Thursday, July 26, 2012

What do we store in our hips (aside from the obvious)?

I’ve alluded, in other posts, to my tendency toward tears during yoga classes.  This kind of thing tends to happen toward the end of class during some of the deeper hip stretches, like Uphavista Konasana, Supine Twists, or of course, Pigeon.  What is it about these poses?  Why does a release in the hip muscles so often provoke a release of emotion?

Usually when we talk about muscle memory, we are referring to the patterns that become ingrained in the body through continuous use and activity…but some yogis believe that we store memories, emotions, and even past traumas in our muscles as well.  They say that by releasing the muscles in and around the hips and pelvis (say, in a yoga practice), we can bring on emotional and spiritual break-throughs.  Maybe you buy it, maybe you don’t, but whether you’re a super-active runner or a semi-sedentary desk-jockey, chances are your hips could use some relief and release.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gah! Stress!

Do you ever wake up in the morning with a headache from grinding your teeth?  Or with sore fingers from clenching your hands into fists in your sleep?  No?  Oh, well, neither do I.  I mean, I do yoga.  Lots of it.  I was just, um, wondering if you have ever had that experience…

Just because we practice yoga regularly doesn’t mean we don’t still have moments in which stress gets the best of us.  Think about the classes you tend to take.  Many of our classes have either “hot” or “power” or both in the title, and many of us use these classes as a way to burn off excess stress, anxiety, nervous energy.  For those of us with type-A tendencies, the group energy and fast pace of a vinyasa class might feel natural, but might not be the best way to settle down.  There are, however, other kinds of yoga (like Yin, Restorative, or Nidra) that can help alleviate the physical and mental symptoms of stress through gentle release rather than strenuous stretching.

Many restorative classes, for example, incorporate breath work and meditation as a way to bring ease to the mind.  In these classes, the body is placed in gentle poses with lots of props to facilitate relaxation and opening as students are guided through meditations.  This kind of practice can be particularly helpful for those of us dealing with conditions like insomnia, fatigue, high blood pressure, or muscle tension (the kind that a little light stretching won’t release).  Given the pace of life even here in little ol’ Bloomington, we should probably all take advantage of these opportunities to slow down whenever we can.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hot Day, Hot Yoga?

Let's time-travel for a moment back to last week, when it felt like our lovely town had been relocated from South Central Indiana to the surface of the sun.  One might imagine that attendance would drop for the many heated yoga classes here at Vibe.  Not so.

It’s 104 degrees outside with 90% Hoosier-style humidity.  Why yes, a hot yoga class does sound like a good idea*.  Well, sometimes it does.   Year-round, the studio is heated to 95-105 degrees for Hot Fusion and 90-95 degrees for heated Vinyasa classes.  This can, without a doubt, feel great during the colder months, but during the summer we need to take extra precautions** to keep ourselves safe. 

If you do feel compelled to leave the cool waters of the pool or lake, or the air-conditioned comfort of your abode, Yoga Journal recommends that you drink at least 16 ounces of water before class, frequent small amounts during, and 20-40 ounces for each hour of practice after class.  Also, be sure to wear clothing that allows the skin to breathe and release heat.  

Finally, be willing to make accommodations for yourself.  Even if you’ve been practicing hot yoga for years, the body is different every day, so if your pulse speeds up dramatically and stays that way, or if you begin to experience dizziness, nausea, fatigue, or vision disturbances, these can be signs of heat exhaustion, so get down on your mat and elevate your legs.  Or, go into the lobby and do the same.  The front desk staff will be ready and willing to help you get situated, and will offer you a cool facecloth to help bring your body temperature down. 

*but maybe not for you pitta folks.
**A refresher course on the "regular" precautions:  practice carefully, or consider a non-heated class if you are currently experiencing blood pressure issues (high or low), dehydration, symptoms of heat exhaustion, chronic bronchitis or asthma.  Consult a doctor before beginning a heated practice if you are experiencing or have experienced the following: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, eating disorders, sleep deprivation, a history of heat-related illness, pregnancy, blood pressure issues, dehydration, chronic bronchitis or asthma.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Free Flow or Set Sequence?

Spending time talking to yogis and yoginis is one of the perks of my job.  This makes me privy to a lot of opinions about different kinds of classes, styles of teaching, and, more generally, approaches to yoga.  One of the most debate-provoking classes offered at Vibe is Hot Fusion.  Hot Fusion is a set series—the same every time—which makes it a good place to start a heated yoga practice.  This is also why some people find they can’t abide it—it’s always the same. 

Those of us who gravitate toward the free-flowing, creative movement of a Vinyasa practice might do so because it’s always changing—every practice is different.  It varies from teacher to teacher, and from day to day given the goal (physical, spiritual, or otherwise).  An ever-changing sequence can be a great exercise in staying present and attentive during a practice, and can also challenge us to let go of expectations.  Conversely, a set sequence like that of Hot Fusion or the Ashtanga primary series can be an excellent way work out the kinks of certain poses, and also presents the opportunity to let go of the mind and get into a moving meditation.  I like ‘em both, but it depends when you catch me…