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If we are brave enough often enough we will fall

If we are brave enough often enough we will fall.  (Brene Brown)

Most of us, when we get beyond our infant years, have some fear of falling.

(And as I was typing this I mis-typed falling and wrote failing instead.  And fear of falling and fear of failing are not so different when you think about it.)

If we never reach out beyond what is comfortable, we cannot challenge ourselves and taste the fruit right at the end of the branch.  We won’t test ourselves to see if doing this particular something, or going to that particular place might be as joyful as we imagine it to be. 

When we stick with what we’ve always known, we get what we’ve always known.

That’s one of the riches to enjoy going to a Yoga class where the teacher invites us to try a new posture, or extend a little further in a familiar posture.

It doesn’t always work. 

We might wobble in Vrksasana – the Tree Pose.

We might need the support of a chair in Ardha Chandrasana – the Half-Moon Pose. 

And even when we have support we might shake and fall.

We might fall forwards in Bakasana – the Crane Pose.  

We might find that some poses that seemed impossible a month or so ago, are almost within sight today.

Or they might not.

It’s helpful to remind ourselves that Hatha Yoga practice is that – a practice. 

We are not aiming to ‘achieve’ anything.  It’s actually the side effects that are the most beneficial:

  • When we practise something, anything, regularly, you get used to noticing that some days things come more easily than others, and that’s okay.
  • We find that we can make time in a busy week for something that nourishes us.
  • We learn to trust ourselves more: in Yoga practice we learn that our body might not let us down as often as we might have once thought, and this can extend into other areas of our lives.
  • We learn that our mood can affect our Yoga; and that Yoga can affect our mood.
  • We find delight in the increased strength in our physical body on an everyday basis.
  • We get to know our bodies better, and become aware of changes in it sooner.
  • We might sleep more easily.
  • We might find that we can reduce medication for some health conditions.
  • We learn that comparisons with others are less fruitful than we might once have imagined: in the Yoga class might be people of all ages, body types and personalities, and if we continue to compare our ‘progress’ with another’s we will miss out on the joyful experience that is ours alone in practising the postures – no matter how long we can balance, stretch or hold our breath.

There are so many benefits which can translate directly or indirectly to our everyday lives.  And no, Yoga is not the only one.  But I know of few others that offer such a wide variety of benefits, accessible to anyone, of any age, of any level of health or fitness, of any means, who wants to explore its many aspects and gifts.

 

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Is your body feeling stiff?

Is your body stiff?

I am interested in the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, and in his book Embodied Wisdom, he writes:

A general improvement in the way we use our skeleton allows us to enjoy the full range of movements of the joints and intervertebral discs.  All too often, the bodily limitations that we believe are due to not being limber are, instead, caused by a habitual contraction and shortening of our muscles of which we are not conscious.  Unwittingly, our postures become distorted, and the joints of our bodies suffer unequal pressures.

“Degeneration of the joint surfaces imposes, in its turn, a further restriction of muscular activity so as to avoid pain and discomfort in movement.  Thus a vicious cycle is established, which gradually distorts the skeleton, the spine, and the intervertebral discs, resulting in an elderly body whose range of movements is reduced long before we have become old.  Actually, age has little to do with this sad event.  On the contrary, it is quite possible to restore the body’s ability to perform every movement of which the skeleton is capable.

“Up until sixty years of age, anyone of good health who is not suffering serious illness can attain this optimal ability with little more than an hour of retraining for each year of one’s life.  It is possible to attain this condition even beyond sixty years – depending on the person’s intelligence and will to live.”

Elsewhere in the same book he says:

Old age, for instance, begins with the self-imposed restriction on forming new body patterns.  First one selects attitudes and postures to fit an assumed dignity and so rejects certain actions, such as sitting on the floor or jumping, which then soon become impossible to perform.  The resumption and reintegration of even these simple actions has a marked rejuvenating effect not only on the mechanics of the body but also on the personality as a whole.”

Yoga is very good at achieving all that Feldenkrais advocates.

Well, that’s good news isn’t it!  

And I agree.  I have seen people in my Yoga classes who have denied that they would ever stand on one leg, said it would be impossible for them to touch the floor with straight legs in Uttanasana* (standing forward bend), would never be able to hold the Vasisthasana / Side Plank pose*.

And I have seen them come to accomplish these, as well as many other Yoga postures.

Students in their middle years have grown in height as their spinal columns realign, the intervertabral discs find more space to do what they’re supposed to do, and all the rest of the body takes its cue and breathes a sigh of relief as it begins to move more freely and with more ease.

I am amazed at how many Yoga students seem to avoid many of the age-related illnesses of middle and older life: for example, diabetes, heart problems, lung disease.  Or if they do get them they don’t seem to be so severe.

This isn’t to say that we practise Yoga or Feldenkrais technique for ‘accomplishments’ such as these, but it is rather wonderful when people find they can do things they thought they never would.  And I also believe that training our bodies in these ways makes us feel more alive, and as a good friend told me:

You are not stiff because you’re old.  You are old because you are stiff.

This good friend is nearer 80 than 70, and her Yoga practice and teaching ensure that she is energetic, strong, flexible and still able to practise the very strong postures such as “Wild thing”*, which many much younger people find difficult.

So my message to you is to commit to your practice – whether it’s Yoga, Feldenkrais technique, or another that ensures flexibility and strength.  Once a week is good, but as Feldenkrais says, you get better results if you can practise more frequently.

I can’t guarantee you a long life, but I think you’ll find that you’ll enjoy it a lot more without the stiffness, aches and pains that might otherwise hold you back.

(*I am sorry that my drawing skills are not up to posting pictures of these posture on-line – please look them up!)

Yoga – Bridge Pose

bridge over streamDo you have problems with any of these areas of your body:

  • Tight hamstrings?
  • Pain radiating from the leg into the lower back?
  • Arthritis in the hips?
  • Pain in the back, pelvis, knee or foot?
  • Fallen arches?
  • Shoulder pain?

Then you may have a misaligned pelvis.

How does your pelvis get out of alignment?

There are all sorts of reasons:

  • Do you sit for long periods – at a computer, in a car, on a comfy chair?
  • Perhaps you don’t do much activity – walking or other exercise every day.
  • Do you wear high-heeled shoes?
  • Or maybe you were born with a tilted pelvis or an illness might have caused it.
  • Or it might be that you have just got used to standing or walking in a certain way?

I believe that many of these problems that people experience today are caused by misalignment of the pelvis.

Whatever the reason, if your pelvis is misaligned or tilted, it is very likely that it will eventually cause you pain.

The tilt may be from side to side, which can cause scoliosis of the spine.

If the pelvis is tilted backwards, you may have a condition called lordosis or swayback, where the natural arch in the lumbar back curves more than normal.

Forward tilting of the pelvis is known as kyphosis, which causes a rounded back. This is particularly common in older people (where it is exacerbated by possible osteoporosis), and is common in younger people too.

All of these misalignments of the pelvis can cause significant problems in other parts of the body – for example the neck, shoulders, all parts of the back, hamstrings, hips, knees, feet.

The good news is that Yoga is very good at helping us to keep our pelvis well aligned, and realigning some forms of a tilted pelvis.

Yoga also brings our awareness to areas such as a misaligned pelvis, so that we become conscious of it in our everyday lives. We can then try to avoid sitting, standing and performing other activities in ways that will worsen problems such as these.

In Yoga we do not usually target specific parts of the body with our posture work. Rather, we work on the whole body and practise a variety of poses to bring balance and equilibrium to the whole of us.

Through my own teaching and observing my students’ postures, I have become aware of some asanas that are particularly good at helping us become aware of, and realigning, the pelvis. The most important of these is Tadasana, the Mountain Pose, and I will write more about this another time.

Another is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – the Bridge Pose. I mention this with the warning that alignment of the body is critical in this posture, as any misalignment will only exacerbate tilted pelvis problems. Most of us are unaware that our pelvis is tilting this way or that, and this is where it’s good to have an observant teacher to guide you.

The hips stabilise the area where the upper body meets the lower body. So a tilted pelvis can cause core muscles to shorten, thus pushing out of alignment anything to which they are connected. Long term misalignment may cause worsening of conditions such as arthritis. It will also cause torsion or twisting of the knee during walking, while the body tries to compensate for postural changes.

I have written more about the Bridge Pose here, and you can download a pdf of detailed advice for the Bridge Pose.

I would be very interested in your experience of a misaligned pelvis and Bridge Pose.

If you think your pelvis is misaligned, I recommend that you consult a health professional before practising Yoga.

Scott’s experience of Chair-based Yoga Classes

YOGA, YOGA, how can I possibly do yoga? 

“I’m 67 years old, overweight and have Parkinson’s disease.  

My wife smiled knowing I had fallen into the trap, ‘Aah, but what about the chair based yoga classes in Hythe’? 

So, I reluctantly attended my first class and to be frank, have not looked back.  The hour long sessions fly by and the period following the session is usually the best I have felt all week. 

It is amazing how many moves one can achieve while sitting on a chair and those combined with a “warm up” period and a closing relaxation period makes the experience a highlight in my week.”

Scott is a regular attender of my Chair-based Yoga class at Physiologic in Hythe.  Use my contact page to find out more about this class, and if you would like to join us.

Chair-based Yoga Class

Would you like your body to be:

  • stronger?
  • more flexible?
  • less prone to injury?

Would you like all this without straining and without going to the gym?

You may have heard that Yoga can help with all of these, but thought that it’s not for you. 

You might have an image of Yoga as something that very flexible people do in tight T-shirts and leggings.  They sit on the floor in impossible cross-legged positions, or stand on their heads.

I have a Yoga class at Physiologic in Hythe, Kent which is different.

This class is suitable for anyone with mobility difficulties, or who would prefer a chair-based practice.

We sit on chairs for most or all of the time.

We practise Yoga in ways most suitable for your body.

You will not strain, or be in pain from the practice.

You will feel a benefit.

Would you like to know more?

Please contact me via the Contact page, and I will email or call you back.-