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Archive for April, 2015

Aetna’s CEO Offers Viniyoga Therapy to Employees

Posted on April 22nd, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Viniyoga Therapy at Aetna

Recently we saw a New York Times article that truly inspired us. The CEO of health insurance giant Aetna now offers meditation and yoga classes to his employees. Of Aetna’s workforce of around 50,000, 13,000 have already participated. According to this CEO, classes are overbooked! The CEO himself attributes his interest in yoga to a nearly fatal skiing accident he suffered only a few years ago, after which yoga and meditation helped him to manage the chronic pain he had been experiencing. We at Pranamaya are overjoyed hear of the benefits that viniyoga therapy and meditation have given to Mr. Bertolini, and applaud him for incorporating the therapeutic and restorative practices of yoga and meditation into his workplace.

Setting an Example

As the Aetna example so beautifully illustrates, yoga and meditation can help anyone and everyone manage their stress, their pain, and achieve more with their lives. Aetna shows us that viniyoga therapy is, quite literally, good for business. I’m sure Mr. Bertolini would recommend that anyone with an interest should at least try yoga and meditation, and we at Pranamaya agree. Not only that, we believe we have the tools, in the form of yoga DVDs and videos, to help any new student grow into an avid, thriving yogi.

Bring Viniyoga Therapy to Your World

Our educational material gives any student at any age or experience level access to yoga master teachers at a fraction of the cost of an in-person lesson. Practice each pose at your own pace. Our DVDs allow you to practice yoga in your home or office. If you have the space, why not take a page out of Aetna’s book?

ViniyogaTherapyFor those seeking the benefits of viniyoga therapy who don’t believe they have the time, or the funds, to give to a yoga class or instructor, our DVDs are essential. The benefits of lowered stress can be enjoyed by anyone, and with Pranamaya there is nothing holding you back from experiencing the joy and serenity of yoga practice.

Join the Movement

Aetna is leading a new movement sweeping corporate culture, with more big businesses adding yoga and meditation classes to their list of benefits. Pranamaya offers courses and DVDs in popular disciplines for reducing stress and even easing joint and chronic pain. However, our selection is highly diversified.

From beginner materials to extremely advanced, Pranamaya offers yoga sessions to challenge even experienced yogi. We offer education in new and emerging disciplines such as Yin Yoga and viniyoga therapy.

Aetna, through offering yoga education to their employees, is a health insurance company showing a true interest not only in their employees’ health, but their well-being. We would again like to applaud them, and invite you to invest in your own well-being and join us today in the international practice of yoga.

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Top 5 Tips for Yoga Etiquette

Posted on April 20th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

No matter where you are when you enjoy your yoga practice, that area is a sacred space. Yoga requires concentration and mindfulness. Reducing distractions to yourself and to others is crucial to having a healthy and enjoyable time on the mat. Yoga is also about community, so it is very important to respect yoga etiquette when practicing in group environments. Here are a few tips to make sure that your behavior and your presence is positive, productive, and polite towards your fellow yogis.

yoga etiquette

 

Turn Off the Phone

While cell phones have become indispensable to daily life, using your phone in class or keeping the volume on is always a breach of yoga etiquette. Practice is about your connection with your body and mind, not about your connection with your email or social media networks. Even as you are waiting for class to begin, be sure to turn the volume off and tuck your phone away for the duration of class. Leaving your phone in the car is the best option.

 

Remove Your Shoes

If you’re new to yoga, this tradition might seem odd, but before you enter a yoga studio, you should take care to remove your shoes. Not only is this essential to keeping floors clean, but you may find it helps “prime” your mind by marking your arrival to your practice space. The idea of taking off your shoes means that you can leave your worries and worldly concerns outside of the room.

 

Do Your Best to Arrive Early

Preparing for your yoga practice means getting the props you need, finding a
space in the room, and allowing yourself to let go and enter a space where you can heal and rejuvenate yourself. Arriving 15 minutes before the class begins is the best practice. It can be disruptive to enter a class, gather your blocks and straps, and find a place for your mat if the session has already began. If you find yourself arriving to class a few minutes late, be mindful of
yoga etiquette and find a space quickly and quietly.

yoga practice

Stay Through the Whole Class

Even if staying still through savasana is difficult, respect yoga etiquette by staying put for the duration of the class. If certain aspects of the practice are difficult or unappealing to you, know that they may be the most important aspects of another’s practice. Respect everyone’s experience and don’t disrupt it by leaving class early.

 

Clean Thoroughly

The final component of yoga etiquette is one of the most important: take care of your sacred space by putting away all props and, if borrowed or rented from the studio, cleaning off your mat. A studio or classroom should be a happy, clean space for all who use it throughout the day.

 

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Does Coffee Negatively Impact Your Yoga Practice?

Posted on April 18th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Coffee with designFor so many of us, it’s part of the routine: brew a pot of coffee before work in the morning, pick up a cup when the afternoon slump sets. As a part of living a healthy lifestyle, you might wonder if your daily coffee and yoga habits are compatible, or if drinking coffee might be adversely affecting your practice. Our team of experts explore what it means to be a coffee drinker and a yogi at the same time.

 

The Case for Coffee and Yoga

 

You likely already know the benefits of yoga for your body and your mind, but what about the perks of drinking coffee? In addition to helping you wake up or shake off grogginess, recent research shows that coffee has some pretty great health benefits. Coffee is full of antioxidants, which help ward off disease. Coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, strokes, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also true that drinking too much coffee can have negative side effects, like insomnia, acid reflux, and dependency. While coffee drinking doesn’t necessarily help your yoga practice, having a cup of coffee after you wake up isn’t likely to interfere with your five o’clock practice. In moderation, coffee and yoga can coexist as a part of a healthy routine.

 

When You Should Never Drink Coffee

 

Brewed coffeeDrinking coffee right before you step onto your mat is almost always a recipe for unrest. What most coffee drinkers love about the beverage is that little jolt you get shortly after finishing a cup. While it could be tempting to hit the java to give yourself a little “push” on days when you might not feel like getting on your mat, coffee and yoga just don’t mix right before practice. You may have difficulty relaxing, experience an upset stomach, or feel jittery during moments when you should be feeling calm.

 

At the end of the day, the healthiest yoga practices and the healthiest eating habits are all about balance. If you’re not ready to give up your morning latte, that’s okay. But be wary of drinking too much coffee, or drinking it right before your yoga class. Coffee certainly can have a negative impact on your yoga practice, but coffee and yoga can also coexist as a part of the same healthy lifestyle.

 


 

 

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The Best Clothes for Yoga Practice

Posted on April 10th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Best clothes for yoga
While one of the benefits of yoga is that you can practice many poses anywhere, wearing anything, what you wear for your regular yoga practice does have an impact on your experience. How you look during your practice isn’t important, but how you feel is crucial. After all, you want to be able to focus on your breath, on the poses, and on the experience as a whole, without being distracted by an itchy shirt or pants you need to adjust after every pose. Our experts are happy to offer you some tips to keep your yoga practice calm and comfortable with the
best clothes for yoga.

 

Dressing for Your Best Practice

 

The best clothes for yoga are the ones that help you free your mind from distraction. Nothing is worse than having to constantly fiddle with elastic that cuts into your skin or a top that slides off your shoulders during your practice. Pants or shorts should have a snug enough fit that you won’t need to tug at them during class, but also have enough stretch to allow a full range of motion with each pose. For ladies, yoga tops with built-in sports bras help to streamline packing for class. If you practice inversions, it’s useful to have a more form-fitting yoga outfit so that your clothes don’t slip while you’re upside-down.

 

Dressing for Different Branches of Yoga

Yoga classes

The best clothes for yoga can also change depending on which style of yoga you practice. Loose, comfortable pants are great for gentle stretching, like in hatha yoga classes. If the class is a hot yoga class, make sure to choose shirts and shorts or pants that will wick away sweat. Fabrics that breathe well will help keep you cool even during the most challenging sequences. Tops for hatha yoga can be a little looser, and it can be lovely to find a fabric that feels really soft and luxurious on your skin.

 

Honor Your Personality and Your Spirit

 

Above all, the best clothes for yoga should make you feel comfortable with who you are and to express yourself through movement and breath. The best clothes for yoga are the clothes that help you move and feel like yourself. Aslong as your yoga clothes do not distract anyone else in the class, you should feel free to have fun by playing with styles, colors, and fabrics that speak to you.

 

 

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Can Juicing for Health Benefits Improve Your Yoga Routine?

Posted on April 7th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

In the past few years the juicing trend has exploded: everyone from celebrities to your work colleagues are touting the virtues of juicing for health benefits. But is juicing just a trend, or is it here to stay? Can it have benefits for your yoga routine?

 

Behind the Juicing Trend

 

The busy modern lifestyle is likely one of the biggest reasons that juicing for health benefits has become so popular. If your lifestyle or job makes it difficult to plan several healthy meals every day, then green juices can help you get all of the vegetables you need with much less effort. Juicing also allows you to enjoy a wider variety of fruits and vegetables than you might normally eat, as it is easy to incorporate them into a single juice blend.

yoga outdoors

 

Juicing for Health Benefits

 

The health benefits of juicing are incredible. By expanding the number and quantity of vegetables you eat, you make more nutrients available to your body. Diets rich in plants help reduce the risks of major life threatening diseases, like heart disease and cancer. You’ll also find that if you start juicing for health benefits, you’ll have an easier time managing cravings and fending off illness. By drinking juices chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, you’ll be doing your body a world of good that will help you feel better on and off the mat.

 

Juicing and Yoga

 

So, how does juicing for health benefits relate to your yoga practice? For starters, if you are getting all the nutrients you need, your energy levels will improve and as a result, you may find yourself spending more time on the mat. When combined with a healthy, balanced diet and a consistent yoga routine, juicing also helps promote weight loss. Because juicing helps promote a strong immune system, you’ll be able to better fend off pesky colds and debilitating flus that keep you from exercise. Yoga is not just about the time you spend moving through the asanas, but also about living a mindful, balanced life. Juicing can be a great way to help you feel balanced and healthy.

 

If you’re looking for more ways to deepen and enrich your practice, take a look at our yoga DVDs, featuring world-renowned master teachers. We want to be here for every step of your yoga journey.

 

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What is Yin Yoga? An In Depth Look

Posted on April 2nd, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

amy

What is Yin Yoga?

Whether you are a new or seasoned yoga practitioner, the names of yoga classes on any given studio schedule can be confusing. In light of this, I will attempt to answer some of the key questions I’ve received about yin yoga over the course of teaching this practice and running a yin yoga teacher training. (More information on the training at: www.soghratiyoga.com)

What’s in a Name? Why call it Yin Yoga?

First of all, it’s important for practitioners to understand that different styles of yoga may represent how the yoga postures are taught, what lineage the teachers have studied in, the breathing practices, chanting and meditation incorporated, OR all of the above. Since yoga has evolved into a big business in North America, we have the more traditional styles of yoga (i.e.: iyengar, ashtanga, and viniyoga (from the last century) and hatha etc) as well as more modern styles, which include branded sequences that represent a specific community or individual. So, while the postures remain similar from style to style, the name tells us a bit about how the yoga is practiced.

The name “Yin Yoga” came from Sarah Powers. However, the practice of yin yoga itself is far from new. In fact, I’m sure that many people who practice yoga at home, have fallen into doing the postures this way over time. My first yoga classes at a community centre in the 90’s were called “hatha” and yet the way we practiced was almost the same as how I teach yin yoga now. So you may be practicing yoga in a yin way and not even know it!

So what does it mean to call something yin?

The terms “yin” and “yang” are labels that convey the polarities that occur in the natural world. Specifically, yin is “shady side of the mountain” and yang is “sunny side of the mountain”. To simplify this, think of the two labels as opposites – like hot and cold, light and dark, day and night. Things that are cool, hidden, dark and slow are traditionally labelled as yin in nature. Likewise, things that are warm, apparent, bright, and fast are traditionally labelled as yang in nature. If we apply this labeling system to yoga practices, we might say that faster styles of yoga are yang while slower styles of yoga are yin.

Of particular note, is the fact that a yin yoga practice often facilitates deeper understanding of the self, meditative calm and facilitation of the parasympathetic nervous system – and these things would all be in the “yin” category using the aforementioned labeling system.

What does a student experience in a Yin Yoga class?

As with any other style of yoga, each yoga class is as unique as the person teaching it, however there are some general things that every yin yoga class will incorporate:

Almost all of the postures are practiced on the floor (or using the wall for support)
Most of the postures target the hips, legs and spine
The student finds an edge of therapeutic and non-threatening intensity in the posture, then stays for a period of time (2-5 minutes on average).
The physical goal of the practice is to enhance range of motion that has been limited by our history, postural patterns, or previous injuries
The postures are practiced in stillness (without reactive fidgeting)
The student comes out of the posture slowly and carefully, resting briefly
There is often a profound experience of both physical relaxation and emotional release and/or stability
Depending on the style and experience of the teacher there may also be:

Meditation
Pranayama
Philosophy discussion
Psychology discussion
What tissues are we targeting?

This is a really important question, because there has been a fair amount of controversy over yin yoga, in terms of efficacy and safety. If you read most of the print or on-line information about yin yoga, writers indicate that this practice targets connective tissue and joints, rather than muscular tissue.

Connective tissue (CT) does exactly as its name implies – it connects things together – cells, layers, organs etc. In the study of anatomy, we have broken things down, or separated them in order to facilitate our own understanding. So, historically speaking, dissection led to classification of different types of connective tissue into categories according to both location and function(i.e.: tendons, ligaments, fascia etc…). By reducing this tissue into different “parts” our focus was taken away from how it functioned as a whole – and modern research is identifying that CT is best understood as a whole unit.

The Controversy:

If we divide CT into tendons, ligaments, fascia etc… and we say that yin yoga targets these tissues at the joint specifically, we immediately create misunderstanding. My greatest discussions about this misunderstanding have been with orthopedic surgeons who spend a great deal of time repairing joints. These professionals understand that the connective tissues surrounding a joint provide both encapsulation and protection. So, in their minds, direct stretching of a ligament that is supposed to be taut and protecting a joint, is immediately injurious. And they are correct.

So the question (in my mind) is; are we explaining this practice correctly?

A Shift in Perspective:

One of the most beautiful and clear texts on the connective tissue matrix is Thomas Myers: Anatomy Trains. In this manual, CT is examined as a whole with areas that become thicker or tougher due to patterns of use and function. Moreover, Myers identifies certain pathways or “meridians of CT” which when manipulated by manual therapists can provide system wide relief, healing and/or increase in ROM (Please note that I am greatly simplifying this information – it is important to follow this article up by reading the text for greater understanding – or even better, check out his excellent YouTube videos).

So rather than reducing the body to the sum of its parts (a reductionist view), this view of CT looks at the body as a unified whole. Within this context, the CT connects everything, (superficial to deep, head to toe), encapsulates everything and communicates with everything, by operating as a neuormyofascial web (or a web of tissue with localized specializations according to function, which contains over 600 pockets of muscle).

This “web” encapsulates the tiniest parts of us, slowly connecting layer upon layer until there is a unified an integrated whole. When we look at the body as a whole, it becomes obvious that if everything is interconnected, and if in fact individual muscle fibres are actually encapsulated by fascia, then it is impossible to target CT exclusively (meaning that there is some muscular stretch as well). Robert Scheip, an international researcher and authority on fascia found that certain types of stimulation will affect specific areas of fascia.

“The goal of the proposed fascial training is therefore to stimulate fascial fibroblasts to lay down more youthful fibre architecture with a gazelle-like elastic storage capacity. This is done through movements that load the fascial tissues over multiple extension ranges while utilizing their elastic springiness” (Schleip & Muller, 2012).

Schleip & Muller (2012) go on to say that fascial fitness is best accomplished through a combination of dynamic or ballistic stretching, muscular training and slow “melting” static stretches. Yin yoga is a form of slow static stretching; which is quite effective at enhancing range of motion, and/or relieving the body of restriction that is associated with previous injury or holding patterns. It seems to provide the best stimulation for extramuscular fasciae and the intramuscular fasciae oriented in parallel to the myofibers. (Scheip & Muller, 2012).

A final comment in relation to yin yoga & fascial tissues, is that the practice, by its very nature serves to hydrate the fascia. When the tissue is stretched, compressed or sheared, fluid moves out, when we come out of the posture and rest, the tissue is re-hydrated. This allows for movement of fluids, and potential toxins. Additionally it allows for additional fluid to be “bound” in the fascial “web or net” which creates a more healthy and youthful tissue. (Schleip & Muller, 2012).

So if I back up and look at the original question, “what are we targeting in a yin yoga practice?” My answer would be the myofascial web. I believe that joint range of motion is definitely enhanced as a side benefit of increasing overall range of motion in the tissues between the joints.

What is BioTensegrity?

This is a really hot topic right now, and it is directly relevant to our understanding of how the body is linked together, from head to toe, superficial to deep. There is tons of information online, however I will reference a review article that I found particularly useful (“Biotensegrity: A Unifying Theory of Biological Architecture With Applications to Osteopathic Practice, Education, and Research—A Review and Analysis” by Randall L. Swansan II, DO PhD. J Am Osteopath Assoc, January 1, 2013 vol. 113 no. 1 34-52).

“According to the tensegrity principle, structures are stabilized by continuous tension (tensional + integrity = tensegrity) with discontinuous compression. In contrast, most manmade structures are stabilized by continuous gravitational compression.” (Swansan, 2013)

Research into biotensegrity (mostly at the cellular level) has demonstrated that cells from their nucleus are linked to the extracellular environment, which then link to every other cell (through that relationship between the intra/extracellular environment of every cell). When forces are applied to the body (in yin yoga, think stretch or compression), a mechanical signal is produced (mechanotransduction) which is then coupled with chemical signals and leads to a cellular response.

This understanding of the architecture of the human body, allows us to comprehend how the form can experience myriad mechanical forces, disperse these forces and still retain its form (Swansan, 2013). Moreover, when we view the body as a tensegrity structure, it becomes evident that the force from one area is going to ripple into other areas, and conversely, lack of movement, adhesions or trauma to one area will restrict the rest of the tissues.

The Relationship between Yin Yoga & Traditional Chinese Medicine

There has long been a connective tissue hypothesis for acupuncture mechanisms. This hypothesis (loosely) is that the meridians of acupuncture actually exist in the fascial planes of the body. Thus, when we stretch, pressurize, shear, compress the fascia, via mechanotransduction, we would affect the way that chi (qi) moves in those meridians. Duncan McGechie wrote a great review article on this topic in the Journal of Chinese Medicine in June of 2010. His research found that this hypothesis has merit, however the current studies available aren’t significant enough to alter western medical views and practice.

What I find interesting personally, is that the holistic nature of TCM highlights the interrelationship between our physical and emotional selves. So any time we work with specific meridian pathways, we also work with aspects of the psyche. This is very consistent with my own experience during a yin yoga practice, as well as the reports I have received from students and other teachers over the years. It will be interesting to see how this hypothesis evolves over the next few decades.

Tony Tavares, a TCM practitioner is doing some excellent work on the relationship between Chinese Medicine and yin yoga www.norwoodholistichealing.com.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Yin Yoga?

Physical:

As discussed earlier in the article, this style of stretching will naturally increase flexibility in certain tissues in the body. This will likely lead to increased ROM, which can be accompanied by decreased pain. Practitioners also report feeling either deeply relaxed (perhaps the down-regulation of an overactive sympathetic nervous system) or reinvigorated and energized (increase in parasympathetic nervous system activity). Either way, students consistently report feeling more stable in terms of their nervous system.

Mental:

This is an area where the majority of students experience a huge shift. One of the basic things that yoga asks us to do is to connect to the present moment, to integrate there (breath, body, mind) and to act according to present circumstances with equanimity. While it is incredibly easy to write those words, the practice of actually doing this is so difficult that it seems impossible to many. Part of the problem is that connecting to the present moment may not be pleasurable. In fact, it might mean that we have to learn to tolerate NOW and relax our nervous system around “not knowing” and “not being in control”. Meditation is a fabulous place to begin to explore sitting with the mind, but I’ll be honest; I’ve been training teachers for a while now, and getting them to sit with themselves is often difficult. Now this is where yin comes in. People are able to experience 5 minute intervals of stillness, where a teacher can take them mindfully through the practice of watching the mind and its reactions without behaviorally acting them out. Students eventually notice that consistently doing this in their practice translates into the ability to be present with themselves in the rest of their lives – this changes everything.

Emotional

This area is profound for people too, and perhaps difficult to describe in a way that is accurate, scientific or evidence-based – but I’ll try. Yoga practitioners, dancers, people who work with movement, body-workers have long held that our “issues” or our emotions are in our “tissues”. So we move in specific ways, and the movement actually triggers an emotional response, or brings to light our emotional baggage. Practitioners of yin yoga have found that this is a very poignant part of the experience. Postures are held for a period of time and students experience a cascade of emotions, memories or even the sudden onslaught of tears. As they stay with the experience, students typically report a feeling of surrender or ease with what is. This in itself also has the capacity to change one’s perspective on their reality. The caution that I will add here is that this practice is not a replacement for therapy, nor is the teacher a therapist in the setting of a yin yoga class. It is essential that the yin yoga teacher models excellent and healthy psychological boundaries so that students are able to engage in self-directed svadhyaya (self-study).

Energetic

The tradition of yoga teaches us that Prana (lifeforce or energy) is the animating force in our lives. It permeates all of our cells, and is responsible for the way things move inside of us – from gross (think, muscles and joints) to subtle (think about the way thoughts or emotions move). Moreover, the movement of prana through specific energetic vortices (Chakras) is linked to the evolution of our consciousness. If this movement is blocked in some way, that evolution is said to be inhibited. Similarly, in Chinese Medicine, Chi (Qi) is the animating force, and the way it moves or doesn’t move in the meridians and organs is directly linked to our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

In both of these traditions specific movements and breathwork are used to move, contain, or stabilize energy. Yin Yoga has proven to be one way to practice working with the energy body. Pranayama (breathing practices) can easily be incorporated into the postures, as well as acupressure on specific points or meditation on the chakras and their attributes.

Can I Injure Myself Practicing Yin Yoga?

The short answer to this question is a loud and resounding YES!

Injury by “Chasing the Edge”
As I indicated above, one of the principles of this practice is to find an appropriate edge; which is safe and non-threatening. However, as its name implies, an edge is a bit “edgy”, so people often misunderstand the purpose or goal. In my experience there are two ways that people can “chase the edge”. First, they might come into a yin yoga pose and try to start the posture at their absolute maximal edge, which will become intolerable after about 20-30 seconds. This is both non-therapeutic and injurious. It can also be reflective of a pattern in the rest of that persons’ life (i.e.: their ability to discern the difference between appropriate stress and distress). The second way that people “chase the edge” is when they come into a posture, and report “feeling nothing” so they contort their body into progressively non-integrated shapes trying to find the edge. This is also non-therapeutic and potentially injurious. There will always be some posture that feels “easy” for each person – because they are not limited in that particular range of motion. In these ones – try to relax and absorb the energetic benefits of the posture rather than engaging in contortionist acrobatics. Moreover, if someone is incredibly flexible, they often need to strengthen – not continue to stretch through tissue. This leads to my final point about chasing the edge. We need to BOTH stretch AND strengthen the neuromyofascial web. To only stretch will lead to injury, and the injury often happens at vulnerable junctions in the body.

Injury by Physical Adjustment from the Yoga Teacher
While I absolutely love physical yoga adjustments – I generally refrain from using them on my students during a yin yoga practice. If I know a student’s body extremely well, I might perform a physical adjustment that stabilizes them – all the while checking in with them and their experience, but otherwise I avoid them. This is because they are performing very deep and long held stretches with the goal of freeing up fascial adhesion’s between the joints. Ideally the stress avoids both the knee and the sacro-iliac joints, however it is impossible for me to tell (from the outside) how close a student is to their maximal edge. If I come along and perform a deep adjustment, it can easily and quickly tip them over into injury.

Injury through Exacerbation of Pre-Existing Postural Misalignment & Compensation Patterns
This is more subtle and often difficult for newer teachers of yin yoga to discern. We all come to movement practices with postural patterns. These patterns reflect our history of trauma, stress, insecurity and anger, as well as reflecting what we do in our lives every day (work on a computer, drive, sit at a desk, run etc.) If the yin yoga practice exacerbates postural patterns that cause pain and injury, then it is clearly injurious. A great example of this is having people who already have a bit of a hyperkyphosis (rounded upper spine) and head forward position (relative to the torso) practicing an entire class with the upper body in that exact position. Teachers need to have knowledge enough to offer variations for students with obvious misalignment or compensation patterns. In the example above, it would be far more therapeutic to have the student lying on their back, practicing various postures with legs up the wall.

Injury through an imbalance in activities: too much stretching, not enough strengthening
This is something that has to be evaluated on an individual basis. We all use our bodies differently, so where we are weak versus strong is variable. The overall point is to not overdo any one thing. If we are constantly stretching without strengthening, we generally lose stability which leads to injuries. The key is balance, the middle path. Yin yoga is part of the practice, but not the whole thing. If our practice isn’t balanced and stable how can we expect our bodies and minds to be?

How is Yin Yoga Different from Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga literally seeks to restore the body – not stretch it or remove adhesions or target specific energetic pathways. The body is fully supported at all times. Yin yoga is more intense, in that there is an edge, and the body is not always fully supported. Moreover, in yin yoga, we are trying to create a change in the tissues.

Yin Yoga & Pregnancy

Yin yoga may be practiced during pregnancy with the following considerations:

The hormone Relaxin is produced abundantly during pregnancy. It rises during the first trimester and the third trimester.
Relaxin has a diverse range of effects, including the production and remodeling of collagen thereby increasing the elasticity of muscles, tendons, ligaments and tissues of the birth canal in view of delivery.
This remodeling of collagen is not by itself associated with problems; however, adding the stress of a yin yoga practice to these tissues could potentially be injurious.
Teachers should advise the students to decrease the amount of time in the posture, particularly postures affecting the hips. Pregnant women are prone to pain in the SI joints and pubic symphysis.
Cautions: avoid any pose which compresses the baby or blood return via the inferior vena cava (i.e.: lying flat on the back or sphyinx).
Pregnant woman are also at risk for diastasis recti – the spreading apart of the rectus abdominus muscle at the linia alba (middle fascial line). It is essential that the abdomen, which is already being stretched, is not stretched even more, which would contribute to a diastasis.
Avoid elevating the body temperature above 37.78°C. This poses a potential risk to the fetus.
Yin Yoga and Osteoporosis

Often people with osteoporosis are warned to stay away from yin yoga – this is a blanket warning and needs to be placed in the context osteoporosis/osteopenia guidelines for exercise. First of all, consider the prevalence; 1/3 woman and 1/5 men in Canada will suffer from and osteoporotic fracture OR 50% women and 30% of men will get osteoporosis. This means that people suffering from this degenerative process will be in yoga classes. Generally speaking, Yoga is recommended, both for flexibility and balance training (which reduces falls).

The movements that are contraindicated once a spinal fracture is present OR in someone who is in the high risk category, are: flexion or rotation of the spine, arms overhead or high impact activities. Flexion of the spine is particularly dangerous as it may lead to a compression fracture of the vertebrae (this is what causes a dowager’s hump).

This is why those with the condition are often warned away from yin yoga – it is a blanket recommendation because the teacher (especially if they are not trained well) may not know that those movements are dangerous. However, those movements are equally dangerous in a regular yoga class.

If someone with osteoporosis wants to practice yin yoga, I always recommend they practice lying on the floor (flat) with legs up the wall. The spine is neutral (no flexion or rotation) and movements happen purely in the hip joint. This is safe, and quite helpful for their flexibility and range of motion.

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Tracey’s vision is to share yoga philosophy & practice in a manner that is authentic, accessible and applicable to modern day life. Her classes are grounded in a sound knowledge of the physical body and a humble perspective on the power of the mind. She seeks to incorporate self-inquiry as a tool of self-realization in every practice. She specializes in delivering classes (yin yoga & vinyasa) that are healing and invigorating for all levels of the body.

Tracey is a Yoga Therapist and has completed > 2000 hours in yoga teacher training of various lineages (Hatha, Vinyasa, Jivamukti, Yin, Prenatal, Yoga Therapy (Sri T Krishnamacharya), Yoga Nidra, Restorative) and her primary influences include Sharon Gannon, David Life, Bernie Clark, Felicia & Ante Pavlovic, Saraswathi Vasudevan, and Dr. N. Chandrasekaran. She is a member of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), Canadian Yoga Alliance (RYT 500+), Yoga Alliance (E-RYT 500) as well as the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Her formal education includes post-secondary studies in molecular biology, nursing, critical care nursing, advanced life support, anatomy & pathophysiology, parenting/child development, health education, perinatal care, swedish massage and thai yoga massage.

She has worked as a critical care nurse in a busy downtown intensive care unit and as a health educator for women and children. She is grateful for this amazing life, the practice of yoga, and for the support and love of her husband, daughter, family and friends.

 

 

© Tracey Soghrati, All rights Reserved

This post originally appeared on http://www.soghratiyoga.com/blog and we were graciously given permission from Tracey Soghrati to republish it here. Be sure to check out Tracey’s other blog posts.

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Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice

Posted on April 1st, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Exercise in Awareness

Some students say that they “Do not feel anything” when practicing asana or when they are relaxing on their back . This is not possible. There are always sensations arising from our bodies, and we only have to focus our attention to experience them. Our chi will move to wherever we place our awareness. It is also true that wherever our chi moves it will bring our awareness with it.

Try this exercise : Sit comfortably and focus on your nose. Is it warm? Does it itch? Is there a pulse? Is the inhalation in the top of the nostril, or the bottom? Is one nostril more open than the other? Exercises like this are endless and demonstrate the impossibility of being without feeling— we need only direct our awareness to it.

If a student insists he is not feeling something, we can only surmise that he is not feeling what he imagined chi should feel like. It is a misconception to think chi only flows through the meridians depicted on a chart. Chi flows into every cell of the body. The meridians depicted on acupuncture charts are just the surface meridians accessible by needles. There are larger, deeper meridians referred to as “reservoirs of chi.” These are the source of the surface meridians. Chi circulates from these deeper meridians into the surface meridians and then back again. The movement of chi in these deeper meridians is felt in the bones, muscles, and organs.

I am not dissuading students from trying to feel specific meridian channels but I am encouraging them not to overlook the more obvious “physical” sensations of chi movement throughout the body and the pleasant calmness it brings.

 

Learning to Relax

One hundred years ago the American philosopher William James suggested an experiment to illustrate the mind-body connection: Relax on your back and become calm. Once you have succeeded in relaxing, then try to make yourself angry without tensing or altering your body in any way. In other words, try to become angry without tensing your muscles, changing your breathing, clenching your teeth, raising your blood pressure or your heart rate, or manifesting any other physical change. Impossible! Every thought, every emotion puts its imprint on our physical being.

In our highly intellectual, head-oriented world many of us are physically stressed and do not know it. We imagine that by masking our emotions they are not affecting us. But masking suppresses only the crudest outward display of our emotions—our bodies are still taking a beating. If we were more aware of the physical toll of our inner life, we might take more precautions against undesirable mental states.

Learning to relax in poses like the Pentacle helps us to identify and release tensions that are deep within us , not just in the skeletal muscles. Tension in the eyes, jaw, heart, diaphragm, and stomach can be isolated and relaxed. This healthy habit helps us to dissolve the negative tensions that accumulate in our bodies. This is a valuable skill in our heart attack-prone society.

 

Learning to be Still

Dr. Motoyama has demonstrated that the meridian system and the nervous system are yin-yang to each other. This means that if the energy in one system increases, the energy in the other system decreases. Yin yoga amplifies chi energy and reduces nervous energy; therefore a common reaction after doing yin poses is to desire to just lie still and not move. When deeply relaxed, the effort it takes to move the limbs just doesn’t seem worth it.

This inhibition of movement is a desirable state and it is a perfect prelude to meditation. Many people are so nervous they literally cannot sit still for several minutes. A yin practice can change this. If you find yourself wanting to extend your rest phases during your practice, don’t fight it. Recognize and enjoy it, and this will develop your ability to recreate the peaceful state of immobilizing inner calm. When you can do this you are nearly over the first hurdle of meditation, which is sitting upright and relaxed for extended periods of time.

Excerpts from: Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice — 10th Anniversary Edition by Paul Grilley.

 

To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at www.paulgrilley.com and check out his DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

 

Paul Grilley:  A well-known master of yin yoga, Paul brings a thorough grounding in Hatha and Ashtanga yoga as well as anatomy and kinesiology to his teaching, which integrates the Taoist yoga of martial arts master Paulie Zink and the Chinese meridian and acupuncture theories of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama. Paul’s book, Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice, explains how yin yoga can teach us to relax, be patient, be quiet, and focus on the skeleton and its joints—a necessary counterpoint to today’s more ubiquitous muscular yoga.

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