ARE YOU REALLY USING YOUR ‘CORE’?

ARE YOU REALLY USING YOUR “CORE”?

 

The word Core tends to be used interchangeably when referring to intrinsic core muscles and superficial abdominal muscle layers.  Our intrinsic core muscles are responsible with the superficial muscles for the support of the spine and with that, the integrity and stability of the shoulder and hip girdle.  Strength training without proper core engagement can lead to patterns of spine misalignment and posture problems and an efficient use of energy during activity while the big oxygen sucking superficial muscles taking the load.  About 80% of adults suffer with back pain at some stage in their lives and many of us know that there may be a relationship between that and our core strength.  However, neck pain and more distal pain, i.e knee pain, plantar fasciitis can be the result of poor core stability.

 

The word ‘core’ refers to the space between the respiratory diaphragm and the pelvic floor.  Included in the structure are the joints of the lumbar and low thoracic spine, the pelvis and the muscles that support this area, the respiratory and pelvic diaphragm, transversus abdominis and the multifidus.  These muscles function differently from the superficial muscles.  They prepare us for movement and work no matter what we do, working in synergy with one another varying their level of engagement according to impending loads on the trunk.  This harmonious activity is vital to provide control to the joints of the back and pelvis.  Learning to co-activate the muscles of the core is the first step to core training and vital before core strengthening, where the engaged core is challenged by activity of the limbs creating a weight bearing load to build strength.

Core Diagram

 

Bracing the external muscles of the trunk is not using the core muscles, and although this is essential in certain activity, weight bearing, in order to maintain stability and avoid wear and tear, the core muscles are required to be ‘alive’ for healthy, integrated and efficient movement.  If you continue to use undefined “core” activity to attempt to strengthen, while the deep intrinsic core muscles are not working optimally, you will reinforce the non-optimal pattern.  Over time this can lead to tissue break down, pain, poor posture and ineffective functioning of the body.  This may present as low back pain or remote pain (knee, shoulder…) everything ultimately connects to your core.

 

To find out more about Pilates or Yoga classes, one-to-one consultations and assessments or Craniosacral treatments, go to www.sadhanayoga.ie or call Linda on 0873113100.

 

 

 

 

LETTING GO – DEEPLY CONNECTING WITH YOUR TRUTH AND CREATIVITY

LETTING GO -  DEEPLY CONNECTING WITH YOUR TRUTH AND CREATIVITY

The Art of Letting Go, involves the practice of assessing where you are in the moment and applying activity which leads you into a more connected space.  Sometimes we need to shake it all off in a dynamic manner and there are times when our energy levels are simply too depleted for this, yet our exhaustion leads us to “switching off” rather than “tuning in”.  Letting Go and deep connection require an alert relaxation, an effective blend of Sthira and Sukha (Steadiness and Ease).  Being “too wired” Or “too tired” can act as a barrier to dropping into our own centre and becoming clear and still.

 

A series of 2 Winter workshops will explore Letting Go to deeply connect with our true nature. Two factors that frequently create barriers to accessing this are:

 

  1. Chronic Physical contraction from Relentless Mental Activity
  2. Exhaustion, Depletion on a mental and physical level, which can be the phase we move into when our reserves can no longer support constant internal activity.

 

The first Workshop is designed to allow the internal activity to be expressed through both grounding and dynamic physical work, breath connection, keen focus and warming the body in preparation for a deep letting go in the second half of the workshop.

 

The second Workshop is designed to prepare the body for work of a Restorative nature.  Gentle flowing activity and Somatic Movement will precede the Restorative session of the workshop.

 

Both workshops will give you an opportunity to explore the value of each approach and help you to discern your deeper needs and which approach will lead to an effective practice for your health, clarity, and happiness.

 

When the system is cluttered with tension and mind activity there is no space for inspiration to surface.  When the system is run down and depleted creativity cannot be summoned. Make room for the breath to move in the body, the vital life force to flow and to tune in.

 

Both workshops will be held at the beautiful National Opera House.

SATURDAY 21st November, 10am to 12:30pm           Effort to Surrender

SATURDAY 12th December, 10am to 12:30pm          Restore and Tune In

 

Click here to go to the website or to find out more about Linda http://sadhanayoga.ie/

YOGA –Not EVEN a Physical Activity??

Recently, while teaching a class next door at the local gym one on my students was a bit perturbed by a statement a gym member made.  On vacating the studio she passed the remark that we (the yoga heads) were “going for the easy option”.   For some, yoga is not EVEN a physical activity!  I hear two main camps of mis-perception about yoga:

  1. it’s kind of “hanging out” doing some breathing
  2. It’s twisting yourself into shapes that a body has no place being in!

 

I can understand those who have never stepped into a yoga class harboring ideas like this.  These ideas come from many sources, marketing, social media, integrated into films for comedy effect etc…  There is some great stuff out there, but not all of it is invested in the real nitty gritty of the physical and mental effort involved in practicing yoga. Or in the potential transformation and personal growth, if you get hooked.

 

So, back to the gym…  or the track, or the field.  Activity is fabulous when the attitude is brought to it that understands the benefits, the challenges, enjoyment of feeling strong and of physical and mental accomplishment…  By the way, yoga practice for sports people and athletes can, through a full body workout, develop under utilized muscle groups, improve flexibility and movement in tight overworked muscle groups, align breath connection with movement, enhance their physical and mental state. 

 

What if our motivation for certain activity is fueled by dissatisfaction (or even self loathing) of your body, so that activity is approached as an Assault on the body?  The mind got the body into its current condition and I would say it’s involvement in any process of change is imperative!

The mental attitude which drives the need for aesthetic can lead to a separation and conflict between body and mind. The problems come from the mental attitudes that drive the activity, and not with the activity itself.

 

For most of us our busy and distracted minds need to have something directed to focus on –

  • Physical sensation (through physical work that requires effort)
  • Technique (your teachers cues for alignment and verbal expression of how and where we may experience the sensations)
  • Breath (maintaining a connection to it throughout the practice).

The physical work is essential to clear our blockages, find space/openness in the body and build strength.  Asana (posture) is simply one of the eight limbs of yoga.

 

Until we cultivate a relationship with ourselves, learning what motivates us, what drives us to succeed and also what binds us to patterns that arrest our growth - inner conflict will persist.

The purpose of yoga (the physical practice) is to engage in activities that release us from obstructions.  The ones that we develop with time, through inactivity, over use of muscle groups, emotional tension building up as chronic contraction - blockages (granthi) develop in the body.  The practice begins to show us where these blockages are in our own bodies, revealed by the challenges we face whilst engaging in postures.  Most of us westerners are so blocked in the feet and legs that the leg work may be incredibly challenging until we reap the benefits of this work (when all the rest of our standing work and seats become more accessible).

 

Another place that effort is applied is maintaining focus and remaining connected to the breath throughout the practice.  Not easy.  The mind is easily distracted and giving it something directed to do (noticing the breath, physical sensation and technique) is a way of accessing the beginnings of “checking in” not “checking out”.  If the mind is agitated this can take some effort and attention.  Through paying keen attention we can begin to develop a connection with our bodies and see with some clarity our mental patterns as they arise in the practice.  With the guidance of a good teacher, we can explore concepts threaded into the classes such as non-judgment, being present, challenging ourselves (when we are tamasic or dull), not pushing beyond our limits (ahimsa; non-violence), and discernment.

 

The teachings of yoga are learned on the mat, and are relevant to everyday life.  We can take these attitudes, begin to nourish them and digest them so that we own them.  This takes patience and practice.  It does not in my experience work long-term when you imposed these ideas upon your life.  And in the process of developing your practice, if you begin to ponder how your life-style impacts you and contemplate other options, there is an opening for change. Take the time.  The practice has taught me how to get in touch with own humanity, forgiveness (and we can all do with a little), and self compassion (which is a work in progress).  The individual approaching any practice in a mind/body/spirit manner will have better long term benefits, even if the outward appearance of progress may seem slower.

 

I came to yoga with a competitive mind, trying to out-stretch other members of the class, pushing beyond my limits and “performing” the postures.  And so I can hark back and relate to anyone new to the practice and the attitude that drives this. Many decades on, I am barely grasping the deeper work that takes place by cultivating the breath, keen focus,  concentration and patience.  As with any practice that has a physical element, the progress that you witness externally through the physical component indicates where you have become strong, more open, more balanced.  Without the mental component, I do not think I would have made so many other changes in my life which have liberated me from my own inner body image conflicts and much more.  I don’t know if I would have seen what needed to change, had I not seen the elements of them confronting me on the mat.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Hip Health and Your Yoga Practice

Your Hip Health and Your Yoga Practice

Everyone’s hip joint structure is not the same. Which makes it important to approach yoga with a sense of inquiry and being prescriptive with your practice. Alignment cues are helpful if bodies are aligned according to accessibility and safety. Yoga teachers align people, not posture!

Deep hip opening may not be accessible to you, not because of tight muscle tissue, but because of the shape of your hip joint. Forcing this structure to behave other than it was intended will lead to wear and tear, eventually. Regardless of the activity you engage in (yoga or any sports), if there are elements which involve deep external hip rotation, squats, lunges… then knowing how to accommodate and work with limitation in range of movement safely whilst working on developing flexibility is the key to hip health.

Bony Structure of the Hip

The hip joint is made up of a socket in the pelvis (acetabulum) and a ball at the top of the thigh bone (femoral head). The joint is surrounded by muscles, joint capsule and connective tissue.

There are anatomical variations, which can explain why hip mobility for one person is not the same as another, and it may not always be about tight piriformis or general openness and flexibility of surrounding muscles. Have a look at the image below of variations in the angle of inclination of two femur heads. Accessible range of movement in certain activities is going to vary for these two individuals and no amount of tissue treatment will change this.Femur head variations

The angle of insertion of the femur head into the socket is another feature, which will affect ability to access certain movements. Example on the right shows an upward insertion compared to the one on the left and squatting with the legs a little wide and toes turned out may work better for their hip structure.

The socket position when looked at in the image of the two pelvises below, show variations. We can see into the sockets of the one on the left, this individual may be able to accommodate narrow legged Pelvissquats and be able to transition from Downward Facing Dog to a lunge, taking the leg directly to the front of their mat. The one on the right may literally run into themselves as the femur head moves into the acetabulum. They may benefit taking the legs wider in a squat and taking the leg slightly lateral when transitioning to a lunge (providing the knees align with the first toe – the one next to the big toe – or toward the little toe).

Some Muscles involved in Healthy Hip activity

What needs to be active, and what needs to be “released”

Gluteus_maximus

Having explored the bony anatomy, there are of course other reasons that some people find squatting and lunges difficult. It may be the case of weak Gluteal muscles. During the eccentric (lowering) phase of a squat or engaging in a deep lunge eg. Virabhadrasana or Ashta Chandrasana, there is a chance of tipping forward. Core strength is secondary as the first step to maintaining an upright torso is eccentric glute control. If this is not the case, then the lower back compensates. And it is not suited to this task.

Another issue with poor gluteal control is that the hip flexors begin to fire as we try to balance as we lower. And they attempt to pull us deeper into flexion bringing us lower than our glute control should allow.

Hip flexor tightness is usually due to passive position maintained throughout the day rather than being the result of activity. And can therefore benefit from stretching activity to counter balance this. Few of us are at our full hip range of movement and activity, which safely develops hip mobility, is encouraged.

images-2Tight hip flexors give rise to overworking the quadriceps as demonstrated in a squat or lunge where there can be a tendency to lean forward. This shifts your center of gravity and activates the quads, decreasing the activation of the glutes. Furthermore, as we transition out of squat or lunge the pelvis remains in an anterior tilt because of the tight hip flexors. This can present potential for “dumping” into the lower back (as it is difficult to activate the posterior hip muscles) when transitioning from Lunge into Plank/Chaduranga, where it is safer to engage belly with neutral pelvis (belly on, tail long).

The simple seated posture while sitting with erect torso and legs extended in front (Dandasana) is one where we can experience the hip flexors shortening and tightening, the quads firing and the glutes deactivating.

Translating this information to your yoga practice:

Patience and practice is the key. Never force yourself into positions or stretch beyond your current limits. For example, give yourself space and permission to take a squat with the legs a little wide.

In tiptoe squats, Dandapada or Horse pose only lower yourself so that you maintain an upright torso, shoulders stacked above hips, glutes active, weight sinking into the feet (without toes lifting). Going beyond your limit where you tilt forward only leads to further exacerbating patterns of misalignment and chronic muscle contraction.

When transitioning to lunges from Down Dog, take the leg slightly out rather than directly forward onto your mat, as long as the knee follows the first toe and does not go beyond the arch of the foot (in high lunges).

When folding forward, fold from the hip joints rather than the waist (which can put pressure on the lumbar spine)

Taking an attitude of patience and temperance when working with tight hips will also help with preserving knee health. When the hips are tight, the primitive hinge joint of the knee can take the pressure (padmasana,virasana…) or the load (dandapada, vira I, II, ashta chandrasana…)

Postures that can release tight muscles around the hips

Supine hip circles

Start lying. Take the left knee, towards chest, shin parallel to ceiling. Take the leg across the midline of the body; extend the leg pointing toes towards the right corner of your mat Sweep the leg across to the left allowing an external rotation of the hip. Bend the knee back towards chest and repeat 8 times. Change direction.

images-3Piriformis Stretch

Seated in chair

Supine (option of foot on wall)

Pigeon

Begin in Down Dog. Take navel to spine belly as you exhale, pull your left knee toward chest and externally rotate toward your left hand placing your left foot in front of the right groin. The outer shin lies at a diagonal to the front edge of your mat.

Keep your back leg long and keep your hips even as you relax your weight through the middle of your hips.

Breathe and hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Step back into Down Dog and switch sides.

Virabhadrasana I

From a standing position, step the ball of your left foot to the back of the mat. Keep your feet slightly wider than one another like standing on railroad tracks.

Extend both arms straight overhead and bend the right knee, releasing the root of the thigh towards the floor, tracking the knee towards the first toe. Ground the back heel, firm and lengthen the leg.

Keep the space at the tops of the shoulders as you firm the upper arms towards each other.

Supported Bridge

Begin lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor close to glutes.

Place arms flat on the floor next to you, release the back tips of the shoulders to the floor, keeping space at the tops of the shoulders. Align knees with hipbones.

Exhale, and as front body moves to back body, press the spine gently into the mat and begin to peel the sacrum and each vertebrae off the floor. As you lift the hips, keep the legs engaged, feet firm. Allow the breastbone to move towards the chin, keeping the space in the throat. Keep neck relaxed on the mat. Come onto balls of feet to lift hips in order to place a brick under the sacrum for support (keep the legs and feet working).

Continue to breathe and hold for 30 seconds to one minute.

Malasana

Begin on feet, crouched down with tailbone between ankles and hands in prayer at chest.

Continue to press hands firmly together while at the same time pressing elbows against inner thighs.

Hold and breathe for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Baddhakonasana

Start by sitting with knees bent. Take the feet close to the glutes. Place the soles of the feet together, hooking the interlinked fingers around the outsides of the feet and allow the knees to relax towards the floor. Press the feet into the hands, lengthen the spine, staying broad across the upper chest, shoulder blades connected to the back ribs.

Option two, lie back before taking the legs into position. If the groin is particularly tight, use a bolster of cushions to support under the thigh/knee.

Know how to connect with your hips, learn how to move your hips, and resolve to respect their range of motion. Don’t forget to give them a little space.

 

 

Linda O'Grady

Linda O'Grady

Mum, teacher and therapist, Linda has beenpracticing as a therapist for 16yrs and teaching yoga since 2010.  Linda classes are aimed athelping people to find the value of yoga’s teachingsin everyday life. Whilst staying true to traditionalphilosophy her classes are structured to help deep concentration whilst refining postures with accessibility in mind. Linda is in her third year of continued training with DavidCurtis of Vinyasa Yoga Ireland. She offers yoga and meditation as away to approach our world with realistic reverence and gratitude.

Her classes are, a candid blend of artful alignment and attention cues for your body, mind and heart.

For more information on Linda, Classes,Workshops and Retreats, go to http://www.sadhanayoga.ie

Yoga for Sports

Training for Sports is an art. In the desire to achieve success, there can be a tendency to over train, not experiencing the impact of this until its too late or become injured. It is of value to live for now, but also valuable to honestly asses how current activity (or more specific, approach and attitude to current activity) will effect future physical health and energy. For this inquiry to happen, we need to create space to cultivate the desire for inquiry until it comes organically.  And having said that, not to run away from the answers revealed.  The very nature of the Sports persons mind is that you are driven, motivated and disciplined.  The down side to this is that you can become "pushy" with the body.  And you can only get away with that for so long.  Now don't get me wrong, this is not exclusive to the activity of sports, it's easy to get pushy with anything, including a yoga practice, confusing more postures as more yoga.  If approached with this in mind, yoga practice is one that can give you the room to notice what arises in the mind, like being pushy and use the practice to work on tempering this tendency.

Just doing something harder or faster is not necessarily the most effective approach.  Refinement and doing something efficiently takes a certain discipline and depth of understanding.  For most of us this comes with practice.  Yoga practice if approached with intention offers so many ways to explore physical subtleties, mental activity and disturbance to the breath, whilst working the body.

Yoga practice is not just a physical movement endeavor to stretch out the body, it is a discipline which can (with practice), cultivate an acute awareness of body feedback and mind activity. The breath work within the practice, lends itself to overall more efficient use of breath for life and is not just a technique employed for the duration of the practice. Likewise all the activities in the practice act as a baseline for enhancing the fluid movement and strength of the physical body, and clarity of mind.

The Yoga for Sports classes are designed to:

  • Work the feet correctly for knee health and overall posture health
  • Assess and refine your static and moving alignment for joint health
  • Balance over and under-utilized muscle groups for efficient movement and movement with ease
  • Injury prevention and recovery
  • Learn how to efficiently use the breath
  • Cultivate focus and mindfulness to perform at your best without being aggressive towards your body.

To learn more information about classes or to find out about Linda, go to www.sadhanayoga.ie

Yoga and relaxation

Winter Workshop Sat 20th Dec 2014

Yogamotion and Inner Stillness

Finding a peaceful place within in busy times can offer you a sense of calm, focus and the ability to meet your own needs. Through gentle movement, restorative poses, somatic movement and pranayama, we will explore the tools to access being centered. A thoroughly nourishing mini workshop to help you enjoy the holiday season.
Cost is €30 for the morning.

 

Postnatal Yoga and Pilates

POSTNATAL PILATES AND YOGA
When is the right time to get back into Yoga or Pilates? Your body has had an enormous series of adjustments to make after the birth of your baby. The body adjusts to the fluid built up during your pregnancy, the uterus decreases in size and relocates in the pelvis, hormonal change and adapting to caring for your new baby can be assisted by a gentle exercise program like Yoga or Pilates. As these changes can produce heat in the body, vigorous exercise which stimulates more heat production can aggravate symptoms and create more unpleasant ones, dehydration, anxiety, constipation, palpitations, low milk production.... So, start off Slowly. Give yourself permission to nourish yourself at this important stage of being a new Mother.

Pilates focuses on strengthening and toning weak muscles and aid in your recovery. It works in the integral core muscles, as well as targeting muscles of the arms, belly, buttock & thighs. Strengthening these areas can prepare you for the lifting and carrying of your baby and toddler, avoiding future injury.

Yoga whilst also addressing core and utilizing a range of muscle groups (also working the legs), can be diverse depending on the style of class. It differs from Pilates in that it employs a deep connection with the breath in a way to access the vital life force in the body. Yoga asana (posture) is only part of the practice and is a tool for personal development, not just exercise. A Restorative class will be a way to nourish the adrenal system and start back into movement therapy slowly. A Beginners/Improvers yoga class can ease you back into movement and if the class is well rounded, you will end the class in Sivasana, allowing the body to come to a still point – where the magic happens. Gradually work your way to a class with a more intense level or a vinyasa flowing style, when you’re ready.
It is important to ensure you’re ready to start, you may be advised that you can start after your 6 week postnatal check up. For others it may be longer. If you have had a C-section, it is vital that the abdominal muscles have healed before you embark on any program which will recruit this area.

BENEFITS OF DOING PILATES OR YOGA AFTER PREGNANCY?
• Rehabilitation of pelvic floor muscles, abdominal and back muscles
• Builds strength, firms and tones your body
• Gives you an opportunity to take time out for self care
• Prepares the body for aerobic or high impact exercise
• Helps Rectus diastasis (abdominal separation) recovery
• Improves mood, relieves stress and restores balance both physically and mentally

DO
Take it slowly, gently and pace yourself
Wait until you’re over the 6 week mark before attending class
Be patient and persistent, your post natal body will feel different to your pre-pregnant body
Enjoy the process

DON’T
Overdo the exercising, as it may affect milk production
Do forward flexion exercises if an abdominal separation is present
Overstretch as relaxin will still be present during breastfeeding stage

Restorative Yoga – Finding your center

Finding Ease and Recovery with Restorative Yoga Practice

What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga is much more akin to meditation practice than yoga asana practice. Props are used to support the body and encourage release without muscular effort. A deep connection with breath awareness and mindfulness is cultivated in the practice which gives us the space to become attuned to subtle feedback from the body which might otherwise go unheeded. We can begin to acknowledge tension or chronic contraction in the body as we recline supported in restorative postures. We can begin to, with practice, understand contraction patterns in our body and begin the process of letting go without effort, force or manipulation of the physical body.

Healing Through Rest
Any yoga is better than no yoga. And yoga is synonymous with "relaxation". But the very nature of the yoga path is set out using asana (posture) work as a developmental tool to cultivate qualities in order to achieve pranayama (breath control) and dhyana (meditation). The nature of our culture does not lend itself to rest, true rest. Watching TV is not rest, we become tamasic or dull. Rest restores our vitality, yet allows us to feel calm and focused. Restorative yoga is a formal way to incorporate proper rest and allow the body and mind to come to a still point.

Restorative Yoga and Weight Loss
Kim Innes is an assistant professor at the Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies at the University of Virginia. She studies how yoga affects chronic disease and in her review of Metabolic syndrome has cited relaxing yoga as a means to address this "stress fat" or fat around the middle. Contrary to popular belief, more working out is the last thing you need if affected by this syndrome. She surmises that the practice rebalances the nervous system and in studies has seen even short-term interventions change the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Restorative Yoga and Recovery
Some cardiologists are recommending restorative yoga to patients in recovery. The benefits of the practice are being adopted by those in the medical sector. Two recent studies show that regular yoga classes can help improve atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and common psychiatric disorders. The mindfulness programs that have swept the west over the last decade are a testament to the great need we have in our culture to slow down. This has its roots in the yogic tradition and is explored in restorative yoga, integrating a deep body, breath, mind connection. According to lead author Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center , yoga appears to have a positive effect on:Mild depression, Sleep problems, Schizophrenia (among patients using medication), ADHD (among patients using medication).
Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy, by influencing neurotransmitters and boosting serotonin. Yoga was also found to reduce levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, blood lipids and growth factors. As reported by Time.

A lot of compelling research findings are interesting, the experience of engaging with the process of your own healing, integration and self realization can only be accessed by the practitioner of restorative yoga. Yes there is commitment involved. If I was to tell you anything other, I would do the process and you a disservice. I call the initial struggle "the white knuckle ride". We want to let go (of the sadness, anxiety, physical tension, stress, exhaustion etc..) and yet how we sabotage our process by avoiding the simple practices which will allow the letting go. Simple, not necessarily easy. It's not always easy to get up and go to a class, to switch the TV off, to move out of the comfort zone. But it is worth it when the transformation begins.

To find out more about Linda and classes offered at Sadhana Yoga, see our timetable here