Category Archives: Practice

Yoga Snob or Yoga Hobbit?

It has been quite a long time since I’ve blogged.  I’ve written novels in my head but actually having the time to sit down and write it is the problem.  However,  recently I had a student ask me about my own personal practice and in my response I came to the realization that I might be a yoga snob!  Holy crap!  Am I an uppity yogi?   It hit me like a ton of bricks because I’ve always considered myself part of the yoga community.  So the mere thought of myself being a snob is pretty disturbing.  After I got home and was able to really sit with my thoughts I asked myself a few questions to maybe make sense of my new found title.

Was being a snob really all that bad?  What is a snob?  Or maybe I wasn’t a snob at all,  maybe titles are the snobs.  So first things first: What is a snob?

Snob:  A snob is a person who believes a correspondence between status and human worth.  The term also refers to a person who believes that some people are inherently inferior to him or her for any one of a variety of reasons, including real or supposed intellect, wealth,   education, ancestry,  power,  physical strength,  class,  taste,  beauty, nationality, fame, extreme success of a family member or friend, etc.   Often this form of snobbery reflects the snob’s personal attributes.

On no! I am not a snob by the means of Wikipedia for sure.  Not even close to who I am.  So, I’ve cleared that matter, but there is still a problem: I have some issues with the practice of my asanas.  And by no means do I ever what to consider myself better than anyone, so the search continued until I started to ask deeper questions.

The real matter is I’ve become a hobbit in my actual asana practice.  In other words, I’m not going out there anymore and practicing with different teachers in different local studios.  So when students ask about advice on studio practices I’m a bit stuck.

So why have I become a hobbit?  Recently in the last few months my teaching schedule has doubled.  In addition to teaching 10-15 classes a week I’m also recording 2 classes a week on my phone, editing, recording audio and publishing videos for virtual clients.  I’m still being a mom to two busy little girls, a wife to my husband of 10 years and trying to maintain some sort of ‘self’.

I use to love to drop in to local studios and just be a student.  Now I only get that freedom when I’m away traveling or at trainings or on those very rare mornings when I can pull myself away from life to visit my favorite Ashtanga studio here in Durham.

So with all of this in mind,  I’ve put together a few ways to help you not to become a Yoga Hobbit.  For while it’s great to have a home practice (and I’m always preaching to my students about being able to practice at home on your own), it is also important that we do visit studios.  Particularly for the community aspect of it for this is usually where we adults meet friends.  Not only that but it supports local small businesses and it keeps you from becoming a Yoga Hobbit.

  1. Once a month visit a studio you’ve never been to.

This is by far the easiest way to try something new.  Studios pop up every week, so there shouldn’t be a shortage of places to try.  I find using the Mindbody app is a great way to find studios close to you that maybe you didn’t know they were there. Read reviews or maybe just go blindly into a new space with an open heart and unroll your mat to new experiences.

  1. Practice a style that’s different from your preferred style.

We all get caught up in what we like verses trying something we are not sure of but yoga is about union and growth.  We can’t grow if we stay in the same space.  I practiced Vinyasa Flow for almost 6 years before I ever tried Ashtanga, and I was horrible at it, so bad that I didn’t even think of returning to that style until 3 years later.  Yet after coming back with an open mind and a lot less ego I found it was humbling and quite refreshing to know I could learn more, and my glass needed a refill.

I’ve tried just about every style out there and some I like, some I’d never do again but I tried them and that’s the beauty of the practice.  So go try something new.  There are lots of teachers practicing a whole variety of different styles on Muuyu – so you could start there!

  1. Find a Yoga partner to keep your practice fresh.

It is so hard to find a friend, and even harder to keep that friend.  However if you’re one of the lucky ones who have a friend and they share your passion of unrolling the mat make them your practice partner.  You both will hold each other accountable and bring new ideas to one another.  Having someone next to you allows for energy to bounce and creates a universal pull of magic – and who doesn’t need a little magic in their lives?  So find that partner, and get to sharing the magic.

  1. Change your home practice location.

If you’re one of the lucky ones you have a studio of your own and you can change your space accordingly.  However some of us just have a corner or maybe even just the kitchen floor.  But don’t let that stop you from freshening up that space.  Change the plants in your practice space.  Use new scents and oils with the change of the seasons or your moods.  If you can’t revive your actual space, try a new location all together.  Go outside and practice in your backyard.  Try the park, that fishing pier, the local walking trail,  maybe even the hallway while you wait for your kids dance class to end.  Just don’t be afraid to practice anywhere.

Look, life is a major juggling act and sometimes we get so busy we forget that there is a vast world outside of our own little universe.  I lost myself in my own world and I forgot that I too need to try new things even when I was sure that I didn’t have enough time to do so. We’ve all seen that little hobbit that locks himself in his cave, and could care less about the changes that are happening outside that rock.  However one day that rock is going to crumble and that little lonely hobbit is going to have to change, or become stuck right there. So start the change now.  Try something new so you’re not that Yoga Snob or a Yoga Hobbit.

briana_pranamYoga teacher and practitioner Briana Young Roane has over 350 hours teacher training and workshop experience. She started her teaching career in 2005 and since then has owned and run two different studios.  Born in Inglewood, California, and now living and working on the East Coast, Briana brings her sunny CA disposition to each and every class that she teaches whether private or group.  You can find more information about Briana and the classes she teaches on Muuyu here or continue to follow her on her own yoga blog.

 

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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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5 Yoga Styles – What’s the best for you?

As Muuyu’s Teacher Manager and owner of a small yoga studio in Berlin, people often ask me which are the best yoga styles to practice and what are the differences between them – “It is still yoga we are talking about, right?” I hear while listing all the yoga styles and names.  Kundalini, Vinyasa,  Bikram – for many people it really is a whole new world and so they often need help discovering which styles will work for them.

My first advice is that when you’re trying to figure out the type of yoga that’s best for you it’s  a good idea to take some time to think about why exactly you’re choosing to practice yoga. What is the specific need that has led you down this path – Do you need help managing your stress levels, have you other specific health issues, are you hoping to lose weight or stay in shape, or wishing to supplement another form of athletic training with your practice? Or perhaps you’re looking for a more spiritual way to live your life and you feel yoga can help.

You should also consider your own fitness level and the kind of person you are. For instance, if you have some physical limitations such as a back injury or a heart condition you need to take that into account when choosing a style to practice.

Whether you’re a bit of a thrill seeker and love an activity that’s energetic and challenging or whether your idea of perfect ‘me time’ is to take a moment of reflective contemplation in a relaxing, quiet space, can also determine the type of yoga that will work best for you.

So, I thought I would highlight just five popular styles to start you thinking about the best practice for you. I’ve also listed the teachers on Muuyu who are teaching those specific classes, which means you can get on your mat, book a class and begin your yoga journey straight away!

 

  • Style: Hatha (gentle, slow-paced)
  • Focus: Basic yoga poses and relaxation techniques
  • What it involves: Postures, which help to strengthen the body, stretch the muscles and make them lean and supple
  • Benefits: Stress relief, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing
  • For whom: Beginners and people wanting a solid foundation of yoga postures and breaths
  • Muuyu Teachers: Lisa Ware, Rachel McBride

 

  • Style: Vinyasa (Generally fast-moving but there are also gentle “slow flow” classes)
  • Focus: Breath-synchronized movements which work to create a flow throughout the practice
  • What it involves: ‘Flowing’ from one pose into another
  • Benefits: Improving muscular strength and flexibility, toning and tightening the body
  • For whom: People of all levels with the goal of building body strength
  • Muuyu Teachers: Hilary Douglas, Bill Lynch

 

  • Style: Ashtanga (fast-paced and intense)
  • Focus: A physical style which simultaneously calms the mind
  • What it involves: A nonstop series of yoga poses using a special breathing technique to focus the mind and control the flow of breath through the body
  • Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss
  • For whom: Fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina or lose weight, and those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side while maintaining a physical workout
  • Muuyu Teachers: Alyson McWilliams, Hilary Douglas

 

  • Style: Kundalini (each class has a different energy)
  • Focus: Harnessing your inner energy
  • What it involves: Meditation, postures, chanting, breathing exercises –some teachers even incorporate singing and dancing
  • Benefits: Finding emotional balance, strengthening and balancing the nervous system
  • For whom: Those who want a more spiritual experience as well as a workout
  • Muuyu Teachers: Dona Davidge, Sohan Kaur

 

  • Style: Bikram (expect to sweat!)
  • Focus: Flushing toxins from the body and enhancing what your body’s physical capabilities.
  • What it involves: A series of 26 poses is repeated twice in a room which is heated to 100 degrees or more
  • Benefits: Cleanse the body of toxins, enhances flexibility and can speed up recovery from injury.
  • For whom: Those who like to push their bodies to extremes, athletes and people recovering from physical injuries or looking to lose weight
  • Muuyu Teachers: Matt Devine

 

Of course, there are many other yoga styles out there and new styles are developing by mixing yoga with dance, Pilates or acrobatics. You can continue on your path to finding the right one for you by trying out as many or as few as you want. And please feel free to let me know whether there is a particular style that I haven’t mentioned here which you would like to try and I can recommend a great Muuyu teacher for you!