Do The Yoga Teachings Translate?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

This question not only do I 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 understanding what the teacher is asking of you is not only confusing but also frustrating. It takes courage and confidence to let an instructor know that you do not understand or 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 causes discomfort to 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 the 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?
  • Does this posture cause 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 health concerns and needing a one-on-one session, the above-mentioned seems to sync beautifully. I also find YogAlign is an experiential yoga practice. Meaning I like to keep the verbal cues limited and relatable as we move through the class. Allowing the student the experience as well as building the trust and confidence of the practice. In a short time, my words will bring you to that Aha moment. The postures and the feelings that come with it will all connect.

Starting with the breath is a sure way to change your perspective from the outside world and transition into your yoga practice. I find most folks’ breathing habits come from the 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 let your shoulders relax away from your ears. And let your shoulder blades ease down your back as you draw them slightly together. That allows the chest/ frontline to open up and pulls the breath deeper from the diaphragm. Also known as our primary breathing muscle. A muscle that also needs exercise.

Then some self-massage not only allows 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 by lying your back, shoulder blades underneath you supporting your body’s natural curves.
  • Start by bending your knees and placing a yoga block under your right foot. Then put your left ankle on top of your right knee.
  • Next, begin to press on each toenail 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 the foot. And below the ankle on the inside of the left foot.
  • Work your way up the back left lower leg between the ankle and knee.
  • Then around the knee cap and into the large muscles of the upper left leg. Don’t forget the entire inner thigh.
  • 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.) Let your hips move and your right knee.
  •  You will then hook that left leg over the right knee and roll onto your right side. The 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. Grab another yoga block to place under your head. Be aware not to bring the left bent knee in too close to your stomach or 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 and inhibits the ability for full diaphragm breathing.
  •  Lastly, continue to relax the body by massaging your behind (gluteal muscles), outside of the leg (IT band), hip (iliac crest), up to your side into the chest (pecs), armpit (arm flexors), side of the neck (levator scapulae), the ear lobe and the side of the head. Massage back down the sideline while thinking and feeling the body as a continuum. Not in pieces.

As a student moves through this massage sequence, I can name some of the muscles, etc. While the student 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. Then we repeat the 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.

Full body stretch may sound like we are pulling the body apart but, it is the exact opposite. Everything about YogAlign is to empower the body. Allow it to feel whole, and put together the pieces in a continuum.

  • We begin lying on our backs, shoulder blades underneath us and down towards the floor.
  • 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. That is what 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)
  • Tighten the entire body like you are laughing so hard you cannot breathe. Fist hands and pull down like you are pulling ropes towards you, this will engage your core, and they 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 entire body by tightening what is already tense. That allows us to get more length in the resting muscle. 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 a better understanding of our body and the method.

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 disservice we have all made to ourselves at one time or another. Your yoga practice or self-study is that time to ask questions. Get to know why you are doing what you are doing. And 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 than before you arrived is the whole point of the practice. To this, I say YES!

Aloha

How Does Too Much Time Sitting Damages Our Ocean’s Reefs? 

By Renee’ Fulkerson

How Does Too Much Time sitting Damage Our Ocean’s Reefs (fragile underwater ecosystems)? 

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. The last time I was out snorkeling at my favorite beach. Just one of a few beaches on the North Shore of Kauai, having had limited to no access for over a year. Because of a devastating mudslide. And during that time of recovery, animal and plant life were present and growing. At a rate locals had not seen in many years. The smiles it brought to their faces as they talked story. They saw turtles come back to nest on the beaches. They had not done that for as long as they could remember. They shared their gratitude for all the fish coming back to the reefs. 

A little back story:

In April of 2018, Kauai received 50 inches of rain in 24 hours that devastated the island. The north shore communities of Wainiha and Haena were isolated 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 Hawaii

That happened to be the time 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 to realize how my movements in the water reflected my postures in my practice. Breathing through the snorkel replicated the YogAlign SIP breath. And similar to YogAlign, the activity of snorkeling required full-body engagement and global body perception. The primary muscle groups needed to engage in snorkeling are the Hip flexors, hamstrings, upper and lower abdominal’s, quads, and gluteal muscles. A fair amount of flexibility in the ankle region and 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) helps to create a stable platform. And allows your legs to kick and balances your front and back leg strength.

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

Take an average person who sits 7.7 hours a day in a chair put them out in the ocean snorkeling. Chances are they and the ocean reefs (fragile underwater ecosystem) are going to suffer.

Why? Because they would be expecting their bodies to perform in a way it was not capable. The primary muscle groups they need to fire when they are snorkeling have amnesia. Why? Because they are sitting in chairs all of the time. The flexibility in their ankles and the ability to point their 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. Thus, creating an imbalance between the back and front leg muscles.

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Kauai Hawaii

How does all of this affect the ocean’s reefs (fragile underwater ecosystems)?

On my last snorkeling adventure, I realized I had gained greater endurance, strength, and stamina (all supported by my regular YogAlign practice). When I looked all around me, as far as my eyes could see, people were STANDING ON THE REEFS! Why were they standing on the reefs? I swam up and said do you realize you are standing on a fragile underwater ecosystem. A system that has had a year’s gift to repair itself from the endless years of damage it has received? The answer was I have not snorkeled in years. I became too tired and needed to rest on the reef. Another gentleman responded he got a foot cramp and needed to rest and rub his foot out on the reef. I noticed one gal was having difficulty breathing (and yes, I asked). She needed to rest on the reef before she could get back to the shore. The reef had become a resting spot to rub and recover. Much like a park bench, you could rest on it during your walk.

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Kauai Hawaii (2)

At that moment, I realized the consequences of our growing sedentary lifestyles. I made the connection how too much time sitting can damage our ocean’s reefs. I vowed to continue to do my part by staying active and leading a healthy lifestyle. And talk story with fellow snorkelers about how priceless these fragile ecosystems are. I hope you will too! It is never to late to start protecting the islands precious and sacred resources.

Aloha #getupstandup

Top 10 benefits of Snorkeling 

A Quick Lesson From Real Life Movement.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I added these pictures for two reasons:

A. because these animals are beautiful, we were blessed to have come across them on our recent road trip.

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

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

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

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Kauai Hawaii Island

That 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.

Aloha

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

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

YogAlign – Pain Free Yoga From Your Inner Core

By Renee Fulkerson

In YogAlign, we actively seek out positioning, alignment, and movement that reflects how we move in daily life. We avoid uncomfortable, unnatural, and compressive positions that restrict deep breathing or that cause spinal compression. When aligned with the spine in natural curves, the body connects naturally as a continuum. We feel relaxed, balanced, secure, and peaceful. We can be in a comfortable and natural state of being, connected to our true essence.

YogAlign encourages proper body alignment, builds strength, and increases mobility.

YogAlign can add longevity to your life by providing a template for the body to follow, allowing it to be functional and highly mobile well into old age.

YogAlign emphasizes maintaining natural body positions and the natural curves of the spine. Utilizing only postures that mimic functional movement.

The basis of a YogAlign practice is to create and maintain posture in natural alignment. The emphasis is on posture, not the poses.
What differentiates YogAlign from other practices? By focusing on the rewiring of real-life movement patterning. Instead of confusing the body with poses that do not necessarily stimulate real-life function or movement.

Capture me

The practice of YogAlign is centered on eight principles:

  1. Create the Foundation with SIP Breathing.
  2. Learn to Activate the Psoas Muscle-“The Core of Your Core.
  3. Establish Spine Alignment.
  4. Learn Concentric/Eccentric PNF Neuromuscular Postures.
  5. Free Your Fascia and Know Your Anatomy.
  6. Learn Self Massage and Sensory Body Awareness.
  7. Practice Presence and Awareness Now.
  8. Know Your Bodies Authentic Needs.

The Core SIP Breath or Structurally Informed Posture inhalation creates an extension in the body and an engagement of your waist muscles deep in your core. When you exhale in YogAlign, you will practice keeping this length in your spine and waist rather than letting the contraction movements of exhalation collapse your waist and pull your sternum and breastbone down.

With awareness, your inhales and exhales; can be used to traction, align and strengthen your spine and the muscles that act upon it. Using this breathing process can support you in achieving natural alignment. That will free your neck and shoulder muscles from the constant strain and overuse that occurs when breathing and posture are less than ideal.

The Psoas Muscle ~ The Core of Your Core ~ What does that mean? In YogAlign, the psoas is just one of the four muscles we will be referring to as the core muscles. The psoas major joins the upper body with the lower body. It forms part of a group of muscles called the hip flexors, whose action is primarily to lift the upper leg towards the body. When the body is fixed or to pull the body towards the leg when the legs are stable.

If constricted and weak, the psoas can cause back and hip pain. And can also engage the fight or flight nervous system. Creating feelings of anxiety, Why is it important to learn how to engage, activate, lengthen and relax this muscle/ group to live pain-free from your core.

Establishing and supporting your spine’s alignment and your natural curves in YogAlign practice is yet another way to live a pain-free life. Spine alignment is a determinate of your overall health and quality of life. You should practice yoga postures that support and engage the natural curves of your spine. That is why in YogAlign practice, all yoga poses stimulate good posture and functional, real-life movement. Good health is regained painlessly and quickly by addressing posture and breathing habits. Supporting natural alignment during yoga, fitness, and life’s daily movements.

Learning and practicing Concentric/Eccentric PNF Neuromuscular Postures is simply tightening what feels tight. PNF is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It is a technique activating a specific muscle to relax the muscles around a joint. So, you can decrease the stiffness around a joint. In YogAlign practice, we refer to this as resetting the tension. The PNF essentially outwits your habituated stretch reflexes and resets resting muscle length, which determines your level of flexibility. Tightening a muscle past its normal contraction or, tightening what is already tight, during exercise throws a switch in the nervous system creates more flexibility. PNF allows strength and flexibility at the same time. Quickly with no pain or strain to muscles or joints.

Freeing your fascia and knowing your anatomy are topics woven throughout the entire YogAlign practice. Basic knowledge of anatomy will grow as you begin to relate the yoga poses and their benefits to your body. Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. YogAlign uses the inner movement of deep breathing to bring blood flow and fascia releasing where it would be otherwise impossible to palpate or massage your structure. The YogAlign combination of SIP breathing, self-massage, and yoga postures can be very effective in freeing your fascia. Drink lots of water to keep your fascia hydrated and pliable. We are made mostly of water and space.

Sensory Body Awareness and Proprioception in YogAlign practice allows you to pay attention to the sensations of tension and/or release in the muscles. Feeling where the body is in space and time, and become aware of the kinesthetic sensations while moving through your yoga poses. Sensory Body Awareness and Proprioception will support you in practicing presence and awareness in the now ~ staying in the moment.

Practicing YogAlign, gradually, you attain the innate muscle memory that allows you to maintain natural alignment. Without thinking about it-moving gracefully and with ease from the core center of your body with a toned, flexible spine and strong stabilized joint functions. Showing up to YogAlign practice will allow you the time and space to get to know and support your body’s needs.

Michaelle Edwards is the creator of the YogAlign Method on the Island of Kauai.

Aloha