The Yoga Mat Of Shame.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Let’s start this blog by becoming familiar with the definition of shame by Merriam-Webster: Shame – a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

Yikes! The thought of wrong or foolish behavior in some yoga classes could send chills down your spine. (lol) Especially in the minds of folks new to yoga or someone who tends to be a perfectionist. I agree to go to a yoga class for the first time can be intimidating and, yet, on the other hand, it could feel like the perfect fit.

I recently had a conversation with a gentleman regarding expectations. Expectations when attending a yoga class versus expectations of going to get a massage. This guy did not consider himself a spiritual person, had never been to a yoga class and had received a gift certificate for a massage. He had concerns about feeling humiliated or distressed with the idea of attending a yoga class or using his massage gift certificate. Which then turned the conversation topic from expectation to participation. I got the impression he felt he needed to be a spiritual person to participate in a yoga class. He started to then speak with an example (the what-if): What if a guy has no idea what he is getting himself into when he thinks of attending a yoga class? I replied: This guy you speak of would have to have lived under a rock to not have any thoughts or ideas of what would be entailed in a yoga class or massage (he laughed).

At that point, as a yoga teacher, mother, and human being, I knew he needed to have the yoga talk. I could only speak for myself and the way I teach the YogAlign method. I do my very best to put new and existing students at ease. I let them know, please stop me if you do not understand what I am saying or asking of them. I let them know this is their time and not mine to stand on my soapbox. He seemed intrigued and, even his body shifted to a more receptive posture. I continued by explaining that I did not take a spiritual approach to teach YogAlign (I feel spirituality is very personal). That is not to say the student may or may not connect with something/ someone outside themselves during their practice. My approach for a new student is purely physical. I know everyone can take one hand and touch their arm. That makes perfect sense but, not everyone can go into or believes in a meditative state. I explained when we move through the physical YogAlign practice we begin feeling more comfortable and relaxed in our breath and body. Feeling more joy physically lets us feel more joy mentally. Which in some cases can lead to a meditative place of peace without even realizing it is happening. At this point, I could see the gentleman becoming even more at ease with the thought of participating in a yoga class. He was starting to loosen his grip on the idea he would do something foolish or wrong (shameful) on the mat.I never want a student of any level to feel they are standing on the yoga mat of shame in my classes and, yet it happens. I have seen the frustration in a long time YogAlign student when she could not do a properly aligned push – up. I reminded her other postures will give the same result we are looking for in the push up. My job is to support students in feeling empowered not, shameful.I also see new students struggle when watching other students who can move their arms more from their back and not from their shoulders (like they keep doing).

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations when they feel they may not measure up. When the shame starts to creep in I see students shut down, start giggling and get hot/ sweaty. These and other cues let me know a student may feel they are standing on the yoga mat of shame. I want to shift that perception immediately or, that could be the first and last time they ever try yoga again. We all create a story about something we have never tried. Sometimes that narrative may even come from what we have heard or seen on television. Whatever the expectations we have created for ourselves or the experience. Once we decide to make that appointment and show up for that class, proves we are willing to participate. A willingness to fall on your face, but you need not fall into the shame game.

Take some time and research what yoga class/ style would create favorable conditions for your success. I teach many mixed-level classes meaning beginners would need the class taught to them. And to long-time students who need more of the practice (moving through the postures), not all teachers/ styles of yoga can accommodate that type of experience. Remember falling on your face is not always a bad thing that is one way we can build self confidence. Resist the temptation to compare and compete in a yoga class. After all we as teachers should be holding space for your yoga experience to unfold in a safe and supportive environment.

Aloha

Shopping Spree Or Living Spree?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Spree: a spell or sustained period of unrestrained activity of a particular kind.

We have entered into the season of holiday shopping and gift-giving. A coming together with family and friends for festive gatherings. Consumers are being lured in by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a variety of deeply discounted department store sales. Some might even refer to their shopping adventure as a shopping spree.

Spreea spell or sustained period of unrestrained activity of a particular kind.

I started thinking about how I have never considered myself a person who enjoys going shopping, not even grocery shopping. I link it back to my childhood and my family. They were never over the top shoppers. We lived comfortably and had what we needed (and then some). I never felt lacking in anything. I also considered myself very physically active growing up. I was more actively moving than actively shopping. And this rings true even to this day!

Some could argue that shopping especially, holiday shopping is a physical activity and I would agree. There is a great deal of walking, lifting, bending, and movement in general, and at the end of the day, we are exhausted. But what comes to mind for me is the poor posture, aching back (shoulders), and sore feet that come from a day of lugging packages and endless searching. I asked myself this question what would you rather be doing? My answer – having a Living Spree!

What would my living spree look like? Hiking outdoors which ironically comes with the same description of the above mentioned:

  • Possible poor posture – from fatigue (shallow breathing)
  • Aching back and shoulders – from carrying a backpack
  • Sore feet – from a long haul

I have much more body mechanics awareness when I am on the trail than when I am in the department store. Because when I am in nature, I feel more connected to the setting. The esthetics are visually more pleasing and, the surroundings are far quieter. The natural light and fresh air make it easier to achieve a balance between relaxation and meditation. I feel less physically drained and more contently tired with my accomplishment. I naturally take breaks to stop, sit, and snack in the beautiful spots along the way. I am purposeful about what I am carrying (weight wise) and the proper fit for my diaphragm. Can all of these mindful practices be applied to the Shopping Spree? To this, I say yes!

YogAlign Shopping Spree Tips:

  • Breathe – In YogAlign we use the SIP Breath (structurally informed posture). Start by forming an O with your lips, sip in like your sucking on a straw and feel your diaphragm muscle (ribcage) start to expand and lift (keep your shoulders down away from your ears). Pause at the top of the SIP Breath and as you SSSSSS hale like a snake smile and feel the goodness that is breath. Use this SIP Breath technique like fine chocolate not every breath will be a SIP Breath but a gentle reminder or as we like to call it rewiring the brain to practice full inhales and exhales.
  • Posture – In YogAlign, we use the SIP Breath (structurally informed posture). Start by forming an O with your lips, sip in like your sucking on a straw and feel your diaphragm muscle (ribcage) start to expand and lift (keep your shoulders down away from your ears). Pause at the top of the SIP Breath and, as you SSSSSS hale like a snake smile, and feel the goodness that is breath. Use this SIP Breath technique like fine chocolate, and not every breath will be a SIP Breath but a gentle reminder. Or, as we like to call it, rewiring the brain to practice full inhales and exhales.
  • Balance – In YogAlign, we think of and move our body as a whole. And we move from the center/ core of our body. Gazing forward and allowing for our eyes to communicate with our brain more effectively. When we pile ourselves up with oddly shaped packages and possibly a purse, the uneven weight distribution can throw us out of balance. Stop and take a moment in front of a mirror or glass where you can check your packages are balanced. While carrying your shopping bags, are your shoulders even on both sides? And are your shoulder blades down away from your ears? Are your hips squared and level not allowing uneven weight to dump you into one hip or another? Are you standing on the full of the foot or more on the toes or the heels? When walking with this load, are you moving from the center of your body? You can tell this if you can comfortably take a full inhale and exhale while walking. If necessary, take the time to put packages in your car and ease up your load.
  • Savasana (stillness) – Yes, you can take a shopping savasana (get off your feet). After all, it is a form of stillness (between relaxation and meditation). You can find a quiet spot either indoors or outdoors and sit (depending on the space or even lie down). Pull out a small bottle of your favorite essential oil, put a dab on the end of your nose and enter into mindful breath. If you have a Mantra or Japa practice, this can also happen here. You can silently to yourself recite or chant your mantra. Pulling out and unraveling your mala (beads) and again silently going through your meditation (eyes open or closed). If you cannot stop for a shopping savasana, pull out your small bottle of rose water and give yourself a spray and keep breathing. Rounding out these YogAlign holiday shopping tips would be to stay hydrated and fortified with healthy food and snacks.

I wish you a very happy and healthy shopping spree and or living spree!

Aloha

Are You Equally Flexible as Strong?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I was sitting on one of my favorite beaches this past weekend. And after a heavy rainfall that had affected all of the Hawaiian Islands. And I could still feel the weight of the moisture in the air. I sat there looking at all of the picturesque surroundings that make this particular spot so beautiful. One, in particular, is a grand palm tree. But today it, looked very different to me. Most days the, palm tree stands tall and proud and depending on the season with our without coconuts. Today the long trunk was almost parallel to the ground and engorged with coconuts. My first thought was the picture of flexibility and strength right in front of my eyes. It got me thinking about teaching my next YogAlign class.

The next day when long-time YogAligners walked into class. I asked them the question would they consider themselves equally strong as flexible? They all kind of took a few moments to digest the question. One response was, “yes, I do feel equally strong as flexible since I have been practicing YogAlign.” Another student chooses one over the other and, some did not have any response. One student asked, do you mean by flexibility? I quickly responded, what I don’t mean is the image you get in your head of Stretch Armstrong being pulled completely apart (we all laughed). Flexibility is no laughing matter when it comes to yogis pulling themselves apart like Stretch Armstrong. I then began to elaborate on what my idea of flexibility is and in what context I was asking them in the above question. Flexibility to me is the ability to move through your everyday life in a pain – free flow. While you are walking your, arms, hips, and legs are propelling you forward with ease, being able to reach up and grab a glass out of the upper cupboards, maneuvering in and out of the car with ease, and bending down to pick something up from the floor gracefully. These are just a few examples of flexibility in everyday life. 

Flexibility – sports definition: the capacity of a joint or muscle to move through its full range of motion. Flexibility is specific to a particular movement or joints, and the degree of flexibility can vary around the body.

That same student ask what do you mean by strength? I responded with not Mrs. Olympia.  What strength means to me is? The ability to move from the center or (core) of your body in proper alignment. Allowing you the ability to pick up that bag of recyclables and get them to the redemption center, put the box of books in the car to take to the library, purchase the value size of detergent and pick up your toddler or grandbaby. Again just a few examples of strength in everyday life. 

Strength – sports definition : the ability to carry out work against a resistance. strength is the maximal force you can apply against a load.

It can be easy to take flexibility and strength for granted in our everyday lives when these physical attributes are in a good standing order. But when they are not our, daily lives can become limited in ways. As we become more mature in our, lives we have this image of frailty regarding flexibility and strength. If we maintain a consistent full range of physical activities well into our, years that alone will keep us independent, flexible, and full of power. For example, I have always considered myself flexible, maybe even too bendy in some regards. Before I was aware of flexibility becoming a liability (as Michaelle Edwards, creator of YogAlign puts it). I would pull my body apart in yoga postures. Well beyond its full range and overtime began feeling pain and discomfort in my regular yoga practice. Although, my life has never suffered due to a lack of strength. But, traditional yoga practice was not building my strength. Then I shifted to a committed YogAlign practice, and I have seen an improvement in my level of strength and flexibility. That happened because of the Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching technique practiced in YogAlign. PNF is a more advanced form of flexibility training. Involving both the stretching and contracting of the muscle group targeted. It is also excellent for targeting specific muscle groups, and as well as increasing flexibility, it also improves muscular strength. 

When wanting to improve physical appearances, I suggest taking the time to think about if those desires are realistic and beneficial for your entire well-being. Meaning, if you are looking to build your strength and or flexibility, not all yoga classes are created equally. I find that yoga classes that move a bit slower and with natural body alignment awareness, full diaphragm breathing, and attention to moving from the core are your best bet. Finding a teacher who knows how to move through the posture with stable ligaments and joints is high on the must-have list. And a knowledgeable teacher who instructs your body as a whole and not in pieces. (the pose needs to benefit the entire body). Attending a yoga class that is more than 10, students are going to lessen your chances of getting one on one attention for your specific needs. Sometimes very large regularly attended yoga classes appear to me as a choreographed production. Verses a yoga class where the instructor gets to know your body personally, knows what is comfortable and beneficial for your build, and can que you specifically for your needs. Remember, you matter in the yoga class of your choice. And this is your paid opportunity for self-study and teacher guidance that is proper and professional. Now go out and use your strength and flexibility for good!

Aloha

There are similarities to look for and learn from in watching a yogi and an endurance athlete.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I just returned from attending the 2019 Ironman on Kona, Big Island, Hawaii and, it was epic. The Ironman race is a multi-event sporting contest demanding stamina, in particular in a consecutive triathlon of swimming 2.4-mile (3.86km), cycling 112-mile (180.25km), and running a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20km).

I am familiar with this environment. Before I was a Hatha Yoga teacher, I did many years of pre and post-race massage at Norba Mountain Bike Race events in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. I have also attended many Xterra off-road triathlons and trail running races and, Tough Mudders. I am not the competitive sports women type how but, I enjoy attending these events and gain an incredible amount of knowledge about the human body, training, and recovery. When I first arrive at an endurance sporting event. I feel as though my head might spin off while trying to observe all of this human anatomy in real life. I study these athletes while racing like I approach my YogAlign classes. There are many similarities to look for and learn from in watching a yogi and an endurance athlete.

  • The first point – I observe at an endurance race at the starting line what does the athlete’s body language tell me? What is the expression on their face? At the start of the race, I see if their body reacts with ease to the initial movement? or is it clunky and out of sync? Much like I observe a new or longtime YogAlign student. At first, sight, do they look open and receptive or nervous and guarded, maybe tired from a long day at work or inspired and ready to rumble. When a new student or longtime student begins their YogAlign practice, I notice. Are they moving with ease? or do they appear to be stiff and sticky? Unlike the endurance athlete during a race, I cannot shift anything to create favorable conditions for them. But, in a YogAlign class, I can and will do just that. In keeping my YogAlign class size small and non-competitive, I can see what each student is doing and needing to create favorable conditions and results.

Inner Breath Yoga YogAlign Kauai Hawaii (9)
She is moving with ease, aligned and her feet are light and ready to go.

  • The second point I observe regarding the endurance athlete and yogi or yogini is the transition between events/ postures. Has this transition been thought out? Is there ease about it and, are they showing any signs of pain/ fatigue in the physical body or facial expression? How is their breathing quality? I can tell when the student or athlete is becoming fatigued. Resistant, bored/ given up, or experiencing discomfort when the gaze of their eyes begins to lower. Their Chin starts tucking to the chest (frontline collapsing), shoulders slump, and or roll forward and, feet/ legs look like heavy blocks pounding at the ground. I cannot support the endurance athlete but only cheer them on and shout out, keep going. Keep breathing! You got this! But a YogAlign student, I will immediately attend to realigning the body posture, breath, and hopefully the enthusiasm or bring them out of the posture altogether. If I can see no positive benefits are happening.

Inner Breath Yoga YogAlign Kauai Hawaii (8)
He is ready to transition to the run with his shoes already off.

  • The third point I observe and know the crucial part is the halfway mark. When seeing the athlete/ yogi, I ask myself are they doing more damage than good at this point? Meaning have they sustained an injury or woke up an old one? That is creating a limp or undo pain. Are they pushing beyond the body’s ability to keep their pace or posture? And when is it time to call it? When more negative impacts are wreaking havoc (widespread destruction) on the body and quick recovery will not be enough. For the YogAlign student with observation and possible communication with the student. If I feel the negative is creeping in. I ask the student to stop or come out of a posture. And possibly to not practice said posture at all. For example – if a YogAlign student is practicing full-body recalibration (supported splits,) and I see, hear or feel they are in any pain. They need to come out immediately, but if they are feeling a small discomfort (2 on a scale of 1-10). I can give them a yoga block for more support que engage the core with the SIP breath. And we will both know if the posture has been practice/ supported correctly. Then when the student comes out and up to standing (the discomfort will not linger). Yes, they may feel some sensation (created space or re-setting of the tension) in the groin, thigh, or glutes but not pain. Remember, you never get comfortable by being uncomfortable yoga is not supposed to hurt! When regarding an endurance athlete, that’s their judgment, personal trainer, or a beloved’s call to stop.

Inner Breath Yoga YogAlign Kauai Hawaii (19)
He has lost his stride foot steps close together (fatigue?) and facial expression (pain?)

  • Forth point and last point I observe (regarding this blog) are about 15 minutes before the end of class or the end of the race. That is when the body language and facial expression say it is good or not. This point encapsulates the first, second, and third points. But I do understand an endurance athlete is going to drag themselves over the finish line. When they’re so close to finishing the race? The YogAlign student will be ready for the final resting posture and relaxation in savasana. Or beaming with that feels good face/ body and does not want the class to end by savoring space and time a little longer. I can personally relate to both the endurance athlete and the yogi’s desire for accomplishment and peace.

I consider it an honor to be sharing the last moments of a race or a YogAlign practice with an athlete or student as they have both equally committed their time and energy to this event/ class. I feel as though I also get to share in the joy, pride, and gratitude they feel for themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally after putting themselves out there and being vulnerable (some call that being brave).

Are you are like me and enjoy anatomy in real life, being inspired, and connecting energetically on a heart level with others? I highly recommend these types of events and yoga classes. “once you stop learning, you start dying” -Albert Einstein.

Aloha

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 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

Advice from a Doctor/ Advice from a Yoga Teacher?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

In my opinion, I feel there is value in having both, and I find in many ways their advice can and does go hand and hand. I thankfully have not had many reasons to visit the doctor except for mainly routine visits but, I know that is not always the case for everybody. There are also those times when we should go to the doctor but never do. That goes for yoga practice as well.

I have found all of my physical conditions so far that my YogAlign practice has cured all that ails me. My YogAlign practice has had a domino effect on me. When I feel good physically, I feel good mentally and, I have a positive outlook on life. When I feel happy, I then naturally look at my food choices and daily habits. And lean towards what is best for me. Isn’t that usually what the doctor/yoga teacher would suggest and hope for

As many of you know or may not know my, soon to be sixteen-year-old son has some postural challenges. His postural challenges have led us on a journey we are still currently on. That has us as a family speaking with many doctors. I have noticed I have created this automatic habit of checking in with my Yoga Teacher, Michaelle Edwards after, every doctor appointment. I realize I value Michaelle’s verbal input as equally as the doctors regarding my son’s postural challenges.
We tend to believe every word, thought, or idea that comes out of our doctor’s mouth. And of course, there is good reason to, and many yoga students feel that way about their yoga teachers. Most of the time I’m, sure all goes well but, there are those many stories of circumstances that did not go well. I find comfort when talking with my son’s doctor and, having him spend time with Michaelle Edwards the creator of The YogAlign is priceless on so many levels.
It is not so much east meets west connection as both are judging, their recommendations on facts and outcomes and not on faith or opinion. Surgery or body braces is the doctor’s defense as long as the procedure would benefit the postural challenges. And the re-wiring of the brain from negative posture habits to positive posture habits with a committed YogAlign practice is my yoga teacher’s first defense. Both equally have the best of intentions and are there for my son’s best interest. But, we always feel empowered when we finish a YogAlign practice and not so much after a doctor’s appointment. My yoga teacher gives my son back the power to move and breathe in his body in a way that allows him to heal his own body. The idea of placing a body brace on and waiting for the body to benefit does not compute. My son opted for the YogAlign practice and, we have seen some shifts. We also continue to see his doctor and, his postural challenges have not progressed.
   Inner Breath Yoga YogAlign Kauai Hawaii (1)
Just as I believe in finding a doctor you can trust. A doctor who is qualified, and you feel a connection too. I also think it is important to seek these qualifications and qualities in a yoga teacher. In the past, I have changed my doctor and yoga teacher. Because I felt I was not benefiting from their practice or my needs had changed. On the flip side of that, I know folks who have stayed with a doctor or yoga teacher that they were not happy with and were getting negative results (or even an injury from the later mentioned). I believe in the medical community and the yoga community and feel we are uniting in ways we have not seen in the past. I find some doctors are getting away from only external fixes. Embracing the internal systems of the body. Such as diet, meditation, and our connection with nature. Some yoga teachers are getting away from selfies and glamour poses and guiding their students into functional movement and proper posture habits. These are all positive signs of change and benefit us all for the greater good. Maybe next time you see your doctor or your yoga teacher, let them know how much you appreciate their contribution to your and others’ lives.
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