Posts made in November, 2014

ON CHANGE by Gloria Munoz

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

ON CHANGE by Gloria Munoz

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Alan W. Watts Change can be scary. In fact the threat of looming changes can keep us awake at night full of anxiety, questions and resentment. These emotions can wreak havoc on the mind and body. These emotions can leave anyone feeling helpless and vulnerable. Why is all this negativity attached to change? Mainly, because there is an incredible degree of uncertainty that comes during a time of change, and we, with our five-year-plans, smartphone calendars and diehard attachment to social standards—we do not like to be left in the dark. In a more positive light, change probably teaches us the most about the yogic principle of non-attachment. Consider one of the most challenging yoga poses: Shavasana (Corpse Pose). What could be more terrifying than lying on the ground, limbs splayed, jaw limp, palms up, eyes closed, while imitating a corpse? Shavasana embodies the fear and uncertainty that often come with change. As we are cradled into Corpse Pose at the end of a yoga class we are reminded to: let go, release expectations, be present. Similarly, change requires us to let go of the need to be in control, relinquish ideals of people or situations, and, most importantly, change causes us to consider our present selves. As we wiggle fingers and toes, our senses return and we are are “reborn” through Shavasana, through a deep state of non-attachment, into a brighter and more present version of the self. After being pummeled by a tumultuous wave of change we resurface with a clearer, more mindful version of the present self. We learn most when we allow change to come into our lives. Yes, you can put up a good fight until you accept that change is an inevitable part of life. The ever-changing world and the people we encounter in it teach us how to love and how to deal with loss. Practicing non-attachment during times of change is one of our greatest challenges. Yet, life demands this of us, because sooner or later change will come. And when it does, it is not our job to dismiss it, fear it, or label it as a mistake or failure. It is our job to embrace change, hold it close to our beating hearts, to fully experience the nauseating mix of emotions that comes with it, to search for truth in change, to let go so that we are able to look into our present selves. Next time you are faced with change, try returning to Shavasana a state of non-attachment and mindfulness where your pulse, breath and mind experience clarity and acceptance, where your being prepares for...

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TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Anatomy | 0 comments

TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS

The Transvers Abdominis (TVA) is the deepest and in my opinion the most important abdominal muscle. It literally forms a “corset” of support around the spine and internal organs. The TVA attaches to the inside of the lower 6 ribs to the top of the pelvis at the iliac crest and ASIS (or hip points). It wraps around the waist from the thoracolumbar fascia in the back of the body to the linea alba (or midline) in the front of the body forming a “support belt” around the soft belly. The TVA has fibers that interdigitate with the diaphragm (our main breathing muscle) and some of the fibers also blend with the fascia of the psoas. It is an extremely important muscle to strengthen for low back pain, diastasis (or separation of the linea alba, which can happen during pregnancy), and abdominal hernias. A healthy TVA is supposed to contract whenever we move, raise our arms, walk, lift our leg, twist our spine, etc. but several factors inhibit its function including a sedentary lifestyle and certain poor dietary habits. It is a respiratory aid that fires when we cough, sneeze, laugh, or forcefully exhale. One of the main reasons it is so important to low back health is that when contracted it decompresses the lumbar spine and acts as a spinal support by “stiffening” the intervertebral discs to sustain loading. The Transverse abdominis plays a key role in Uddiyana Bandha, or the “flying up lock”. The usual cue for Uddiyana Bandha is to draw the navel in and up but I would further that by saying draw the entire waist in and up. Try it: Engage your TVA by pulling the sides of the waist in towards your spine and away from your shirt. Put this idea in all your asanas, and your back will be protected. Shila...

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JAWASANA

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

JAWASANA

Saying that my Guru, Baba Hari Dass, is “a man of few words” is a monumental understatement. The few words he “says” are written on a small chalkboard. Babaji has taken the “vox mauna”-a vow of silence and hasn’t spoken for well over 50 years. Whenever I mention this to my students, the reaction is always the same; faces filled with complete disbelief; foreheads scrunched into ? marks; and then the inevitable question- “BUT WHY?!” (I would imagine he is asked that question as many times as a vegan is asked-“But how do you get your protein?!”) Ask Babaji himself, and you will be met with his sense of humor- “So I don’t yell at everyone!” I can’t begin to tell you how many crazy scenarios my fellow students came up with in order to coerce Babaji into saying he would speak under “these” circumstances. But he always managed to find another answer to the dilemma. Where to us it seems like a complete impossibility to maintain for any length of time, the silence is a means to quiet the mind. To get rid of all the many unproductive thoughts and develop a peace inside that will in turn bring peace to society as a whole. Babaji explains it as his way of finding peace amidst a chaotic world. Constant chatter keeps us in a superficial world where we allow ourselves to detour around unpleasant situations. We cover up what we don’t want to delve into, and avoid having to look inside (or outside) to meet reality head on….just another means of distraction. How many of us like to talk just to hear ourselves talk? Or feel the need to have our opinion heard above all others because ours is the “right” one? Might I suggest Ego anyone? Silence is a means of letting that go and expressing humility. Speaking uses up a lot of energy. Traditional yogins want to preserve as much energy as possible so that every conceivable smidgen can be used to help them reach moksha- or enlightenment. Some traditionalists believe the goal of yoga itself is silence and that silence equates to Samadhi(the highest level of the 8 limb yogic path). Behind all the noise and sounds is silence-one’s innermost soul. Babaji is silent to find his inner Self, to connect with God. So do I think we should all take the vox mauna(which still sounds to me like some kind of a Star Trek Vulcan ritual that Mr. Spock would take)? Absolutely not. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt each and every one of us to let go of our ego and find some time to go into silence. To listen to others; to listen to ourselves. To learn to know one’s self and let go of illusion, to understand who we really are and to find our dharma-our reason for being here at this...

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BURY THE BAD

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

BURY THE BAD

Society teaches us to bury the bad. Headache? –take a pill. Hard day?- eat some ice cream, have a drink, smoke a joint. Or in other words, bury it. From a yogic standpoint, using drugs (legal or otherwise) or food to alleviate pain only serves to cover it up, leaving the underlying cause of the pain to gravitate to some other place in the body. Like in our neck, shoulders, hips, or back-or to create some chronic illness. Teaching yoga at the Veterans Administration has been an awe-inspiring experience that has afforded me the opportunity to meet many Vets suffering from PTSD. Recently I worked with one Vet whose PTSD has manifested in night terrors so extreme that he awakens in the middle of the night screaming, shaking, sobbing, with sheets soaked in perspiration. To heal this, he has been prescribed medication that completely erases all memory of the dream. So now, he awakens in the middle of the night screaming, shaking, sobbing, with sheets soaked in perspiration, with absolutely no recollection of why. I realize I am no doctor, definitely no psychologist, but doesn’t this just bury the issue? Doesn’t this just push the issue down so deep that the root of the problem will never be confronted and the pain will continue to manifest as night terrors or maybe something even worse? In yoga, we strive to master the concept of samatva, or equanimity, which basically means maintaining calmness even in the most difficult of situations. A balanced response to all situations rather than an emotional reaction, whether the situation is good or bad. Sometimes, you just don’t know. What’s good may not turn out so good and what’s bad may not turn out so bad. Yoga philosophy defines samatva as the sameness that underlies all phenomena; what remains when all activity ceases; a calmness; a union of the individual self with the inner (true) Self. A consistent yoga practice will inevitably bring up the ”bad” that we have buried deep within our bodies-and I would imagine in terms of war, there could be some horribly horrendous things to bury. But allowing issues to surface also allows us to examine them, deal with them and then begin the process of healing. Examining the issues is difficult to say the least, for anyone, but all of our experiences, good or bad, are life lessons that are part of what made us who we are, a part of our growth, a part of our ability to transform. If we continue to bury them, they will forever have their hold on us. If we can find the strength to conquer them, we will then be able to let go; to find our true Self; to live in...

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Wrist Strengthening Strategies

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Anatomy | 0 comments

Wrist Strengthening Strategies

Wrist pain is a common problem among yogis as we are often weight bearing on the arms. The pain can stem from a variety of reasons so if it is severe, it is important to understand what could be causing it in order to take proper action. If you’ve been taking a lot of classes lately and/or working on arm balances, handstands, planks and chaturangas for instance, the cause is most likely from overuse. Here are some steps you can take to prepare your wrists for bearing the weight of the body with more ease: Strengthen The Tennis Ball Squeeze: squeeze a tennis ball as hard as possible without causing pain and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times Wrist Curls with Theraband: take a theraband (preferably the bands that have handles on the ends but a regular theraband will do) and step on one end while standing. Hold the other end as if you are about to do bicep curls but instead stabilize your forearm at a 90 degree angle and hold forearm with opposite hand. Perform wrist curls isolating the movement in the wrist. Perform 3 sets of 8 in each of the following movements: flexion (with palm facing up), extension (with palm facing down), and lateral deviation (with thumb facing up/palm facing the midline) Stretch Stretching Flexors: Hold arm out in front of you at shoulder height, straight elbow with palm facing up. Take opposite hand and pull fingers and hand back until the wrist is in full extension stretching the flexors of the wrist. Alternative stretch: place hands in a prayer position in front of your chest and slowly lower the prayer down to the level of the waist without losing contact of your palms against one another. Hold stretches for 5 long, slow, deep breaths. Stretching Extensors: Hold arm out in front of you just below shoulder height, straight elbow with palm facing down. Take opposite hand and pull hand down so fingertips face the floor, flexing the wrist and stretching the extensors. Alternative stretch: come down onto hands and knees. One at a time flip the palm of one hand to face the ceiling and point fingertips towards your knees as you stretch the wrist extensors against the floor. Hold stretches for 5 long, slow, deep breaths. Twist Stretch: Hold both arms out in front of you at shoulder height, elbows straight with palms facing out. Cross right arm over left (now palms face one another) and interlace fingers. Bend elbows as you bring your interlaced hands towards you and flip them over the other way as the elbows extend away from you. Only lengthen elbows as much as your wrists will allow without pain. Hold stretch for 5 long, slow, deep breaths. Repeat other side. Self-Massage Extensors: Thoroughly massage the back of the forearm (a kneading action with opposite hand’s fingertips) from the elbow, down the fleshy part of the forearm, and down towards the back of the wrist. If there is a particularly tender spot, stay on it with static compression and hold until the intensity lessens. Flexors: Cross fiber the inside of your forearm (with opposite hand’s thumb) from under elbow crease down to wrist. If there is a particularly tender spot, stay on it with static compression and hold until the intensity lessens. Carpal Tunnel: Massage (with opposite hand’s thumb) the thumb pad and pinky pad of the palm near the wrist creases. This is where the little bones of your wrist reside which create your carpal tunnel. Many muscles attach to these bones so press in deep and...

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