I started Yoga after my running 'career' left me with frayed Achilles Heels. I loved jogging up and down the hills of Redcliffs and Sumner in Christchurch, New Zealand, but my heels didn't. The constant flexion of the heel whilst running up the hill was not good for me. The knees also took a beating when I came down the hill (!) as I was using them as brakes, basically. So, I took up Yoga and haven't looked back. I read this article (below) today which made me think about my on/off journey and how I've now come to practice Yoga 4-5 times a week.
We have 4 metal posts in the middle of the studio. The posts have caused some discussion. Mainly about how we can get rid of them. We weren’t fans.
After reading a web page about how to stretch the psoas muscle using a door frame. I came up with the idea of using the posts for the same stretch.
You can read the full article here- yogainternational.com/article/view/how-to-stretch-and-strengthen-the-psoas .The article has a warm up sequence which you should do prior to this stretch.
So, a good way to isolate the psoas stretch, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced practitioner, is to practice Virabhadrasana I (warrior 1) in a doorway. Find an open doorway (or a post) and step up close so that the right side of your body is just behind the door jamb. Step your left leg through the doorway, and place your right foot two to three feet behind you, with that back heel off the floor. Stretch your arms overhead and rest your hands on the wall. Bend both knees slightly, and align your pubic bones, navel, and breastbone with the door frame.
I’ve been running the morning Yoga Classes at YogaJak for over 15 months now and have developed a set routine for the warmup. I like taking things a bit easy to start with. Especially at the moment with the cold weather. You need a good 10 minutes of gentle movements to get the muscles firing up which helps prevent injury. Once this has happened, its then onto the main part of the class which will either be a routine I’ve been working on or a request for something from one of the blokes in class. The most requested class is one with a lot of breath work and meditation, followed by a class focusing on specific areas.
The main physical areas of concern for men that I see would be shoulders, back, hips and hammies. These generally relate to the jobs they have. There are men who work in an office all day who have tight hammies from sitting down a lot, plus the rounded shoulders from working on a computer. Does anyone take a 5-10 minute break every hour as you’re supposed to? I doubt it. I have mechanics with bad backs along with sparkies, plumbers and any other manual trade really. Do you do a two man lift on anything over 20kgs? Again, probably not. So, with this is mind here’s a few poses you can do at work whether it’s the office, the site or the workshop.
Sit on a chair, a pile of bricks (!) whatever you can find as long as your feet are hip width apart and flat on the floor.
Take a deep breath and reach your arms up to the sky. As you exhale drop your head down behind you and bend slightly from the upper back and chest. Imagine your chest rising up as you bend back. Keep your core sucked in as you perform this. Repeat 4 or 5 times.
Either use a desk or something for your hands to rest on (at desk height). Straighten your arms and bend your knees slightly to achieve a flat back. Gravity will give your shoulders a good stretch and counteract the hunching that can happen when performing certain tasks. Hold for about a minute, or until your work mates see you and start taking the piss.
Stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend knees slightly and fold from the hips. The knees need to be bent enough so you maintain a flat back. Just hang there and let gravity take effect. It’s a great one for counteracting gravity. It lengthens out your spine and decompresses your shoulders, plus the blood flow to the head will give your more focus and energy. If you want a bit more, try straightening out the legs so the hammies fire up. BUT don’t forget to keep the flat back, this protects your lower spine.
Your back can get achy from sitting or hunching over all day. A seated twist will get the blood moving around the spine along with helping your digestion.
Sitting down with your feet flat on the floor, lift up so your spine is tall and straight. Inhale, and on the exhale twist to one side, from your abs mainly but also a little bit from your upper back. If you’re sat in a chair use the armrest that you’re facing to grab onto. If not grab the leg you’re facing. Hold for a few seconds and release. Then do the other side.
This can be done ANYWHERE! Well, almost. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Inhale and stretch your arms up to the sky. Imagine someone’s got hold of your wrists and is trying to lift you up. Take your arms wide, drop your shoulder down. Lift your chest to the sky. Engage your core and lean back. Drop your head down behind just like the seated back bend.
Winter is here. ‘Sunny Coasters’ as the name suggests live in a very sunny part of the world. The sun coming up at 4.30am in the height of summer makes for an area full of early risers. The same cannot be said for the winter though. The early morning Yoga classes at YogaJak start at 6am during the week, and at the moment you’d arrive to class in the twilight of dawn with the temperature anywhere from 5 – 15 degrees.
Even I am finding it very hard to get up out of the sack and to come to class, but I have a good motivational reason as I’m taking the practice! I do find that once I’m on the mat and moving I’m glad I made it. Plus I pump the heating up to 24 degrees to remind us all of what summer was like, so it’s not that bad.
So, as the saying goes, ‘The hardest part of a yoga practice is getting to the mat’. This is true, but once you’re there, you’ll be glad you did make the effort. The early morning sessions set your muscles up for the day by lengthening and strengthening them which helps to prevent injuries during your day. You’re also working on clearing the mind of its usual chatter and creating focus and calm. This is why I love the Vinyasa Yoga style. It kills two birds with one stone! Exercise for the body and the mind.
I started Yoga, as most people do, for the physical benefits. But you become aware (quite quickly) that there is so much more to it. The physical postures make your head stay in the present as you become mindful of what your body is doing. This is a form of meditation. It can be that simple.
I’ve been getting quite into my meditation recently. It took me a long time but the main ingredient missing in my meditation practice was my consistency of the practice! So now after a morning class I come home and sit on the deck outside. The easiest way is to start meditating is just to close your eyes and simply listen. Start by listening to the sounds of the birds and the wind in the trees, along with babies crying, dogs barking, people singing in the shower!.. etc., etc. The secret is not to get annoyed at the sounds but just to accept them as background noise. Try not to give a name to them just let them wash over you like a wave of sound. By doing this you’re concentrating on the ‘here and now’.
This is important as the brain does like to wander off and start thinking about ‘stuff’. ‘Stuff’ will include events that happened in the past and events that are going to happen in the future. I find myself thinking about past events and thinking how I could have changed the situation. Obviously not happy with the original outcome! Also future events are played out. In these I’m thinking how I’m going to handle a situation. It’s silly really. But the brain loves it AND, it needs to do this, but it also needs calm.
So all this ‘chatter’ happens in the left side of the brain. Whilst the right side of the brain concentrates on the present. If you can concentrate on the present then the left side of the brain is quiet and you’re making space in the brain. Calming it down. We have so many things that stimulate the brain, in this modern High-tech world. It needs to be quiet sometimes.
Now it’s easy to get a glimpse of the calm. But inevitably, for me the left side will suddenly crank into life and it’s off on its merry way, thinking about ‘stuff’. The trick here is not to get annoyed at it. Just push it to one side and tell yourself you’ll deal with it later.
After a while of taking in the ‘wall of sound’ around me, I then start to take the concentration inside my body. The first thing I concentrate on is the breath. By using the breath you’re concentrating on the present. The breath is always in the present. I take the concentration to the end of my nose and feel in the air and it rushes in, renewing life, and then the exhale as it purges the body of toxins.
As I mentioned earlier, the key is consistency in the practice. There’s a lot more I could tell you about my experiences. Some of the experiences stop at the feeling of the breath at the end of the nose. Others go on to an amazing place where I’ve felt like there was a dome sat over the top of me and I was conscious that the dome was the space inside my head. Sounds like I’ve been smoking something, doesn’t it?! Honestly I haven’t.
p.s. The title for this article came from one of the blokes in class. We do like to abbreviate words (A LOT!) in Oz. and of course, once you've butchered the word the best thing you can do is stick an 'o' on the end.!!