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

Foundations

Posture, breath, and balance are fundamental to wellness, yet few of us are actively incorporating them into our everyday lives. For example, how are you sitting or standing right now? Have you noticed taking a breath recently? Are you actively using your core muscles to stay upright and balanced? Bring greater awareness to these synergistic fundamentals and become less stressed, safer from injury and more self-aware in your environment. Indeed, physical, mental and emotional health all start with the Big Three.

POSTURE_3

Posture affects breathing, lung capacity, and overall energy levels. Learn More

BREATH4

Focused breath exercises can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Learn More

BALANCE2

Balance can be improved through exercise and awareness of everyday routines. Learn More

 We offer customized Wellness Sessions for groups of all sizes to help bring greater everyday awareness to the posture, breath and balance.

Balance 101 – Spring Session

Learn the basics of balance – how our vision, inner ear, and strength of muscles and joints all work together to help us balance. We will focus on techniques and exercises aimed at improving balance for all ages, and create balance habits that can be incorporated into everyday situations. Click the video below to view an exercise we’ll be doing in most every class: toe lifts!

 

Thursdays: March 8th-April 12th – 1:00-2:00pm

Swarthmore Borough Hall – Council Room – 121 Park Ave – Swarthmore, PA

$56 for 6 sessions: Sign up through Wallingford Swarthmore Community Classes website, spaces fill up fast!
REGISTER HERE>>>WSCC – Balance 101 – Spring 2018<<<REGISTER HERE

Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, a native of Swarthmore, is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and teaches yoga, mindfulness, and movement classes. She is dedicated to helping people establish greater awareness through breath and movement in their homes, workplaces, and communities.

Posture

We can all recall as kids being asked to stand or sit up straight. Correct posture is essential to health and well-being. Why? Because posture affects breathing, lung capacity, and overall energy levels. Slumping or slouching compresses the lungs and decreases the volume of the breath. This limits oxygen inflow, vital to maintaining peak energy levels and proper functioning of muscles, nerves and all major systems of the body.  Hours in front of a TV or staring at a smart phone can weaken the core muscles of the back and abdomen while tightening those of the hips, chest, shoulders and neck.  We can reverse the influences of our modern lifestyle by paying attention to posture.

First, take stock of how you sit.

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Proper Seated Posture

  • Feet planted flat on the floor or footrest
  • Avoid crossing the legs
  • Ankles directly below the knees
  • Knees level with the hips
  • Knees, hips and shoulders level
  • Forearms parallel to ground
  • Midsection engaged and pulled in
  • Breath directed into upper chest

Next, notice how you stand.

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 Proper Standing Posture
  • Body weight even on both feet Feet hip-distance apart
    Feet and knees pointed straight ahead
  • Hips even, stomach tucked in
  • Back straight without rounding or arching
  • Shoulders even, pulled back and down
  • Chin level with the ground

Reversing Bad Posture

Noticing your posture throughout the day is a great place to start. A few simple exercises can help us begin to reverse the effects of our bad posture habits. One of our favorites is the Seated Spinal Stretch. We love doing this throughout the day when we’ve been behind a desk for a while or as a way to transition from one activity to another, like getting out of bed in the morning. This simple but effective spinal stretch can also be performed on the hands and knees where it is referred to in yoga as the Cat-Cow Pose.

Seated Spinal Stretch

  • Place your hands on your knees. Inhale, pulling the shoulders up, back and down, expanding chest – arching the back.
  • Exhale, straighten the arms, tucking stomach towards the spine, and press down into knees – rounding the back.

Building Everyday Postural Awareness

  • Take frequent breaks to stand and walk if seated for extended periods
  • Plant feet firmly on the floor anytime while seated
  • Keep shoulders back and chin level whenever using a smart phone
  • Switch a handbag between shoulders throughout the day

Posture is critical to balance: when the bones and joints are in correct alignment, less strain is placed on the back. This makes any activity safer and easier, from walking to the corner store to carrying groceries up the stairs. There are very few daily activities that do not depend on proper posture, solid balance and effective breathing. According to Harvard Health Publications, greater attention to everyday habits can visibly improve posture within weeks!

It’s never too late to improve your posture!

Yoga for Every Body

If you can breathe, you can practice yoga! No matter your age, level of mobility or fitness, there is a yoga practice for you. In all of our classes, we explore a variety of postures and the transitions between those poses, adapted to your level. In addition, we learn more about the limbs of yoga beyond the physical postures, such as meditation and breath-work. A consistent yoga practice can:

  • Improve your posture, flexibility, strength and balance.
  • Help you manage your stress and anxiety.
  • Deepen your awareness and acceptance of self.

We are passionate about bringing the principles of yoga to atypical populations outside of the classic yoga studio space; and offer our classes in community, corporate, and private settings where participants can feel supported while safely finding their own practice. Feel free to explore our Class Calendar for more details on when and where.

Yoga is the cessation of the turnings of thought.

-Patanjali, Yoga Sutras

The posture of yoga is steady and easy. It is realized by relaxing one’s effort and resting like the cosmic serpent on the waters of infinity.

-Patanjali, Yoga Sutras

CHECK OUT OUR VIDEOS TO PRACTICE!