Going with the Flow

One of my very best traits as a human is the ability to harmonize with others (vocally and otherwise!) However, recently I’ve begun to realize that inner harmony is an even greater skill, and definitely one needing honing in me. Balancing my own inner energies requires the skill of awareness on a deep, deep level. Learning to heed the need for rest, and recognize when something is not good for me are two biggies. 

Letting go of the need to do everything, be everywhere at once, and get it all done requires constant effort (or ease, actually.) And then there is cultivating the ability to ask for what I need from others, clearly and compassionately. Setting boundaries has never been easy for me, but now that I realize their importance I’m getting better at it.

When I’m harmonizing on the inside, not pushing myself through pain or low energy to try and “get it all done,” my emotions are calmer and my mind is also more tranquil. It’s then that the harmony of being with others and really listening (without interrupting) – and connecting with that divine flow of life energy that surrounds us every single minute becomes an absolute joy. 

Achieving this state of inner and outer harmony is only possible for me through a very regimented self-care routine. If I stick with my routine, I can really GO WITH THE FLOW so much better. And the type of yoga that is best for me is actually NOT the vigorous vinyasa that I used to do, but a more gentle type that helps me cultivate this constant awareness both on and off the mat. And that’s what I like to teach, too.

I think that’s the great journey of our lives: getting to know and heal ourselves, learning to listen, and striving for balance every single day – both within ourselves and with others around us.

Written by Ann

Yoga for Everyday Movements

Following Our breath: Staying safe throughout the day

A few nights ago, I learned a valuable lesson while picking up after our dog Lucy. I had been eager to return to my desk to record a few thoughts tied to this post you’re now reading: staying safe as we move through our everyday routines. And wouldn’t you know it, as I bent over, plastic bag in hand, I felt that familiar twinge in my lower back…I shook my head in disbelief and quickly corrected my posture, bending the knees and straightening the back…It was almost comical. Here I was, preaching the importance of proper posture and alignment, and then committing one of the cardinal sins myself…But that is really what it is all about, isn’t it? Building awareness and then informing our movement and mindset with that awareness. It actually sounds a lot like yoga when we’re tuned into a sequence…but what about off the mat, when we’re hammering away at our keyboard or picking up after Lucy? Where can we find that awareness before our lower back joins the discussion? Well, that is where our breath enters the picture…

Research shows that when we pay closer attention to our breath, we can not only relieve stress, but also sharpen our focus in the present moment. Our breath is always there for us and provides the ideal cue for us to pull our heads out of the past or the future, even if it is just to focus on picking up after Lucy. What’s important is that we stay safe during these everyday movements that we normally handle on autopilot…climbing in and out of a deep sofa or easy chair…checking our blind spot when changing lanes on the highway…lifting that bag of groceries out of the cart. As strange as it sounds, our breath can help us pay closer attention to what we are doing in these everyday moments and stay safe, so we can continue doing everything it is that we love doing, or even not love doing so much…

This series of short video tutorials slowly walks you through several basic everyday movements, highlighting how the breath provides us valuable cues on safe posture and alignment. We firmly believe that with practice, you will find yourself paying closer attention to not only these different movements, but also how you are feeling in the moment. It all comes back to following the breath, our gateway into the present. Please let us know what specific movements you would like to see featured in this series, and until next time, stay safe and keep breathing!

1. Everyday Yoga: Getting in and out of our chair

We get in and out of chairs dozens of times every day…in living rooms, offices, kitchens and bathrooms…it only makes sense we take a closer look at this movement to make sure we’re doing it safely. We can all too easily lose our balance, even with chairs we’re familiar with, leading to serious outcomes…in fact, 50% of folks over the age of 65 don’t survive beyond one year after suffering a hip fracture. This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support safely getting in and out of just about any chair you can think of. And as we do so, we’ll also gently tone the core muscles in our back, hips and midsection.

2. Everyday Yoga: Picking Something Up Off the Ground

So, imagine you’ve dropped your keys trying to get into the house, or maybe the dog has left you something to scoop up on your nightly walk…your mind is somewhere else as you bend over and suddenly feel that pull or pinch in your lower back. We have all been there…in fact, 80% of Americans experience significant back pain in their lives. One third report that it impacts their everyday activities, including sleeping! This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support a healthy forward bend, which can also help us build strength and flexibility in our core muscles of the back, hips and midsection. 

3. Everyday Yoga: Looking Over the Shoulder

Imagine you’re checking your blind spot on the highway…or you hear Interstate 95 in the Philadelphia area is one of my most learned mindfulness teachers. I owe so much of my progress in deep focused breathing to the drivers and potholes of this notorious stretch of highway. As I pay closer attention to my breath, I get plenty of practice in managing my stress levels, anticipating the next unexpected move of another motorist, and also turning more safely to check my blind spots. Looking over our shoulder seems like such a simple everyday movement, we rarely pay much attention to it…that is until we pinch a nerve in our neck as I did myself several years ago. I was sitting in my office and quickly turned my head as a colleague walked in the door. I immediately felt a sharp shooting pain down the right side of my neck and shoulder. It was months before I could move my head freely in any direction…This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support a healthy twist, which can also help to relieve back pain and tension

So let’s stay safe doing what we love doing (or maybe not love so much…) by paying closer attention to how we move through our daily routines. Think of it as yoga for everyday living!

Written by Brian

Not all monkeys bite

Santosha, or contentment, is one of the five niyamas or personal observances that we vow to explore in yoga. I think the idea is to practice being content with whatever you’re experiencing in any given moment.

Practicing contentment doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with being unhappy; instead we are invited to train in being content with our unhappiness. That might go something like this:

  1. Acknowledge sadness (or whatever emotion we’re experiencing.)
  2. Recognize that it’s a turbulence that will eventually pass.
  3. Perhaps even develop some gratitude towards our ability to feel so much.
  4. Look at that emotion like it’s an old friend who’s stopped by for lunch.

You already have everything you need.

It’s said that our basic nature as human beings is joyful; that we are happy without even trying to be. I recently learned that as babies, we are born breathing naturally into our bellies; taking deep breaths that utilize our full lung capacity. As adults, we get so disconnected from our bodies, so stuck in our minds, that we develop a tendency towards chest breathing, and must relearn full belly breathing, which can help reset the nervous system and manage stress. (But that’s a blog post for another time.) How do we get so far away from our natural state of being, from being able to take a deep breath?

Get off the rollercoaster of liking and disliking everything.

As we grow up and have our vast and quotidian experiences, we learn to ascribe value to everything. We categorize everything, and naturally move towards the things we like and away from the things we don’t. We make split second judgments based on our layers of experience, our culture, our upbringing. Everything we come into contact with throughout our entire day might get put into some kind of category!

  • Like / Dislike
  • Friend / Enemy
  • Feels Good / Hurts
  • Pretty / Ugly

How can we possibly be content in this digital age? While it is worthwhile on many levels, I believe social media breeds so much discontent and snap judgment. Is it a thumbs up, or a thumbs down? From our brave digital distance it’s also easier to express the flames of hatred…and even our own president does it!

We get caught in a loop of holding on to what we think is good, and we only tell the stories that sing our perfections. We avoid what we think is bad, choose to omit narratives that might bring shame. In all that grasping for the good and rejecting of the bad, we lose our clarity. We lose equanimity. We lose contentment. We forget how to breathe.

Not all monkeys bite.

Weird story: I got bitten by a monkey when I was little, and not only was it physically painful but I got into some trouble for wandering into the yard of the stranger who owned the monkey. (I was raised with a parenting style known as benign neglect, popular in the 1970s.) Now I’m kind of afraid of monkeys, and in particular, sharp little monkey teeth. When I go to the zoo or see monkeys on tv, I have a bit of a reaction. Not a big fan. I’m looking through the lens of my painful memory and putting monkeys into the category of “dislike” or “avoid at all costs.” Which makes sense, like it’s rational to avoid putting your hand into a fire because you will get burned. The process of distilling everything into categories gets dangerous, though, because it leads to the rollercoaster of needing to satisfy our likes and dislikes all the time. We might miss out on the possibility that not all monkeys are going to bite, and maybe some are actually cute. There are other more painful stories I can’t really share here, so the monkey story will have to do.

It is what it is.

When I worked in television, I must have heard that sentence a million times, “It is what it is.” It used to drive me crazy! It seemed to me a copout for not trying harder to make things right. But maybe, in fact, it was the ultimate santosha.

Acceptance of our present moment is one way to get off of the rollercoaster of liking and disliking. In our search for happiness, we ignore the possibility that happiness is already happening right here and right now. We also presuppose it will come from outside of ourselves. If we aim to practice santosha, we must stop seeking it and rest in the moment, whatever it brings. Even if it’s monkeys.

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

― Lao Tzu

Student Spotlight: Evan

Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah: Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1:2.

  • Name: Evan Silverstein
  • Age: 38
  • Length of Practice: 16 years, most active over past two years.
  • Most Gratifying Pose: Triangle
  • Most Challenging Pose: Crescent Moon
  • Pets: 3 Dogs, Sweet Potato (Beagle Mix) 14, Rosie (Poodle Mix) 12 & Tina (Poodle Mix) 7.
  • Favorite Philly Bike Excursion: Schuylkill River Trail

Curiosity

Improvising a triangle variation to build strength, flexibility and self-awareness

Evan was one of the first curious souls to join our Men’s Yoga class here in South Philly. He brings a sense of fearlessness to his practice, constantly setting new goals for himself and exploring ways to integrate yoga and mindfulness into his everyday activities at work, home and everywhere in between.

Determination

Evan building core strength while flying high in a variation of Locust Pose

Evan brings a quiet intensity to his practice, exemplifying the yogic metaphor of heating the iron in order to shape it. I admire his determination to develop the strength, flexibility and focus needed to find stillness in even the most advanced postures.

Balance

Grounded and focused in Extended Hand to Toe Pose

Evan demonstrates a quiet confidence moving into challenging poses and holding them while focused on his breathing. Evan enters AND exits these postures with the same degree of grace and focus, remaining centered and grounded.

Present Moment Awareness

Evan reflecting on how to pay closer attention to his breath, both on and off the mat.

Our Men’s Yoga class focuses on building the core strength needed to keep doing all the things in life we love doing. We break down traditional yoga postures into basic physical movements that can be applied to our everyday work-life routines. Evan exemplifies this integration of mindful movement into our everyday activities at work, home and everywhere in between. It is perhaps his present moment awareness that makes Evan such an inspiring student. He follows his breath through each posture and then applies what he learns on the mat to reach his full potential off the mat. I cannot wait to take his class when he completes his teacher training!

Yoga for Stronger Bones Workshop

Saturday March 14th 1-3pm / Wake Up Yoga Rittenhouse / 2030 Sansom Street / 215.235.1228

Prevent or Reverse Osteopenia + Osteoporosis with Yoga!

54 million Americans, half of all adults age 50 and older, are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health. The usual prescription for osteoporosis is “weight-bearing and impact exercises.” However most people over 55 also have osteoarthritis, and impact exercise is exactly what the doctor did not order. So, how to prevent and treat the ever-threatening loss of bone without damaging joints? In order to stimulate bones to grow stronger, force must be applied – in the form of compression or tensile stress. Yoga is a safe and impact-free way of applying that force! In fact yoga also exerts a positive influence on arthritic joints.

Did you know that the right yoga, done the right way, has been proven to strengthen bones? More than 80% of steady practitioners of the Fishman method of yoga increase their bone mineral density scores – they actually gain bone!

During this workshop, we’ll:

  • Learn more about the science behind bone synthesis
  • Discuss bone quality and measuring bone mineral density (how to read your DEXA scan results)
  • Learn about lifestyle changes you can actively make to support better bone health
  • Practice the Fishman Method of yoga, designed to specifically strengthen the parts of the body most vulnerable to fracture: the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, the hip, and the thigh.

Dr. Fishman’s carefully selected and trialed poses offer variations for differing levels of ability. When performed consistently, for at least 30 seconds, and with the proper alignment of joints, they’ll put compressive and/or tensile strength on the bones, so that new bone is stimulated to grow. And they are also safe for those with arthritis.

Triangle Pose – levels 1, 2, and 3

Beginners welcome. We will guide students through versions of each pose according to their abilities and what is safe. All props including mats provided, but bring your own if you prefer.

No one is too old to do yoga, and the earlier you start, the better it is for your bones.

Dr. FISHMAN

No one can entirely halt the aging process, but we can control lifestyle, which can affect bone density and increase or decrease your risk of fracture in as little as two years. Yoga also improves your balance, posture, strength, range of motion and coordination, and lowers your anxiety—all factors that further reduce your risk of fracture.

About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, E-RYT 200, is a certified yoga teacher and registered to teach Yoga for Osteoporosis through Dr. Loren Fishman, MD. She is qualified to guide students through the poses for the dose response study as per Dr. Fishman. She will be Certified once she has taught yoga for 5 years, in August 2020.

Read more: Yoga for Stronger Bones

To sign up, visit Wake Up Yoga’s page here: Yoga for Stronger Bones Workshop or call Wake Up Yoga at: 215.235.1228. NOTE: When you click through to the link, if at first you don’t see the information, make sure the tabs at the top are on the right settings. The location has to be set either to All Locations, or Rittenhouse; and it must be set to the Enrollments tab (not Classes.) Scroll to the one with my pic, or select the exact date. Let me know if you have any questions!

Tuition: $35; save 10% if enrolled by 2/20. Space is limited to 12 participants. 

Yoga for Stronger Bones Series

4 Tuesdays Feb 18th – March 10th 9-10am / Wallingford Presbyterian Church / $55

Prevent or Reverse Osteopenia + Osteoporosis with Yoga!

Did you know that the right yoga, done the right way, has been proven to strengthen bones? More than 80% of steady practitioners of the Fishman method of yoga increase their bone mineral density scores – they actually gain bone!

54 million Americans, half of all adults age 50 and older, are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health. The usual prescription for osteoporosis is “weight-bearing and impact exercises.” However most people over 55 also have osteoarthritis, and impact exercise is exactly what the doctor did not order. So, how to prevent and treat the ever-threatening loss of bone without damaging joints? In order to stimulate bones to grow stronger, force must be applied – in the form of compression or tensile stress. Yoga is a safe and impact-free way of applying that force! In fact yoga also exerts a positive influence on arthritic joints.

During this 4-week series, we’ll:

  • Learn more about the science behind bone synthesis
  • Discuss measuring bone mineral density
  • Learn about lifestyle changes you can make to support bone health
  • Practice the Fishman Method of yoga, designed to specifically strengthen the parts of the body most vulnerable to fracture: the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, the hip, and the thigh.
Yoga for Stronger Bones

Dr. Fishman’s carefully selected and trialed poses offer variations for differing levels of ability. When performed consistently, for at least 30 seconds, and with the proper alignment of joints, they’ll put compressive and/or tensile strength on the bones, so that new bone is stimulated to grow. And they are also safe for those with arthritis.

Triangle Pose – levels 1, 2, and 3

Beginners welcome. We will guide students through versions of each pose according to their abilities and what is safe. Bring a yoga mat if you have one; props such as blocks, straps, and chairs if needed will be provided. Extra mats also available. Pre-purchase your spot – credit card and PayPal accepted. Or bring a check or cash to class, but email to hold your spot: info@teamsunwellness.com

No one is too old to do yoga, and the earlier you start, the better it is for your bones.

Dr. FISHMAN

No one can entirely halt the aging process, but we can control lifestyle, which can affect bone density and increase or decrease your risk of fracture in as little as two years. Yoga also improves your balance, posture, strength, range of motion and coordination, and lowers your anxiety—all factors that further reduce your risk of fracture.

About the Instructor: Ann Grace MacMullan, E-RYT 200, is a certified yoga teacher and registered to teach Yoga for Osteoporosis through Dr. Loren Fishman, MD. She is qualified to guide students through the poses for the dose response study as per Dr. Fishman.

Read more: Yoga for Stronger Bones

Yoga for Stronger Bones Workshop

Thursday December 19th 10-11:15am / Wallingford Presbyterian Church

Prevent or Reverse Osteopenia + Osteoporosis with Yoga!

54 million Americans, half of all adults age 50 and older, are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health. The usual prescription for osteoporosis is “weight-bearing and impact exercises.” However most people over 55 also have osteoarthritis, and impact exercise is exactly what the doctor did not order. So, how to prevent and treat the ever-threatening loss of bone without damaging joints? In order to stimulate bones to grow stronger, force must be applied – in the form of compression or tensile stress. Yoga is a safe and impact-free way of applying that force! In fact yoga also exerts a positive influence on arthritic joints.

Did you know that the right yoga, done the right way, has been proven to strengthen bones? More than 80% of steady practitioners of the Fishman method of yoga increase their bone mineral density scores – they actually gain bone!

During this 75 minute workshop, we’ll:

  • Learn more about the science behind bone synthesis
  • Discuss bone quality and measuring bone mineral density (how to read your DEXA scan results)
  • Learn about lifestyle changes you can actively make to support better bone health
  • Practice the Fishman Method of yoga, designed to specifically strengthen the parts of the body most vulnerable to fracture: the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, the hip, and the thigh.

Dr. Fishman’s carefully selected and trialed poses offer variations for differing levels of ability. When performed consistently, for at least 30 seconds, and with the proper alignment of joints, they’ll put compressive and/or tensile strength on the bones, so that new bone is stimulated to grow. And they are also safe for those with arthritis.

Triangle Pose – levels 1, 2, and 3

Beginners welcome. We will guide students through versions of each pose according to their abilities and what is safe. Bring a yoga mat if you have one; props such as blocks, straps, and chairs if needed will be provided. Extra mats also available. Pre-purchase your spot – credit card and PayPal accepted. Or bring a check or cash to class, but email to hold your spot: info@teamsunwellness.com

No one is too old to do yoga, and the earlier you start, the better it is for your bones.

Dr. FISHMAN

No one can entirely halt the aging process, but we can control lifestyle, which can affect bone density and increase or decrease your risk of fracture in as little as two years. Yoga also improves your balance, posture, strength, range of motion and coordination, and lowers your anxiety—all factors that further reduce your risk of fracture.

About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, E-RYT 200, is a certified yoga teacher and registered to teach Yoga for Osteoporosis through Dr. Loren Fishman, MD. She is qualified to guide students through the poses for the dose response study as per Dr. Fishman. She will be Certified once she has taught yoga for 5 years, in August 2020.

Read more: Yoga for Stronger Bones

Student Spotlight: Judy

  • Name: Judy
  • Age: 71 (she adds, “old enough to know better and young enough to do it anyway!”)
  • Sun Sign: Aries
  • Pets: Two long-haired black cats, Amos and Pinkerton
  • Favorite Sweet Treat: anything chocolate

Interoception

One thing I’ve noticed about Judy since I met her in 2016 (besides her lovely posture!) is her ability to open herself up to whatever she’s experiencing, and I can tell she’s really listening inward during class. She has been a fixture in my group classes since then, adding her special brand of graceful goodwill and lightheartedness.

Grace

Warrior Two Pose

Judy’s been practicing on and off since 1998, but in 2000, she needed spine surgery in her neck to repair a serious bone spur that was interfering with her range of motion and causing numbness down her arm. They took the discs out of C6+C7 and replaced them with bone from her left hip. While she suffers from arthritis throughout most of her joints, Judy has learned that she feels much better if she keeps moving.

“If it hurts, it means I’m still alive.”

-Judy s.

Currently, she practices yoga about 2-3 hours each week, which has also helped strengthen her bones as we reported earlier this year. (Her improved Dexa Scan scores contributed to the blogpost I wrote on Yoga for Stronger Bones.) In fact, I blame Judy and another student for getting me interested in yoga for osteoporosis, and I’m only at the beginning of that journey, so thank you…

Effort

Extended Side Angle Pose

Judy came to my house for a special one-on-one session – or an osteocyte party as I like to say! Osteocytes are important building blocks of bone synthesis, but we need to practice the right poses with proper alignment and work hard within the pose (hold for at least 30 seconds, for one!) in order to put enough stress on the bone to get that bone-building party started. She even got into an Extended Side Angle Pose, great for stimulating the femurs and spinal vertebrae – the areas where Judy has thinning bone.

Centering

With her weak ankles and neuropathy in her feet, Judy’s toughest challenge is balancing poses like Tree. “Balance is hard for me, and it makes me feel less successful, though it does get somewhat easier with practice!”

“Let go of your judgments and just do what you can, but make it a regular part of your routine.”

-Judy S.

Because of Judy’s regular yoga practice, she experiences less arthritis pain, stronger bones, and feels more centered in her daily life. Yoga class provides her with a social connection with like-minded people. I’m so grateful to have Judy’s beaming smile in my classes, along with her humor and present-moment insight into her own practice. I hope she will consider the yoga dose response study with Dr. Fishman and keep those BMD scores improving!

It’s truly an honor, Judy!

Meet more of our students

Yoga for Your Feet

“The ability to stretch our toes like fingers and to create a wide, healthy, open space between each and every toe is not some vestigial ability available only to a chosen few.”

-Mary Dunn, quoted in Yoga for People Over 50

Toe Exercises – Start Your Practice

Students often laugh in disbelief when I ask them to do these Toe Exercises, since many of us have really lost a lot of coordination in our toes. By creating space, strength, and flexibility in our toes, we are both widening our base for increased stability and using the whole of our foot for better agility. Try it by watching the video above, or following these guidelines:

  1. Take off your shoes.
  2. Pick all your toes up off the ground and spread them as widely as you can. Is there space between each toe? You can practice creating space between the toes in any yoga pose. While you’re off the mat, you can intertwine your fingers between your toes and manually create space.
  3. Now, try pressing just your big toe into the earth, and lift up all the little toes. If the big toes want lift up too, manually override that by using your fingers to keep the toes down.
  4. Now try pressing all the little toes into the earth, and lift up the big toes. Again, if your toes are not cooperative, use a manual assist with your fingers.
  5. Go back and forth between lifting just the big toes, and just the little toes. Keep practicing every day and notice the difference!
  6. Advanced Toe Exercise – try pressing the big toes down and the little toe, and lifting all the toes in between!
  7. Finish up by bringing as much space between your toes as you can.

Got Foot Problems?

By age 40, about 80 percent of the population has some muscular-skeletal foot or ankle problem. By age 50 to 55, that number can go up to 90 or 95 percent. Walking and yoga may help reverse foot problems. According to Suza Francina, author of The New Yoga for People over 50, “the combination of walking and yoga is the supreme way to rehabilitate your feet.” She recommends walking barefoot as often as possible, as well as doing various toe stretches like the ones in our video above that encourage opening space up between the toes where we have lost dexterity due to the confinement of wearing shoes. In addition, many poses done in a regular yoga practice stretch and strengthen the feet and legs too, and experts say they can provide benefit beyond treating common foot problems like plantar fasciatis, fallen arches, bunions, and many more.

“I recommend that all my patients start yoga immediately. When you treat foot problems with yoga, you end up treating back pain, hip pain, all kinds of structural problems. Not only does it stretch out the muscles and lead to a greater range of motion, but it helps heal the root issue of inflammation as well.”

Robert Kornfeld, holistic podiatrist

The anatomy of your foot is a marvel, a miracle. Da Vinci called the human foot a “masterpiece of engineering and work of art.” With 200,000 nerve endings, 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles, and 107 ligaments in each foot, we mere mortals are able to execute highly precise movements.

“The sole of your foot has over 200,000 nerve endings in it, one of the highest concentrations anywhere in the body. Our feet are designed to act as earthward antennae, helping us balance and transmitting information to us about the ground we’re walking on.”

-Adam Sternberg, New York Magazine article “You Walk Wrong”

Mountain Pose – The Foundation

The feet are our foundations, our basic connection to the ground upon which we stand. When we “root down” during various yoga postures such as Mountain Pose, it is an invitation to bring awareness to your feet first, and then legs. Walking upright, we need to feel the ground in order to feel balanced. With every step we take, healthy feet allow us to move with confidence throughout the diverse terrain of our daily lives.

You can do this pose anywhere. I prefer to practice it on a yoga mat with bare feet, but try Mountain Pose while standing in line at the grocery store or talking to a friend. Stable, alert, and upright, this foundational pose begins with a sharp awareness of our feet. Start with your feet and work your way up the body.

Enhance Your Balance – Calf Raises Exercise

  1. Bringing movement into our Mountain Pose, we rise up onto our tip toes, and rock back onto our heels.
  2. Whether you incorporate simple arm movement, or hold onto a chair for this simple exercise, you may start to feel the structure of the foot more acutely.
  3. Notice where you place most of your weight as you rise up – is it on the inside edges of the feet, where there is more structural support, or on the outside edges? Can you rise up and hold for a beat?
  4. Try connecting your breath – inhale as you lift, exhale as you ground down – and relax into any micro-movements that show up in order to find the edge of your balance.
  5. Doing this easy exercise every day, I have developed strength in both my feet and lower limbs, and brought a newfound awareness to my feet that has greatly enhanced my balance.

Try Tree Pose

Tree Pose can be practiced using the support of a chair!

Tree Pose (Vrkasana) is one of our favorites poses, so we were thrilled to learn that Tree Pose may help slow advancement of a common foot problem – bunions. According to Robert Kornfeld, “Yoga can’t reverse bunions that have already formed—only surgery can—but practicing certain poses can slow their advancement.” He recommends practicing balancing poses like Tree pose in which the foot with the bunion is grounded and the other foot is lifted (of course we have to do both sides if we’re practicing any standing pose!) He says this will engage and strengthen the peroneal muscle of the standing leg that runs all along the outside of the lower leg, and tucks under the sole of the foot. That “grounding force” can help override instabilities that make the bunion worse. And Tree Pose can have many other benefits too, such as improving overall balance and focus. Check out our video:

Going Barefoot – for Optimal “Grounding”

Image from Wheels of Life

“The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections.”

– Walt Whitman

One study concluded that prior to the invention of shoes, people may have had healthier feet. I like to joke that one of the reasons I became a yoga teacher was so that I could go barefoot. In truth, I do need all the grounding I can get, and feeling my naked feet touch the earth provides me just that. According to one of my favorite books on the Chakras, much like a lightning rod protects a building by sending excess voltages into the earth, grounding protects our bodies from becoming overloaded by the tensions of everyday life. So, take off your shoes, root down, and practice as much Yoga for Your Feet as you desire. I’ll leave you with this poem I penned on the feet:

Ode to My Feet
 
Hello feet! I haven’t paid you much heed
And yet there you are, my two trusty steeds
Bearing my weight day in and day out
In today’s class, I’d like to give you a shout out.
 
Each foot contains 26 bones,
And has not one but three arches! I learned through my Iphone.
The 107 ligaments spread throughout its base
Allow us to balance, to spring and to pace.
 
Such precision required to move through our days
Is often ignored until there is pain
Whether bunions, arthritis, or gout, we may know
That an injury in the metatarsals is likely to grow.
 
Without proper care, the offset is dire
And can travel to knees, backs, and hips like wild-fire.
 
If your arches have fallen, walk barefoot they say
And try grabbing things with your toes – start today!
Build strength in your feet and your ankles with cues
To distribute weight evenly - stability rules!
 
The foot is a marvel with its myriad bones
Each doing its job to carry us home.
So appreciate yours, take good care and be smart,
Like Da Vinci who pronounced them “a work of art.”

More Tips:

  • Try picking things up with your toes
  • Distribute your weight evenly as you walk or in any yoga pose
  • Go to the doctor if you notice new pain in your ankles or feet

Resources:

4 Yoga Poses to Fine Tune Foot Stability and Prevent Injury, Yoga Journal

You Walk Wrong, NY Magazine

Shod versus unshod: The emergence of forefoot pathology in modern humans?, Science Direct

Foot Anatomy, MedicineNet

Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith, PhD

The New Yoga for People Over 50, Suza Francina

Anatomy 101: Strengthen Your Big Toes to Build Stability, Yoga Journal

Yoga Poses for Bunions, Ask the Experts, Robert Kornfield, DPM – Yoga Journal October 2015

September is Seniors Month!

We are offering special deals for seniors this month. Stay active, challenge your balance, and meet like-minded members of your community! At Team Sun Wellness, we teach many adults over the age of 65. Avoid injury, manage stress, and get more joy out of life by exploring some of our wellness offerings!

Aging gracefully: Our health and the rate at which we age entirely depends on our choices. We can actually reverse or slow down the pace at which we age by practicing yoga and meditation! We have seen improvements in balance firsthand with regular practice in our balance and yoga classes. Being more active seems to go hand in hand with maintaining or improving balance.

CHAIR YOGA – YOUR FIRST CLASS IS FREE!

According to a 2016 study conducted by Yoga in America, 17 percent of current yoga practitioners are in their 50s, and 21 percent are age 60 and older!

TUESDAYS AT 11AM: All ages and mobility levels are welcome. Learn breathing techniques, easy stretches, and specific yoga poses adapted for the chair. Props like blocks and straps are used to help support, achieve, or deepen a pose. Improve your balance with standing poses that use the chair for support, if it’s in your practice. Come refine your posture, improve balance, strength and flexibility – in a supportive and relaxing community environment. First class is free for seniors! For more info: Chair Yoga. Swarthmore United Methodist Church.

BALANCE WORKSHOP – DONATION-BASED

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 7th, 10-11:15AM: There’s a real “use it or lose it” component to maintaining your balance. Whether you’re looking to prevent balance issues or to reverse them, you need to challenge your balance on a regular basis. In our class we’ll be learning safe, effective exercises that can improve your balance, flexibility, and strength. With practice, almost anyone can achieve better balance. Participants of all ages and mobility levels welcome. Donation-based, pay what you can. For more info: Balance Workshop. Swarthmore United Methodist Church.

You can do Tree pose with a Chair!

More links for active seniors:

Stay tuned for Free Mindfulness Meditation in October in Swarthmore Town Center! Wednesday October 3rd, 6pm.