Special Offers for New Students at Absolute Yoga, Crosby

 

 

For new students, your first class is free and then choose from one of the three introductory offers…

 

Special Offers for New Students

 

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How to Book a Class at Absolute Yoga, Crosby (Liverpool)
Email: info@absoluteyogacrosby.co.uk
Call: 0151 928 1029
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Exclusive to Absolute Yoga: Tri-Dynamic Yoga

 

It’s yoga…but with weights…

 

After extensive research and development, yoga teacher and studio co-owner, Jennie, has designed a unique approach to the yoga asana practice known as “Tri-Dynamic Yoga” (TDY).  Yoga seeks balance and harmony in the mind and the body. However, there is an imbalance in flexibility without strength and, just as much, strength without flexibility.

 

In 2013, Jennie severely injured her sacroiliac joint which brought her yoga practice to a halt for over three months. The injury was a result of being hypermobile in the ligaments that link bone to bone but, unfortunately, Jennie lacked strength in the muscles that surrounded her hip joints. This type of injury is quite common in students who regularly practice yoga. Such students become very flexible but can push themselves too far into a pose and, if they lack adequate muscle strength surrounding specific joints, can easily become injured. 

 

Jennie in Paschimottanasana

Jennie in Paschimottanasana

Jennie was advised by her physiotherapist to increase the strength of her core muscles and also the muscles that surround the joints to balance out the flexibility she had developed through years of practising yoga. 

 

Jennie in Prasarita Padottanasana C. The position of the arms over the head and down towards the mat requires a lot of flexibility in the shoulder joints. If the muscles that surround the shoulder joint are weak then there is an increased risk of injury. Those who are hyper-flexible at the shoulder joint are particularly at risk of shoulder dislocation. Strengthening the muscles that surround the shoulder joint can reduce the risk of injury.

 

What is Tri-Dynamic Yoga?

TDY is a yoga class, unique to Absolute Yoga, Crosby, which incorporates resistance weights with the principles of functional movement and the yoga asana practice to focus on developing (i) strength (ii) core power and (iii) body awareness. In a TDY class, students will perform various yoga postures using hand weights which vary in weight depending on the strength of the yoga practitioner. Students will perform an adapted version of Sun Salutations, using resistance weights, followed by a standing strength sequence which takes the student through several planes of movement intended to reflect how we move in everyday life.

 

What are planes of movement?

 

Planes are imaginary flat surfaces along which movement can occur. There are three basic planes: sagittal, frontal and transverse.

 

Planes of Movement

 

When we attempt to strengthen our bodies in yoga practice or in the gym, we tend to perform movements in only the sagittal plane. In reality, we move through several planes of motion in our day to day activities. Accordingly, when we become injured in the gym or on the mat, it is often as a result of a movement that we are not used to performing such as a rotation of the spine which occurs in the transverse plane.  

 

 

TDY, using the principles of functional training, moves students through sagittal, transverse and frontal planes of motion to increase strength, core power and body awareness. Performing the asanas this way, in addition to the incorporation of resistance weights, deep breathing and Bandha connection, will strengthen the core muscles without needing to perform mundane isolation exercises such as abdominal crunches. 

 

Why is it important to be strong as well as flexible?

 

Yoga students who are very flexible in the hips and hamstrings may move quite easily into postures, such as Virabhadrasana I, because they have a great range of movement around the joints but this is not necessarily a stable range of movement. Hyper-flexible yogis can sink into postures too deeply and, without adequate strength, this will place a lot of strain on the joints of the feet, knees and hips and also the lower back. Strength around the joints is needed for stable flexibility.

 

TDY is designed to  build strength and awareness, especially around the joints, so that yoga students do not unconsciously push themselves too far into a posture which could possibly led to a significant injury. The Tri-Dynamic Yoga system encourages integrated flexibility so that yoga students build strength and develop postural and muscle awareness.

 

 

Is this really yoga?

 

Archaeological artefacts from the Indus-Saraswati civilisation in India suggest that yoga may have been practised as early as 4,500 BC. However, thousands of years ago, yogis did not sit down for most of their working day, only to return home and sit down to watch TV. Yoga has stayed true to tradition yet has evolved to address the needs of modern life such as poor posture, injury prevention, back pain, stress management and even weight management.

 

TDY is very much grounded in the principles of vinyasa yoga practice. Accordingly, the connection with the breath and when to inhale and when to exhale is still fundamental to this form of asana practice. Furthermore, TDY uses a very specific Pranayama technique which incorporates Mula Bandha (Root Lock) and Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock) to help awaken the deep position sense muscles that cross from one vertebral segment to another along the spinal column. 

 

This Pranayama technique is central to TDY as failure to breathe deeply and incorporate the Bandhas results in only superficial engagement of the muscles of the core. Ultimately, this leads to the development of a weak core and possible issues such as back pain.

 

 

How often should I practice Tri-Dynamic Yoga?

 

TDY, similar to Yin yoga, is not a practice in itself but should form part of a balanced yoga routine. Students are encouraged to continue with their traditional yoga practice. However, adding TDY, once or twice, to a weekly routine will increase strength and subsequently reduce the occurrence of injury associated with yoga induced hyper-mobility.

 

What are benefits of Tri-Dynamic Yoga?

 

  • Increases strength and subsequently reduces the occurrence of injury associated with yoga induced hyper-mobility
  • Staves off muscle mass loss (particularly after age 40)
  • Supports flexible joints
  • Adds an extra stimulus to difficult poses for advanced students
  • Encourages integrated flexibility (builds strength whilst developing postural and muscular awareness)
  • Develops and maintains strength
  • Builds strength needed to develop in challenging postures such as Chaturanga
  • Research shows that women who regularly participate in resistance training burn 100 calories more at rest, per day, than women who do not do so
  • Weight training combined with yoga practice is a great way to maintain strength as you age as both approaches build muscle and bone density and also help with balance
  • The class is designed to introduce periodisation to the asana practice so that students see progression in the postures as a result of the consistent introduction of new stimuli
  • Improved muscle tone and definition

 

How do I book a class?

How to Book a Class at Absolute Yoga, Crosby (Liverpool)
Email: info@absoluteyogacrosby.co.uk
Call: 0151 928 1029
Book a class online here

 

Will I develop big muscles if I attend this class?

 

No, the weights used in the class are not heavy enough to develop muscle hypertrophy (an increase in size of skeletal muscle). However, with regular practice, you can expect to see improvements in general muscle tone.

 

 

When are the Tri-Dynamic Yoga classes held?

 

 

 

 

The first class is free for new students at Absolute yoga, Crosby and then choose from…

 

Special Offers for New Students

 

How to Book a Class at Absolute Yoga, Crosby (Liverpool)
Email: info@absoluteyogacrosby.co.uk
Call: 0151 928 1029
Book a class online here

 

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Hip Stretches for Back Pain

 

If you suffer from back pain then it is easy to assume that the discomfort that you are experiencing is a result of strain or injury localised to the spine. However, the muscles, ligaments and joints of your body do not work in isolation. Instead, there is great interdependence between these components and a weakness in one part of your body can have a huge impact on another part of your body. The connection of the human body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes is known as the kinetic chain.

In the last two articles we looked at yoga poses to help with general back pain and also how tight hamstrings can lead to lower back pain. This article will look at the role of the hips in back pain.

The hips are a bowl shaped structure, anatomically known as the pelvis (“pelvis” stems from the Latin word for basin), and are made up of three separate bones (the ilium, the ischium and the pubis) that fuse together to form this ball and socket joint. Ball and sockets joints allow for a large range of movement and so, in a person with healthy hips, the legs can move forward and back, in and out and rotate internally and externally. However, the muscles that surround the hips can become tight, less mobile and/or weak when we do a lot of sport without sufficient stretching or when sitting down a lot throughout the day.

The hip flexors are muscles which allow us to walk up stairs and lift the leg when walking. Several muscles work to flex the hips but the primary mover of hip flexion is the psoas muscle (which can also flex the torso, e.g. doing a sit up). The psoas muscle (pronounced so-az) has its origin in all of the lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5) and the bodies of the twelfth thoracic and all lumbar vertebrae (T12-L5). The psoas muscle is often discussed in combination with the iliacus muscle and is referred to as the iliopsoas (as the two muscles combine to form one tendon that attaches to the inside of the proximal femur bone).

The psoas muscle

 

Sitting down a lot throughout the day, perhaps in a sedentary job, keeps your hips in a flexed state. Over time, if not corrected, maintenance of this postural position will lead to tight hip flexors which, in turn, can lead to back pain.

What is hip flexion?

The hip is flexed at the front leg in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) but the hip is in extension at the back leg.

Joint action at the hips in Virabhadrasana I

 

How do tight hip flexors cause back pain?

When the psoas muscle contracts, the muscle shortens which causes the hip to flex. When we sit down the hips are in a flexed state. When we sit down a lot (at work or after work if watching the TV) this means that the psoas muscle spends a great deal of time in a contracted and shortened position. If this muscle becomes very tight and shortened (known as “locked short”) then this can cause the pelvis to tilt forward (anterior tilt) which will overstretch your hamstrings and increase the normal lordotic curve of the lumbar spine. Ultimately, it is this change in posture which leads to reduced flexibility, poor balance, muscle tightening in the back and, in many cases, back pain.

 

Anterior Vs Neutral Pelvic Alignment

How to lengthen your psoas muscle in everyday life

  • If you sit down a lot in your job and tend to be quite sedentary after work then try to get up and move around every 30 minutes. When you are standing up, your psoas muscle is not over working because your hips move into an extended position which lengthens the psoas muscle

  • If you sit down a lot in your job but do go to the gym then try and do exercises which require you to stand up: Run on the treadmill instead of sitting on the bike or do a standing shoulder press instead of seated press

  • When you go to bed try not to sleep in a foetal position as this flexes your hips. Equally, try not to sleep on your stomach because this hyper-extends your back (pushing it further into an anterior tilt)

 

Yoga for tight Hips flexors

Low lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Also known in Yin yoga as Dragon pose, this posture is fantastic for safely stretching out the hip flexors. In this posture, it is the hip flexor muscles of the back leg that are being stretched. The further you stretch your leg back, the more intensely you will feel the stretch.

 

You can place a towel or blanket underneath the back knee to make this posture more comfortable.

 

 

Anjaneyasana (low lunge, side view)

 

Anjaneyasana (low lunge, front view)

Alignment Points

  1. Slide your right foot forward, placing the right hand on the inside of the right foot and the left hand next to the right (hands underneath the shoulders)

  2. Align the right knee over the heel

  3. Lower your left knee to the floor and, keeping the right knee fixed in place, slide the left foot back until you feel a comfortable stretch on the hip flexor of the back leg

  4. Hold for 30 seconds initially, each side, and gradually build up to holding for 3-5 minutes each side

  5. If you would like to increase the intensity of the stretch then lower down onto your elbows. You may find it more comfortable to place your head on a block if you are coming onto the elbows or lower

  6. If you have a history of a herniated or bulging disc then stay up on your hands and keep the spine neutral, do not forward fold or go down onto the elbows

 

Close your eyes and draw the mind’s eye towards the hip being stretched. You may experience intensity as the iliopsoas is stretched, especially if you are particularly tight in this area. However, nothing in yoga should hurt, if it does, stop doing it immediately. Use your breath to stay calm and breathe into the area of the stretch (visualise this happening). This is known as “breathing into the edge” which will enable you to be more mindful of what is going on in your body as you work into a particular area.

“Hip Stretches for Back Pain” by Jennie. Read more of her yoga articles here. 

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Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain

 

Back pain can be caused by many things, such as lifting something that is too heavy, an awkward posture, physical trauma or poor fitness/physical inactivity. In our last article we looked at yoga poses which mobilise the spine and can, when performed regularly, alleviate back pain.

 

However, back pain, especially lower back pain, can also be caused by tightness in the hips and the hamstrings and, so, alternative yoga postures are needed to address pain associated with these areas. This article will look at the hamstrings and their relationship to back pain.

 

The Hamstrings (Hamme = back of leg, Stringere = to draw together)

 

 

The hamstrings are actually three muscles (Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus and the Biceps Femoris) which run through the back of the thighs. The hamstrings originate at the Ischial Tuberosity (the sit bone) and insert into the tibia and fibia just below the back of the knee. The hamstrings are prime movers of knee flexion (the front leg position in Warrior II) and hip extension (the position of the hips in Full Wheel) and are also involved in the medial rotation of the lower leg (turning in) and the lateral rotation of the lower leg (turning out).

 

Becca in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II). The front knee is flexed in this position.

Wheel

Jennie in Full Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) showing hip extension.

 

The hamstrings are used a lot in sports such as running, hurdling, football and weightlifting and are prone to injury when the muscles are suddenly lengthened without being sufficiently warm prior to movement. When the hamstrings are tight (shortened), this can result in lower back pain, knee pain and discrepancies in leg length.

 

The inability to reach the fingertips to the floor in a standing forward fold (Utttanasana) is due to hamstring tightness. Tight hamstrings can lead to lower back pain because this causes a constant pull on the sit bones from which the hamstrings originate. This pulling force causes the pelvis to tip posteriorly and flattens the normal curve of the lumbar spine which in turn places the discs and lower back muscles under significant strain. The combination of a posterior tilted pelvis, a flattened lower spine (taking out the normal lumbar curve) and tight hamstrings places a person at risk and more prone to a back injury when attempting forwarding folding movements.

 

 

How Tight are your Hamstrings?

 

 

  1. Lie on your back with both legs straight out in front of you

  2. Inhale and raise your right knee into your chest.

  3. As you exhale begin to straighten the knee and straighten out the leg, so that it is in a straight line at a 90 degree angle to the floor

  4. Keep the left leg straightened out and down on the floor with the back of the left knee as close as possible to the floor

  5. Look in a mirror or ask someone to tell you if you can get the raised leg fully straight and perpendicular to the floor

  6. Repeat on the left side

 

The inability to straighten out the leg to a 90 degree angle is a reflection of hamstring tightness and will result in a posterior tilt of the pelvis in forward folding postures. This places the back under significant stress and if you attempted to reach for your toes during a seated forward fold then you are at risk of disc injury or back strain.

 

Those who cannot get the leg fully straight in the test above should avoid seated forward fold postures. Instead, the hamstrings can be lengthened and stretched via postures which will not cause a posterior tilt of the pelvis.

 

Yoga Poses for Tight Hamstrings (without the posterior tilt of the pelvis)

 

These postures should be performed once or twice a day over two to three months in order to see a difference in hamstring flexibility. The stretches are best performed at the end of the day when your hamstrings are still sufficiently warm from movement. Doing them first thing in the morning, without prior activity, is not recommended as no muscle should be suddenly lengthened without being sufficiently warm prior to movement.

 

 

The hamstrings have a lot of fascial tissue and so, to really work on improving the flexibility of tight hamstrings, stretches should be held for a lot longer than the 5-10 breaths which are common in most yoga classes. Instead, the stretch should be held for 1-3 minutes to really open up the hamstring muscle.

 

 

Modified Reclining Hand to Foot Pose I (Supta Padangusthasana I)

 

 

Jo in Modified Reclining Hand to Foot Pose I (Supta Padangusthasana I)

  1. This posture can be done against a wall or with the lowered leg through a doorway

  2. Bring the buttocks up close to the wall and position yourself so that the raised leg is straight and fully supported against the wall and the lowered leg is also straight.

  3. Keep the back of the knee of the lowered leg as close to the floor as possible

  4. Keep both feet flexed throughout the duration of the stretch (pulling the toes upwards towards the head)

  5. Keep your breath calm and relax the hands out to the sides.

  6. Hold this posture on each side for three minutes, increasing to five as your hamstrings become more flexible.

 

Modified Reclining Hand to Foot Pose II (Supta Padangusthasana II)

 

 

Paula in Modified Reclining Hand to Foot Pose II (Supta Padangusthasana II)

 

  1. Lie on your left side with a nice straight line between the feet and the head

  2. Prop yourself up onto the left elbow keeping the shoulder away from the ear

  3. Inhale and raise your right knee to your chest

  4. Try to take hold of your big toe with the index finger and thumb of the right hand and as you exhale begin to release the right leg away from the body, straightening out the leg as shown in the picture

  5. If it is difficult to take hold of the big toe then you can hold gently just above the ankle or hook a yoga strap or hand towel around the foot in order to hold the straightened leg in place

  6. Hold for one minute before changing sides

 Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

 

This posture stretches the inner thighs (the adductors) which are often tight when the hamstrings are tight.

 

Jo in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

 

  1. Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet together flat on the ground.

  2. Bring the heels close to the groins (making sure that the position feels comfortable)

  3. Tilt the hips up towards your chest and then release and tilt them towards the feet. Find a position in between these two moves so that the lower back is not lifted away from the floor but it is also not pressing too hard into the floor.

  4. The arms are relaxed at the side with the palms relaxed facing upwards or down

  5. Inhale slowly and as you exhale begin to lower the knees to the sides.

  6. If you feel uncomfortable in this posture you can try the supported version by adding pillows or blankets underneath the lower back and the knees.

  7. Try to hold the pose for two to three minutes.

 

The postures given above are designed to stretch and lengthen the hamstrings which can help to reduce back pain when performed regularly. Therefore, these postures should also be performed in conjunction with the postures demonstrated in our previous article, Yoga for Back Pain.

 

 

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Yoga for Back Pain

 

Back pain is a common feature of modern living which is estimated to cost the NHS many millions each year treating this condition. For some, the problem is short term and may be resolved without requiring any medical treatment. However, many others experience chronic back pain which causes them significant pain and discomfort in their day to day activities.

 

Back injuries can be caused by many things such as lifting something that is too heavy, an awkward posture, physical trauma or poor fitness/physical inactivity. However, the frequent repetition of certain movements that we do every day, often without thought, is a major factor underpinning back pain for many people. For example, forward-bending movements when picking up shopping bags, brushing your teeth, drying your hair and getting dressed all place the spine under significant pressure by intensifying the force on the intervertebral discs and straining the supporting ligaments.

 

Many years ago, people with back pain were advised to rest as part of their treatment. However, it is now known that keeping the spine mobile and active is a necessary component in the management of back pain. Indeed, many studies have examined the influence of exercise/inactivity in the treatment of back pain and the evidence suggests that being physically active is more effective than “GP care” in reducing pain and disability.

 

Can Yoga Help Back Pain?

 

Yes, yoga can help in the management of back pain by stretching and strengthening the spine. Indeed, maintaining a healthy spinal column is fundamental in yoga practice because the spinal column forms the main postural axis of the body’s skeleton – most yoga asanas require spinal involvement and mobilisation.

 

However, certain types of stretching can actually worsen some back problems. Accordingly, before heading to your nearest yoga class, become acquainted with some of the yoga postures which are good for your type of back pain and others that should be avoided.

 

The Spine

 

The spine (also known as the spinal or vertebral column) is made up of 33 vertebrae bones. The lower nine vertebrae are fused into two larger bones known as the sacrum and the coccyx.

 

Fig. 1 The Spine

 

vert

 

The 26 moveable components of the spine (shown in fig.1) are linked by a series of mobile joints. Between the bones of each joint is an intervertebral disc. These discs serve as shock absorbers to protect the brain when we do things like walking, running or jumping.  The intervertebral disc can be separated into two parts: the inner disc (the nucleus pulposus) and the annulus fibrosis, the rings of ligament that surround and support the centre.

 

Fig. 2 The Intervertebral Disc

Disc

 

Normally, when in a standing position, the spine has a mild curve forward and here the weight is evenly distributed throughout each disc (see fig. 3a). However, during movements such as forward folding (lowering down to touch your toes) the lower back flexes and loses the normal curve (fig.3b). Accordingly, more weight is put on the front of the intervertebral discs.

 

Fig.3 Spinal Position in an Erect (a) Versus Forward Bending Posture (b)

 

Curve

  

During this movement, the inner disc (the nucleus pulposus) gets pushed backwards into the now stretching support ligaments. If this movement is done a lot, or if great force is applied as in heavy lifting, the ligaments weaken and the inner disc may “bulge” out or, even worse, the ligaments may tear causing the inner disc to leak out which would result in a herniated disc.

 

If your back pain is caused by a bulging or a herniated disc then you should avoid holding forward folding positions as they could possibly exacerbate your back pain by placing too much force and pressure on an already injured area. Accordingly, avoid postures such as Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). Even taking a bend in the knees when performing this posture is placing the spine under significant pressure and may not be tolerated by those who have a history of disc injury.

Jennie in Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). Avoid this posture if you have a history of disc injury.

If you have the type of back pain that is associated with a disc injury then you should seek advice from your GP or physiotherapist before proceeding with a yoga routine.

 

Disc damage can also be caused by the day to day frequent repetition of certain movements. In particular, forward bending movements place the spine under significant pressure as when we bend down (for example, when we pick up a shopping bag), over half of our body weight (in addition to the weight of the object being lifted) exerts tremendous force on the intervertebral discs and supporting ligaments. Such repetitive movements tend to be the cause of back strain. Although not as serious as a bulging or herniated disc, back strain can still result in significant pain and discomfort.

 

Yoga Poses for Back Pain

 

You do not need to “warm up” in order to complete the following postures. Indeed, many of these movements can be used as part of a gentle warm up routine prior to beginning yoga practice. However, complete the poses in the order in which they appear. 

 

Cat  (Marjaryasana) Cow (Bitilasana) 

 

How to do this posture

 

Cow (Bitilasana) Pose

Ryan in Cow (Bitilasana) Pose

Cat  (Marjaryasana)

Ryan in Cat (Marjaryasana)

 

  1. Come into table top position by placing the hands underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips.

  2. To perform Cow, inhale and begin to look up, raising the eye gaze, the chin and the chest whilst dropping the belly button and raising the tail bone. This movement will extend the spine causing the lower back to dip slightly.

  3. As you exhale, move into Cat pose by flexing the spine and rounding the back (like an angry cat) and keep the head between the arms. Look towards the navel to stretch out the back and spine as much as is comfortable.

  4. Repeat 10 times, flowing smoothly from Cat into Cow, and Cow back into Cat. 

Moving back and forth from Cat to Cow helps move your spine into a neutral position, relaxing the muscles and easing tension.

 

 

Reclining Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

 

Twist

Jennie in a Reclining Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

How to do this posture

 

  1. Lie on your back and place the hands out to the sides, palms facing up or down.

  2. Inhale and as you exhale lift up the feet and knees away from the floor so that the knees are now over the hips.

  3. Inhale again and, this time, as you exhale (keeping the shoulders on the floor) lower the knees to the right side (keeping them at hip level) whilst turning the head to the left.

  4. The knees may not touch the floor when you first try this posture so do not over stretch. Only lower as far as you can whilst keeping both shoulders pressed into the floor.

  5. Hold for 5 – 10  breaths before switching sides.

 

Cobra (Bhujangasana)

 

 

Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Ryan in Cobra (Bhujangasana)

How to do this posture

 

 

  1. Lie on your stomach with the legs together. Try to keep the feet touching at least at the level of the two big toes.

  2. Place the hands underneath the shoulders so that you can just see the fingertips.

  3. Keep the elbows against the body.

  4. Inhale and as you exhale begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest away from the floor.

  5. Do not come up too high. Cobra is a gentle backbend in which you should be able to remove your hands away from the floor so that your position does not alter.

  6. Firm the shoulder blades against the back and lift through the top of the sternum.

  7. Relax the shoulders away from the ears, elongating your neck and try to gaze in front of you. Hold the pose for 3 – 5 breaths before slowly lowering the chest back down to the floor.

Cobra pose is a backbending posture which will strengthen and improve the flexibility of the spine.

 

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

 

Adho Mukha Svanasana

Ryan in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

 

How to do this posture

 

 

  1. Come into table top position by placing the hands underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips. Take the wrists slightly forward of the shoulders.

  2. Create space between all of the fingers with the middle finger facing forward and rotate the index finger slightly towards the thumb. Press all fingers into the mat but especially the index finger and thumb and the base of the little finger. Lift up from the wrist and do not let this area collapse down. 

  3. Tuck the toes under and inhale and, as you exhale, begin to lift the knees away from the mat. Keep your knees slightly bent and the heels away from the mat. Begin to raise the back of the pelvis upwards and backwards and raise the sit bones up towards the ceiling. 

  4. Starting at the ankles, begin to draw the inside of the legs up into the groin and try to turn the upper thighs inwards slightly.

  5. On the next exhalation, begin to straighten the knees (but do not lock them) and push the thighs back and start to lower the heels down towards the mat. Do not worry if the heels do not connect with the mat. Never overstretch in any yoga posture.

  6. Narrow the front of the pelvis by directing the belly button towards the top of the thighs. 

  7. Firm the shoulder blades against the back aiming to widen the blades whilst drawing them down towards the tailbone. The head should rest between the arms. Keep the shoulders away from the ears and take the gaze towards the navel.

  8. Hold for 1 – 5 breaths. Beginners should aim to hold for 1- 2 breaths only. If you have high blood pressure then you should not hold this posture for more than 1-2 breaths.

 

The goal of Downward Facing Dog is not to get the heels on the mat but to get the spine as long as possible, stretching from the neck all the way down to the tailbone. As a beginner, keep a bend in the knees and the heels away from the mat. 

 

Downward Facing Dog reverses the forces of gravity that normally act on the spine. Accordingly, this posture is good to do at the end of the day if you sit down a lot in your job. You can read more about Downward Facing Dog here.

 

Legs-up-the-Wall (Viparita Karani)

 

Reclined

Jennie in Viparita Karani

 

How to do this posture

 

  1. Position your buttocks all the way into a wall and lift your feet up the wall so that they are at a 90 degree angle to the floor.

  2. Extend the hands out to the sides with the palms facing up or down.

  3. The feet are in “Barbie” position so that they are neither pointed nor flexed, instead they are a position in between.

  4. You can add a folded blanket or towel to the lower back which may make the posture more comfortable if you suffer with intense lower back pain.

  5. Hold for 5-10 minutes and try to maintain an awareness of the way that you are breathing during this time, inhaling and exhaling slowly as you relax into the posture.

Viparita Karani is excellent for relaxing the muscles of the lower back whilst draining stagnant fluid from the feet and ankles.

 

These gentle poses will help you to stretch, strengthen and lengthen your spine and can help to alleviate pain when done regularly. You can gradually increase the intensity of the postures by holding them for longer amounts of time as your back becomes stronger.

 

Back pain can also be caused by tight hamstrings and hips. Yoga asanas which stretch and strengthen these two areas will be discussed in the next article in our series on yoga and back pain.

 

 

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Guest Blogger: Dan – I’m Back….

 

Guest Blogger, Dan is back from his travels and back in the hot room… 

 

Forgive me for I have sinned, it has been quite a while since last we spoke.

 

 

In that time I’ve been on three continents, across the date line a couple of times and slept on too many beds, couches, vans, chairs, floors, boats and planes to mention. Maybe a few beaches too, soz. There were positives and negatives to all of this. 

 

 

I’ll get to the negatives later, the positives were a great trip, with great company, in some truly wonderful locations and a boss tan. Oh yes the tan, Downward Facing Fatboy doesn’t make it to sunny climes, or y’know daylight much. So after a month on tropical beaches practicing my favourite of all Yoga poses, Unconscious Bear, I was a few shades darker than normal without the smell of biscuits normally associated with “Scouse” and “tan”. It was a very healthy looking DFF who returned to the hot room. I discussed “prolonging” the healthy look via St Tropez with my very own Fairy Yogamother, her advice was “Do it! Start a trend!”, I think her real intention was to laugh at me getting volleyed round the Bierkeller for having a spray tan as opposed to starting a Scouse lad spray tan revolution.

 

 

The return to the hot room is what highlighted the negatives of my trip, sleeping in a variety of positions, some less appropriate than others, meant that I sounded like a fresh bowl of Rice Krispies throughout the first lesson, I snapped in alligator, crackled in cobra and popped in down dog. It felt great!! As always I came out of the class feeling refreshed with the added advantage of a loose relaxed feeling to my joints and back, the perfect remedy to 25 hours on a plane and a stag weekend in Berlin. I really didn’t realise how much tension had built up and time spent in the hot room was and is a great release.

 

 

Due to a change in circumstances I couldn’t come to Hot Pilates and following some discussions with Fairy Yogamother, she suggested I try Hot Fusion. A great extension to the blog and to my yoga-ness, we thought.

 

 

How different could it be? VERY, thats how different. From now attending a couple of Fusion classes it has become quite clear that Pilates has a lot more cardio work about it compared to Fusion and there is more repetition in Pilates with more positions. To my untrained eye it feels like each Pilates class has between 15 and twenty positions often with increasing levels of difficulty within each position. Fusion combines elements of Pilates, along with Yoga and Body Sculpture into fewer positions, with more focus on staying in position for longer periods than in Pilates. For me this is very difficult, but still feels good afterwards. 

 

 

I would recommend it to all looking for a different experience to Pilates. One day I hope to make it to a Yoga class with the Fairy herself, but there’s plenty of time for that. Gotta get good at Fusion first. Table top before you Mountain Climber DFF, baby steps.

 

 

Namaste lids.

 

 

Read Dan’s previous blog here.

 

 

Pilates at Absolute Yoga, Crosby (Liverpool)

 

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Email: info@absoluteyogacrosby.co.uk
Call: 0151 928 1029
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Anatomy Trains in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

If you practise yoga regularly then, by now, you are probably very familiar with the instructions that accompany postures such as Downward Facing Dog (DFD). However, you may not be aware of the associated anatomical action which accompanies each alignment point. For example, when in Adho Mukha Svanasana you are asked to “turn the upper thighs inwards” because performing this action causes the femoral neck to press the pelvis back.  

When performing DFD, students are also asked to “press all fingers into the mat but especially the index finger and thumb”. Pressing into the thumbs and bases of the index fingers in Adho Mukha Svanasana will allow you to straighten the arms and keep the wrists stable on the mat for the duration of the posture.

However, this action also is also associated with opening up the chest during this inversion. The pressure applied to the thumbs and index fingers in DFD forms the beginning of an “anatomy train” because:

 

(1) The biceps relax which releases their pull on the scapulae

(2) The triceps contract 

(3) The relaxation of the biceps makes it easier to pull the scapulae down the back (using the lower trapezius and lattisimus dorsi muscles)

(4) The lowering of the scapulae makes it possible to press them into the rib cage  which subsequently lifts and opens the chest

 

Accordingly, pressing into the index fingers and thumbs in Downward Facing Dog ultimately assists in opening up the chest. The same concept applies to many other asanas which involve similar action of the index finger and thumbs. For example, in Virabhadrasana I, when you are told to bring the hands into prayer over the head you may be given the instruction “do not to cross the thumbs”. This is so that your thumbs are in a position to press against each other which assists in opening and lifting up the chest.  

 

This is the third article in the series taking a closer look Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). The other two articles can be viewed here:

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Dealing with Wrist Pain in Downward Facing Dog

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Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Ryan in Adho Mukha Svanasana (AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna)  adho = downward  mukha = face svana = dog 

Ryan in Adho Mukha Svanasana (AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna)  adho = downward  mukha = face svana = dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog, is probably one of the most well known yoga postures. Even if you have never taken a yoga class in your life then the chances are that you have still heard of this pose.

Downward Facing Dog (DFD) has many benefits to offer the yoga practitioner such as stretching out the hamstrings, back, shoulders and calves and generally strengthening the arms and legs.

DFD is also a restorative posture due to the position of the head relative to the heart. Accordingly, in addition to its many physiological benefits, when performed regularly, DFD also assists in calming the body, reducing stress and symptoms of mild depression.

It is quite common to perform DFD many times throughout an asana practice. Indeed, DFD is one of the 12 postures performed throughout Sun Salutations and other Vinyasa flows. It is also not uncommon to move quite quickly between the postures of a Vinyasa flow. Accordingly, it is easy to sometimes lose focus on the correct alignment and performance of Adho Mukha Svanasana. However, incorrect alignment in DFD can lead to injuries of the back, neck, shoulders, arms, legs and wrists and so it is imperative that students perform this posture with due care and attention to the body. 

Preparing for and Performing Downward Facing Dog

1. DFD should only be performed after the spine has been suitably prepared and “warmed up”. This can be done by performing gentle stretches that take the spine through its entire range of movements such as extension and flexion in Cat/Cow, rotation such as a seated spinal twist and lateral rotation in Sukhasana. 

2. Following this, from table top position, ensure that the hands are shoulder width apart and the wrists are slightly forward of the shoulders. The knees should be directly below the hips and the calves should point straight back from the knees.

3. Ensure that you are spreading and creating lots of space between all of the fingers. Let the middle finger face forward and rotate the index finger slightly towards the thumb. To prevent wrist injuries, follow the guidelines in the image below.

Wrist

Press all fingers into the mat but especially the index finger and thumb and the base of the little finger. Lift up from the wrist and do not let this area collapse down. 

4. Tuck the toes under and inhale and, as you exhale, begin to lift the knees way from the mat. Keep your knees slightly bent and the heels away from the mat. Begin to raise the back of the pelvis upwards and backwards and raise the sit bones up towards the ceiling. 

5. Now turn your attention towards the legs. Starting at the ankles, begin to draw the inside of the legs up into the groin. Do not forget the connection with the breath. Be aware of your inhalations and exhalations. 

6. On the next exhalation, begin to straighten the knees (but do not lock them) and push the thighs back and start to lower the heels down towards the mat, but do not worry if the heels do not connect with the mat. Turn your attention to your upper thighs and try to turn them inwards slightly. This action causes the femoral neck to press the pelvis back.  Narrow the front of the pelvis by directing the belly button towards the top of the thighs. 

7. Turn your attention towards your arms. Maintain correct alignment of the fingers and thumbs and begin to firm the shoulder blades against the back aiming to widen the blades whilst drawing them down towards the tailbone. The head should rest between the arms (do not let it just hang there in a relaxed state pointing downwards). Keep the shoulders away from the ears and take the gaze towards the drishti point (focus point) of the navel. You may not see the navel though because your chest may obscure the view.

8. Hold for 1 – 5 breaths, depending on the strength of your practice. Beginners should aim to hold for 1- 2 breaths only. If you have high blood pressure then you should not hold this posture, especially in a hot room, for more than 1-2 breaths. If you are coming out of the posture before other students then drop down to Balasana and re-join the group when you are ready.

Whilst holding DFD you should be aware of the position of your spine. The goal in DFD is not to get the heels on the mat but to get the spine as long as possible, stretching from the neck all the way down to the tailbone. Also, be aware of the weight distribution between the upper and lower body. The image below shows the ideal ratios:

Ratio

Image from Robin, M ( 2009) A Handbook for Yogasana Teachers: The Incorporation of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Anatomy into the Practice. Wheatmark: Arizona)

The ratio shown in the picture is that of an intermediate practitioner. Beginners tend to display more 50:50 hands to feet. Intermediate students are able to take more weight in the lower body in this asana because they are better able to move the pelvis upwards and backwards which makes the legs more vertical and lengthens the spine. If you struggle to hold your weight in the arms in DFD then try slightly moving the pelvis backward and the tailbone further up towards to ceiling. This should move more of the weight into your legs, decreasing the intensity in the arms.

Wrist pain in DFD is a common complaint and some students find that they are unable to hold this posture with comfort due to the wrist pain that they experience whilst in the pose. This issue can usually be addressed by correcting the student’s alignment, particularly at the fingers, hands and the wrists. However, in some cases, alignment correction will not solve the problem and the student must seek alternative solutions. See here to read more about preventing wrist pain in DFD.

As with any yoga posture, you should listen to:

(1) Your teacher – listen to the specific instructions given on alignment

(2) Your breath – if you cannot keep your breath calm with long, deep and slow inhalations and exhalations then move into Balasana (child’s pose). 

(3) Your body – there is no requirement in yoga that you become a master of all postures. If it does not feel good for you then do not perform this posture. Instead, take Balasana and join back in on the next posture in the sequence.

DFD is a wonderful posture which opens up the body throughout the asana practice and calms the body outside of practice times. By paying careful attention to your position and alignment you will reap all of the rewards that this posture has to offer your yoga practice and your life beyond the mat. 

This is the first article in the series taking a closer look Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog). The other two articles can be viewed here:

Dealing with Wrist Pain in Downward Facing Dog

Anatomy trains in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog).

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Easter Timetable

 

Good Friday

8.00am Hot Yoga (Becca)

10.00am Hot Fusion (Clare)

 
Saturday

9.00am Yin Yoga (Jo)

11.00am Hot Fusion (Clare)

12.30pm Introduction to Yoga (Rachel)

 
Easter Sunday

Closed

 
Bank Holiday Monday

8.30am Hot Yoga (Jennie)

10.00am Hot Fusion (Clare)

 
 

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Guest Blogger: Dan – Hot Pilates, Week Three

 

We asked one of our new members, Dan, to write a few blogs about his experience participating in the Hot Pilates classes at Absolute Yoga, Crosby. We selected Dan for this task because he was completely new to Pilates and, therefore, would be able to describe the changes that he is noticed in his body and mind from doing three Hot Pilates classes a week at Absolute Yoga.

 

This is Dan’s final blog. You can read his other two blogs here and here.

 

 
Three little words. That is all it takes. They mean the world to a lot of people. Not me, I know they mean pain and suffering now. “Let’s do Plank”………. you were expecting something else? Keeping still has never been such hard work or for that matter exercise. But here I am, keeping still, holding plank, sweating, a lot.

 

 
It might sound like I go on about the sweating a bit too much, but I can’t overstate it enough. I finished today’s class in the centre of my own moat. You absolutely must hydrate properly, I drink at least two litres of water every day now and up to a litre and a half in the class alone, the majority of which feels like it comes straight back out during the class. Paula, the teacher, made a good point today (one of many across the classes but this one is pertinent to my point so I’m stealing it) You don’t get thirst pangs the way you get hunger pangs, if you feel thirsty in the class you’re too late, hydrate Hydrate HYDRATE!!!!

 

 
Today marked my tenth lesson and so far no two classes have been the same and every lesson has introduced something new, todays’ had a leg work out that I’m sure has a lovely yoga based name but I’ve christened it quad killer. Testament to my physical improvement I stuck with the move almost to the end, but not quite, I’ll get you next time quad killer.
 

 

Back to that Plank, it has come in two flavours so far. Low, on elbows and toes, very strong focus on core and high, on hands and toes still with core engaged but arms and thighs have more of a say in my experience. High gives more room for movement with running plank and alligator. These two are most definitely the hardest for me as they are the most intense physical activity in the class. Me and plank aren’t friends yet, but we will be.
 

 

With the engagement of the core, pelvic floor muscles for girls, swimwear pose for boys, it has started to shape me as I am carrying myself differently out of class, engagement of the spine, core and shoulders has lead to a better overall posture I believe and this is after only three weeks! Along with the physical change there is also the mental one, thinking about how I carry myself is starting to become second nature. A historic back injury hasn’t made its presence felt since I’ve been attending classes and that area has been given a solid work out without a hint of a twinge or spasm.

 

 
All in all it feels like rapid improvements are being made but I know there is a long way still to go, but it is the first exercise class that I’ve looked forward to attending and enjoyed throughout my time there.

 

 

 

Inabit Namaste

 

Read more about Hot Pilates here.

 

Hot Pilates classes at Absolute Yoga:

 

Monday – Hot Pilates 10am
Wednesday – Hot Pilates 10am
Wednesday – Hot Yogalates 4.30pm
Friday – Hot Pilates 10am

 

Book a class here.

 
 

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