Yoga Or Massage?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Yoga or massage? I say both!

Massage is – manipulation of tissues (as by rubbing, kneading, or tapping) with the hand or an instrument for relaxation or therapeutic purposes.

My first professional massage was gifted to me many years ago by my then-boyfriend now-husband. It was at a very high-end spa and included a long soak in a beautiful tub surrounded by candles and flowers. Once warm and relaxed after my soak. I was ready for the massage part of the package. A gentleman entered the room, draped me with linens, and applied warm oil. His massage strokes began long down my back. I remember thinking to this feels so good. I understand now why people enjoy and will splurge on a massage for themselves or gift to another. Although, there was a point during the massage where I did feel some discomfort. At that time, I did not understand why? I thought to why would this gentleman want to add some pain to all of this pleasure? I haft to laugh at myself when I think back to being so naive.

Fast forward to several years later in what seemed like a different lifetime. I now was a licensed massage practitioner. At the beginning of my practice, I did offer more of a relaxed feel good only massage. Because at the time, I was a licensed esthetician and was transitioning my skincare clients into my massage clients. An opportunity came to relocate. And I soon found myself gravitating from the spa setting style of massage to offering pre and post-race massage at downhill mountain bike races. I did feel a bit out of my element at first but, I adapted quickly and found my stride. From then I was hooked on offering a more sports-friendly massage style. That is not to say the athlete did not feel relaxed. After all, I was relieving some aches and pains. Fast forward to many years later and what seemed like a different lifetime. I was married with a house and a new baby boy I decided I wanted to become a yoga teacher. Again I started more in the feel-good realm with music, candles, and essential oils. At that point, my husband and I had an outfitting backpacking business. And space next door became available and, a yoga studio was born.

As life continued, an opportunity came about to relocate to the Island of Kauai.  Where I soon began my YogAlign teacher training with Michaelle Edwards. The founder of the YogAlign Method. I came back to a more anatomy-based yoga teaching style to go along with my sports massage technique. For now, and in the past, I am always learning new things and having new ideas. It feels good to be building off of the skills and knowledge I already have.

When coming back to massage therapy, I think about what that means for me today. Massage therapy has continued to play a role in my life and is a part of the YogAlign method. Self-massage is a piece of the YogAlign practice. It can be with your own hands, various size balls, or a little extra attention from the teacher. Either way, it feels good even when you are your massage therapist. Another way massage plays a part in my life is going back to get a client on the massage table. And depending on why they are on the table in the first place dictates how I will proceed. For some, it is the everyday aches and pains of a life well-lived. And for others, it could be more specific. An example may be a recent injury, recovery from surgery, or postural abnormalities such as Thoracic Kyphosis or Lumbar Lordosis. 

I tend to think of Kyphosis and Lordosis as hills and valleys of the spine and back. With committed YogAlign practice, you can achieve incredible results when dealing with posture issues and deformities. But, massage therapy can also add a lot of value. By working with massage techniques towards and away from the spine and focusing on the hills and valleys idea, you can self-heal. I have seen and experienced this myself. All while manipulating the fascia of these two areas produces positive results. Kyphosis gives a hunchback appearance in the upper back that I consider the hill. Where Lordosis has a swayback appearance right above the buttocks that I think of as a valley. Therefore when massaging a Kyphotic back. I am going to use manipulation that works the superficial back line fascia medially towards the spine. Creating space and freeing the tissues for more movement. The opposite would be correct for the Lordotic issue also, known as swayback. I would massage the superficial back line fascia laterally away from the spine. Creating length and possibly alleviating some of the compression. The possibilities are endless to the benefits a massage therapy session can yield.

Lastly, self-massage is also a part of my daily routine, as is YogAlign, and if I have sometime in the morning before I get out of bed. I like to do a quick foot, leg, and low back rubdown especially, when I have taken a long walk/ hike the day before. At the end of the day after, a nice shower, and before I go to sleep. I allow myself an hour in bed to quietly decompress from the day. This time includes full foot and leg, arms and fingers, back and scalp self-massage. There are times this does not happen but, it always happens in my YogAlign practice. So, I am covered.

When looking for a yoga class or massage practitioner, always check their credentials, ask questions and make sure it is the right fit for you and your personal needs.

Aloha

Travel And Yoga.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

When I think of travel, I instantly think of freedom, adventure, and fun. My second thought would likely be some logistics. Like when, where and, how much is this going to cost. Finally, I might start going over what I am going to pack. And if I need to purchase any new gear for my trip.

I will tell you what does not cross my mind. But I do know it does cross many others is the long plane ride. Let’s face it unless you splurge for extra comfort or first class. At some point, you are going to be uncomfortable. I’m one of the lucky ones or, so I have been told because I can sleep almost the entire six-hour plane ride. And I know this is not the case for most people. My husband and son fall into the can’t sleep on a plane category. Although my beloveds are much taller than me and having enough legroom is an issue for them. For me, I know after a long-distance plane ride, the only thing I want is to create space in my body. Re-set the tension in my possible aching back, knees, shoulders, and neck. Create more length in my current state of resting muscles. I know they have become short and tight from the curled up and balled posture I have maintained while sitting for hours. That curled up ball position also gives me indigestion.

Also, people do not think about yoga when there going on a long-distance business or pleasure trip. Remembering to pack a foldable yoga mat, bring extra funds for a yoga class, or find an app to watch. I know people will visit the 24-hour fitness at their lodgings to work out if sleep is out of the question.

We have already taken out any possibility of getting any length in our legs by just being seated. If; you are lucky enough to have some legroom in front of you. You might be able to bend forward to get the length in the backline and relief from gravity while hanging your head down. What can help you get some comfort and support is sitting back in your seat. And using a few of the YogAlign principles listed below the photos.

In the image on the left: you can see how the head is forward, the chin is starting to tuck into the chest. And the shoulders are starting to round and pull forward. All of the forward head carriage and placement is causing the frontline of the body to collapse. When the frontline of the body caves in. That means so do the breathing muscles. Short and shallow breaths are probably the best it is going to get. That could lead to a headache or just pure mental frustration. When the frontline shortens, the backline gets stretched and pulled forward as well. After 6 hours of this type of body mechanics, I can guarantee the head, neck, shoulders, and back will be unhappy. And will be letting you know through physical symptoms. If; you plan on eating anything in this hunched-over posture. Your digestion functions are going to be questionable.

The image on the right: by drawing the shoulder blades under you and pressing the back of your head into the headrest, you have won half the battle. That allows head support by the headrest and not your shoulders. And look at how much length there is in the neck. The shoulders have come down away from the ears and, the chin has naturally fallen into alignment. Thie second image’s proper body alignment means you can breathe easily. The frontline is open and spacious, letting you take a full diaphragm breath. Like a domino, effect keeping inhales and exhales flowing. And relaxing not only the mind but also the shoulder girdle. Another benefit of keeping the frontline of the body open is when you, eat you will be able to digest your food more effectively (we know sitting does not help). And maybe, you might even fall asleep.

Now for the bottom part of the body, that is so much trickier. I do like to bring a small pillow to place in my lower back region. That helps to support the natural curves of my spine. And may even take some pressure off of the sacrum. The only thing you can do for your legs is to get up and walk down the aisle when you get a chance. Aside from some possible self-massage and toe/ foot movement. Remember, the body is connected. So if you wiggle your toes and feet, you will feel that in your legs too. I also like to bring warm socks and a scarf or small blanket to keep my feet and legs warm. Once the body starts to, cool it will collapse in on itself. Trying to stay warm and, you will be back to square one.

Once I have landed and feel settled in, a grounding YogAlign practice is where I start first to regain my composure and get my body back in its happy place. Although, I practiced some of the YogAlign principles on the plane (in the above mentioned). To fully come back into homeostasis, I need to include the entire body. Sometimes long-distance traveling can create some anxiety and, having some familiar breathing habits and relaxing yoga postures is just what can bring us back to feeling safe and supported. To that, I wish you safe, comfortable, and happy travels.

Aloha

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary Might Be The Fountain Of Youth.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I recently traveled from my home island of Kauai to Oahu and then onto the island of Lanai. My solo mission was to reach and then visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary located just minutes from the airport. This adventure is something I have wanted to do for some time. There’s no admission fee, but if you love cats, your tax-deductible donation will help them continue their rescue work and provide lifelong care.

If you know me or follow my, blogs then you know I am always observing body posture. And the visitors coming into the sanctuary were not immune. Although not a first because I was taken, with the beautiful property and all the cats. I did not start really observing or thinking back until I started looking at the photographs I had taken. Then all that joy and goodness came rushing back to me. I remembered how much I enjoyed watching the guest’s faces lighting up once they were inside. You do not need to be a cat lover to appreciate the endless hours and kindness it takes to care for over 600 cats. Now onto my incredible findings, thinking back and observing the photographs I had taken.

The Lanai Cat Sanctuary might be the fountain of youth. When I walked in the main entrance, a mature couple was bouncing from cat to cat. Gracefully, bending over easily feeding the cats treats. As the gentleman was bending over, one of the cats jumped on his back. And he could not stop laughing with joy. That is when I noticed how at ease he was in his mature body. He looked stable, balance, and pliable all at the same time. I thought this experience is bringing out the best in this couple in terms of their physical prowess. I became even more excited when I saw how he engaged his entire leg muscle instead of this low back to continue to bend and feed all the cats. If he had any physical limits he certainly did not show it during his adventure on that day!

I continued exploring the grounds when I happened upon CB. One, of I believe, ten full-time caretakers. He was moving about quite freely amongst the cats and visitors. I had a moment to sit and speak with him. I learned he was not yet a full-time resident on Lanai. He was from a mountain environment where it was cold and not short of hard physical work. His face looked heavy when he talked about the life he was leaving. When he spoke about being at the sanctuary full time, he lit up like a child on Christmas morning. As he continued his daily work, he had a spring in his step, bending, twisting, and even getting down on the ground with the cats. He was moving with ease and purpose in a child-like body. I could not help getting caught up in his love for what he was doing and how it affected his body mechanics.

I continued to visit with the cats petting them and feeding them with much-anticipated treats. I noticed a large-sized van pulling in with a full load of visitors. Everyone jumped out except for one gentleman who moved a bit slower with a cane. I later learned they had come over on the ferry this morning from Maui to go snorkeling. They had sometime before heading back to Maui and decided to head over to the cat sanctuary. Again they appeared to be of a more mature crowd. They entered the gate and, several of the ladies plopped themselves right down on the grass. Twisting, turning, and crawling to get to the various felines in front or behind them. It was a sight to see they looked like toddlers crawling on the ground in their playground. They laughed and smiled but mostly just moved with ease and grace. At one point, they all came to standing and began their exploration of the property. I sat fascinated with the way folks were using their bodies down on the grass and while standing, walking, and bending. Again I thought if any of these folks have physical limits, they were not visible to me. Not even a moan or groan on the way down or on the way up only, pure excitement.

The day was drawing to an end and, I felt full of goodness on so many levels. I will never know if these folks I observed had a regular yoga or exercise program in the daily schedule. If they did, I hope they saw and felt the results of their practice like I did. But if not, I believe they found and experienced some of the fountains of youth that day. Even the gentlemen with the cane rejoined his group and got into the van with a bit more ease. I learn a lot about body mechanics by being aware of my own body and how it moves and observing others. Usually, you can tell when someone has an injury or something is hurting them. Just looking at the way they walk or lack of movement is a sure sign of possible limitations. I see many people who appear to be in pain when I am out and about in the world. On this particular day, that was not the case I saw and felt nothing but inspiration!

Aloha

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

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

Yoga Milestones.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

We are fast approaching the end of 2019, and this has me thinking about milestones: an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.

Which then got me thinking about my yoga practice and yoga in general. I consider my yoga practice alive and connected it, can change from day to day regarding what is going on in my life. Every day is a different day full of various challenges, victories, and levels of flow. Yes, in general, I practice YogAlign postures in every practice but, I may add or take away poses depending on what I have going on that day. When I teach a YogAlign class, I teach to the student’s needs. And that may vary from day to today.

Does this mean that you cannot have milestones in yoga? Even if you do not practice the same set of postures every time? I guess this would depend on how you interpret your development with your yoga practice. One way I can see a difference is through sustainability in my everyday life. Noticing I can walk/ hike longer without my feet or back aching and needing a week’s recovery. I can keep up with housework, yard work, and my 16-year-old son without exhaustion. Participate in all the physical activities I enjoy in a comfortable, strong, and stable manner. When I see that I am performing beyond my previous physical abilities during and after a long trek, I consider this a YogAlign milestone. Another way I can result is when I have a YogAlign Aha moment. That could be finally feeling that core connection engagement during a posture that I had practiced many times. Building from that Aha moment allows me to dive a bit deeper into my practice enhancing the benefits.

As for my students, I see them transform, develop and become more sustainable regularly. One student enjoys golfing and wants to be more powerful and in proper form while playing to avoid injury and enjoy her activity. Another student has had full-back surgery, cares about her bone density, and enjoys walking daily with a proper stride and no aches and pains. And lastly, a student before she began her regular YogAlign practice who was in pain. She would schedule a chiropractic adjustment on a weekly/ monthly basis. And, she has recently been suffering from mild headaches. She is now at a place where Chiropractic visits are far and few (YogAlign milestone) and is getting the headache relief she desires through her YogAlign practice.

My students and I share the desire to see these milestones in real-life. Some may want to track their development by practicing to achieve a headstand and, I say to each his own. That headstand milestone may allow them to build on a particular set of postures they desire. Milestones may also develop during one’s meditation practice. Sitting quietly for any length of time can be challenging while clearing our minds and experiencing pleasure when doing so. I see it happen all the time in savasana/ resting pose a fidgeter becomes still and peaceful. Building from that milestone, they can dive deeper into the practice and enjoy the effects. Yoga milestones are like a gift you receive without expectation. You keep showing up and participating in the practice and, then some unexpected goodness comes your way. The tangible results of the pure-hearted effort. Unlike goal setting where levels of expectations can play against you. In regard to levels of commitment and follow-through.

Like you, I also look forward to the coming year and the next Aha moment. That moment where everything seems to make complete sense. When You feel as though you have gained some much-needed confidence. Gained another level of insight that can allow for a more meaningful yoga practice. To all of this, I say cheers to this year’s unexpected goodness.

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

YogAlign And Gaming – How Can Gamers Prevent Injuries?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

When most folks think of injuries, gaming is not the first activity that would come to mind. Gaming is a hot topic in today’s world and also in my household. The subject of gaming contains many layers of knowledge, judgment, and opinions. Yet little research has been done to determine the long-term effects if, any? On our mind, body, and spirit.

What is Gaming? The definition is from, Techopedia – Gaming refers to playing electronic games, whether through consoles, computers, mobile phones, or another medium altogether. Gaming is a nuanced term that suggests regular gameplay, possibly as a hobby or competitive sport.

I am like many other parents today impacted by this new and very different world of online gaming. My biggest concern is poor posture but, equally important is eye strain, repetitive strain issues, and lack of movement. I often remind my 16-year-old son to find the balance between gaming and physical activity. One being regular YogAlign practice.

First of all, let’s take a look at a typical gaming posture below: To the naked eye, we can visually see the forward curving of the spine – backline of the body, shaping into a C formation. The shoulders are rolled forward due to the way (in this picture) most gaming mouses put the hand, wrist, and arm position. The head, neck, and chin are forward. Meanwhile, the eyes are drawing the head to the screen. Some of the issues you may not be seeing. Are the tightening and clenching of the jaw and teeth. (as the gaming becomes more intense or the gamer becomes more irritated). As the spine – backline of the body curves forward into a C, and the frontline becomes collapsed. The chest, diaphragm, and organs of the frontline are becoming squeezed. Making it difficult to take a full inhale and exhale (breathing becomes shallow). While the gamer sits for long periods daily, some muscle groups are becoming shorter and tighter. Forcing the other muscle groups to get longer stretched out and tired. The body is a continuum and can only be affected as a whole and not in pieces, as some might believe.

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We are just scratching the surface here regarding the intricacy of the human anatomy while sitting and it’s wear and tear on the body when done regularly for long periods. I found that once I transitioned my yoga practice to YogAlign, I learned and became more aware of the intricacies regarding human anatomy, movement, and function. I noticed this not only during my YogAlign practice but in my and my family’s everyday life (including my son’s gaming posture and habits).

How can gamers best prevent injuries?

Let’s go back to the ergonomics – at a basic level. “Ergonomics,” as defined by the International Ergonomics Association, is “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data, and methods to design to optimize human well-being and overall system of performance.”

Ergonomics relating to gaming explains how players interact with their hardware and tools. Gaming products do not support the natural posture of the body. And the repetitive movements of the body that are necessary to operate them. Shoulder, wrist arm position, seating posture, and playing style all come into effect when it comes to ergonomics in gaming. Self-control, limiting the amount of time playing for pleasure or competition daily and days weekly, can help prevent injuries. It is oh so important to move your body before, during, and after gaming. Especially movement that re-wires the brain from poor posture habits to proper posture habits.

Here are a few ergonomic gaming tools I have come across:

Logitech  An ergonomic mouse that better fits the user’s hand when scrolling and clicking.

Gunnar Opticks  Safety glasses may eliminate eye strain and block a computer’s blue light.

Couch-master Cycon  that Helps players keep an ergonomic posture from their couch or bed by not resting their keyboard on their lap.

Whether you sit in an office staring at a computer all day or sit gaming for hours. We all need to get up and move. So, next time you sit for an extended period, check-in with your body, breath and ask yourself:

  • How long has it been since I stood up, stretched, and maybe walked around a bit?

Sitting all day is not beneficial for your health – A University of Waterloo professor says his research shows that people should be standing for at least 30 minutes per hour to get health benefits.

  • Do my eyes feel strained and maybe even feel a slight headache coming on

Extended computer use or inadequate or excessive lighting may cause eye strain.

  • When was the last time I had a drink of water or a healthy snack?

There are many different opinions on how much water you should be drinking every day. Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon. That is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember.

  • Am I sitting closer to the edge of my chair to allow my spine to lengthen?

Sit up at the end of your chair with your back straight and your shoulders blades down, and all three natural back curves (cervical, lumbar and thoracic) should be present while sitting. (if you can get your hips above your knees).

  • Are my shoulder blades relaxed down my back or creeping up to my ears?

Tight shoulders can be caused by sitting for extended periods causing pain or stiffness in your neck, back, and upper body.

  • Am I clenching my teeth and tightening my jaw?

Stress or anxiety can cause the muscles in the jaw to tighten. A person may clench their jaw or grind their teeth without even noticing it.

  • Am I able to take a full inhale and exhale from my diaphragm?

On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. That means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year.

Believe it or Not, it takes more precious life force energy in our everyday lives and activities to have poor posture than it does to have proper posture. My motto “sit up and cheer up, get up stand up – for your life.”

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