Category Archives: body

Get Clean

I haven’t been good lately. I’ve been strictly vegetarian for sure.. but I’ve been a booze-atarian bordering on drunkorexic. I’ve fallen into the same trap as millions of people. Working 60 hours a week resulting in eating shitty food, lapsing in self care, and self-medicating with beer, chocolate, and even vegan junk food I trick myself into thinking is healthy.

I will never be happy being just okay. I know from being on a high raw diet for years that my mind and body can do extraordinary things when I give them the right care. I believe a good diet can cure my chronic inflammation, help me shed unhealthy belly fat (the worst kind!) and help me be a more peaceful, happy person.

What prompted this was on Thursday I reached a breaking point. I knew my pathetic work/life balance (if you could even call it that) was not sustainable and my body felt like a dark heavy lump I was dragging around from job to job. A couple tears and $70 at Whole Foods later and I made about a gallon of green juice that I am nearly finished with after two days. I feel so much better.

Here’s the plan. February 28 starts the detox and rehabilitation process.

GOALS:

  • Fresh green juices: At least one a day. Other fruit/veg juices are bonus but getting the greens in is essential.
  • Green Smoothies: Daily. I already do this almost every day but having this goal will keep me on track.
  • 30 minutes of meditation a day: This is a huge goal and a time investment for me. After my vipassana retreat in 2013, my meditation practice has been confined to the 5 minutes of Savasana after yoga and the couple minutes when my eyes are closed before I fall asleep. 15 minutes, morning and evening. I will make time for it.
  • Practice yoga 5 times per week.
  • Work-out/Lift weights 2-3x per week: I feel 100000x better when I do this.
  • Strive for a high raw/paleo diet. Cutting out grains, dairy, legumes, processed sugar. I am not cutting out alcohol or coffee but I’m going to try to keep it to a minimum. Wine, cocktails with soda water and lemon or lime, and when possible fresh fruit juices.
  • Supplementation: Apple cidar vinegar, Algae Oil, trace minerals, and turmeric DAILY. These are things that have been recommended to me from healers but I haven’t quite been able to commit to, even though they’re sitting in my cupboard. It’s time.
  • Sunday Technology Detox: Take sundays off to be with friends, alone time, play the piano, practice yoga, rest. Keep phone/computer time to a minimum and don’t work.

February 28 I will weight myself, take measurements and photos. Because who doesn’t love a good before and after post?

Any suggestions, encouragement, words of wisdom?

love always,

little windmill

Fix how you sit! Tips from my rolfer

Yesterday I had my second rolfing session. While rolfing doesn’t feel particularly feel good like a massage, it’s totally worth it to me to go nerd out about anatomy and physiology with my brilliant ‘rolfer.’ I am amazed by her knowledge of the human body and love to pick her brain. I wanted to share with you some of the tips she gave me about sitting that will improve postural alignment and overall balance in my body.

I don’t have a tv, but I told my rolfer that I spend most of my ‘sitting time’ at home at my desk. Right off the bat she recommended that my computer screen be slightly raised so the chin is lifted as opposed to tilted down. Your keyboard should be at a level where you arms sit at a 90 degree angle, like sphinx pose. Your knees should ideally be lower than your hips and your spine erect rather than curved.

Sitting on a very soft surface(like a sofa) puts our pelvis in a posterior tilt and curves our spine, so placing a more firm prop underneath you keeps the spine straighter. It makes sense to me now why most meditation pillows are firm and filled with beads as opposed to soft and fluffy.

I have always had problems with badha konasana, sukhasana, and most sitting meditation poses (without the use of a block) because my spine wants to round and I quickly feel back pain. That being said, these changes have not been easy for me! I am on day two of making these changes at my desk, and my back feels very tired. As I was told by my rolfer, this takes time to develop muscle memory and break the habit of years of slouching.

If these changes are unrealistic, maybe just schedule a pop-up reminder on your computer reminding you to sit up straight!

248Bfig1

For goodness sake- do NOT sit on a ball! It’s almost impossible to sit with a straight spine on such a soft surface.

279afig2

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

148 BackBends Challenge from My Bikram Yoga Life

Here’s an excerpt from the awesome blog My Bikram Yoga Life. I absolutely love this idea, so I began my own ‘drop back wall’ at home. Thanks Leigh for the great post and inspiration!

Full post: 148 BackBends.

In the last seven days I have done 148 backbends. Is that a lot of backbends to do in seven days? I don’t know. I just decided to see how many I was doing in a week. I know that backbending is an important part of my practice, and I was doing them at home. However, I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing as many as I could or should. Keeping track of it for a week got me doing more than I think I normally would because I was paying attention. Plus, as a Type A personality, I just like to count things and keep score on myself.

Current location of my sticky tape. Gotta start somewhere!

Backbending got really fun yesterday (for real). I got some sticky tape and put a blob of it on the wall where I was currently landing when I went backwards doing wall walks. Then I put another blob just a bit under the first to give myself something to work towards. This helped in about a 1000 different ways.

First (no, I’m not going to count to 1000), it helped me see how far down the wall I was able to walk.

Second, I could see where I was in relation to the floor. Going backwards down the wall is a bit freaky. All I see is a solid color (yellow if I am at home and blue in the studio), but I often don’t know where I am on the wall. Now I know.

Third, it gives me something to look for. This helps me push myself. Once I’m warmed up, I know the marker I should be able to hit, and now I’ll just keep going until I hit it. Then, I can see my goal just below it, and I can decide if I can try for it or not. Right now, I’ve hit my edge, but I’m hoping to push to my new marker in a day or two. Having something to look for also keeps me focused.

So what does all this backbending look like? Well, I can’t make it down to the floor just yet. For now, I leave you with a picture of my current state of being.

My idea of a good time.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

5 Ways to add shoulder opening to your hip opening poses

Two birds, one stone. Stretching both muscle groups at the same time will give you twice the benefits!

Also, it’s a good way to break any patterns or habits you may have developed in your practice. If you are a yogi that practices 3+ times a week, please don’t be afraid to break out your own remixes of the poses presented. Trust me, the teacher wants you to do what feels good and benefits you, even if it doesn’t look like what your neighbor is doing. It’s easy to go on auto pilot, especially in forward folds. I am frankly OVER yanking my hamstrings into folds 20x a class! Switch it up and give your shoulders some love in these hip openers!

Image

Bound high lunge. It’s not all about bound side angle pose all the time! You can do this variation with your heal up or down in a bound ‘Warrior VI’ or ‘Flying Warrior’ as some call it pose.

Image

Prasarita Padotanasana Cherry Picker. I love this variation, instead of just hanging down or yanking on your feet to stretch your hamstrings, this stretches your shoulders and gives you a new way to open the back body. The resistance you get when you walk your hands back behind you will make your traps and deltoids sing.

Image

Twisted Janu Sirsasana. I must thank my teacher Silvia Mordini for teaching me this unique variation of one legged forward fold. It’s hard to see in the photo, but this is actually a twist that you will immediately in the outer muscles of your back. Use the hand and arm not touching your foot as leverage to twist further. Further the stretch by softly bending the outstretched leg and twisting further.

Image

Starfish fold. This variation of Badha konasana is mostly practiced in Jivamukti classes, but this is my new favorite fold! This is a super passive fold that feels great at the end of practice, especially one heavy in back bends and heart opening.

Image

Bowing Balasana. This variation of child’s pose feels great in the muscles of your upper back and shoulders. To intensify, walk the elbows forward as much as possible.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why “Healthy eating and an active lifestyle ARE my health insurance!” doesn’t work

As an active person with a healthy diet, I’m fairly confident that I will not develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, or any other obesity related illness in my lifetime. Considering the flabbergasting costs of America’s obesity epidemic, I’m saving my insurance companies a load of money in that department. Other fitness professionals can say the same thing, “Healthy eating and an active lifestyle ARE my health insurance!” But that’s just half the battle. Life is so unpredictable, you never know what kind of crazy things are going to happen! Faulty toasters killed 791 people last year, and chairs killed 592 (how does that even happen?). While each person has a different situation, the stats show that about 44 million people in this country have no health insurance, and another 38 million have inadequate health insurance. Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. This means that nearly one-third of Americans face each day without the security of knowing that, if and when they need it, medical care is available to them and their families. Yikes.

Which brings me to the latest example of how sometimes bad things happen to good people. Brett Valentine is an incredible IntenSati teacher and life coach in the Seattle area. Here is a Clif’s notes version of what happened to this inspiring man, as written by his husband Levi:

Image

Labor day weekend Brent, myself and our 206 family went to Mossyrock, WA to camp, spend the weekend celebrating a birthday and catching up with each other. Brent, through a series of events, darkness and a unfortunate turn in the wrong direction ran off of a cliff. He did it with as much gusto as he approaches life. Brent fell approximately 8 to 10 feet straight down onto a riverbed of solid rock. He landed on his right side of his face and front of his body. He was unconscious and when I got to him just seconds after the fall he was bleeding from the ear, his nose and his mouth. Brent was sent to Providence Centralia Hospital. There it was determined that he had fractured his Orbital bone on the right side of his face, needed stitches on his face, as well as fractured the Scaphoid bone in his left wrist. As he was being discharged his doctor found reason for concern with the function of his eyeball and he was now, instead of going back to camping, headed to Harborview Medical Center back home in Seattle for further specialty review. At Harborview it was realized that the Orbital bone was not as bad as the doctor thought but the fractured Scaphoid was going to be a problem and surgery was going to happen. Since that diagnosis on Sunday Brent and I have been living at Harborview Medical Center. Brent will have a long road to recovery. There will be other surgeries to remove the pins and screws that hold his wrist together. There will be physical therapy and numerous follow-up doctors visits. Brent will be out of work for an extended period of time due to the nature of his injury and his line of work. He is a man that has given so much to others, and I hope this can be used as an avenue for those good deeds to now be returned through donation. Brent carries no medical insurance and after our recent marriage he now falls just outside of the bracket for financial assistance to cover his medical bills. The amount of money that is building up in medical costs is large and I am asking for your help, on behalf of Brent Valentine, because I know he IS WORTH IT! Any donation will go directly to medical expenses and loss of wages. If you do know Brent you already know that this man is worth helping, and I hope you will pass this page on to your friends and family because you believe in him getting the help he needs to get fully back on his feet.
Read the full story and see pictures and updates here. A story like Brett’s gives me an extra reminder of how blessed I am to be safe and healthy. If you are inspired at all by this story, I encourage you to give anything you can to this amazing man!
Namaste!
Tagged , , , ,

Guest post: Lose weight. Just use more sugar….

Hello Yogis! I’d like to introduce to you Emily, my fellow teacher trainee and a huge inspiration to me. I’m honored to have her guest post in my absence. Enjoy, friends!
emily-1
The biggest thing I learned from my yoga teacher is:  it’s okay to just breathe.  You don’t need to do anything else.  You can just be in this world.  You don’t have to strive for bigger and better.  You can be you.
I have always pushed myself.  I mean, c’mon, I had an eating disorder starting at the age of ten.  I wasn’t overweight, and I was beautiful (just like each and every person is!), but I had to be the fairest one of all.  Didn’t we hear that message somewhere as children?  Don’t we STILL hear that message now as adults?  “You have to challenge yourself.”  I know I hear that in some yoga classes. True, you do in some areas.  But what about those of us who are already doing that?  I usually get the life coach pep talk when I tell someone I don’t think marathons are healthy for me and to some degree in our society.  We focus so much on the physical aspect.  The physical aspect of running a marathon makes you do what?  Breathe.  And lots of it!
My teacher, Silvia Mordini, taught me the yogic concept of the Sanskrit words Sthira and Sukham.  Other synonyms for those words would be hard and soft, masculine and feminine, or my personal favorite as it relates to food, salt and sugar.  I don’t know about you, but too much salt on food doesn’t taste good.  The percentage of obese children in our country is ridiculously high.  Hmm, yes, too much sugar.  But I have an affinity for salt.  French fries are my favorite food.
My yoga practice was too strong.  It was harder for me to make myself go into Child’s Pose every time instead of Down Dog.  I felt like I wasn’t doing something right if I wasn’t pushing myself.  But then I started to let go of the control, and just started having fun.  If I didn’t feel like doing a pose, I wouldn’t do it.  If I felt like moving my arms or legs while everyone else was in a rigid pose, I would.  The most important thing was, I started smiling.
You can actually lose weight just by doing breathing exercises.  Truth.   The poses, or asanas, are one part of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  Yes, I think they are important.  I do around ten minutes a day of various postures that I feel my body needs.  It’s my creative coffee for the morning since I can’t have the real thing due to my adrenal disorder I’ve developed from trying to run the marathon of our societal race.  I may not be as super buff or skinny like I used to, but more people tell me how great I look now than ever before.
Maybe I’ll need to push myself more in the future, but first I must listen to my body, and it tells me more love, more sukham, more sugar.
I’ll have another scoop, please.
You can find Emily at www.nilesreporting.com and soon she’ll be introducing her writings on YogaRewire.com, coming soon!
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Pincha Mayurasana: Forearm Stand

Hello friends! Michelle, the Graceful Yogi and a fellow teacher trainee of mine was kind enough to provide a post in my absence! Lucky you guys get some tips from an expert teacher and student with an abundance of experience with inversions. I had the honor of photographing her at Gasworks Park in Seattle this summer, and can’t wait to share more from the shoot with you! 

pincha-3

pincha-2

pincha-1
Process and Key Actions for Pincha Mayurasana:
For Pincha Mayurasana, I start in a strong Dolphin pose with my forearms parallel and hands pressing firmly into the mat. I tuck my tailbone a little, engaging Mula Bandha and my core so that my torso is strong and integrated. Once I feel solid in my Dolphin, I shift my gaze forward between my hands.
I lift my right leg high, careful to keep my hips as even as possible and keep my core engaged. I begin to shift my weight toward my hands and roll my left heel and eventually toe off the ground, bringing my hips over my shoulders. I slowly bring my left foot to meet my right in the air, keeping my gaze forward and my torso engaged. My hips are stacked direclty over my shoulders, and my shoulders are stacked over my elbows.
Fun Variations:
When I first started working on variations I hada major breakthrough learning:
to sustain Pincha, it is imperative for me to have my shoulders over my elbows, so that my arms make a right angle; this lets me use the structure of my skeleton to hold me up, taking some strain from my back and shoulder muscles. To do this, I press down through my hands, energetically lift my weight out of my shoulders, and find a tiny bit more backbend in the middle of my back. This is a VERY deep backbend (contortionists do it in the circus). A good indicator is to see if you can comfortably bring your forearms to the ground in Urdvha Danurasana, Wheel pose (guidance on this below). Vrischikasana is essentially the same shape, with the added challenge of bringing your feet to your head.
From Pincha, I start by energetically lengthening my whole body toward the sky, creating space in my spine and lightness in my shoulders. I allow a little more bend in my mid-back, creating more of a crescent shape with my body. Once I feel stable there, I mentally glue my feet together and start to bend both knees so that my feet come toward my head. From here, it’s a balancing act. I think about the feeling of Urdvha Danurasana in my back as I shift my gaze a little further forward, out past my hands. My feet come over my head, my hips are over my mid-back rather than over my shoulders, and my shoulders have to shift slightly forward (NOT back! This will knock me over almost instantly) to counterbalance my hips. It is not uncommon for me to put a little too much weight forward and fall into Urdvha Danurasana from here :).
“Weed Whacker”
Bring your right leg toward your head until it is mostly parallel with the ground as you bend your left leg so that the toes on both feet are pointing in the same direction. From here, begin to rotate your legs clockwise, bringing your right leg out to the side and extending your left leg to the other side, coming into a wide legged straddle; inverted straddles are a great passive stretch for the groin and release for the hip flexors. Continue rotating your legs clockwise until your left leg is extended over your head and your right leg is bent. Continue in the same direction or switch to counter-clockwise. It’s a fun balance challenge, and builds endurance in Pincha.
Important Tips for all variations:
-Keep your core engaged to help you balance and take the strain out of your back
-Send energy out through your toes to keep lightness in your arms and shoulders
-Use your skeleton to your advantage: stack shoulders over elbows and hips over shoulders (even though Scorpion deviates from this a bit, it is still a helpful way to think about how you are aligning your joints in Scorpion)
My Photo

Michelle Chambers I have always been in love with movement, using all of my being to express an emotion, an idea, a prayer. I did this through ballet for many years, until my body decided yoga was a better idea. I soon discovered that yoga was therapeutic not only for my aching back and joints, but also for my mind and even my soul. As I grew in my physical practice, I began to explore each asana as a means of expressing the love and gratitude in my heart. Inspired by this flow of grace, I completed a Vinyasa yoga teacher training with Silvia Mordini to share the freedom and joy of movement through the physical, mental, and spiritual practice of yoga. 
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Inversion Tips from Graceful Yogi

Image
INVERSION PRACTICE TIPS & TRICKS:
Be brave. Most people like to use the wall to get comfortable with the structure of the pose and practice getting your hips over your shoulders. A note of caution, though: the wall can become a security blanket to the point that you can execute a pose next to the wall without touching the wall, but you can’t execute it in the middle of the room because you don’t have the wall for comfort. Once you start getting comfortable with the pose and using the wall less, get away from the wall and start practicing in the middle of the room. Falling down is encouraged! 
 
Exit strategies. if you feel your weight starting to get too far behind you, contract your abdominals to come out of the backbend a little and bring your feet back down to Dolphin, one at a time; if it’s too late for that, press down into your hands as if you’re pressing into handstand and let your feet come down behind you into Urdvha Danurasana. If you’re really falling down in a crazy direction and you’re headed for the floor, TUCK YOUR CHIN to protect your neck.
Building strength and muscle memory. Bakasana is a good arm balance to start getting used to bringing your weight forward over your hands and stacking your joints; it also builds great core strength and awareness.
 
Build strength in your shoulders and upper back. Swimming Dolphin: Start in Dolphin; on an exhale, shift forward bringing your heart over your hands but keeping your hips high; as you inhale, press back to Dolphin. Repeat at least 4x. This exercise is not very comfortable, so I like to actually imagine myself as a swimming dolphin in the ocean and put a big Flipper smile on my face. Sounds goofy, but it works!
 
Practice courage, get your hips over your shoulders. To practice getting your hips over your shoulders, try some 3-legged Dolphin hops: Start in Dolphin with your right leg lifted high like 3-legged Dog; start to shift forward over your forearms, rolling your left heel off the floor, working toward only the tip of your big toe on the ground. Remember to send energy out through your right toes to lengthen and lighten your whole body. Be sure to try it on both sides (it’s good to put these at the end of a vinyasa sequence so that you have a little rest between right side and left side). Once your comfortable with heel-raises, move on to hops. Start with the same action but as you roll the heel off the ground, press off through the ball of your foot and find a moment of balance before bringing your foot back to the floor. If you need a little momentum to find liftoff, you can bend your knee a little to give yourself an extra push toward lifting your foot off the floor.
 
My Photo

Michelle Chambers

I have always been in love with movement, using all of my being to express an emotion, an idea, a prayer. I did this through ballet for many years, until my body decided yoga was a better idea. I soon discovered that yoga was therapeutic not only for my aching back and joints, but also for my mind and even my soul. As I grew in my physical practice, I began to explore each asana as a means of expressing the love and gratitude in my heart. Inspired by this flow of grace, I completed a Vinyasa yoga teacher training with Silvia Mordini to share the freedom and joy of movement through the physical, mental, and spiritual practice of yoga. 
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Advanced Poses with Blocks

Learning advanced poses can seem overwhelming and discouraging at times. Using blocks can help you build strength in these poses and just simply feel the shape of the pose.  Shamelessly allow the blocks to be an extension of your pose.  Here are a few ways you can use blocks to deepen your practice and learn some new poses.

Peacock:

craig-1-2

Pincha Mayurasana/Forearm stand: Holding a block between the hands reminds you to keep pulling inward and keeps your elbows from bowing out.

craig-1-3

Sukhasana Hover/Jumpbacks:craig-2

Hanumanasana/Splits: Most blocks have three different heights so you can adjust to the level of openness you’re feeling on any given day.

craig-1

Shoulder squeeze/Titibasana: Having the block as insurance takes away some of the fear of falling when trying poses like shoulder squeeze and firefly.craig-5

Bakasana/Crow Pose: Use a block to rest your forehead on and ‘teeter totter’ on until you find that sweet spot of balance.

craig-4 copy

Koundinyasana A:

craig-6

Tagged , , , ,