Category Archives: yoga poses

Product Review: Using Medi-Dyne Prostretch for a Deep Calf Stretch

calf muscles

Are your heels so far off the floor that your Downward Dog is a Downward Don’t? Do you suffer with tight calves, hamstrings, or plantar fascitis?  If so, the Medi-Dyne Prostretch might be just the tool you need to improve your yoga practice.  As a recreational runner and yoga teacher, I’m personally aware that running can result in uncomfortably calves tight calves. Yet, I’m not willing to give up running for the benefit of my yoga practice.

Let’s take a minute for a brief anatomy review. There are 2 primary muscles in the calf, the gastrocnemius (a.k.a. gastroc) and the soleus. The gastroc, think rock, is the bulbous muscle superficial to the soleus, which lies under it. Both have a role in plantarflexion (pointed toe position) of the foot. Because the gastroc originates at the femur, it is the primary plantarflexor when the leg is straight. On the other hand, the soleus is primary when the leg is bent. This tells us that, in order to stretch both, we need to extend the calf in both bent leg and straight leg positions.

Medi-Dyne ProstretchSo, what’s a yogi to do?  While poses such as Downward Dog and Warrior I are effective for stretching the calf muscles, using the Prostretch is a more focused approach. First, it also allows for the calf to be stretched with a straight or bent leg. Second, with it’s rounded bottom, it allows for a rocker motion that simulates the foot motion which occurs during running. The stretch can be gradually deepened by rocking back so the heel sits lower than the ball of the foot. Finally, combining all that goodness with a v-shaped cradle, you’ll find it can release the fascia (connective-tissue) and achilles.

Every so often a product comes along that I want to tell the world about it. The Prostretch is one of those products. I use it every morning when brushing my teeth. I love the feeling of release and have fun rolling around on it. So, get yourself a Prostretch and the next time a yoga teacher says that Downward Dog is a restorative pose, it may actually feel that way to you.

 

 

New Yoga Class Sequence for Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana

One Legged King Pigeon Pose

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana

I just posted another class that warms students up to practice One Footed King Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana.
It includes lots of shoulder and hip flexor stretching and backbending. Check out a full yoga class sequence here.

In the full expression of the pose, the yogi’s head is touching the feet. However, for most of us mere mortals there will be some space there. If your shoulders are not flexible enough to reach back for the toes, use a strap around the ankle for support.  Also, always remember to engage Uddyana Bandha when backbending.

Free you pelvis with yoga hip openers

Gomukhasana

gomukhasana

At the start of each class, I ask students if there is a pose or body part that they would like to work on. One of the most frequent requests is for hip openers. It’s in the top 10 along with neck and shoulders.  Hmmm…all places we commonly carry stress.

The anatomy of the hip is complicated to say the least and there is a spectrum of physical reasons our hips tighten. The desk jockey’s inactivity and the runner’s repetitive muscle contractions are just a couple.

There are also emotional reasons that cause the hips to feel closed off. In yoga, the pelvis is often referred to as the body’s ‘junk drawer’. It’s the perfect analogy.  In it, we stuff experiences and emotions that we don’t know what else to do with.  From an energetic anatomy perspective, the pelvis contains our first and second chakras, energy centers.  The first chakra, muladhara, is located at the perineum and is associated with our root survival needs for nourishment and security.  The second, svadhisthana, is just a couple of inches above muladhara and is associated with our sexuality and how we communicate with others.  You can probably think of your own ‘junk’ related to these chakras that you have stashed in here.

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Yoga: Are you a poser?

What would you think if I called you a poser? Isn’t everyone who practices yoga a poser? Or are we? I guess that Tree Posedepends on how you define poser. I’m thinking of it in 2 ways:

  1. a person who aligns their body into yoga poses
  2. a person who acts like something they aren’t

From my perspective, we all start out being both. Now you might be saying, wait just one minute missy, I love yoga. I’m no poser! Let me explain.

Can you remember when you first stepped on a yoga mat? For me, it was at Innerlight yoga studio in Newport, RI. It was 1996. This was a traumatically whirlwind year for me. I started a new job as a software engineer with IBM. I had recently moved to Rhode Island, having renovated a small cottage on the Sakonnet River with my husband. It was to be our dream home. It was also the year my husband died of leukemia. Looking back, I don’t know how I made it through that challenging year.

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Yoga class sequencing

short warmup sequence

short warm-up sequence

Sequencing a yoga class is akin to choreographing a dance. Like a dance, a yoga class should have a sense of flow and feel coherent.  At the same time, it should target a variety of postures to open energy channels throughout the body.

There are hundreds of basic yoga poses. Add to to those, the myriad variations of these postures and teachers have thousands of postures to choose from. Sorting through these variations to create a fluid and safe class sequence can be a real challenge. This challenge, luckily, doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start with a basic framework and add variety from there. Continue reading