Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tools of the trade

During one of the first few yoga teacher training weekends, we discussed variations of the supine stretch (Supta Padangusthasana I), for the beginner student. This is a foundation pose for developing the pelvic flexion necessary in many other yoga poses.

Since the beginner student, may not have the flexibility to reach the big toe, we demonstrated variations using; a yoga strap, a strap with a yoga block and an assisted/adjustment method. There are contraindications for some methods, which I'll discuss next.
  • The "yoga strap only" method can allow the beginner student to start performing this pose. The strap isn't placed in the main arch of the foot, instead it's placed near the ball of the foot. The contraindication here is that the strap can tend to flex the metatarsal arch in the opposite direction.
  • The "strap with yoga block" can provide a more evenly distributed "platform" on the foot, but it can be a little unwieldy, with the strap holding the block against the foot.
  • The assisted method is a good way for the student to experience a slightly deeper flex, but of course this requires an experienced instructor or partner to provide the adjustment/assist.
I came up with a fourth option, it involves modifying the yoga strap slightly with the addition of a tennis ball.
Modified Yoga Strap with tennis ball
To make this modification, take an ordinary tennis ball and carefully cut two holes (about the size of a dime) on opposite sides of the ball. Then thread the yoga strap (I used a slightly thinner strap) through the holes so that the ball is at the mid-point on the strap. Once the strap is threaded through the ball, the ball is placed at the metatarsal arch and allows the foot to keep its natural arch, while performing the supine stretch.

Supine stretch using the modified yoga strap

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Yoga Ride - Part 3

What do these two pictures have in common?
Yoga
Cycling
Well, besides them both being taken in my living room, the posture on the bike is basically a forward fold and it's similar to the Down-Dog in yoga. If you've just spent time in the saddle, be it 30 minutes or 4 hours, doing the Down-Dog pose afterwards might feel good, as you do get the benefit of the inversion, but is it all that you need? That's what this part of the Yoga Ride Project blog will cover.

The post-ride portion of the Yoga Ride focuses on two types of poses:
  • Poses that are in opposition to the forward fold position during the ride
  • Poses that are down-regulating
The opposition poses
These poses help to lengthen and strengthen the muscles in the front of the body as well as the hamstrings. These muscles can tend to shorten with repeated cycling if you don't engage in some exercises (in this case yoga).
  • Mountain Pose
  • Prone Mountain - with baby cobra or extended cobra
  • Vinyasa Flow Sun Salutation A (mixes the Up and Down Dog)
  • Cat-Cow (with a spine bag - if available)
The down regulating poses
Down regulation will help with recovery and rest. Cycling and caffeine are very up regulating, so we'll end with these poses (with some variations) to down regulate the body.
  • Legs up the wall
  • Warrior I
  • Psoas wake-up (it's good at the beginning and the end of a ride)
  • Seated twists
  • Savasana
A full Yoga Ride practice may be coming to a Bike Shop or Yoga Studio near you soon, so stay tuned.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Yoga Ride - Part 2

In part 1 (my previous post) I discussed the Pre-ride poses, which are made up of pre-yoga postures from Alignment Yoga's Beginning Syllabus. In this posting, I'll discuss the focus of the bike riding portion of the Yoga Ride practice.

There are three pieces to the bike riding portion of the practice:
  • Breathing observation and correction
    • A common problem is something called Paradoxical Breathing (also referred to as chest or shallow breathing). In some cases there may be a physical issue or limitation (for instance scoliosis) or injury to the chest or back that's at the root of the breathing problem. During the ride we'll observe our breathing patterns and practice diaphragmatic breathing. See the links at the bottom of this post to a site that has a great discussion on these topics. 
  • Shoulder alignment
    • Relaxed shoulders are also strong shoulders, because often a tight muscle is a weak muscle. We'll want to observe whether our current fit on the bike is correct - are the shoulders hunched forward or is the top of the humerus seated, where it should be, in the shoulder socket. This can also play into the breathing by providing space in the thoracic region of the chest and up through the collar bones.
  • Maximizing rest stops
    • There are several stretches that can be used at rest stops (especially on extended rides) to help: avoid numbness, increase circulation and give some opposition to the forward fold position that we're in while cycling.
      • Seated or table pigeon (according to personal flexibility)
      • Prone mountain
      • Baby Cobra
      • Basic hamstring stretch (or projected lunge)
In the next posting I'll discuss how we finish the Yoga Ride practice.

This month I present the Yoga Ride Project to the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) class (and the other students will present their projects as well). In January I'll graduate with my 200Hr YTT certificate.

Namaste

References:
Paradoxical Breathing and Diaphragmatic Breathing