Yoga Fashion’s Gift of Grace

Since its establishment the yoga attire company weargrace has become brand of choice for women who want their clothing – both on and off the mat – to spark a deeper, authentic personal style.    Muuyu was fortunate to recently catch up with weargrace Founder, KAREN JOYCE, to find out what inspires the former Gucci Image Director as the woman at the helm of this unique yoga clothing collection.  

 When did you establish weargrace and what was the momentum behind it?

I have been practicing yoga for many years and in 2009 after 20 years in the fashion industry, I left my business and traveled to Asia in search of more meaning, deeper self-understanding and a greater awareness of the ancient disciplines of the east.

In my travels and study I found that the ancient teachings and philosophy inherent in yoga and meditation are very different from their western interpretations.  There is a very pure and simple side, a more meaningful foundation that gets lost in our hectic lifestyles and conditioning.

The creation of weargrace was an opportunity to use a language that I know (fashion) as a vehicle to share these precious teachings by embodying them in the brand values and the clothing itself.

This idea was born in late 2009 and developed through many subsequent trips to Asia and many yoga experiences in different parts of the world.  The first collection was produced is 2012.

You’ve talked before about there being three specific events that woke you up to the fact that you needed to change the work/life you were leading, but at what moment did you start to think about setting up your own yoga fashion line and were you not worried that the work might consume you once again?

I started thinking about a yoga line in 2009 when I sat in my teachers training workshop in Bali, listening to the profound, life changing philosophy behind this ancient discipline and observed that everyone was dressed the same.  Yoga attire was totally disconnected to the teachings.  It occurred to me that the clothing could be a vehicle to remind people of the precious values inherent in yoga and to keep these teachings alive.

I trusted that if my work could be a natural extension of who I am and the values I sustain, that I could stay aligned and not fall into the old work patterns.

“Living” the precepts of yoga and meditation is much harder than studying it on an island or in the Himalayas.  The real challenge comes in the integration of this wisdom into the ups and downs of everyday life. This remains a continual challenge for me and is what stimulates me to keep weargrace growing and to stay true to the message behind the brand.

Weargrace is so much more than a fashion brand. Along with the weargrace collection there are also grace retreats and a philosophy that promotes the practice of yoga – Can you explain further how these strands all tie together? 

Grace retreats and the weargrace philosophy are all vehicles to remind people to live from the inside out. To connect to their unique inner wisdom and guidance.  The clothing, the retreats,  the philosophy, are all part of  the same message.

You may buy a weargrace legging because you see it on Net-a-Porter or because you like the particular color or style.  Maybe you read about the prayer flag symbolism and it helps to bring more compassion to your day, or the text in the weargrace mantra inspires you to take a yoga or meditation class and you begin to live from a different space.  It is my hope that weargrace plants a seed that can lead people to their own unique path of personal growth.

You are one of the 16 hand-selected fashion lines that debuted as part of Net-a-Porter’s new, luxury activewear offering, Net-a-Sporter. How did that come about and what can we expect as part of your future relationship with them?

I first contacted Net-a-Porter in 2012, introducing the brand message, philosophy and product selection.   Candice Fragis, the buyer who I was in touch with, was very kind in her feedback, recognizing the unique offering but relaying that there was not yet a place for this niche market on the N-A-P platform.  In March of 2014, I received a call directly from Candice, senior buyer of the activewear segment.  She had remembered the brand and explained the plan to launch the Net-a -Sporter platform, and came by to see the collection.

As an avid yogi, Candice connected immediately with the deeper message behind the brand, as well as its simple and elegant style, versatility and comfort that made the offering different from all other activewear brands.

Being in the right place at the right time and having someone who understood what the brand was trying to communicate, this was grace!

In July, 2014 weargrace was the only brand to represent the yoga sector on the Net–a-Sporter platform launch.  Our presence on this important channel reaching over 170 countries is the perfect opportunity to share our unique message and offers all women simple, stylish and comfortable clothing that inspires a more personal, authentic part of themselves.

What are the future priorities for the company?

Weargrace aims to establish itself as the most modern, tasteful and meaningful brand in yoga attire, encouraging women to live from the core of their being, and connect to their unique personal style and inner guidance.

As a business woman and an avid yoga practitioner, what advice can you give to other working women in relation to using yoga both on and off the mat to live a fulfilling life? 

Yoga is not just a physical practice.  It is a tool that helps us to align with who we really are.   Approach your practice with compassion and presence.  In this connection, you will discover an inner knowing, a guidance that will help you to live from a more peaceful and authentic space.

This is living from the inside out and is my challenge every day.   To live from this space is our greatest gift.

KarenJoyce

US-born Karen Joyce is the founder of weargrace.   Following her graduation from Providence College and Rhode Island School of Design, Karen moved to Venice, Italy where she worked as a consultant for the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.  From there she moved to Milan where she joined Gucci as a graphic designer, then as Art Director before relocating to London as Director of Image for the Gucci Group.  In this position she managed an in-house creative agency for all Gucci’s brands including Yves Saint Laurent, Sergio Rossi, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga.  However, after almost two decades in the business Karen decided to make some personal changes that would greatly impact her professional life …and weargrace was born.

Weargrace products can be found on weargrace.com, Net-a-Porter and, from next year onwards, across the USA in 9 locations of the luxury department store chain, Barney’s.

8 Inspirational Quotes in the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Over the last few years I have found myself facing a lot of challenges in my career and in my relationships.  Some inspiring, some intimidating.  However, each time I am confronted with a tough situation or left wondering if I can weather another change in my life I have learned to stand still, breathe deeply and give thanks for the very place that I find myself in that moment.   For whatever the future holds,  it is by recognizing what is positive about my present that will get me to the next moment with grace and gratitude.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving this year, here are a few helpful quotes to remind us all to feel grateful and to know how to carry that gratitude into the coming moments of our lives.

“Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.” Robert Braathe

“You have no cause for anything but gratitude and joy.” The Buddha

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

“The ideal purpose of your life is that you are grateful—great and full—that you are alive, and you enjoy it.” Yogi Bhajan

“True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience’.”  Oprah Winfrey

 “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” Alphonse Carr

“We think we have to do something to be grateful, or that something has to be done in order for us to be grateful, when gratitude is a state of being.” Iyanla Vanzant

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” Maya Angelou

 Siobhan01

Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content with Muuyu and a co-founder of the company.  Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism.  She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog.  Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life.  However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.

Connect with Siobhan here.

 

 

 

 

 

Balance Out Indulgence: 3 Holiday Treats and 3 Ways to Burn Them Off

As a nutrition coach,  I work with clients all the time to help them understand that food has two equally important functions: as a source of energy and as a social, community and cultural phenomenon.  To focus on the calories alone is to ignore a huge component of what makes food so preeminent in our lives.

While it is critically important to our long-term health that we eat nutrient-dense foods and essential to a functioning planet that we eat as much local and organic fresh produce and animal product as possible, there is something to be said for eating all the foods we love–even the ones that aren’t so good for us–at least in moderation.

There is no time of year when the social function of food is more important than the holidays.  With Thanksgiving just around the corner in the U.S. and Christmas hot on its heels, temptation to indulge in all those “foods we love” is everywhere you turn.  One way to dig in to your favorite holiday treats guilt-free is to empower yourself with the knowledge of what it takes to burn off those extra calories with common physical activities.

I’ve compiled a list of three of most folks’ favorite holiday dishes and three corresponding workouts to help you stay on a healthy track from now to the new year.

Delicious Culprit #1: Pumpkin Pie

Nothing says fall flavors and the start of the holiday season like a little warm pumpkin pie.  This is my favorite dessert at this time of year.  Did you know that just one slice of pumpkin pie without whipped cream has around 300 calories?  When I found that out I little spot inside my heart died. The good news for those of you with a sweet tooth like me is that you can scorch those calories in no time. In fact, it’s as easy as riding a bike!  All you have to do is hop on your wheels and head out for a 5 mile ride.  This translates to about 35 minutes of cycling and, voila, you can call it even!

Delicious Culprit #2: Mashed Potatoes

Most of us try hard to avoid too many starchy foods but when it comes time to build a holiday meal, more often than not potatoes become the base.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of mashed potatoes, but I’m willing to bet many of you are.  Just one cup of homemade mashed potatoes, prepared with whole milk and butter comes out to around 250 calories.  To burn this comfort food off you’d have to walk at a brisk pace for roughly an hour, covering anywhere from 3-4 miles depending on your stride.

If you like your spuds with gravy, tack on an extra 8-10 minutes of walking.  Here’s an idea: why not gather a group of family and friends for a nature walk to get some fresh air and improve digestion post-feast? It might just become a new holiday tradition.

Delicious Culprit #3: Stuffing

Stuffing, made with cranberries and nuts, has about 300 calories per 1 cup serving–and let’s face it, most of us go back for seconds.  This traditional and tasty side is often only prepared for Thanksgiving so it’s worth the carb-overload. When it comes down to balancing the scale, try a one-hour (or longer) Power Yoga class.  A slow-paced, stretch-focused yoga class won’t fit the bill here so make sure you aim for the kind where you really build up a sweat.

Need a little direction? Try my Fusion Flow class most Sunday mornings on Muuyu.  It’s my signature class which brings together the best of yoga, martial arts and plyometrics for a high intensity, mixed movement interval workout.  This fun and challenging class is geared towards building strength, power and stability in your body. Fusion Flow will make you sweat, keep you on your toes and leave you feeling the burn.

The bottom line with holiday feasting is that it’s all about making smart choices when you can, not dwelling on a little over-indulgence here and there, and putting your healthy efforts into balancing out the food you eat with the amount of physical activity you ask of your body – that way, when family and food come together in one beautiful space there will be no guilt, just joy and fun!

yoga, asanas, yoga for athletes, yoga for weight loss, yoga classes

Amy Rizzotto, RYT-200, is a food and fitness loving blogger, yoga instructor, nutrition coach  and studio owner based in Washington, DC. Amy’s passion is looking at the space where yoga and nutrition fuse for optimal athletic performance and overall mind/body wellness. MOAR-fit.com serves as her platform for sharing words of motivation, tasty recipes for health and workout tips. You can learn more about what she’s up to by following her on Facebook, Instagram, PInterestTwitter and Muuyu.

Bikram Yoga: 5 things to think about when you’re a teacher

Having taught Bikram Yoga now for nearly eight years I have noticed an evolution in my teaching style that, rather than being a replication of the standard Bikram Yoga training, is in fact a reflection of my own personal perspectives on how best to engage students in this style.  Things I now hold important I actually didn’t view as important in the past, and things that I once held as sacred I’ve since dropped from my teaching.

So for any certified teacher beginning their journey as a Bikram instructor here are 5 things that I’ve learned over the years that will hopefully give you something to think about in your classes:

 

1.Dialogue. It’s not important!

The Bikram Beginning Yoga Class Dialogue that instructs the 26 postures and two breathing exercises is a great tool to help any newly graduated teacher to stand up in front of a room and deliver confidence.  However I know teachers to this day that pride themselves on being ‘word perfect’, and yet have the same connection delivering their dialogue as, like I once heard a student describe, “a trainer at Sea World.”

What is important is the energy that the dialogue delivers. If you can genuinely project the fluctuations of energy that are vital in communicating each posture while keeping minds engaged and focused then you can lead your students in a really great class.

2. It’s only yoga!

I have seen teachers jump on the podium and become little Emperors: “Who taught you that? Never do that in MY class!

People are coming to the room with all sorts of issues, trying to heal and get better, and your job as a teacher is to let them find space and compassion, not a box and compression.  New teachers seem to think that this is necessary to be a good teacher.  It’s not.  It says more about you than anything else.

3.Savashana. It is quiet.  

How can you go from “100 percent effort, to 100 percent relaxation” in the floor series if you as a teacher are constantly nattering during rest?  Like music it is the silence between the notes the makes it beautiful and important.

4. Leave the Newbies alone.

New students don’t want to be constantly singled out, especially in their first class.  They just want to fit in and get through it.  Stopping the class and getting off the podium to walk over and correct a student is just bad teaching.  Do it subtly, possibly incorporating the correction into what you are saying during the posture.

5. Be authentic.

Whatever makes you happy. I know some excellent teachers that make me laugh constantly.  I know some excellent teachers who deliver brilliant classes without it being a comedy show.  Whatever your style is it’s got to be you.  And if you are friendly and authentic that’s how your classes will be.

Contact Matt here to request a class in Bikram Yoga.

Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Hot Yoga, Yoga Teacher, Yoga for Athletes, Yoga for Weight Loss

Born in Zimbabwe, Matt Devine is CEO of Muuyu and has been teaching yoga for nearly eight years.  He primarily teaches Bikram or Hot Yoga.  As a former rugby player who needed reconstruction on both his knees, he has experienced for himself the therapeutic benefits of a hot yoga practice on the body.   He believes that part of yoga’s intense ability to heal is regulating one’s sleep patterns, as with longer, deeper sleep more healing occurs, and better sleep is a regularly cited benefit of hot yoga. 

Connect with Matt on Muuyu here.

Asana Investigation: Focus Backbends

Angela’s Yoga Lab: Exploration on the Mat

In my classes of late, I have been focusing on habitual pattern forming, working with the Amydala, (two almond shaped glands situated in the brain) that are responsible for memory function, patterns and relationship forming.  As part of this  I have been tapping into those Asanas that involve backbending.  Backbends are also fantastic for exploring and tracking sensation, a topic I discussed in my previous Muuyu blog article.

Going backwards allows us to address our fears.

Journeying into Yoga backbends you will quickly meet your emotional and physical edge/s –  which is a juicy and interesting place to begin to name and track inner sensation!  Often going backwards can evoke a lot of fear regardless of the ‘level’ you are at.

When we address fear on the Yoga mat, it also provides an opportunity to confront ourselves and investigate our habitual ways of dealing with fear which,  as I have learned,  can be a great catalyst for change.

Being curious when our fears become exposed, we can quickly see what is functioning within us and what is not.

For example  I love the transition from dropping back from Tadasana into Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel)  which can be viewed as “literally dropping backwards” into the unknown. To master the drop requires a steady,  controlled mind,  an equanamous mind,  in the face of the unknown.

Asanas are there to serve us.

Asanas going into spinal extension involve going into the central nervous system of the spine. The spine is responsible for efficient nervous response, motor control, efficient functioning of the organs and providing accurate feedback to the brain in response to stimuli. When we are not rigid in our responses we can train to become more flexible in our mind.  When we have blockages in the mind or the body, using Asanas such as backbends are a way to find new ways serve us, and where fear is involved, to investigate the fears that limit or hold us back.

Backbends also assist the reproductive organs and help to cleanse the digestive system, stomach, colon, intestines and the prostate aiding in preventing disease.

Backbending also works with The Shushumna Nadi line – the channel that allows energy to flow from the base of the spine – up the central channel of the body toward the crown of the head.  With regards to Nadi shoma  we can view backbends as a way of cleansing out the Shushumna channel and potentially any old patterns that exist within the central nervous system.

A healthy, regular backbending practice removes blockages along the spine allowing energy to flow more freely within the body.

Be mindful of how to avoid injury.

Of course, as with any Asana, be aware not to push past your edge in backbends.  Injury is a definite possibility and if new to backbending in Yoga practice,  work with an experienced Yoga teacher who understands the anatomy of safe backbends to ensure you do not compress the spine.  Ensure your teacher is someone who makes you feel safe and who can offer modifications, props and hands on adjustments.

Be sure to warm the body efficiently before attempting back bending.  Intermediate to advanced backbends are always the peak Asana in my classes allowing time to build up to them.  Do not jump into a backbend cold and always use twisting to neutralize the spine post back bending.

Entry level backbends such as Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing dog), Cobra and Ustrasana ( camel Pose) are a good place to start.

Q: have you encountered fears, mental blocks during back bending?

Do you enjoy backbends or find them intimidating?

I love to hear your feedback, so please share your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

 Request a backbending themed class with Angela on Muuyu.com

Yoga Teacher; Forrest Yoga; Asanas; Vinyasa; Muuyu;

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching Yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different Yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with her here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

If you liked this you might also like the below posts. Just click on the pictures to go straight to the article.

AngelaPost03                      Amy Rizzotto_MOARfit_Yoga for Athletes_2

Angela Collins, World of Yoga         Amy Rizzotto, Yoga for Athletes

 

India Appoints First Ever Minister of Yoga

India’s recent cabinet reshuffle has resulted in the creation of the first Ministry of Yoga and natural medicines.  India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a devoted yogi and vegetarian, hopes this new Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) will revive the regular practice of yoga among India’s citizens.  He has appointed former tourism minister Shripad Yesso Naik to take charge of the new department, which was previously under the authority of the Health Ministry.

Determined to spread the benefits of yogic living, Modi even used his September address to the United Nations General Assembly to promote the practice and call on member countries to mark June 21 as International Yoga Day.

In his speech he said, “Yoga should not be just an exercise for us but it should be a means to get connected with the world and with nature.  It should bring a change in our lifestyle and create awareness in us, and it can help fighting against climate change.”

India’s mission to the U.N. has started preparing a draft resolution on the possibility of an International Yoga Day with support already from countries such as the United States, Canada, China, Nepal and Bhutan.

Siobhan01

Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content with Muuyu and a co-founder of the company.  Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism.  She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog.  Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life.  However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.

Connect with Siobhan here.

 

My Yoga Journey: Donna Davidge Connecting Life, Yoga & Theodore Roosevelt

Muuyu recently had the privilege of interviewing prolific yogini Donna (Amrita) Davidge about her life, practice and Kundalini yoga.

How long have you been teaching yoga and what types of yoga do you teach?

I have been teaching yoga nearly 3 decades. For the first 14 years I taught exclusively Kundalini.  Then I added Ashtanga, Dharma Yoga and finally Iyengar to my Kundalini teaching and practice.   So I teach all of these and have a regular, weekly Kundalini class on Muuyu.

How did you find your way to yoga?

I found my way to yoga first in a class at University of New Hampshire in the 1970’s where I was a distance runner.  Later, in my early twenties in the late 70’s, after I had earned my masters as a nutritionist, I picked up yoga again via audio cassettes – remember yoga was not mainstream at that time!

However, my real path to yoga came via Kundalini, which I discovered in NY City in 1985 with Ravi Singh.  I had been on an outer journey, adventuring to Europe to model from 1982-1985, which had been challenging in many ways, and the inner journey of Kundalini yoga resonated with me immediately.  What drew me to this style was its inner focus, the work from the chakras and with energy.  I was an athlete so I was not as concerned with physical prowess as with how the energy worked in my body, particularly as I am high energy and tend toward nervous energy. Having this type of energy is a great gift if you learn how to channel it.

In yoga you often hear mention of Kundalini energy, but what exactly is that?

Kundalini is the life force energy in the body, often envisioned as a serpent as exhibited in the medical symbol. The idea is that the kundalini is awakened from the base of the spine when the shushumna (central spine channel) is opened through yoga and meditation.

For someone approaching a Kundalini class for the first time how should they expect it to differ from Hatha and Vinyasa?

First of all Kundalini is not a left brain yoga! Though it works the brain and, of course, you need both parts for the practice it is very different than, for example, Iyengar, which I love, but which but is very focused on facts and proper physical alignment.

Let me explain that a bit more- our teacher Yogi Bhajan, with whom I studied for about 15 years before he died in 2004, said that Kundalini Yoga was taught to give the student an experience.  So for someone used to doing Hatha or Vinyasa I would say simply have an open mind. I often say do not expect a trikonasana or headstand here and no flowing sun salutes. Instead leave your expectations at the door.

How did you get your name Amrita and what is the meaning behind it?

Amrita was given to me by Yogi Bhajan in 1987.  Ravi Singh, who had encouraged me to start teaching, said I needed a spiritual name and took me up to Yogi Bhajan on one of his NYC visits.  He bases it on your birthday- mine is the same as Joan of Arc and Martin Luther King. Yogi Bajan wrote my birthday 1-15-55 on a small scrap of paper and said “Princess of the Nectar of God, very special name” and that was it. In Sanskrit it means the elixir of immortality and nurturance.

In yoga we are meant to believe our soul is immortal and as I get older I see myself more as a nurturer to students,  almost like a mother.  I think the yoga retreat I established at Sewall House is a big part of that.  Alongside this I am very big into preserving life, being an animal activist and vegetarian for example.

Can you share with us the origins of and current activities at your yoga retreat, Sewall House?

Sewall House originally belonged to my great grandfather, Bill Sewall. I never met him, but an interesting fact about him was that he had been a very instrumental part in Theodore Roosevelt’s life.  When TR was a sickly college student he visited Sewall House three times, with each visit lasting for three weeks.   Sewall House was, at the time, an informal Inn in this tiny northern Maine town my family had founded. Trekking in the woods, sitting by the lake and rivers, meeting the loggers and climbing Mount Katahdin were all part of TR’s healing and he remained lifelong friends with Bill Sewall.  There is one book in particular, ‘Becoming Teddy Roosevelt’ by Andrew Vietze, that focuses on their journey.

I purchased Sewall House in 1997, really on a wing and a prayer. The house had stood empty for 18 months after my great-aunt died and I wanted to maintain the contents, the history, the tradition and the legacy of healing and bring it back into modern times through yoga.  I broke my back when I was 22 skydiving and was hit by a cab on my bike in NYC when I was 41 so I truly believe in yoga, healthy eating and nature as healers.

This now is the theme at Sewall House.  We have no corporate backers or investors- we are simply run on yogic principles of living in the moment and with as much truth and integrity and fun as we can. We like to think we are as loving and welcoming to our guests as Bill Sewall was to TR and many come back and do become friends.

Since we only have 5-7 bedrooms available at any time (depending on staff and work study) the experience is personalized and much smaller than the many yoga retreats that have come on the scene since I started 18 years ago. We hike, kayak, do yoga and eat together but everyone has private rooms and the area is beautiful and the town is quaint and quiet. We have always offered massage as well.

What is it you hope most to impart to students?

I wish to inspire them to know and accept themselves better, to understand yoga as a lifelong, individualized practice. I like to make people laugh so occasionally in a class I throw in something to make them happy I hope (a story or quote ). I also like to see my students’ progress at their own pace. That way they can make their own breakthroughs without me pushing.  I think in teaching we need to create a space of allowing and see what happens. Of course, sometimes we may see something and need to speak and see if the student trusts our intentions. This is what Yogi Bhajan would call poke, provoke and elevate …with love!

What is the most important gift or lesson yoga has brought to you?

The most valuable gift yoga has given me is the ability to work on myself and hopefully set an example to others even if they have no idea what yoga means totally.

The other day I got to speak briefly at a conservation group in Maine regarding an environmental fight I have led in Maine and lost. The loss is really painful because ridges are being dynamited, pristine previously preserved forests are being clear-cut in huge acreage and animals and birds will die and be gravely injured as a result of this.   A naturalist I had not seen in years but who had studied yoga with me was at the meeting and wrote me afterward that my words moved her to tears and that despite this battle, which has been very challenging, my light showed through.

I think Yoga shows us how to keep going, not just in our progression from one pose to something more advanced, but to a lifestyle where you can turn to yoga instead of things like alcohol and drugs when you have to face challenging feelings about yourself and your situations in life.

Yoga has been such an integral part of your primary life experiences for over 20 years, so what does yoga actually mean to you now?

Yoga is a lifestyle, yoga is my family and yoga is a path and a journey which changes during different phases just like life and our bodies and minds.

 

Yoga, Kundalini, Yoga Retreat, Asanas, Ashtanga, Iyengar Yoga

A former student of Yogi Bhajan, Donna also studied with Pattabhis Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga, Rod Stryker, Ana Forrest, David Life and Gurmukh.   She has worked consistently for the last 30 years as a yoga teacher to a wide range of clients from A-list celebrities to people with life-threatening illnesses.   Her joy is to help people pave their own path to a consistent yoga practice and over the years she has shared her expertise through appearances on syndicated TV and radio shows across the States and numerous national publications.  Contact Donna at her website or on Muuyu to request a class.

 

Yoga for Athletes: 3 Hamstring Openers for Lower Back Relief

When I trained for my first half-marathon last year, I put together a three-part series of yoga poses that would open tight hamstrings and their supporting muscle groups to do after every run.  Tight hamstrings are the common culprit of lower back pain and frequently contribute to back injuries in yogis, runners and office warriors alike.

Hamstrings are a finicky group of three muscles located on the backs of our thighs.  Two of the muscles (semitendinosus and semimembranosus) stem from the sitz bones and connect along the inner side of the knee. The other one (biceps femoris) also originates at the sitz bones but connects along the outer side of the knee.  When these muscles lose their elasticity they tend to lock the pelvis, removing the normal curve of the lumbar spine and flattening the lower back.  This rigidity makes your back work extra hard to accomplish simple tasks like bending down to pick something up, let alone what I and most fitness fiends ask of our bodies on a daily basis. Without proper attention to caring for tight hamstrings you are bound to end up achy, or worse, injured.

Fret not! With daily stretching you can start to proactively compensate for rigidity, mend your hamstrings and ease lower back pain.

Check out my favorite yoga poses for providing some much-needed TLC to your hamstrings below. All three poses are designed for all people of all abilities and all body types.

#1: Modified Extended Hand-to-Foot Pose

  1. Stand with one leg extended onto a chair, straight but not locked out. Your heel should rest on the chair’s seat.
  2. Take a strap (or belt) and sling it around your lifted foot, holding onto either end with your hands.
  3. Square your hips to the front edge of the chair and bend forward until you feel a gentle stretch, adjusting your strap to the appropriate length.  Hold and breathe into that initial feeling of tightness for 90 seconds to three minutes.  With each inhale try to lengthen through both sides of the body.  With each exhale slowly hinge forward millimeter by millimeter, tightening up on your strap as necessary.  Ground down through your standing leg for stability.
  4. Once you’ve completed your long hold, relax and switch legs.

#2: Supine Hand to Foot Pose

  1. Lying on your back, loop a strap (or belt) around your right foot and extend the sole of your foot toward the ceiling.  If you know you have tight hamstrings you can bend your left knee, planting the left foot firmly on the ground and enabling the right leg to straighten out.
  2. Gradually pull the strap toward you until you feel a gentle stretch, adjusting it to the appropriate length by wrapping the loose ends around your hands.
  3. Hold and breathe into that initial feeling of tightness for 90 seconds to three minutes.  Let comfort be your guide—this should feel good and if it doesn’t you’re likely pulling too hard or too fast. With each inhale try to ground down through your rest leg and length through the heel of your extended leg.  With each exhale slowly pull your leg closer to your torso, little by little, cinching up on your strap as necessary.  Make sure you stabilize both hips on the mat—perhaps even draping a heavy blanket across your belt line—to keep the stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Once you’ve completed your long hold, relax and switch legs.

#3: Supine Bound Angle Pose

This third pose (also known as Reclining Butterfly) focuses on the supporting cast of tight hamstrings and an achy lower back: the adductor group.  Adductors, or inner thigh muscles, and groin muscles are closely linked to stiff hamstrings.  When big muscles like the hamstrings or quadriceps get overworked as they often do, adductors and abductors are left underdeveloped.  This common imbalance can lead to injury.  The muscles of your inner and outer thighs play a crucial role in stabilization and movement of the legs and pelvis.

One of the key functions of adductors for athletes is that they pull your legs in toward the mid-line so that as you run your weight stays balanced on your planted foot and your gait doesn’t bow outward, which can lead to rolled ankles and stress on outer knee ligaments. Since they help keep you upright as you stride from left to right, they’re also key to getting maximal power out of each and every step. What athlete doesn’t want a little extra oomph wherever they can get it?

  1. Lie down on your back.  Bend your knees bringing the soles of your feet together and allowing the knees to fall open to either side.
  2. Add a pillow under each knee or wrap a strap around your ankles as depicted to enable yourself to remain comfortable and feel supported in this pose as you hold for 90 seconds to three minutes.  Your arms can rest by your side, or atop your hip bones if you’re using a strap. Be sure your elbows relax to the mat and you release any tension in your shoulders, neck and jaw.
  3. When you’re ready to let go of the pose draw your knees into your chest, give them a strong hug and take Happy Baby pose to neutralize the spine and feel some nice compression on your hip-flexors.

An important reminder—the key to safe hamstring stretching is to ease in, listen to your body for signs you might be pushing too far, and hold each pose for at least 90 seconds (and ideally a full three minutes.)  Holding a pose for this amount of time allows your body’s connective tissues to open up and release.  Aim to do these stretches after your run, or any activity that warms the muscles.

Amy_Rizzotto01

Amy Rizzotto, RYT-200, is a food and fitness loving blogger, yoga instructor, nutrition coach  and studio owner based in Washington, DC. Amy’s passion is looking at the space where yoga and nutrition fuse for optimal athletic performance and overall mind/body wellness. MOAR-fit.com serves as her platform for sharing words of motivation, tasty recipes for health and workout tips. You can learn more about what she’s up to by following her on Facebook, Instagram, PInterestTwitter and Muuyu.

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How yoga slows you down (in a good way!)

Slowing Down is Good

As you age you may notice that you are slowing down a bit.  It may take you a little longer to get ready for the day, or you may have some aches and pains that you did not have before.

As you move into yoga asanas, be aware of your posture; shoulders are back and straight.

I have been practicing yoga for many years and recently I had to slow down myself and savor the moments of a deeper kind of mellowness that I get from Yin Yoga.  When you move in and out of Yin poses such as pigeon and shoelace, you benefit your body.

Yin Yoga is a slower, deeper yoga that helps bring your body back in to alignment; working the hips, back and shoulders in a soft way. When you practice, it is like a very slow Hatha type yoga, using assistance with blocks and straps.

Aging and your Health

Remember that aging can be a good thing for you; you slow down and are mellow when you practice modalities such as slow, purposeful breathing and meditation.  And slowing down is a good thing in yoga poses, especially if you stay in the pose for more than a few breaths.

The first thing that comes to mind is the pose pigeon.  This pose is a deep stretching of the hips, and many people as they age begin to have some hip difficulties.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could do some prevention work on yourself by staying in pigeon or shoelace until your intuition gives you the nod to come out of the poses?

Yoga and Weight Loss

For weight loss yoga is a good way to slim down.  When you practice the 3 areas of yoga:  Asanas, breathing and meditation, you begin to be so much more mindful of yourself that it travels to your mind’s eye and you also become more mindful of your eating; slowing down, looking at your food and savoring each moment.

Life unfolds and we move along strong, centered and balanced in shoelace.

You may even become more mindful of your meal presentations; using special plates that are colorful and wonderful to look at along with a candle on your table and special tablecloths to brighten your meals.

Yoga Stretching

There is evidence that the yoga stretching, flexing and elongating poses can also help with digestion and weight reduction.  And the good news is that you do not have to stretch and flex in an aerobic way because a passive, slow Yin way can help you in your goal of staying healthy in mind, body and spirit.

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Doris Richardson-Edsell is a a registered nurse, yoga instructor, author, mother and grandmother.  She has worked as a counselor and group therapist at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, New York, for over 25 years.

As an author she has penned a series of books on the topics of health and wellness, including plant based dieting, weight maintenance and vegan cooking.   Her latest e-book, ‘Maintaining Your Weight: Staying in the Center’, is currently available on Amazon.com.

You can connect with Doris on Muuyu here.  Or if you would like to read or hear more of Doris’ expertise, you can check out her other blog posts here and here or visit her webpage, Body Mind Health, where she discusses and advises on all topics concerning holistic healing and health.

Photo credit: Eddy Ballardi