Day 3. Ardha Matsyendrasana

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose.
I have to admit. I used to be a cranker. What I mean by that is, I used to take my elbow, arm or whatever appendage was appropriate in a twist, grab on to my leg, relax and just crank the shit out of my spine hoping for a few cracks. Yeah, it feels good to crack your back, I know I know. Fast forward some time into my practice, maybe a couple years…when all of the sudden cranking and cracking felt like shit. Every time I would twist to my left, it would feel like something was catching and sometimes it was just awkward or uncomfortable and other times it literally would take my breath away. After quite some time of just dealing with it, I found a chiropractor who explained to me what was going on.  My floating rib was actually catching on something, most likely connective tissue, fascia and my diaphragm was starting to get all wrapped up in my ribs much like saran wrap (yum!), which explained the painful inhalations and even possibly digestive issues. I wasn’t imagining this feeling. So I would get adjusted, would feel like the bomb.com for about 3 days and inevitably it would slip back and there I would be–twisting and cranking in yoga and making it worse. I finally started to see a massage therapist friend of mine who does a good bit a rolfing too (if you’ve never been rolfed, find thee a rolfer like now and GO). Anyhow, she started to loosen up all that connective tissue around and between the ribs, and the whole kinetic chain that was set off. As long as I consistently see my chiropractor for spinal alignment, and my massage therapist I feel GOOD. Back to the pose. I also learned that what I’ve been doing in yoga with my twists has been detrimental to this issue of mine and I started to think about all the issues that could arise from people forcing their bodies into twists that are not yet available to them. I began to notice that nearly EVERYONE in my classes were crankers. I finally began to cue twists but having people engage uddiyana bandha and mula bandha first, rotate as much as they could with the muscles engaged and then adding the arm or hand for just a LITTLE bit more. Stop cranking people! Use those muscles and keep your back and body happy and healthy!!! 

Day 2. Chaturanga

Chaturanga Dandasana. One of the most repeated questions I get about chata is “Why do my wrists hurt so badly?” I’m with you. My right wrist is shit. I have a ganglion cyst and too much pressure for too long can be incredibly painful. One tiny tweak in the way I do chaturanga has totally alleviated my wrist issues. Instead of the shift forward that is almost always cued in a traditional vinyasa class, I take a more ashtanga style approach by simply lowering straight down from high plank…no shift forward. I roll forward and through for upward facing dog to get myself into a good alignment for that pose, but my chaturanga is just a lower. No shift.  Life changing. Try it! Just because a teacher cues something, doesn’t mean it’s right for your body! Play with the pose and trust that your body knows best!

              

December Yoga Challenge Day 1

Sukasana. Easy pose. Ha. Yes, technically easy for me to sit this way. But I find this seated meditation pose to be one of the most challenging asanas of all. Give me a handstand, a forearm stand, a scorpion. A one-legged tadasana, hell— one handed handstand! But to sit with ease….THAT is my challenge. When I practice tough poses my mind chatter disappears and I am fully immersed with alignment and breath that I have no room for the bullshit chatter. When I sit still, my mind goes off in a million different directions. I have a tendency to be very hard on myself and am quite the perfectionist, so often times I find myself sitting, trying to meditate and criticizing myself.  Then I begin to criticize myself for being self-critical. And it goes on and on until I’ve had enough of sitting still and I start to hyperactively move again to stop the chatter. When still and at physical ease, we are faced with that running loop in our minds. We are exposed to ourselves, and that can be not only frustrating but kind of scary as well.  I tend to avoid classes like restorative yoga or yin yoga because it is in these practices that we strip away the physicality of our yoga and get to the nitty-gritty of the inner workings of our mind. Being still and at ease is a challenge I don’t readily accept because I don’t like how mean I am to myself. So what to do? The past few years I’ve realized that jumping into a bazillion different fitness classes tends to take my mind off of my fears and anxieties. The problem is, if you never face it down, it never really goes away. I know what I need to do, the problem is actually doing it. More often than not, the thing we have an aversion to is usually the thing we need to do the most. Ask yourself: What frustrates you? What do you avoid doing? Why do these things turn you off and what could you possibly learn from doing them? I know where I need to be, and it’s not in a 2 hour hot power yoga class.  It’s in the restorative studio with a blanket fort and quiet. I need to face my own damn mind and figure out why I can be so kind and compassionate toward others but am so fucking mean to myself.  Today, Day 1, I know what I need to do. What shit are you avoiding? I challenge you to begin to ask yourself these questions and face down those fears!