YogAlign Bird Dog A Weight Bearing Movement.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Some weight-bearing movements where your bones support your weight are walking, dancing, stair climbing, and gardening, to name a few. I love to do all of these activities. Well, maybe not stair climbing so much. I also find when using my 5lb weights for 20 minutes at least twice a week. My arm, back, and chest muscles stay toned. By stressing our bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Men can also get osteoporosis. To learn more, click on https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/men

We all come in different shapes and sizes and find enjoyment and various benefits in different ways of moving our bodies. Even something like weight lifting plays a different and unique role for each individual. For some, weight lifting is serious business. Men and women of all ages going to great lengths to achieve a competitive body ready for competition. And those more mature using 5lb free weights to fend off osteoporosis. We can use our body’s weight to our advantage. Did you know the femur is the longest/ strongest bone in the body and the heaviest? An average human being weighing 150lbs leg weighs 26lbs. Much heavier than a 5lb or 10lb weight. And the weight in the arm is 8lbs. Three more pounds than a 5-pound weight. And just under 2 of a 10-pound weight. 

Bird dog is a posture you can use your leg and arm weight to your advantage. Bird dog promotes proper posture and increases range of motion. Improving balance and stability and strengthens the core, hips, and back muscles. Anyone can do the bird dog including, the more mature set. (and lean muscle does diminish with age)

YogAlign Bird Dog:

  • Begin by starting on all floors also, known as table pose. Be sure to distribute your weight evenly front to back. This balance will take the extra pressure and weight off your wrists.
  • Next, focus on your head/ neck posture. Imagine putting a marble in the long crease in the back of your neck. Place it right between your hairline and the top of your shoulders. When you begin to drop your head too far forward (chin to chest). You will lose your marble. If you lift your head too much, you will also lose your marble. The goal is not to lose our marble. 
  • Extend your right leg back with the top of your foot gently touching your yoga mat. Toes pointed, begin your SIP inhale (breathing through a straw), and slowly with purpose, raise your leg. Bring your leg only as high as the rest of your body, not higher. Making sure you are not lifting/ twisting your right hip towards the ceiling.
  • Smile and start your sss-hale like a snake and slowly bring your leg down and back to starting position. You can begin moving from side to side with conscious breath, posture, and pointed toe. Taking it to your edge and then come down and rest on your forearms. 
  • Take a nice inhale and exhale through the nose.
  • Now add the arms (jet plane arms) with palms facing down and fingers spread. Create gentle resistance by pushing your arms down towards the floor. Be mindful not to let your shoulders creep up towards your ears. Left leg/ right arm and right arm/ left leg.

It is more important to move slowly with proper alignment with less number of times. Then, rushing through the posture with more times and little to no benefits. After all, can you imagine the possibilities in a body you can trust?

Aloha

14 Day Self (love) Quarantine.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I thought that a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine was going to be rough. But, that was not the case.

Self-quarantine: verb – to refrain from any contact with other individuals for a period of time (such as two weeks) during the outbreak of a contagious disease usually by remaining in one’s home and limiting contact with family members.

My father had become ill and left his physical body at the end of March. I spent the next month on the mainland doing all the things one does in an event like this.

As I left the Kauai I was informed when I returned I would need to self-quarantine for 14 days. I had so much on my mind I did not think much about it. It turned out to be a time of great healing.

Upon my return back to Kauai, I felt depleted.

I found my physical body at this time to be very tired, tense, and wanting to curl up into a ball. I found my breathing to be nonexistent. In other words, I was unconsciously holding my stomach so tight I could not take a full breath. My mental state was mostly distracted by anything and everything.

The good news is this was and is all fixable!

I knew I had two weeks of self-quarantine and that moment I felt great relief in knowing I could focus on myself. Let’s face it in our day-to-day lives the thought of even one day to focus on ourselves seems unattainable.

I began this self-quarantine AKA Self Love Quarantine by:

  • allowing my emotions to show up good, bad, and ugly
  • not judging my accomplishments or lack thereof
  • sleeping and eating on demand
  • asking for help
  • tuning into my breathing patterns
  • being patient with my tense and tight body
  • letting go

I also participated in all the tangible supportive rituals like – journaling, meditating, chanting and most beneficial for me YogAlign.

In my yoga practice and teachings, I find most students can connect to the physical part of their yoga practice first. Why? Because it is tangible you can feel it. That is what is so incredible about the YogAlign Method you can physically feel the benefits instantly. Once your physical body feels good everything else follows. Your breath flows more freely, and mood elevates to happy you are back in balance.

An example of this for me during this 14 days Self Love Quarantine was freeing up the frontline of my body so I could breathe. I mentioned earlier I could not get full inhales and exhales due to me clenching my tummy. Which then made my entire frontline shorten, my backline stretched out and exhausted. What to do? The YogAlign Downward Dog Series.

The series of postures creates space and length along my entire frontline and backline from head to toe. I can feel the balance return to the front, back, and sides of my body. Bringing what felt like a C posture collapse in the frontline (chin to chest) back into my body’s natural curves, balance, and breath.

The YogAlign Downward Dog Series: when practicing this series use the SIP inhale (sipping through a straw) and exhale either with the S snake sound (with a smile) or lion’s breath (tongue out). Moving through the sequence taking three breaths per posture and leg.

YogAlign High Dog

YogAlign High Dog

YogAlign Traction Dog

YogAlign Traction Dog

YogAlign Core Dog

YogAlign Core Dog

YogAlign Psoas Dog

YogAlign Psoas Dog (back)
YogAlign Psoas Dog (front)

Another posture I rely on when I need to create space in my belly is Cobra. Like the postures above- Cobra will balance the fascial forces between the front and back body. The superficial front line lengthens from the top of the toes to your head. The core line strengthens in length and integrity.

The Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose

During this 14 day Self Love Quarantine I realized what a gift this time had been for me. It was not all fun and games but, I would not change a thing. I could fully relax in my body to allow the feelings and emotions to move through me without restrictions. Reconnect with breath allowing my inhales to expand my rib cage and let out a long sigh of tension. (much like lion’s breath)

Sigh: verb – emit a long, deep, audible breath expressing sadness, relief, tiredness, or a similar feeling.

Ironically, I ended up returning to the mainland a month later for various reasons and had a second opportunity for a 14 day Self Love Quarantine.

This time was a completely different experience as I was in a much different place. It was so much easier and more time to achieve some of benefits mentioned above and then some. And although I knew it is unrealistic to have this amount of time as well as mostly unnecessary. I highly recommend taking a few days for a Self Love Quarantine now and again.

Sending love and aloha

Renee’

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

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

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