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NationalYogaMonth‬ Q&A: Let’s do this!

We got some great questions last week! Here are my answers to 3 of them–ranging from drinking and headstands (NO!) to what to do when your wrists hurt in downward facing dog (here’s my favorite option).

Have YOU got questions? ASK! Comment below or send me a private message on my contact page, Facebook, or Twitter, and I’ll answer next week for ‪#‎WellnessWednesday‬ with Healthworks Fitness Centers!

Q: Is it bad to drink beer while doing headstand? –Israel M.

A: Insider tip: The pros go straight for the vodka. KIDDING! In all seriousness, do not drink and yoga. You are more likely to injure yourself. Do yoga and save the cocktails for afterward 🙂

Q: What can I do to take some of the pressure (and resulting pain) out of my wrists in downward facing dog? I’ve been trying to figure this out for years. –Ann P.

A: When the wrists are tender, it can take a while to feel better—especially if they’re already sensitive from working at a computer. When this happens, I like to take the wrists out of the equation altogether. I suggest trying downward facing dog on your forearms (sometimes called Egyptian Dog). That way, you still get all the shoulder-strengthening, upper-body challenge (along with all the other benefits of Dog), without ANY strain on the wrists.

Let them rest for awhile. Then, if you want to try traditional dog again, you can integrate hands and forearms slowly. You can also try elevating the heels of your hands with a fold of a blanket and see if that gives you some relief.

Q: What do you love about yoga –Tatiana

A: I love how it serves as a sanctuary from the rest of life—a place to come and release, receive, and rejuvenate. I love how it supports and nourishes us.

 

Friends, grab your camera, bathing suit, camera and even a yoga mat. I am SO excited to announce I’ll be teaching yoga as part of a private tour through beautiful BALI Oct. 3-10.

Join us as we breathe fresh island air, take in lush landscapes, explore rice fields, bike through back roads of charming villages, eat nourishing, healthy meals, partake in an ancient meditation ceremony, hike up Mt. Batur (pictured below), take a Balinese cooking class…and of course optional daily yoga with me 🙂

The amazing Jess K. at My Adventure Travel put together a holistic tour to make sure you leave the island refreshed and inspired. I can’t wait and I hope you’ll join us.

Did I mention it’s really affordable?

Learn more here.

Need more inspiration??

On the mat and off, your primary focus may be on stretching your muscles. But whatever your level of flexibility—you may actually have a fascial “restriction” on top of your muscles, and the muscles themselves may be perfectly flexible. For this reason, I work both muscularly and fascially in the classes I teach, as well as in my personal practice.

You may be wondering what exactly IS this mysterious, enigmatic fascia, which potentially holds the key to unlocking the next level of your practice?

Fascia is a wet, slippery, see-through tissue in your body that pretty much looks like Saran wrap. If you’ve ever cooked raw chicken, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you gagged at the thought of raw chicken, make yourself some peppermint tea, and keep reading.

Like raw chicken, humans have that same slippery cling-wrap encasing all our muscles, organs, and other body parts. If you’re not working fascially, you’re missing out on an important component of flexibility and functionality on and off the mat.

Important note: fascia doesn’t stretch. Ever. It can, however, get stuck or “caught” when ideally it should slip and glide. You can release these restrictions three ways: with massage therapy; foam rolling; and/or slow, deep stretching.

Today we’re going to use slow, deep, stretching to help release both hip flexor muscles, and the fascial covering over your hip flexors. I chose to work on hip flexors in this piece, because they can contribute to front-hip pain as well as lower-back pain. The psoas muscle, which is the deepest muscle in your entire body as well as one of your largest muscles, runs up the front of your hip, cuts through your abdominal cavity, and attaches into your lumbar spine. A tight psoas can pull you into lordosis, or being swaybacked, as well as cause lower-back tightness. The psoas is important not only for initiating every single step you take (it’s the largest of the hip flexors—as in, it “flexes” your leg up to take each step), it’s also key to spinal and abdominal health and strength. On the mat, it’s an integral part of many poses—among them, navasana (boat pose), forward folds, and many more.
Let’s get started.

From Low Lunge:

  • Make sure your right knee is directly above your ankle.
  • Draw your back knee down to the mat (as shown above).
  • Rest your palms on blocks at whatever height best supports you, and lets your arms stay relaxed. The elbows should be at ease—be careful not to brace or “lock” them out.
  • Stay for 5-8 cycles of slow breath. Really tune in and focus on the sensations in your hip flexors (the front of your right hip). How tight  are they? Is this side easy for you? Do you feel them stretching?
  • Now let’s move on to the fascial release. Make sure you still feel a stretch in your hip flexors. If you’re really flexible here, you may need to bring your chest a bit more forward and/or down until you get the right amount of stretch for you. If you’re really, really flexible here, you may need to bring the right arm inside the right leg in order to bring your chest down low enough to feel a stretch.WHEN you feel that stretch, let your head hang gently forward (as show above).
  • NOTICE how this brings you deeper into the hip flexor release, if you have fascial restriction in addition to muscular tightness. It can feel really intense or almost “pinchy.” If you don’t have a fascial restriction, you may not feel this stretch intensify but stay with it regardless so that you have a baseline to compare the release on your left side.
  • Stay for 5 more cycles of breath. Gently lift the head up. Tuck under the back toes and come up to a low lunge.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Remember that everyone’s body is somewhat asymmetrical. You will have a tighter side and an easier side. You may also have a fascial restriction on only one side, or one day/week/month and not the next. Tune in and really notice your body in each pose. Notice how the muscular and fascial releases feel different. Notice which works best for you each time. Your only goal is to serve and support your body so that it can better serve and support you–both on the mat and off.

*This piece also appeared on Sequence Yoga Mats “Serious Sundays.”

Whoa! I’m so thrilled to be part of this awesome article, “How to maintain your yoga routine while traveling” featured in USA Today’s Travel Section! It was written by journalist Nancy Trejos, as part of her Thriving on the Road series, which is all about staying healthy while traveling.

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How to maintain your yoga routine while traveling

Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY

October 24. 2012 – Roseann Day can’t go without yoga, especially when she’s traveling. That’s when she says she needs it most, what with cramped seats on airplanes and luggage to haul.

“Yoga’s a wonderful exercise that doesn’t require any special equipment yet helps with strength and flexibility,” she says.

If she can’t find the time to take a class, the Massachusetts-based information technology consultant will do yoga in her hotel room in the morning.

Now, more than ever, yoga enthusiasts have plenty of options for maintaining their routines on the road, yoga instructors and hospitality industry experts say. A number of hotels offer classes or in-room equipment. And if they don’t, yoga instructors say, there are many ways to practice the craft even on a plane, in a hotel room or outdoors at a park or beach.

“Yoga is one of the most feasible ways to exercise while on the road — limited amount of equipment: You lay down a towel if you don’t have a mat. (It) can be practiced indoors or outdoors,” says Marshall Sanders, a registered yoga teacher at VIDA Fitness and EPIC Yoga in Washington, D.C. “And you don’t have to worry about bringing multiple pairs of shoes because you practice barefoot.”

Interest in yoga has grown over the years. A 2012 study by Yoga Journal, a national yoga publication, indicated that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, up from 15.8 million in 2008. And they spend $2 billion a year on yoga retreats, up from $630,000 in 2008.

In an Omni Hotels and Resorts survey last year, 26% of respondents said they wished their hotel would help them find nearby yoga or spinning studios.

Equipment to go

Many hotels are doing better than that by offering classes or equipment.

Kimpton Hotel guests can request a yoga bag at the front desk that contains mats, straps and exercise bands.

In Washington, the Mandarin Oriental offers yoga mats and videos upon request. The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, a Marriott property, has Saturday-morning yoga classes in its Urban Garden when weather permits. In Boston, the Liberty Hotel offers “Yoga in the Yard” with instructors from the Equinox gym.

Omni Amelia Island Plantation in Northeast Florida has a yoga treehouse, where guests can practice yoga while overlooking the water.

Hilton Worldwide is testing a dedicated “Yoga Room.” The guestroom, available at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in Virginia and the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, has a designated space to practice yoga, a full-length mirror to check poses and yoga accessories.

“It’s yet another way to empower our guests and motivate them to maintain their healthy lifestyle on the road,” says Jodi Sullivan, senior director of global fitness for Hilton Worldwide. “We’re seeing more and more travelers, individuals, guests, consumers realizing the importance of yoga as far as breathing, meditation, stretching.”

Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of NYU’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, says hotels are trying to appeal to both younger and older guests.

“Yoga cuts across all age groups and many demographics, so it’s kind of universal,” he says. “Yoga and other types of exercise and fitness and health are all good messages for hotels because people feel stressed traveling.”

Start your trip off right

Yoga instructors recommend practicing some moves as soon as you arrive at the airport.

San Francisco International Airport recently opened a dedicated yoga room. Other airports have fitness centers on-site that offer day passes.

But there’s much you can do even while sitting in your seat at the gate or on the plane. Try an Eagle Arm pose while sitting, says Gabrielle Benoit, a yoga and pilates instructor and founder of Core Club LA in Los Angeles. All that is required is positioning your right arm under your left arm, then vice versa.

“If you are stuck on an airplane or in the airport, there are many different yoga poses you can practice in a chair to keep the blood flowing and get a little workout in as well,” Benoit says.

If you arrive at your destination and discover that your hotel doesn’t offer yoga amenities, there are other ways to get in your workout.

Many travel mats are now lighter than the ones you typically get at a studio.

If you can’t remember all your poses, online classes are available at such websites as YogaGlo.com. Pay an $18 monthly fee, and you can get instruction anywhere you go. Some websites allow you to download classes onto your iPod. Many instructors offer free instruction in YouTube videos.

If you prefer the physical company of an instructor and classmates, there are plenty of studios that let people drop in for about $15 to $20.

Sanders recommends calling the studio ahead. “Confirm the style, time and request feedback on the instructor and find out if a reservation is necessary,” he says.

Fresh air is refreshing

For a cheaper alternative, take your mat to a local park or a towel to the beach and practice while getting some fresh air, he says.

Sara DiVello, a registered teacher with classes in Boston, recommends travelers develop a routine for the road. Ask your favorite instructor for a private lesson, and have him or her customize a travel routine, she says.

DiVello says traveling yogis shouldn’t push themselves too hard when on the road.

“You don’t have to do a full 90 or even 60 minutes,” she says. “If you’re crunched on time, you can do an abbreviated practice.”

The best strategy, Sanders says, is to practice your routine first thing in the morning.

“Travel schedules tend to throw us off our routines, so doing your practice first thing in the morning will ground you (and) help reinvigorate normal body functions,” he says.

There is a great article, American Anxiety: Why we’re such a nervous nation on Today. com this week. And by “great,” I mean important and yes, somewhat anxiety-inducing in and of itself.As the article detailed how anxiety has become a problem for many of us, how our thoughts race, our hearts pound, blood pressure sky rockets, and we lay awake plagued by insomnia and worries, I felt my own pulse pick up and thoughts start to race–ironically getting anxious about my anxiety.Anxiety about anxiety? Surely, that is a level-two problem. And by “level two,” I obviously mean, “crazy person problem.”

Oh well, according to the article, I’d be in good company.

Here’s the thing though: when I’m not reading anxiety-inducing articles about anxiety, I’m actually fairly calm. Or at least calmer than I used to be, which was a high blood-pressure insomniac with a racing heart. But over the years, I’ve used wine, more wine, gallons of wine yoga as a tool to lower my anxiety and its many unpleasant side effects.

Here’s how you can too.

  1. Got an extra hour a day (and no injuries)? (If injured, proceed directly to #3)
    Take a yoga class. One with lots of core work will help burn off that agida.
  2. Are you LOL at the idea of having an extra hour? No problem. Got 15 minutes?
    Do five rounds of sun salutations as follows:

    • Stand with your big toes together (or hip-width apart) and heels slightly wider. Take a deep, slow inhale and sweep your arms up slowly. Exhale slowly, drawing your palms to your heart. Set an intention for yourself. Maybe it’s “Ground myself.” Take a deep breath in. On the exhale, engage your core and slooooowly fold at the hips, bringing the hands toward the floor. Bend your knees to get there. Inhale half-way up to a long spine, pressing the palms against the shins. Sloooooowly exhale out, bending the knees and bringing the palms back down to the floor.
    • Inhale and step the right foot back to a low lunge. Exhale slooooowly. stay here.
    • On the next inhale, lift the left foot and then hold here in a “knee hanging” high plank for 3 cycles of breath. Lift the navel to the spine for extra core work. Breathe slooooowly and deeply, extending the exhale.
    • After three cycles, step back to high plank on your exhale. Keep the elbows slightly bent.
    • Next inhale draw the right knee to the right elbow, exhale slowly return to high plank. Inhale and draw the left knee to the left elbow, exhale and step back. SLOWLY repeat on both sides.
    • Are your arms shaking? Oh good–it’s working.
    • Inhale and draw the knees down to the floor (or stay on your toes in your name is Clark Kent or you’re freakishly strong). Inhale and drop the chest only to elbow-height. Stay here, with the hips high, for 3 cycles of slow, steady breath. Keep extending the exhale.
    • On your next inhale, breathe through to an upward-facing dog. Take a cycle of breath here. Release the shoulders down, away from the ears. Release any tension they’re holding.
    • Tuck the toes under and with strong core engagement, lift the hips first up and then back to downward facing dog or child’s pose. Stay here for 5 breaths.
    • Inhale, walk the palms back to the toes. Stay here for a breath. Then roll slowly back up to standing.

    Repeat this 4 times.

    Next, sit down (on the floor, on your desk chair, anywhere). Close your eyes and breathe 5 cycles of extended exhale breathing. Return to your intention. Open the eyes. You’re done!

  3. Got 1-5 minutes?
    1. Do one sun salutation (above) OR
    2. Sit. Think of what’s stressing you out and take a deep breath. Exhale (extending it longer than your inhale) and flick your hands as though you’re trying to get something off of them (you are–the stress!). Also know as the “there’s no paper towels in the restroom flick.” Repeat 3-5 times. Now, settle into extended exhale breathing with the eyes closed, concentrating on your new-found wellness.
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There has been an influx of new students in my classes recently. Some are new to yoga, others are just new to my class, but the bottom line is the new students have been outnumbering the regulars.This always happens in the beginning of January with “The New Year Resolutioners.” I expect it in January. But it's the middle of July! What gives? (Besides the fact that word of my awesomeness is obviously spreading, natch).

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Anyway, an influx of newbies usually means disaster that it won't be the best class. The newness of students (both new to yoga and new to me) often means they'll struggle in my class: alignment will be crappy, mindfulness noticeably absent, and frustrations (theirs) high. (More on this another day.)

But last night, for some reason (I could delve into my yoga theories on why but I'm feeling merciful today so I'll spare you), this particular class was amazing. Amazing! The kind of mindful, hardworking, beautiful class that makes teaching feel vital and joyful and worthwhile.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one to notice. Two new students came up to me after class, dizzy with their yoga buzz, and gushed about how awesome they felt. I wonder if they'll ever come back. Then two regulars came up, yoga buzzed and somewhat puzzled, and said, “That was an especially awesome class!”

We talked about why there were so many new people (a mystery) and why the class had been so mellow (also mysterious). Then one of them, a super-fit dude (who I'll call Super-Fit Dude) who looks like he'd be more at home busting out a triathalon than triangle pose, hesitated. “I actually had a vision tonight in savasana,” he finally confided, looking a little uncomfortable. He looked like he's usually more comfortable debating the merits of muscle milk vs. protein shakes.

I tried to lift my jaw off the floor. “Really? Uh…I mean that's great.”

“Yeah, it was like my mind went totally blank and I had no thoughts and just peace at the end.” He tried to sound like it was no big thing but his face said, What the heck happened to me??!!

I could barely contain my glee/amazement. “That's awesome!! That's what yoga's all about! That's what everyone's trying to get to!!”

I stared at him. Didn't he know? This what monks and meditators and yogis and Buddhists and Hindus and seekers of all kinds are trying to get to: mental stillness! peace!no more monkey chatter!

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which is like the yoga bible, maps out an eight-limb system. Its first lines, in Sanskrit, obv, are: “Atha yoganusasanam. Yogas chitta vritti nerodaha.” Which, as I learned it, translate to: “And now the continuation of yoga (teachings). The goal of yoga is to still the fluctuations of the mind.”

Holy crap. Super-Fit Dude chitta (mind) vritti (restless fluctuations) nerodahah'd (ceased/stilled)? That's amazing!!

“Well, only for like a few minutes,” he demurred modestly.

OK, this bears repeating: Super-Fit Dude chitta vritti nerodahah'd! That's freaking awesome. I'm not sure who was more surprised: Super-Fit Dude or Super Fit-Dude's teacher!

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Just back from LA–jet-lagged, bleary-eyed, and still not sure which coast or time zone I'm in. BUT the trip and the LA Film Festival (LAFF), where I flexed my PR and yoga muscles, were pretty awesome.NOTE: “LAFF” is pronounced letter by letter “L-A-F-F” not “laugh.”And with that I hope I can spare someone else a bit of mortification. Not that I'd ever make such an uber-geek gaffe. Ahem. {whistles, looks everywhere else}

Anyway, you may recall from my very first post ever that once upon a time, I was a corporate drone/PR maven. Then I realized I was les miserables and I traded cubicles for yoga mats.

Truth be told though, I still do PR work. The difference is that now I work on a freelance basis, which means I get to choose my clients and projects. Currently, one of those projects is Dead Man's Burden, an independent film that debuted this past Saturday at LAFF. It was a huge success–the first showing sold out (actually the Festival over-sold it by 30 tickets and thus had to deal with 30 extremely disgruntled ticket-holders who had nowhere to sit!), the reviews have been AMAZING, and the after-party, planned by yours truly, was described as the best industry party ever.

And you know as well as I do that LA/film people are only ever brutally honest. They'd tell you if your party sucked. (Wait…right? Um…guys?? RIGHT??!!)

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When I wasn't working the premiere, I was teaching yoga to LAFF attendees, cast, and crew.

I was excited to bring my brand of yoga teaching to LA for the first time, to see how it resonated, and what people thought. The students seemed to react to it with a mix of, “Holy crap this hard!” to “I've never done yoga before–this rocks!”

As for me, it was a brain-twizzling experience to merge my two selves (or two of my selves, my author self stayed home) and blend PR and yoga. Previously, I thought that'd be like ice cream and ketchup (yuck). Turns out, it's more like ice cream and chocolate. It works!

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