The struggle is real.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

What does the struggle is real mean?
The struggle is real:
A phrase used to emphasize that a particular situation (or life in general) is difficult. It is often used humorously and/or ironically when one is having difficulty doing something that should not be difficult or complaining about something that is not particularly problematic.

When we were children growing up we moved our bodies though life with great ease. There might have been times we felt awkward in our bodies as they were growing and changing but still felt an ease in our movements. As young children turning into young adults we probably did not give much thought to the way our bodies carried us in our day to day lives. With the exception of the way we danced or if our parents told us to stand up straight because we were slouching. Fast forward to becoming an adult/ middle aged and beyond and suddenly what was not difficult or even obvious to us is now right in our face and possibly affecting our daily lives.

Why does our body begin to react in ways we are maybe not used to when we become an adult/ middle aged and beyond? There are many factors to consider however, I would consider stress, responsibility, finances and relationships in early adulthood could surely draw your shoulders up to your ears from time to time as the bodies way of reacting to the stressors. A job being stationary sitting at a desk all day could also contribute to the body talking to you through aches and pains. Starting a family, marriage and simply setting up a household are all heavy transitions from a single carefree life. Not to say these changes are not wanted and don’t bring much joy however, on the flip side take up a great deal of time, attention and energy. So do we blame our aches and pains and movement struggles on getting married? To this I say no that would be silly.

What once was a non issue in regard to our youthful body movements and stamina comes down to re-wiring the motherboard or simply creating new movement habits.

What do I mean by this? Our brain is wired to make things happen without much or any thought for example when we get out of bed in the morning we do not think to ourselves I am going to hobble to the bathroom or I am going to hunch over with my shoulders drawn to my ears it just happens. Why? Because these are are current movement habits. When we were kids we just jumped out of bed, wiggled and squiggled are way to the start of the day because those were are movement habits at that moment. Some days maybe we even dread that first step out of bed because we know it is going to be a struggle for various reasons. The struggle is real – having difficulty doing something that should not be difficult or complaining about something that is not particularly problematic.

The good news is you can rewire the motherboard and create new movement habits that will leave your body feeling pliable, happy and healthy once again. In YogAlign we refer to these changes as getting your kid body back. We let go of the regular tendency or practice of drawing our shoulders to our ears by becoming conscious with new positive habits. Example every time you get in your car when you sit (driver or passenger) draw your shoulder blades down underneath you and then simply rest and gently press the back of your head into the headrest. Yes, at first it may feel awkward and every other minute you may need to remind yourself to just relax – shoulders blades underneath me  and back of the head gently pressed into the headrest. As this posture becomes more comfortable and familiar the rewiring will begin and this posture que and comfort will follow through to other opportunities for your shoulders to relax such as in your office chair.

In regard to YogAlign it is a practice that is pain free from your inner core utilizing the SIP Breath giving us the gift of lift. I see new students as well as some long time students struggle with push ups due to the lack of connection to the core and trying to lift the weight of the body simply with their arms and old and not useful habit. I then gently remind long time practicing students and sometimes myself to remember to use the SIP breath and core engagement to float their/ my pushup up. I also reassure new students once they utilize their core (powerhouse and not their shoulders) with the SIP Breath it will become a habit and so much easier. They will no longer be shaking in their arms and possibly causing an injury to their unstable arm/ shoulder joints and can relax their neck and shoulders by pulling shoulder blades down.

Of course we all know ageing, injury and ailments also plays a factor in our body talking back to us however, we must not get in the habit of blaming the above mentioned for all of our poor movement habits. After all we do not want our fondest memory of childhood to be that our back did not hurt.

Here’s to squashing the struggle by creating new effective and efficient movement habits on the mat and in daily life.

Do the teachings translate?

This is a question I not only ask new YogAlign students but also long time practitioners do you understand what I am asking / does the information translate?

It can be intimidating to walk into your first yoga class with or without previous experience but then not to understand what the teacher is asking of you is not only confusing but also frustrating. It takes courage and confidence to let an instructor of any sort know that you do not understand or to ask why I am doing this posture? How is this benefiting me? So much so students will continue to try to do what is being asked of them even if it hurts or is very uncomfortable. I do not recommend continuing to move in a way that is hurting your body, mind or spirit so please stop and ask the question if not to the instructor to yourself:

  • does this posture allow my spine to maintain its natural curves (shock absorbers)?
  • in this posture do I have the ability to do deep, full, rib-cage breathing?
  • does this posture serve my human design and create functional movement positions?
  • is this posture causing me pain?

YogAlign translates to pain free yoga from your inner core it is a practice I am confident to teach a mixed class of beginners and longtime practitioners side by side. Aside from having severe health concerns and needing a one on one session the above mentioned seems to sync beautifully. I also find YogAlign is a yoga practice that is experiential. Meaning I like to keep the verbal cues limited and relatable as we move through the practice. Thus allowing the student the experience as well as building the trust and confidence of the practice. In a short time my words, the posture and feeling that comes with it will all connect like an aha moment.

Starting with breath is a for sure way to change your perspective from the outside world and transition into your yoga practice. I find most folks breathing habits have them breathing through their shoulders with the muscles around the neck and shoulders lifted and contracted. The easiest and most relatable way to shift the breath from the shoulders to the diaphragm is simply to let your shoulders relax away from your ears and let your shoulder blades relax down your back as you draw them slightly together. This allows the chest/ frontline to open up and draw the breath deeper from the diaphragm also known as our primary breathing muscle a muscle that also needs to be exercised.

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Then some self massage to not only allow you to relax into your practice but also allows a connection to the nooks and crannies of the body that do not get much thought or exploration. For example (have two yoga blocks or two small rolled up towels available to you) starting on your back, shoulder blades underneath you supporting your bodies natural curves. Start by bending your knees and placing a yoga block under your right foot and drawing your left ankle on top of your right knee. Next begin to press on each toe nail bed on the left foot for a few seconds and then gently roll down the toe joint (drawing circulation down into the toes and feet). Continue massaging the arch, heel and top of foot as well as below the ankle on the inside of the left foot. Work your way up the left leg between the ankle and knee, around the knee cap and into the large muscles of the upper left leg not forgetting the entire inner thigh. Interesting thoughts about the inner thigh I find many folks to contract and hold their inner thigh muscles much like the above mentioned neck and shoulder muscles (tight and short) which after long periods of time is exhausting to the muscle and to the body. Finally straighten the left leg, push the block from under the right foot out to the side, point the toes of the left leg to activate the left leg muscle (keeping the hip joint stable) and begin to do leg circles in towards the body. We do not want to hear or feel grinding (bone on bone) if so point toe more and make circles larger or smaller or stop altogether. Let your hips move as well as your right knee – your not glued to the floor. You will then hook that left leg over the right knee and roll onto your right side. Bottom right leg is straight (not locked out at the knee) the yoga block you pushed to the side earlier will now support your slightly bent left leg/knee and grab another yoga block to support your head as you are on your side. Important habit changer here do not bring the left bent knee in to close to your stomach and do not bring your chin to your chest. Why? Because this puts you in a fetal or C posture  and collapses the whole frontline, squishing your organs, inhibits the ability for full diaphragm breathing and does not support the bodies natural curves. From here the body is relaxed and then begin by massaging your behind (gluteal muscles), outside of leg (IT band), hip (iliac crest), up your side into the chest (pecs), arm pit (arm flexors), side of the neck (levator scapulae), the ear lobe and the side of the head. Massage all the way back down the sideline all the while thinking and feeling the body as a continuum not as separate pieces. As a student moves through this massage sequence I can name some of the muscles etc. while the students touches, connects to them and feels less intimated in the possibility of not knowing it all. Meanwhile the longtime practitioners are getting a little deeper with their massage and maybe covering more ground it’s a win win. Then we repeat massage sequence on the right side of the body, finish by laying on our backs with shoulder blades underneath us and prepare for three full body stretches.

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Full body stretch may sound like we are pulling the body apart however, it is the exact opposite. Everything about YogAlign is to empower the body, allow it to feel whole and put together versus in pieces. We begin lying on our backs, shoulder blades underneath us and down towards the floor now see if you can place your hand in the small of your back and feel the space between your body and the floor these are your natural curves or springs/ shock absorbers as we like to call them in YogAlign. Next reach your arms overhead, hip distance apart (shoulders relaxed do not squeeze your head), fingers spread and palms facing each other. Point your toes away from you inhale through the diaphragm (SIP breath if you have learned it) now tighten the entire body like you are laughing so hard you cannot breath. Fist your hands and pull down like you are pulling ropes towards you this will engage your core and them exhale or lion breath with tongue out (ssshale if you learned it) and completely relax the body. (2 more) Why do we do this full body stretch? To reset the tension in the body, make tighter what is already tight in the body and then let it all go – resetting the resting length of the muscles. We can now come up to standing (slowly do not get a head rush), have a drink of water and begin our standing YogAlign practice with hopefully some confidence and better understanding of our body and the practice.

Starting something new with a negative outcome due to not knowing or continuing with something that may hurt or you do not understand is a dis-service we have all made to ourselves at one time or another. Your personal yoga practice or self study is that time to ask questions, know why you are doing what you are doing to better yourself and most of all feel good before, during and after your class. After all looking forward to your yoga class and  feeling better when you walk out of class then before you arrived is the whole point of the practice isn’t it? To this I say YES!

See you on the mat.

How does to much time sitting in chairs damages our ocean’s reefs? 

By Renee’ Fulkerson

You might be thinking what does sitting in a chair haft to do with an ocean’s reefs? I would be thinking the same thing if I had not made the connection personally on my last adventure out snorkeling.

A little back story:

Last year in the middle of April 2018 Kauai received 50 inches of rain in 24 hours that devastated the island. The north shore communities of Wainiha and Haena were cut off from the rest of the island due to countless mudslides that covered the only two lane road in or out of these communities. It took over a year to repair the road to a safety standard that would allow all non Wainiha and Haena residents to re-enter the area.

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Kauai (18)

During this one year period the only folks allowed in and out of the above mentioned communities while massive road repair was taking place were the full time residents. As a full time resident living in Haena I saw with my own eyes the land transform.

Myself and many of the locals had an opportunity of a lifetime to spend time on the secluded and empty beaches. We began to see the fish returning, turtles nesting that had not been there since folks could remember and the reefs were coming alive again.

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This is when I began my regular snorkeling adventures!

During this time I continued teaching and practicing YogAlign – pain-free yoga from your inner core. I began realizing much of my movements in the water reflected my movements in YogAlign. Not to mention breathing through the snorkel replicated the SIP breath in my practice. Like snorkeling a full body activity we too in YogAlign engage the entire body in practice and view the body as a whole.

The primary muscle groups engaged while snorkeling include:

Hip flexors, ham strings, upper and lower abdominal’s, quads and gluteul muscles

A fair amount of flexibility in the ankle region as well as the ability to point the toes like a dancer is necessary (if you prefer to avoid leg and foot cramps).

A  strong core (abdominal, Oblique and back muscles) help to create a stable platform for legs to kick as well as a balance in your front and back leg strength.

Here is were the sitting in a chair comes in as none of the above mentioned muscle groups are engaged during sitting – it is quite the opposite. (the average American spends 7.7 hours a day sitting)

Having said that you take an average person who sits 7.7 hours a day in a chair and he or she decides one day to go snorkeling chances are the ocean reefs (fragile underwater ecosystem) and themselves are going to suffer.

How because he or she would be expecting their bodies to preform in a way it is incapable of preforming. The primary muscle groups that need to be engaged while snorkeling have amnesia from sitting. Flexibility in the ankles and pointing of the toes  would be limited – due to the shortening and tightening of the front line while sitting. Their core would be void creating an unstable platform for their legs to kick not to mention the unbalance between the back and front leg muscles.

How does all of this effect the oceans reefs?

On my last snorkeling adventure I realized I had gained greater endurance, strength and stamina (all supported by my regular YogAlign practice). However when I looked all around me as far as my eye could see people were STANDING ON THE REEFS! Why? Because they were tired and or had leg/ foot cramps and difficulty breathing (and yes I asked).

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I swam up and said do you realize you are standing on a fragile underwater ecosystem that has had a years gift to repair itself from the endless years of damage it has received? Usually the response was I was so tired I could not get back to shore or I was having trouble breathing and got a leg cramp. lol

I encourage everyone to get out and get moving including snorkeling however, not at the sake of our ocean reefs (fragile underwater ecosystems) or their safety. #getupstandupforyourlife

See you on the mat!

Top 10 benefits of Snorkeling 

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.

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.

June YogAlign Classes On and Off Island

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Dance with the waves, move with the sea. Let the rhythm of the water set your soul free
-Christy Ann Martine

Aloha, gentle reminder Inner Breath Yoga – YogAlign will not be hosting any YogAlign classes in the month of June at either  location Anaina Hou Community Park in Kilauea or Hot Yoga Princeville. Inner Breath Yoga – YogAlign classes will resume as regularly scheduled time and location in the month of July. However, I will be teaching a few YogAlign classes on the mainland in my home town of Big Bear Lake while on Vacation – please feel free to pass on information if you know someone who would be interested. Be sure to follow Inner Breath Yoga on Social Media to follow all our Mainland Adventures. Aloha

Mainland Inner Breath Yoga- June Drop-in YogAlign Classes

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Big Bear Yoga

Friday June 14th, 6:00 to 8:00 PM

Saturday June 15th, 11:00 Am to 1:00 PM
Investment – $25 in advance/ $30 day of

Mats and blocks provided

Please bring a towel and water

421 W. Big Bear Blvd #663
Big Bear City, Calif. 92314
www.bigbearyoga.com 

www.innerbreathyoga.com

Private classes also available for more information please contact: renee@innerbreathyoga.com  / 909-747-4186

On Island June – Kauai Drop-in YogAlign Class

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Manayoga Studio

Wednesdays 8:30 to 10:30 AM

Investment $20 for locals

Mats and blocks provided

Please bring a towel and water

3812 Ahonui Place

Princeville, HI 96722
Manayoga Studio – YogAlign

What are the best foot exercises for healthy feet?

Reviewed by 

Many people experience foot or ankle pain at some point. By keeping the feet strong, a person can alleviate soreness, and improve overall health and flexibility.

Regularly exercising and stretching the feet and ankles can help to ensure that muscles are providing the best support. These exercises may also increase the range of motion in the feet, keeping a person active for as long as possible.

Most foot exercises are simple and require no complicated equipment. They can be done at home or in the gym as part of a regular exercise routine.

Exercises for flexibility and mobility

The following exercises have been developed to improve flexibility and mobility in the feet.

1. Toe raise, point, and curl

Image of toe raise, point, and curl foot exercise

There are three stages to the toe raise, point, and curl.

This exercise has three stages and will help to strengthen all parts of the feet and toes.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Keeping the toes on the floor, raise the heels. Stop when only the balls of the feet remain on the ground.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds before lowering the heels.
  • For the second stage, raise the heel and point the toes so that only the tips of the big and second toes are touching the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds before lowering.
  • For the third stage, raise the heel and curl the toes inward, so that only the tips of the toes are touching the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  • Build flexibility and mobility by repeating each stage 10 times.

2. Big toe stretch

Keeping a wide range of motion in the big toe is important. The following exercise also has three stages, and it was designed to stretch and relieve pain in toes that have been squashed in shoes.

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring the left foot to rest on the right thigh.
  • Using the fingers, gently stretch the big toe up, down, and to the side.
  • Remain in this position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat this 10 times before switching to the other foot.

Exercises for strength

The following exercises can help to enhance the strength of the feet.

3. Toe splay

Toe splay foot exercises

The toe splay helps with control over toe muscles.

The toe splay was developed to improve control over the toe muscles. It can be done on both feet at once, or on alternate feet, depending on comfort.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit in a straight-backed chair with the feet gently resting on the floor.
  • Spread the toes apart as far as possible without straining. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat this motion 10 times.
  • Once some strength has been built up, try looping a rubber band around the toes. This will provide resistance and make the exercise more challenging.

4. Toe curls

Toe curls build up the flexor muscles of the toes and feet, improving overall strength.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Lay a small towel on the floor in front of oneself, with the short side facing the feet.
  • Place the toes of one foot on the short side of the towel. Try to grasp the towel between the toes and pull it toward oneself. Repeat the exercise five times, before switching to the other foot.
  • To make this exercise more challenging, weigh down the opposite end of the towel with an object.

5. Marble pickup

The marble pickup was designed to increase strength in the muscles on the underside of the feet and toes.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Place an empty bowl and a bowl of marbles (20 is good to start with) on the floor in front of the feet.
  • Using only the toes of one foot, pick up each marble and place it in the empty bowl.
  • Repeat, using the other foot.

6. Sand walking

Walking barefoot on sand is a great way to stretch and strengthen the feet and calves. This is a good exercise in general because sand’s soft texture makes walking more physically demanding.

To do this exercise:

  • Head to a beach, desert, or even a volleyball court.
  • Remove shoes and socks.
  • Walk for as long as possible. Increase these distances slowly over time, to avoid overexerting muscles in the feet and calves.

Exercises for pain

The following exercises can provide pain relief.

7. Toe extension

The toe extension is useful in preventing or treating plantar fasciitis — a condition that causes pain in the heel when walking, as well as difficulty in raising the toes.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Place the left foot on the right thigh.
  • Pull the toes up, toward the ankle. A stretching feeling should be felt along the bottom of the foot and heel cord.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Massaging the arch of the foot while stretching will help ease tension and pain.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 times on each foot.

8. Golf ball roll

Golf ball roll foot exercise

A golf ball rolled under the foot may help to relieve discomfort.

Rolling a golf ball under the feet can help to relieve discomfort in the arches and ease pain associated with plantar fasciitis.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Place a golf ball — or another hard, small ball — on the floor next to the feet.
  • Lay one foot on the ball and move it around, pressing down as hard as is comfortable. The ball should be massaging the bottom of the foot.
  • Continue for 2 minutes, then repeat on the other foot
  • A frozen bottle of water can be a soothing alternative if no suitable balls are available.

9. Achilles stretch

The Achilles tendon is a cord connecting the heel to the calf muscles. It can strain easily, and keeping it strong may help with foot, ankle, or leg pains.

To do this exercise:

  • Face a wall and raise the arms, so that the palms rest flat against the wall.
  • Place one foot back, keeping the knee straight. Then bend the knee of the opposite leg.
  • Keep both heels flat on the floor.
  • Push the hips forward, until the Achilles tendon and calf muscles can be felt stretching.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides. Repeat three times on each side.
  • For a slightly different stretch, bend the back knee and push the hips forward.

Foot health and safety tips

To keep feet strong and healthy:

  • Complete a thorough warm up routine before exercising.
  • Wear supportive footwear for day-to-day activities and sports.
  • Replace shoes when they are worn down.
  • Build up strength and flexibility slowly, to condition feet and ankles.
  • Avoid uneven surfaces, especially when running. Try not to run uphill too often.
  • Listen to the body and do not overdo activities.
  • Prevent any recurrence of injury by resting and receiving appropriate treatment.

Keeping the feet and ankles healthy is always a good idea. The exercises above can help to ease existing pain, prevent discomfort, and reduce chances of injury.