Category: Fitness Tips

How does Yoga make you feel?

How does Yoga make you feel?

There are times that I get up around 5:00 a.m. and think should I skip my yoga practice this morning, somewhat dreading those first couple of Sun Salutations as my back is stiff from laying in bed. Instead I finish my cup of coffee, let the dogs out and back in then take my socks off, unroll the mat and here we go. The funny thing is just like many forms of physical activity, once you get started all those thoughts about skipping it just fade away. You start to remember why you like yoga so much as you go from pose to pose and work to control your breathing, and 30 or 40 minutes later you are done.

yoga-inspiration

So how do you feel after your practice?

For me I feel:

  • relaxed
  • loose in the hamstrings, back, and hips
  • calm
  • happy
  • like I achieved something
  • alive
  • focused on the present
  • ready to do it again tomorrow

 

Namaste

More……..Yoga

ashtanga yoga

More…………………….Yoga!

Fortunately I have been able to stick with my yoga practice in the Ashtanga tradition of six days a week.  I was doing this at night but during the last two weeks have switched to mornings so that I could resume my strength training in the evenings. After somewhat mastering some pretty fundamental asanas I have added the Ashtanga version of the Sun Salutation to the beginning of my practice. The Sun Salutation is done 5 times, and then I move on to standing and balancing poses, then to supine and floor poses. The whole routine/practice looks something like this:

Sun Salutation

Sun Salutation repeat 5 times

  • Standing Pose (Mountain pose with feet together)
  • Standing Pose (hands together above head)
  • Standing forward bend
  • Standing forward preparing for staff pose
  • Chaturanga Dandasana – Plank
  • Upward facing dog (cobra)
  • Downward facing dog
  • Standing forward preparing for staff pose
  • Standing forward bend
  • Standing Pose (hands together above head)
  • Standing Pose (Mountain pose with feet together)

Standing & Balancing Poses

  • Half Moon Pose
  • Chair Pose
  • Triangle Pose
  • Warrior 2 Pose
  • Side Angle Pose
  • Standing Knee to Chest (or knee back)
  • Tree Pose

Supine & Seated Poses

  • Two Legged Platform
  • Knee to Chest Pose
  • Bridge Pose
  • Both Knees to Chest Pose
  • Supine Leg Stretch (leg up with strap)
  • The Sunbird Cat Stretch
  • Child’s Pose
  • Hero Pose (knees bent sitting on legs)
  • Easy Seated Pose
  • Butterfly (feet together)
  • Staff Pose
  • Head to Knee Pose (use strap, hurdlers stretch)
  • Seated Twist

I like to follow up the yoga practice with 5 – 10 minutes of meditation, which helps me prepare the for the day ahead, which is one of the reasons I switched to doing yoga in the morning as yoga and meditation seem to work so well together. I’m a long ways from moving into the Primary Series asanas as I am still mastering the Sun Salutation and other fundamental poses mentioned above, but everyone needs to start somewhere. The results so far have been outstanding as I am gaining flexibility, my back is feeling better, and am starting to become a bit calmer. I would love to hear about your yoga journey and follow your blogging related to this topic.

Namaste

More Yoga Really?

kino-crescent-lunge

As I may have mentioned in a previous post I have hopped, jumped, thrown myself on the yoga bandwagon, and thought I would give you a few reasons why.  I started reading “The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Peace” by Kino MacGregor someone who studied under Jois the person who devoted his life to teaching Ashtanga yoga.  One thing Kino talks about in the book is the importance of regular practice, meaning 6 days a week.  The reason being is that if you attend a yoga class, and maybe practice yourself another day in the week you will not progress.  I’m not saying you will not benefit from practicing two days a week, but you probably will not increase your flexibility or really gain the peace of mind that comes with daily practice.

Last week I performed my yoga practice of about 30 asana’s six days in a row, and it was amazing how my hamstrings and back are beginning to show signs of increased flexibility.  This is actually becoming very addictive as I am practicing at night after work, and look forward to it all day.  Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice yoga one, two, or three days a week; if nothing else it is a wonderful form of exercise.  I think the reason Kino advocates 6 days a week is that the body needs more frequent exposure to the poses before it begins to transform the muscles and tendons to allow you a greater range of motion.  As for myself I am still working on some pretty basic poses in preparation for embarking on the Ashtanga primary series expounded upon in the “The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Peace”, but we all have to start somewhere.

Yoga

Well my journey continues, and in a couple of weeks I will embark on the Ashtanga primary series, and give you and update.  I would recommend if you want to learn more about Ashtanga yoga that you read Kino MacGregor’s book, it is extremely well written and easy to understand.  The book is only $14.95 at Amazon and is 240 pages with great photography of Kino performing the poses.

The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Peace

Some other good sources for learning more about yoga include:

Yoga Basics – lots of great information, how to, meditation, etc.

Yoga.com – very cool stories and videos

Yoga Journal – probably the most popular yoga magazine

 

Namaste

Definition of Namaste: In Sanskrit the word is namah + te = namaste which means “I bow to you” – my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. The word ‘namaha’ can also be literally interpreted as “na ma” (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

History of Yoga

history of yoga

I’ve been doing some reading to find out just how yoga came into being, and the answer is not clear.  A number of sources claim that yoga predates the written word and is over 5,000 years old.  The evidence of this comes from archaeological dig sites where yoga poses have been found.  There is some conjecture that yoga evolved from Hinduism but Hinduism’s religions structures  were developed much later and incorporated yoga but did not create it.  Initially yoga was passed down from teacher to student through oral instruction and by demonstration.

One of the earliest texts on yoga came from a scholar named Patanjali, who created a book named Yoga Sutras anywhere from the 1st or 2nd century B.C. to as late as the 5th century A.D.  Patanjali wrote about a system called “Ashtanga Yoga,” or the eight limbs of yoga.  There are many (hundreds) schools, styles, and types of yoga but some of the more common include:

  • Hatha Yoga: The physical movements and postures, plus breathing techniques. This is what most people associate with Yoga practice.
  • Ashtanga Yoga: The system is based on six series of asanas which increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. In class, you’ll be led nonstop through one or more of the series. There’s no time for adjustments—you’ll be encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose.
  • Bikram Yoga: This method of staying healthy from the inside out was designed by Bikram Choudhury, who sequenced a series of 26 traditional hatha postures to address the proper functioning of every bodily system.  Usually this form of yoga is done at temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the idea is that you will sweat out the toxins in your body.
  • Raja Yoga: Called the “royal road,” because it incorporates exercise and breathing practice with meditation and study, producing a well-rounded individual.  Raja yoga was first described as an eightfold or eight-limbed (aṣṭanga, ashtanga) path in the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali.
  • Jnana Yoga: The path of wisdom; considered the most difficult path.
  • Bhakti Yoga: The practice of extreme devotion in one-pointed concentration upon one’s concept of God.
  • Karma Yoga: Of the four paths to realization, karma yoga is the process of achieving perfection in action. Karma yoga is derived from the spiritual life. Karma yoga is said to be the most authentic way to progress in the spiritual life. Found in the Bhagavad Gita karma yoga is a part of nature. Karma yoga is taught by teachers of zen who promote tranquility.
  • Other styles include: Iyengar, Power Yoga, White Lotus, Kali Ray TriYoga, Jivamukti, Viniyoga, and on and on and on.

downward facing dog

Even by these definitions one can see that it is difficult to separate the exercise component of yoga from the meditative aspect.  The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” bringing the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.  The system of Yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation; all three components must be in harmony to properly practice yoga.  My next post will begin to focus in on Ashtanga one of the forms of yoga mentioned above in more detail.  Remember you can make up your own sequence of asana’s for your practice, but understanding a few of the more popular disciplines will help you gravitate to what suits your personality and desires.

Namaste

Namaste

Benefits of Yoga

benefits-of-yoga

I was just reading an article on the health benefits of Yoga, and wanted to add my two cents to the topic.  We all do yoga for different reasons and often a set of common reasons.  The health benefits of yoga mentioned in the article below include:

  • The personal time you spend on yoga reduces stress and boosts your immunity
  • Yoga poses done correctly combine exercise and breathing allowing you to control your mind and breathing
  • Yoga poses and sequences like sun salutations have a slimming effect on the body helping to keep you lean
  • Yoga poses strengthen and lengthen your muscles improving your sitting and standing posture
  • Yoga combined with meditation makes you happier, more joyful, and loving

Yoga Sunset

Let me throw in a few of my own benefits of doing yoga:

  • Many of us work in an office, spending much of our day sitting in a chair which tends if anything to constrict or tighten muscles in your back and hamstrings for instance.  Yoga can combat this situation by elongating those muscles reversing much of the damage done by sitting all day.  Many yoga poses also help you elongate the spinal column, and other joints like your knees and shoulders.
  • Yoga has many things in common with meditation in that to perform an asana correctly you must stop thinking about other things and focus on the pose and your breathing.  For this reason you begin to let go of other thoughts and relax your mind and your body.  For most of us this doesn’t happen for but a few moments during the day, and yoga can help you just be in the moment.
  • There is a great efficiency to doing yoga in that it takes maybe 20 – 30 minutes to perform a fairly extensive routine where you start to realize the benefits mentioned above.  So yoga is a very efficient form of exercise for both the mind and body.  This is meaningful for those of you have so much to to do, and for all of you who have other fitness interest like running, biking, and strength training for instance.
  • Yoga complements other fitness activities by stretching the muscles helping runners and strength training devotes alike, keeping their muscles loose and helping with recovery.  You won’t find too many runners or serious weight lifters who don’t stretch.  Yoga provides a more comprehensive opportunity to really stretch all the body parts in a very structured way helping the runner or strength trainer to stay healthy and manage pain.

What benefits have you received from you your yoga practice?

Health benefits of yoga:  http://www.healthcaremagic.com/insights/why-yoga-is-important-to-your-health/40

Time for a little Yoga

This is my first post on the topic of yoga, so for all of you experienced practitioners this might be a bit too elementary for you, but then again who knows.  I have in one form or another been doing yoga poses (asanas) for some time now, well actually for years.  I’ve often mixed in asanas with Pilates exercises, and other forms of stretching during my morning session.   While this is a great way to add some stretching oriented exercises to your morning workout it does not constitute what anyone would consider practicing yoga.  So over the past few weeks I have been devoting some of my morning workouts purely to the practice of yoga.  Being a bit of self study kind of person, I went  back to my library and pulled out a book I had purchased some time ago from Yoga Journal.  This book provided detailed instructions on how to perform the asana along with pictures of each position in the correct sequence.

So the question is why would anyone want to do yoga?  I mean come on you can find better and faster ways to exercise than yoga can’t you.  Sure there are at least a dozen ways to torture yourself physically that are more efficient that yoga, although anyone who has ever taken a yoga class knows it is not as easy as one might think.  The physical torture part is just not the point.  If you are looking for something that kicks your butt stay with squats or running, but if you are looking for a form of exercise that is really more than exercise maybe yoga deserves a look.

yoga-mats-adventure-blog-11

My next post will dig into the origins of yoga and the benefits of regular practice.

Namaste

Cool fitness apps for your phone

runtastic-Pedometer-PRO  redy-gym-log-workout-tracker

Without sounding like I’m plugging anyone’s products here, I just wanted to mention a few different fitness apps I used on my Android phone.  I used to haul my laptop upstairs to my workout room and log my reps and weights used for my strength training routine into a Google spreadsheet.  While this worked rather well it had me hauling the laptop up and down the stairs, and sometimes other folks in family were using the computer so it wasn’t all that convenient at times.  I did a little research at the Play Store (Google’s equivalent to Apple’s app store), and found an easy to use tool called Redy Gym Log.  The Redy Gym Log came pre-loaded with most of the popular strength training exercises, and you can add your own very easily.  I then created my 4 day split routine, and we were off to the races.  So now I just grab my phone and go upstairs do my workout and record it.

If you read an earlier post you know I like to walk, and since I take my phone with me it made sense to see if they had a pedometer application that would give me a pretty good idea of how far and fast I was walking.  I found the Runtastic Pedometer Pro (a couple of dollars to upgrade), and it has been great.  So now I’m tracking my strength training with Redy Gym Log and my walking with Runtastic Pedometer Pro.  Well since I also try to exercise first thing in the morning and had incorporated some squats into the routine, I noticed that Runtastic had an app for that too.  I downloaded Runtastic Squats, upgraded it (again another couple of dollars), and now I use Squats Pro and do squats 3 days a week in the morning.  There are other great fitness apps you can get for your Android or Apple phones, but these are 3 that I use every week and have been very pleased with.

I guess the revelation if there is one here is that you don’t need to haul around a laptop, notebook, or tablet PC; just grab your phone and get moving.  These apps provide a history of your workouts, making it easy for you to set new goals, and in the case of the Runtastic Squat Pro it actually creates the next workout for you and generates reminders.  All good stuff, but I’m not typing in the post from my phone, I just don’t have the patience for that yet.  So don’t pitch your laptop/notebook just yet.

The links for Runtastic and Redy Gym are as follows:

www.runtastic.com/

www.redyapps.com/gym/

I would love to know what fitness apps you are using on your phone?

The Joy’s of Walking

walking 01

As I used to be a runner this post is not about advocating walking over running.  I used to love to run and while most of my miles are now acquired walking I still miss the feeling I had when I was done running.  Yes the key statement is I used to be a runner, and now I’m perfectly happy walking 3 miles instead of running.  Maybe it is age, maybe it is just bad knees and a bad back, but running takes a toll on my body.  The problem is there is no substitute for getting outside in the fresh air and enjoying the weather good or bad.  For all you hard-core runners who think walking is not much of a workout, I can totally understand, but let me at least state some of the benefits:

  1. If you walk long enough you can get a pretty decent workout
  2. Because you are not killing yourself you can take time to think while you are taking your walk
  3. It takes the average person about an hour to walk 3 miles, so you get to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air
  4. It strengthens your legs and back
  5. You typically don’t experience any soreness or pain
  6. It burns calories commensurate with distance and pace
  7. And while you don’t get a big release of endorphin’s like running provides, you do feel better both during and after the walk

I’m sure I could come up with a few other reasons why walking is a good thing, but this should suffice for most of us.  While I decided that about a year ago running wasn’t a good option for me anymore, I found that walking provided some of the same benefits and a few unique ones.  Oh and by the way running shoes are also great for walking.

Now go get your walk on.

Namaste