Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose

During this 14 day Self Love Quarantine I realized what a gift this time had been for me. It was not all fun and games however, I would not change a thing. I was able to fully relax in my body to allow the feelings and emotions to move through me without restrictions. Reconnect with breath allowing my inhales to expand my rib cage and let out a lengthy sigh of tension. (much like lion’s breath)

Sigh: verb – emit a long, deep, audible breath expressing sadness, relief, tiredness, or a similar feeling.

Ironically, I ended up returning to the mainland a month later for various reasons and had a second opportunity for a 14 day Self Love Quarantine.

This time was a completely different experience as I was in a much different place. I will say it was much easier and more timely to achieve some of benefits mentioned above and then some. And although I know it is unrealistic to have this amount of time as well as mostly unnecessary. I highly recommend taking a few day(s) for a Self Love Quarantine every now and again.

Sending love and aloha

Renee’

You are Safe, You are Loved and you are Not Alone.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

“You are safe, you are loved and you are not alone”, is a mantra I have been practicing more frequently these days. For me it helps to have a gentle reminder of these positive and powerful words when I am in need of self soothing.

Fear: is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something, is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Loneliness: is a state of mind that can cause people to feel empty,alone and unwanted.

This is just one of many definitions of fear and loneliness I have come across and have felt personally myself. Not to mention there are so many different circumstances and situations in which fear can arise in our day to day lives. What intrigues me the most about the feelings or ideas around fear is not only the mental effects but also the physical effects on the human body.

Some of the physical characteristics I have observed and experienced myself have been:

  • Tension in my muscles maybe in the form of drawing my shoulders to my ears
  • Shortness of breath inhales and exhales become very rapid along with increased heart rate
  • Stomach ache and or poor digestion due to pulling the belly in creating a collapse in the frontline
  • Withdrawal and uninterest in activities or life in general leading to possible depression and anxiety
  • Sleepless nights creating exhaustion exacerbating the fear into a fight or flight bodily response

The list could go on and on as there are so many short term and long term possible effects on the physical body during trying times of fear and uncertainty.

I myself have found great relief to the above mentioned issues in keeping with my regular routine in regard to my personal YogAlign practice. I use the term regular loosely as we all know some days are easier than others. And some days I complete two hours and other days maybe an hour. Either way the benefits outway the negative effects on a body being in the fight or flight mode for extended periods of time.

Loneliness on the other hand is more of a state of mind rather than an emotion. Meaning your state of mind is your mood or mental state at a particular time. Example: upon waking up in the morning you already feel off and then maybe the rest of the day does not seem to go so well. Mostly due to the fact you woke up on what some call the wrong side of the bed. And then there is the snowball effect. Your state of mind or mood starts out a bit unsettled and after creating several more stories in your head you are feeling empty, alone and unwanted.

The good news is we can change our mood and our thoughts – what a relief!

How can YogAlign support us physically and mentally through fearful and uncertain times?

By resetting the tension in our bodies while practicing certain postures, breathwork and self massage bringing our bodies and breath back into alignment. When we are aligned with the spine in the bodies natural curves, the body connects naturally as a continuum and we begin to feel relaxed, balanced, secure and peaceful. Creating the space to obtain and maintain a comfortable and natural state of being (safe, loved and not alone).

I would love to offer some of my very simple self soothing yoga techniques:

1. The YogAlign Full Body Stretch – lying on your back, arms stretched out over head (keeping shoulders down), fingers spread and palms facing in towards one another. Allow your spine to arch creating space in the small of your back, lengthen legs and point those toes away from you. Now create the letter O with your lips and simply inhale like you are sipping through a straw (feel the ribcage expand). At the top of the SIP breath tighten your entire body fist your hands and tighten your glutes. It is not so much your pulling yourself apart as pulling yourself inward tight, tight, tight. Now exhale (feel the ribcage contract) sighing with your tongue out (a.k.a lions breath) and completely let your body go limp. Resetting the tension in the body, creating length in the front and back lines of the body. (repeat 2 more times)

2. Spine rolling on a small ball (75% inflated) – lying down begin by placing the ball in the curve of your neck and slowly turning your head side to side sink into the ball. Work the ball down and around the shoulder blades and continue down the spine. Be sure to keep your knees bent (keeping pressure off the low back) as you move through the natural curves of the body. Lastly moving the ball into the arch of your back and sacrum. Be slow and gentle at first especially if you are a first timer or have suffered an injury. Continue wiggling and squiggly up and down the spine with full inhales and exhales. You can also raise the arms gently over head if that feels good. Either way let yourself fall heavy on the ball and completely let go. Please do not over do it 5 to 10 minutes total is perfect.

3. The 2 block chest opener and neck elongator – start by sitting up and then set one yoga block on its lowest side (sideways) ultimately to be placed between the bottom of the shoulder blades. For women right around where your bra hooks sit although everyone is a bit different and you will need to play around a bit till you find the most comfortable spot. Next place the second yoga block upright at its highest point ultimately supporting the back of your head. Once the yoga blocks are placed lean back and adjust accordingly to find that sweet spot. Again, knees are bent in order to take any pressure of your lower back and support your bodies natural curves. At this point breath and you can also slowly rock your head side to side. Make sure you are not tucking your chin to your chest and you can get full inhales and exhales. You should be feeling an openness, release and a feeling of relaxation in the entire body. Let’s create even more space in the neck and shoulders by dropping the yoga block supporting your head on its side. This may feel extremely awkward at first if your neck and shoulders are locked up (take your time). To come out easiest way is to roll onto one side or the other and remove blocks. Allow yourself a moment to lie flat on your back and feel the effects.

While moving through any or all of these offerings above make sure you are able to inhale and exhale effectively. If you cannot breath well you need to come out or adjust your posture. You may also want to silently or out loud repeat “I am safe, I am loved and I am not alone”. Combining powerful words, full inhales/exhales and postures that create spaciousness in the body is a beautiful blend. Allowing us to come back into balance, peace and love.

I hope you find something useful in my offerings and you and your beloveds stay happy and healthy.

Namaste

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 personal yoga practice and yoga in general.

I consider my yoga practice alive and connected meaning it has the ability to change from day to day in regard to what is going on in my life. Everyday is a different day full of various challenges, victories and levels of flow.

Yes, in a general sense I practice certain YogAlign postures in every practice however, I may add or take away postures depending on what I have going on that day. When I teach a YogAlign class I teach to the students needs and again that may vary from day to day.

Does this mean that you cannot have milestones in yoga if you do not practice the same set of postures everytime you hit the yoga mat? I guess this would depend on how you interpret your development in regard to your personal yoga practice. One way I can see an action or event marking a significant change is through sustainability in my everyday life.

What I mean by that is If I can walk (hike) longer without my feet or back aching and needing a weeks recovery. I am able to keep up with housework, yardword and my 16 year old son without exhaustion. Participate in all the physical activities I enjoy in a comfortable, strong and stabe manner. When I see that I am performing beyond my previous physical abilities during and after a long trek I consider this event a milestone a YogAlign milestone.

Another way I can see an action or event marking a significant change is when I have a YogAlign Aha moment. This could be finally feeling that core connection engagment during a posture that I had practiced many times. Building from that Aha moment that allows me to dive a bit deeper into my practice enhancing the benefits.

As for my students I see them transform, develope and become more sustainable on a regular bases. One student enjoys golfing and wants to be strong and in proper form while playing to avoid injury as well as enjoy her activity. Another student has had full back surgery, cares about her bone density and enjoys taking long walks on a daily basis with a proper stride and no aches and pains. Yet another student before a regular YogAlign practice was needing a chiropractic adjustment on a weekly (monthly) basis and has recently been suffering from mild headaches. She is now at a place were Chiropractic visits are far and few (YogAlign milestone) and is getting the headache relief she desires through her YogAlign practice.

One of the many results my students and myself share is we desire to see these milestone during real life events. Some may want to track their development by practicing to acheive a head stand 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 ones meditation practice. For us to sit quietly for any lenght of time can be challenging not ot mention clearing our mind and experiencing pleasure while doing so. But in my experience I see it happen all the time in savasana (resting pose) a fidgeter becomes still and peaceful. Building from that milestone they are able to dive deeper into the practice and enjoy the effects.

Yoga milestones to me are like a gift you receive without expectation. You just keep showing up and participating in the practice and then some unexpected goodness comes your way. The tangible results of 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 too 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. You have accomplished another level of insight which can allow for a deeper yoga practice. To all of this I say cheers to this years unexpected goodness.

What is the importance of breathing? Maybe your quality of life.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

What is the importance of breathing?

Every system of the body relies on oxygen. From cognitive to digestion, effective breathing cannot only provide you with a great sense of mental clarity, it can also help you sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve your body’s immune response, and reduce stress levels.

Let us sink a bit deeper into what is the importance of breathing and I would like to share with you the moments that provided the evidence that made the above statement true for me.

In the year 2010 I received a phone call from my uncle that my dad had been hospitalized, he was unconscious, and unstable. At the time of admitting my dad the doctors had no idea what was going on with him. Later that same day when I arrived to see him he was still in what they now were calling a coma and a machine was breathing for him.

Flash forward to days which turned into weeks of endless testing and near death moments the diagnosis was my dad had the West Nile Virus. About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About 1 in 150 people who are infected develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord) unfortunately my dad ended up being 1 of those 150 people. His symptoms included:

  • high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis and being over 60 years of age put him at a greater risk for complications and death.

After several months of laying in a hospital bed, paralyzed and unable to talk or breath on his own he was stable enough to be moved to a rehabilitation facility. This marked the beginning of what the rest of his quality of life would look like. To the naked eye the scene appeared bleak when a machine was breathing for him.

A reminder – what is the importance of breathing? Every system of the body relies on oxygen. From cognitive to digestion, effective breathing cannot only provide you with a great sense of mental clarity, it can also help you sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve your body’s immune response, and reduce stress levels and my dad struggled daily with all of this.

Fast forward – after many months of rehabilitation my dad was finally able to breath on his own. It felt like from the first breath he took on his own it jump started his body. With the tube out of his throat and vigorous breath he was eating and digesting food which in turn gave him sustenance and strength. The ability for him to breath on his own relieved a great deal of stress for him and allowed him to get the healing rest/ sleep the body needs for recovery of any sort of trauma. Every time I came to visit him his mental clarity was sharper and his ability to talk, communicate and laugh yes laugh was amazing.

The biggest gift he received after literally getting his breath back was his immune system. When the machine was breathing for him he constantly had pneumonia and was always coughing and fighting for breath it was like he was in a never ending loop of despair. However, once his own breath kicked on the immune system his cough ended and he never again got pneumonia in the rehabilitation facility.

With his own breath flowing freely through his body the next step was getting him out of bed and walking on his own again and over time this too happened. Standing in front of my dad cheering him on when he took his first steps I thought my heart would burst with pride and joy for him. With the sweat on his brow and the racing beat of his heart I knew the ability for him to breathe on his own was his turning point to a quality life. The moment that happened all systems were ago and he had everything he needed on his side to succeed with his OWN breath.

After a year in the rehabilitation facility my dad was ready to go home to a quality of life he could be happy with. He started out in a wheel chair, could not feed himself as his whole right arm was still paralyzed and needed help with bed and bath. Over time with breath and movement he fully walks on his own, has learned to do most everything with his left arm/ hand and gets out as much as he can. Although his left arm does remain paralyzed to this day, he is unable to drive and does get frustrated and down sometimes he is a beautiful alive human being with a heart of gold. Getting his own breath his life force back gave him the ability to beat the odds.

See you on the mat

Is your yoga practice sustainable? If we are moving through a yoga practice that is harming or damaging our human body what would be the point?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

SUSTAINABLE | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary
https://dictionary.cambridge.org › dictionary › english › sustainable
sustainable meaning: 1. able to continue over a period of time: 2. causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time.
We could exchange the word environment for human body.  By the above definition the question could be re-worded to – Is your yoga practice causing little to no damage to your human body? Will you be able to continue this yoga practice for along time?
The answer for me is yes at this current time as my yoga practice is The Yoga Align Method – pain-free yoga from your inner core focuses on proper body alignment and real life movement.
I have found whether young or mature of age we all want to feel good and be happy in our mind, body and spirit.
In my teaching and personal experience most of use can connect to the physical body easily we can touch it, see it and feel it. Where as the mind takes time to connect with with in regard to meditation and stillness. The spirit for some is altogether unattainable in the tangible sense and they cannot find the connection. So doing some physical movement seems like a rational place to find some joy and happiness.
For some yoga practice means only physical movement (asana) for others it is only meditation they seek and actually in this day and age yoga can come in many forms. For this blog lets stick with yoga practice in the physical sense.
When you are in your next yoga practice/ class ask your self some important questions:
  • Am I able to take a full deep breath in this posture?
  • Does my spine and sacrum maintain their curves and integrity?
  • Does this posture simulate functional movement, am I comfortable and stable?

We have been exploring in my public YogAlign practice that some folks do not and have not ever felt comfortable and stable in a forward lunge. A lunge is a lower-body exercise that works several muscle groups at once. The targeted muscles include the glutes in your hips and butt along with the hamstrings and quadriceps in your thighs. The calf muscles in your lower legs, your abdominal muscles and your back muscles act as stabilizers during this exercise.

Not feeling stable in the forward lunge restricts deep breath, alignment and there for is not comfortable or stable. The solution is simple we have placed a yoga block under the back foot which has a double duty purpose. One it allows the student to get alignment from the foot to the hip, raises the heel to a comfortable level and creates the stability the student was lacking and once they are in a stable lunge everything else falls into place.

Inner Breath Yoga Yogalign kauai hawaii

I have also had students lunge with the assist of the wall. Placing their right foot forward big toe close to the wall be not touching, left foot back on a block or heel lifted once they feel stable (foot in alignment with hip) I have them check to see if the back of the head the Occipital bone and the sacrum are in alignment creating even more stability and bonus proper alignment. Next when alignment and stability are solid we sink into the front knee and place the pads of our fingers (fingers open to turn on the arm muscles) against the wall upper chest height and start our SIP breath (structurally Informed Posture- informs our body of how to be in good posture by aligning from the inside out). Allowing this core breath to stabilize the body along with drawing the shoulder blades together creating even more stability.

When properly aligned in a posture with effective breathing and feeling stable and comfortable then and only then will we reap all the benefits the posture has to offer. I would say the above described YogAlign Power Lunge is sustainable for the human body as it ticks all our boxes.

If we are moving through a yoga practice that is harming or damaging our human body what would be the point? Although sometimes this may happen and we do not even realize it is happening. Be careful when an instructor cues a posture is supposed to be painful and to breath through the pain. That may be somewhat true for a person who has had a debilitating accident and is in recovery (physical therapy) and even then I would question the motive and benefits.

We can create a happy healthy mind, body and spirit well into a mature age by putting our body in breathable, aligned, functional, comfortable and stable yoga postures.

Now go out and use your sustainable body for good!

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