"The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform asana's, but in how it positively changes the way we live our lives" - T.K.V. Desikachar

Sunday, January 3, 2016

10 Yoga Poses for Bone Health

A pilot study of yoga moves to determine whether yoga might be an effective therapy for osteoporisis conducted by Dr Loren M. Fishman has turned up some encouraging results.   You can read the full article here.

The participants of the study were taught the following yoga poses with frequent adaptions in keeping with their limitations and abilities.  Please click on the link for each of the poses to learn more about the pose, contraindications and modifications for the pose.

Trikonasana (Triangle pose) 

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Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog pose)

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Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog pose)

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Setu Bandhasana (Bridge pose) 

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Urdhva Dhanurasana (Rainbow/Wheel pose) 

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Janu Sirasasana (1-legged Head to Knee Forward Bend) 

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"Yoga puts more pressure on bone than gravity does.  By opposing one group of muscles against another, it stimulates osteocytes, the bone-making cells.  Even if bone density did not increase, improvements in posture and balance that can accrue from the practice can be protective.  Spinal fractures can result from poor posture, and there's no medication for that, but yoga is helpful.  Yoga is good for range of motion, strength, coordination and reduced anxiety, all of which contribute to the ability to stay upright and not fall.  If you don't fall, you greatly reduce your risk of a serious fracture." (excerpt from interview with Dr Loren M. Fishman from article by Jane E. Brody published in The New Yoke Times) 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Structural Body Alignment and Rebalancing with Mike Tan

Yesterday I attended a Body Assessment and Rebalancing workshop facilitated by Mike Tan, a massage therapist based in Chiang Mai.  You can read more about his profile here.   Mike's approach to long-time healing the body is through assigning specific exercise for release, strengthening and mobility.

At the workshop, we first learned about how to do a body assessment.  We start by trying to find out as much about what is affecting the person's body and if they have any recent injury.   We were given a sheet with anatomy drawing where we can indicate where the pain and misalignment were for the assessment exercise.  

Mike taught us to assess each other bodies by asking some of us to stand in a relaxed position with all the joints stacked (ankle, knee and hips in one straight line) and the insides of the feet aligned in parallel.    We started by looking closely at each portion of the body individually and in more detail; beginning with looking at the lower legs i.e the feet, ankles, shins and calves, followed by the knees and upper legs, pelvis (sacrum, groin, hips and low back), arms and shoulders and lastly, the upper torso (chest, upper back and neck).

Mike went through some of the conditions that could cause pain, movement limitation and what we can see from the each part of the body when the body is aligned vertically. When the body is not structurally aligned, how one part of the body that is impinged caused additional stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments which can also caused pain in other areas of the body.

Mike taught us how we can rebalanced the body through releasing, stretching, strengthening and increasing the mobility of the muscles in those areas.

We were shown how to use the Lanna Roller for Body Rolling which is sometimes referred as Self MyoFascial Release (SMFR),    Body rolling is an effective way to balance muscle tension in the body.   It is a self-massage technique by placing your body weight upon the roller and applying some pressure on the muscles.  (I had also attended Mike's Body Rolling class on Friday and felt so relaxed after the class).

Mike also showed us how to use the other various tools such as lacrosse balls which can be used to massage different parts of the body and stretch resistance bands for exercises to open the shoulder and back.

Mike is a great facilitator and his vast knowledge of the body made the workshop so fun and interesting.  There are requests for Mike to come back to KL to do the workshop again, so don't miss it when he comes again.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Yin Yang Yoga "The Power of Stillness" with David Kim

Although I have been practicing yoga for many years and had gone for many workshops with some of the great teachers like Kino MacGregor, Christina Sell and Matthew Sweeney, I have not given much thought to going for a Yoga Teacher Training program although I have been encouraged by some of my yoga teachers and fellow practitioners to go for it.

Recently, I read an article about creating a second income to fall back on by doing something you are passionate about.  It got me thinking about my love for yoga and how I love the practice by blogging about it and sharing articles with my fellow practitioners,  I realized then, the next step for me would be to go for a Yoga Teaching Training program so that I can deepen my practice and spread the teaching of yoga to more people.   I do not have the confidence to go for a full 200 hour YTT course yet, so when I saw the Oscillation Yoga's post on David Kim's 13-hour Practitioners and Teachers Program Series in Yin Yang Yoga "The Power of Stillness",  I decided to sign up for it on my birthday as a birthday present to myself.

Last weekend was the David Kim's workshop which started with a Community Yoga session which was opened to all levels with a yin-yang class incorporating the breath awareness and heat building movement of vinyasa with the slower passive holds of yin yoga.   After the class, when I looked around the studio,  I could see a group of practitioners looking calm and serene from the effects of the yin-yang practice.

For the 1st session on "Yintegration - Balancing Vinyasa and Yin Yoga" David started by talking about anatomy and having us look at each other bodies to have a better understanding on how our unique bodily structure can limit our ability to do/move deeper in certain poses.   It was really an eye opener to see the difference in our bodies and how we compromise some parts of our body when we were told to go into a pose with specific instructions from the teacher.   Yin yoga enables us to be more aware of our body limitations and to move to a space where effort meets comfort.

For the 2nd session on "Yin Yang Yoga for Athletics", David talked about the importance of maintaining stability when our body is doing different range of motions.   He also talked about how our nervous system controls the body's activities and reacts by stopping us in certain movements to keep us safe .   He had us do some partner work to demonstrate how our nervous system can be tricked to enable us to stretch further by repeatedly doing ranges of motion through eccentric contraction of our muscles. This repetitive training of muscle memory is the yang aspect which enables the short burst of energy required by athletics to sprint to the finishing line.  Chronically engaged muscles tends to shorten which causes tightness and reduces our range of motion.  Yin yoga which focuses on the deeper connective tissues in the body helps to increase joint mobility.  With the balance of both yin (mobility) and yang (strength) yoga in our practice, we learn to move with stability, grace and focus and lower our chances of getting injured.

The 3rd session was "Heaven & Earth - Yang Inversions, Yin Backbends" where David led us through the progression poses to prepare us for the inversion poses of forearm handstand and handstand.  David also let us experiment with doing the inversion poses with different placement of our forearms and hands.   As I have a fear of banging my head on the wall when I am doing handstand, David told me not to use so much momentum when jumping into the pose and to rely more on keeping my top leg lifted, my shoulders over my wrists when hoping with my bottom leg,    We ended the class with some yin backbends poses which helped to cool down our body as well as having a grounding effect after the inversion poses.

The last session  on "Core Focus for Seated Meditation"was on cultivating core stability which involves strengthening the inner deep muscles that stabilizes the spine,  David led us through a routine where we were asked to maintain the integrity of our spine as we move in the poses.   We finished the workshop with two rounds of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) and a seated mediation practice.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop with a great teacher who shares his teaching with so much passion and enthusiasm and his precise instructions made it easy to learn and follow during the asana practice.  I also met a group of dedicated and inspiring yoga teachers and practitioners who shares my passion for yoga.    The workshop is my first step to embark on my next yoga journey.

Teacher David Kim and my fellow yogis at the workshop

"You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step" - Martin Luther King Jr.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Good Enough

Last night as I was driving home after my yoga class, a guest speaker was being interviewed by a DJ on the radio station.  The guest speaker mentioned that we procrastinate because we want to be perfect.  Whatever we do, we always have in our mind a perfect version of what we want to do.  And that makes it difficult for us to start especially when we have doubts in our own abilities.   Instead, if we think that whatever we do is good enough, we will work our way through and the outcome of our efforts might come as a surprise to us.

This led me to connect it to our yoga practice. When we are learning to do a difficult pose, we tend to have in our mind a perfect version of the pose.  Sometimes, we doubt our own ability to execute the pose by thinking that we are not flexible enough, our hips are too tight, etc.  We stop ourselves from trying to do the pose by thinking that we need to do the perfect pose.  But many a times, if we think the pose we are doing is good enough, we will move on and become better as we learn the techniques to overcome our limitations.   Being good enough helps to build our confidence in trying new and difficult poses with an open mind.    And one day, we might become good if not perfect in the pose.

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Notes from my practice - Preparation Poses for Urdhra Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)

I attended Foo's class last Thursday and it was a class with preparation poses for backbends with the peak pose being Urdhra Dharnurasana (Wheel Pose) and Eka Pada Urdhra Dhanurasana.  As Urdhra Dhanurasana is my nemesis pose, I was quite apprehensive at first as it has always been a difficult pose for me with my tight shoulders and upper back.

Foo started the class with us doing three Sun Salutations A and three Sun Salutations B to warm up the body.  From then on, we did poses to stretch our hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors, open our chest and the shoulders.   And when it was time to do Urdhra Dhanurasana, I was able to hold the pose for five breaths before coming down and going up the second and third time.   The preparation poses really made a difference to my pose as I dd not feel the usual tightness at my shoulders by remembering to lift the head of my arm bones back when I push up to the pose.  I was able to lift up higher and stayed longer in the pose  by using my legs more which have been strengthen by the preparation poses for the hamstrings and quads.

Some of the preparation poses we did were:

Cat-Cow Pose 
Standing forward bend with arms clasped at the back
High Lunge
Low Lunge 
Kneeling Quad Stretch
Revolved High Lunge
Handstand (to strengthen the arms)
Cobra Pose
Lizard pose 
Reclined Hero pose (keeping the knees together in this pose will help you to learn to keep your inner thighs turned in for the wheel pose)
Locust pose 
Bow pose
Bridge pose

Below is a very good video on the preparation poses for Urdhra Dhanurasana by Kat Heagberg,

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Weekend Of Yoga Love

When I received news that two of my favourite teachers would be in town and will be teaching during this weekend, I did not hesitate to confirm that I would be attending both sessions although it was on the 3rd and 4th day of Chinese New Year.  

Yesterday's session with Lila was a donation based class as the proceeds collected from the class will be donated to flood relief and repair in Kuantan.   The class was a healing yoga therapy class with a slow-paced flow yoga class and ended with a chakra balance session during savasana.  I felt so wonderful and relaxed after the class.

Today's workshop with Azmi focused on invoking strength and completion in vinyasa,  The workshop brings back memories of my practice with Azmi from the music that was played to the poses that was practiced.  Azmi's instruction at the beginning of the session on setting intentions reminded me why it is important to have an intention every time we step on our mat so that when we practice we are more aware and mindful.

Although the two sessions were very different, there was one common thing that both of my teachers had emphasized on which was the breath.  When we breathe in the poses, we will find ease and balance in the poses.  And as Azmi reminded us at the end of the workshop, we should remember to welcome the breath when we inhale and expressed our gratitude when we exhale as the breath is our life force.

Azmi's workshop at Yogaonethatiwant @ Saville Melawati 
Btw, the workshop was held at Yogaonethatiwant Studio @ Saville Melawati, a very nice and spacious studio.  Check out Yogaonethatiwant studios here and you can also join freeyogafit sessions organised by the studio on Saturday mornings at KLCC Park, Central Park Bandar Utama and Tasik Shah Alam.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bed-time Yoga Poses

Recently, I received an email from Lindsay from Casper, a new start-up mattress company asking if I would be interested to be part of their newest project "Bed-time Yoga Poses".  All I have to do was write a blog post of my favourite yoga poses or stretches which can be done on the bed which could be included in their blog post at the end of the campaign.    As I have been doing some of the yoga poses on the bed when I am too lazy to roll out my yoga mat, I decided to write the post.

Here are some of the yoga poses that I find so convenient to do on the bed whenever I need to stretch my body before going to sleep or when I get up in the morning.

Pigeon Pose

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This is my favourite pose to open my tight hips.  Pigeon pose helps to elongate the back, open the hips and groin, stretches the hamstrings, relieves pressure on the lower back and helps to treat sciatica.  On the bed, come on all fours on your hands and knees.  Slide your right knee forward towards your right hand.   You can keep your shin parallel to your knee or you can slide it a bit down if your hips are not flexible.   Slide your left leg back making sure that it is in line with its hip socket and the left foot is laying flat.  To keep pressure off the knee cap, the right thigh should have a external rotation while the left thigh should have a slight internal rotation.  Flex your right foot and ensure that your hips are square and you are not leaning on one side. Keeping your torso long, exhale and fold forward.  Stay here for 10 to 15 breaths before changing side.

Double Legs Lifts

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I do double legs lifts whenever I want to work on my core.  Double leg lifts strengthen the abdominal and back muscles.  Lie flat on the bed.  Place your hands at the sides or under your buttocks to stabilize your back on the bed.  As you inhale, raise both your legs, keeping the legs straight and your buttocks flat on the bed.  Exhale and lower your legs towards the bed slowly and with control, stopping at about 45 degrees or to a point at which you can no longer lower your legs without arching your lower back.  Inhale and slowly bring your legs straight back up to complete one cycle. Repeat 10 to 15 times.  Do not use your shoulders to help you lift the legs, the shoulders and neck should stay relaxed . Try to keep your lower back resting on the bed throughout each cycle and pull your navel in towards your spine to keep your abs tight.  You can bend the legs if you feel any strain on your lower back.

Modified Reclining Hero Pose

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This is a modified version of the Reclining Hero Pose which stretches the abdomen, thighs and deep hip flexors (psoas), knees and ankles.  I like to do this pose as it helps to treat digestive problems of intestinal gas and acidity and this restorative pose also helps to relieve tired legs.   Stack some folded blankets on the bed.  Kneel on the bed in front of the blankets, open your feet slightly wider than your hips, keeping the tops of your feet flat on the bed and your big toes angled in towards each other. Exhale and lean your body forward slightly as you sit your hips back halfway and slowly sit between your feet while drawing your calf muscles towards your heels. Place hands at the side of the body, exhale and lean backwards towards the blankets on the bed.  Take the weight on to your hands and then your elbows and forearms.  When you are on your elbows, place your hands on the back of the pelvis and  slowly release the buttocks and lower back by pushing yourself downwards towards your tailbone. Then finish reclining onto the blankets.  Hold in this position for 5 breaths or longer.  To get out of the pose, slowly release one leg and then the other.    When you are in the pose, you can allow a little bit of space between the knees as long as your thighs remained parallel to each other. Do not allow the knees to splay apart wider than your hips as it will cause sprain on the hips and lower back.

Reclining Supine Twist 

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Twisting poses provides many benefits to the body and mind as they not only help to develop flexibility in the spine, they also help to increases circulation and cleanse the internal organs.   I  like to do the reclining supine twist with my legs in eagle legs position on the bed as it helps to stretch the back muscles as well as the hips, relieving tension and pain after a day spent sitting at the desk.   Lie on the bed with your knees bend and your feet flat on the bed.  Open your arms in a T-shape, cross your right knee over your left knee and wrap your right foot over your left calf.  On an exhalation, shift your hips slightly to your right and drop your knees to the left, keeping the knees close to the chest. Turn your head to the right and try to keep your right shoulder down on the bed.  You can place a blanket under your right shoulder if it lifts up.  To deepen the twist, you can use your left hand to gently press your knees down.   Breathe deeply and stay in the pose for 10 breaths or more and then repeat on the other side.

Legs Up the Wall Pose

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This is my to-do pose on the hotel bed whenever I travel as this pose helps to relieve my tired legs after a day of sight-seeing and shopping.    This is a restorative as well as meditative pose as it rejuvenates the lower back and legs, ease tension and helps boost circulation and at the same time brings the body into a state of deep relaxation.   Lie on the bed with a wall and with an exhale, swings your legs up onto the wall so that your heels and sitting bones are supported against it.  If you feel any discomfort in your lower back, adjust your body slightly back from the wall so that your sitting bones are not touching it.  Rest your head on the bed, keeping your spine straight and your knees slightly bend so that your kneecaps are not locked. Put your arms at the sides of your body, on your belly or above your head.  Close your eyes and breathe deeply. You can stay as long as you want in this pose,  If you have lower back pain, you can place a pillow beneath your back to support your body.

There are many other yoga poses which you can do on the comfort of your bed but make sure you have a good mattress that does not sink in when you are doing the poses.