Tuesday 26 January 2010

Protect your knees and work your feet

Do you ever suffer from achy or weak knees? If we can strengthen the muscles in our legs then this will help to protect our knees in the long run.

We started our lesson by focusing on our alignment of our whole body beginning with the awareness in the feet, letting the weight become even. If you are not wearing shoes now, you may like to try these foot movements even while sitting at the computer.

Sit on the edge of your chair, knees hip width apart and ankles directly under your feet. Try to let your spine stay lengthened. Rock onto the heals so your toes come off the ground (feel a gentle pull in the shins) and gently stretch through the feet as you uncurl and release them down. Take your time. Come onto the balls of the feet lifting the heals (feel the pull of the calf muscle), and release down finding balance between the heals and ball of the feet. Lift your toes, wriggle them, then try to open them getting space between your toes (don’t worry if nothing happens today). Place them down. Find an evenness between the outer edge of your feet and the big toe joint to lift the inner arch.

In the lesson we focused on some standard standing yoga poses. One of the simplest is the best and it is the mountain pose of Tadasana. For those of you who don’t know yoga poses this may just look like we are standing but on closer inspection you can see how each part of the body is working to align the body.

Tadasana – the Mountain Pose
We start with getting a nice awareness in the feet (as above) wriggling the toes to get some space between them, and feeling a balance between the heal, both the outside and inside edges of the feet, feeling the mat under the big toe joint and lifting the inner arch. Once the feet are firmly planted the leg muscles can be worked. You may feel a tightening in the shin as the inner arch lifts. Then we engage the quadriceps muscles of the thighs to lift the knee caps. Then ankles, hips align as the pelvic tilt is applied. We let the top of the pelvis rotate back and then the spine can lengthen. The shoulders relax away from the ears, and we balance our heads. Take the arms just a little away from the body directing the fingers to the floor. Let your gaze become relaxed or close your eyes if you feel balanced and breathe naturally in and out through the nose. Stand in this posture for at least 30 seconds or longer.
There are lots and lots of small instructions for this simple pose but these are some of the basics

Friday 8 January 2010

Feeling happy lays the groundwork for long term well-being.

I wish you all a Very Happy and Healthy New Year 2010

I began this year with a lesson that will help you find happiness and achieve good health.

It’s a good idea to spend some time to connect with your inner joy. If you practice yoga then you can use your time on your mat. If you don’t do yoga then you just need to take a little time off, just a few minutes to sit, breathe and connect with yourself.

This is based on the start of our lesson. Anyone can try this. Sit comfortably either on the edge of a chair, feet firmly planted hip width apart and knees directly above your ankles Or sit on a block with your legs crossed. Let your spine lengthen up, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Rest your hands in your lap. Breathe slowly in and out through your nose. Let your chin drop. Unclench your teeth and let your face muscles soften. At any time close your eyes or let your gaze become unfocused. Think of something that will make you smile. Breathe slowly, focusing on your exhalation. As you do this let all your muscles relax. Spend a few minutes connecting with your inner joy. Hopefully you will find this blissful. Don’t worry if your mind is still busy. When you practice this seated mediation it will become easier over time.

For my non yogi friends, finish this quiet time with a deep breath, a stretch and a yawn.

In the class we did some warm ups including a slow version of the Three Way Stretch (watch the video on a past blog).

My favourite pose to illustrate finding bliss is the Cobra – Bhujangasana. Whatever level you are at you can reap the benefits. Working the pelvic tilt, making the legs strong and keeping the front of the feet down can really allow one to feel how, when the lower half is grounded, the upper body can lift and and the heart centre can open, drawing up the chest and breathing deeply in and out.
(See Blog Feb '09 demonstrating the Cobra for beginners)

When life throws obstacles our way and we don’t feel happy we can connect to the happiness that is within us all. Find it to put a smile on your face and help you cope with life’s challenges.

‘When we smile we bring happiness into the world.’

This lesson was inspired by December’s Yoga Journal.