Same Yoga Story Different Year.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I find comfort in the title “Same Yoga Story Different Year.” Knowing some things that are working do not need to be changed. Taking off some of the New Year resolution pressure and freeing up more space for gratitude. As we approach the end of this year 2019, I am already hearing folks talking about their New Year’s resolutions. I find the patterns always seem to remain the same regarding the fitness New Year’s resolution. January comes in with high levels of new beginnings and fresh starts. Only to be followed by the distant reminder of what was to be.

A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life. (Wikipedia)

I am not here to judge or saying we should not take opportunities to set goals to improve ourselves or our health. I know for myself I have made many New Year resolutions in the past. Some stuck and, some did not. I would say that the majority did not. One thing that has remained the same is my dedication and commitment to my YogAlign practice. Why? Because I continue to feel the positive physical benefits, mental clarity, and ease of life it provides me with daily.

Like many others interested in health and fitness, I have tried and stuck with mostly things I have enjoyed or made me feel good. I believe it all comes down to we all want to feel good and be happy. That is why my yoga story will remain the same as we enter into this new year. And you might be thinking that sounds uneventful regarding the possibilities of a New Year’s resolution or maybe even boring? I agree but, YogAlign is a yoga practice based on health sustainability and supporting me in the possibility of new physical endeavors. And I will continue to practice a method of Yoga that supports real-life movements. It keeps me unconsciously setting new goals and smashing them. And with aging, I find I have a better sense of what is working for me and what is not, and in a more timely manner. The years continue to roll by and, few things do remain the same. Especially at the neck-breaking speed, the world is currently moving in. Change is good and inevitable. And yet, I find it ironic by keeping my yoga story the same allows me to keep up and sometimes ahead of the game. I like you also look forward to the new year and all the opportunities just waiting to unfold, and yes, I can imagine the possibilities in a body I can trust I hope you can too.

Happy New Year and Aloha

The Struggle Of Movement 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 ironically when one has 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 through life with great ease. There might have been times we felt awkward in our bodies as they were growing and changing but still felt at ease in our movements. As young children turning into young adults, we probably did not give much thought, why our bodies carried us in our day to day lives. Except for 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. Suddenly what did not seem difficult or even insight 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. But, I would think stress, responsibility, finances, and relationships in early adulthood could surely draw your shoulders up to your ears from time to time as the body’s 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, setting up a household are all heavy transitions from single carefree life. Not to say, changes are not wanted and don’t bring much joy. But 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? No, that would be silly. What once was a non-issue regarding our youthful body movements and stamina comes down to rewiring the motherboard creating new movement habits.

What do I mean by this? The wiring of our human brain makes movements happen without much or any thought. For example, when we get out of bed in the morning, we do not think 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 current movement habits. When we were kids, we just jumped out of bed, wiggled, and squiggled our way to the start of the day because those were our movement habits at that moment. Some days maybe we even dread that first step out of bed because we know it may be a challenge 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’s body back. We let go of the regular tendency or practice of drawing our shoulders to our ears by becoming conscious of new positive habits. For example, every time you get into your car (driver or passenger), draw your shoulder blades down underneath you and then rest and gently press the back of your head into the headrest. Yes, it may feel awkward and, every other minute you, may need to remind yourself to relax – shoulders blades underneath me and back of the head gently pressed into the headrest. As this posture becomes more comfortable and the rewiring will begin and, this posture que and comfort will follow through to other opportunities for your shoulders to relax like in your office chair.

YogAlign is a practice that is pain-free from your inner core. And using the SIP Breath, giving us the gift of lift. I see new students and some long-time students struggle with push-ups. Why? Because they lack a connection to their core. By trying to lift the weight of the body with their arms and old, 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 push-up 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 aging, injury and ailments also play a factor in our body talking back to us. But, 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. And creating new effective and efficient movement habits on the mat and in daily life.

Aloha

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

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, but it can also help you sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve your body’s immune response, and reduce stress levels.
Let’s sink a little deeper into what is the importance of breathing. And I would like to share 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 and was unconscious and unstable. When admitting my dad, the doctors had no idea what was going on with him. Later that same day I, arrived to see him. He was still in what they now were calling a coma. At this point, a machine was breathing for him. Flash forward to days that turned into weeks of 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 

An Inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. My dad ended up being 1 of those 150 people and his symptoms included;

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

After several months of lying in a hospital bed, paralyzed and having a machine breathe for him. He was stable enough to be moved to a rehabilitation facility. That marked the beginning of what the rest of his quality of life would be. 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, but it can also help you sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve your body’s immune response, and reduce stress levels. My dad struggled daily with all of this.

Fast forward – after many months of rehabilitation, my dad was finally able to breathe on his own. It felt like the first breath he took jump-started his body. With the tube out of his throat, he was able to eat and digest food. Giving him the sustenance and strength he needed. And with the ability to breathe on his own relieved a great deal of stress for him. Letting him get the healing rest/ sleep his body needed for recovery from this trauma. Every time I would come to visit him, his mental clarity was getting sharper. His ability to talk, laugh and, communicate was getting better. The best 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 like he was in a never-ending loop of despair. However, once his breath kicked on his immune system, his cough ended. And he never again got pneumonia in the rehabilitation facility. With his 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. I stood 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 breath.

My dad at home with his girlfriend.

After a year in rehabilitation, my dad was ready to go home to the quality of life he could be happy with. He started in a wheelchair, 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 walks on his own, has learned to do almost everything with his left arm/ hand, and gets out as much as he can. His left arm does remain paralyzed to this day, and he is unable to drive. He does get frustrated and down but, he is a beautiful human being with a heart of gold. Getting his breath his life force back gave him the ability to beat the odds.

Aloha

The Quality Of Your Health Is A Reflection Of Your Independence.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

in·de·pend·ent
/ˌindəˈpendənt/ adjective – not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.
“I wanted to remain independent in old age”
synonyms – self-sufficientself-supportingself-sustainable.
 
My experience with this has happened within this last year and got me looking around at folks moving through their daily lives.
 
I grew up in Southern California and spent every summer (June, July, and August) in Baja California. At my grandparent’s house on the beach until I was well out of high school. In both geographical locations, the weather was mostly sunny and warm and, I am a fan of warm and sunny. I spent most of my days wearing cut-off Levi shorts, tank tops, and flip flops. In other words, closed toes shoes, socks, pants, and jackets were far and few in my everyday life.
 
I do everything in my flip-flops (called slippers here on the Hawaiian islands). Not the best option for most of my outdoor projects. When I was thinking back to my 16 years living in Big Bear, I still spent a great deal of time in my flip-flops. I had a large yard/ garden in the mountains like here on the island. Consequently, digging, raking, weeding, etc. yes in my slippers. I have also done many hikes, walks and, dancing in my flip-flops. Side note ipanema slippers are my favorite.
Inner Breath Yoga YogAlign Kauai Hawaii (1)
 
Last June as my family and myself were preparing for our annual summer mainland – mountain road trip. My flip-flop existence took a turn for the worst. I was outside in the garden digging with a shovel pushing down on the metal piece with the arch of my foot and, I felt a stretch and pull of discomfort and, my heart dropped as I knew I had injured my foot. I hobbled into the house and began icing three to four times a day with a frozen bottle of water, lightly massaged the surrounding areas (directly rubbing a soft tissue injury may make it worse), and slept with my foot wrapped in an Ace bandage.
 

When arriving back on Kauai and to this very day, September 9, 2019, I continue to feel some pain in my foot. I have continued my normal daily activities at home (although I wear shoes and socks now while gardening). YogAlign, snorkeling, and continuing icing and wrapping have kept me comfortably active. In my humble opinion being sedentary after an injury is the wrong way to go – the body wants to heal and, circulation is necessary. I have purchased a new style of flip flops during the healing process OOFOS Recovery Footwear.

 
Inner Breath Yoga YogALign Kauai Hawaii
 
As I began looking around me one day while I was out running errands in my OOFOs feeling comfortable, confident, and mostly pain-free when I noticed how many folks were not stable on their feet. Young and old, small and large, black or white. It did not matter their health or lack of was hindering their independence. Canes, wheelchairs having to be pickup or dropped off from the car, and needing a partner’s arm for assistance was what I was seeing. Again these were not just mature folks (who can also stay very independent). That’s when it hit me the quality of your health is a direct reflection of your level of independence or lack thereof. I think most of us would agree it is hard enough to ask for help. Much less be reliant on somebody to get you around physically. I could not imagine my life without my physical independence.
 

What have I learned:

  • Directly – flip flops/slippers have a time and place. 
  • Staying physically active is a necessary component of independence. 
  • Moving in proper posture and alignment while performing tasks keeps you less likely to get an injury. 

When I teach SIP-ups in YogAlign class, students prepare their bodies by moving into proper alignment for optimal results. Injuries are less likely to happen when the body is in proper alignment. 

  • Students begin by lying on their backs with their knees bent toward the ceiling. 
  • Then they place a yoga block between the meaty part of the inner thighs. 
  • Their shoulder blades under them create and support the natural curves in their spine. Do not draw the belly button to the back body (flattening our natural spinal curves). 
  • They place hand over hand, palms facing up and supporting the Occipital Bone on the back of the head. 
  • When they lift the elbows, they raise them high enough to see their Peripheral vision turning on the arms. 
  • With a lion’s exhaling, they let out all their breath. 
  • Next, they look up at the ceiling, take in a full diaphragm SIP breath, squeeze the block between their knees, engage the core, and lift with the SIP inhale. (maintaining an open front line – no chin to chest). 
  • And S-hale like a snake before they come back down. 

I may see a student pulling from the neck with their hands or rounding the spine by pulling their chin to their chest. I would request they come out of the posture immediately. Why? Because they would be doing more harm than good to their body. We do not want to rob Peter to pay Paul. Again it is more important to practice a yoga posture correctly to receive the optimum benefits than doing more harm than good.

I wish us all to be proactive in maintaining our independence – you don’t know what you have until it is gone.

Aloha

Is Your Yoga Practice Sustainable?

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 the 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 a long 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 we are young or mature in age. We all want to feel good and be happy in our mind, body, and spirit. In my teaching and personal experience, most of us can connect to the physical body by touching it, seeing it and, feeling it. Whereas; the mind takes time to connect with meditation and stillness. The spirit for some is altogether unattainable in the tangible sense. They cannot find the connection. So doing some physical movement seems like a place to find some joy and happiness.
For some yoga, practice means only physical movement (asana). For others, it is only meditation they seek. Actually, in this day and age yoga, can come in many forms. For this blog, let us stick with yoga practice in the physical sense.

When you are in your next yoga practice/ class, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Am I able to take a full deep breath in this posture?
  • Do my spine and sacrum maintain their curves and integrity?
  • Does this posture simulate functional movement? Am I comfortable and stable?

In my public YogAlign class, I have found 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, hips, and butt, in addition to 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 therefore is not comfortable or supported. The solution, to place a yoga block under the back foot for a double-duty purpose. One, getting alignment from the foot to the hip. Two raises the heel to a comfortable level and creates the stability the student was lacking. 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 a prop. Stepping their right foot forward and placing their big toe close to the wall. (but not touching) Next stepping their left foot back on a block or lifting their heel once they feel stable. (foot in alignment with hip) I have them check to see if the back of their head (the Occipital bone) and the sacrum are in alignment. Next, when we are in alignment and stable, we sink into the front knee. Placing the pads of our fingers (fingers open to turn on the arm muscles) against the wall to 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 and drawing the shoulder blades together creates even more stability. Once we are aligned, in a posture with effective breathing, balance, and, comfort we can reap all the benefits. 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 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 meant to be painful and to breathe through the pain. That may be somewhat true for a person who has had a debilitating accident and is in recovery (physical therapy) But, 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!

Aloha