Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body


Playing with your Warrior : Props to Deepen your Pose

Posted in How-To,SandBags,Yoga,Yoga Pose,Yoga Strap by Harmony on November 16, 2010

Sometimes to perfect your pose, you need to play with it.  Try listening to different instructors offering different cues to get in or out of the pose.  Or try using props that will help bring awareness to different areas of your body; or allow you to stay in a pose for a longer period of time so you can focus and perfect even just one part of the pose at a time.

The following article from Yoga Journal allows you to play with your Warrior II so you can become powerful enough to hold this pose for minutes at a time.  The props used are:  a yoga mat; a basic straight-back chair; a yoga strap; and a yoga sandbag.  If you have a partner, that would be helpful, too!  In his one example, Richard mentions an “imaginary friend” to help focus on an action of the back leg – using a “real friend” is even better if you’re a beginner.  Then during future practices you can draw from that experience to get the same sensation – and result.

Stand Strong – from Yoga Journal

Come into your power as you connect with the warrior Virabhadra.

By Richard Rosen

BASICS_205_OPENER.jpg

The standing pose Virabhadrasana II is standard practice in most yoga classes. But few yogis know the tale of its genesis. In Hindu lore, the powerful priest Daksha threw a huge sacrifice and invited everyone—except his youngest daughter Sati and her good-for-nothing yogi husband Shiva, whom Daksha despised (even if Shiva was supreme ruler of the universe). Sati was livid. In one version of the story, she stormed over to the sacrificial fire and threw herself in to teach her father a lesson; in another, her ire was so intense that she spontaneously combusted. Shiva was devastated by his beloved’s immolation and went berserk. When he yanked out a tuft of his hair and beat it into the ground, up popped a nightmarish creature with “a thousand heads, a thousand feet, a thousand eyes, a thousand hands, with fangs terrible to behold.” It was armed to the teeth and invincible. Meet Virabhadra, whose name means “blessed hero,” though typically it’s rendered into English simply as “warrior.” Shiva dispatched Virabhadra and an army of demons to pay Daksha a visit. Happily, Shiva’s wife gets brought back to life, and Daksha’s whupping teaches him humility (he loses his head and winds up with a goat’s as a replacement).

We recreate the image of Virabhadra in three incarnations of Virabhadrasana, designated by Roman numerals (I, II, III), in which we stand like mighty warriors. Our focus will be on II. Virabhadrasana II is an excellent way to stretch your groins and, even though both feet stay on the floor, improve your balance. You can also, to a lesser extent, strengthen your arms and open your chest. Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar points out in his book Light on Yoga that Vira II “tones the abdominals.” It’s also a nice way to strengthen your legs and make them shapely.

LEGWORK

It’s important in Vira II to bring awareness to the head of the femur of the front leg; it’s the little ball on the end of the bone that plugs into the hip socket and swivels like a joystick. You also need to pay attention to the outer heel of the back foot, just under the outer ankle bone.

To work on proper front leg alignment, try a simple chair-supported exercise. If you’re tall, you might need a blanket; if you’re short, grab a block. Set the chair on your sticky mat, near the front edge, with the back of the chair facing the right edge. Face the front edge of your mat and sit on the chair with your knees over your heels, shins perpendicular to the floor. Ideally your thighs will be parallel to the floor. If you are tall and your knees are higher than your hips, use a blanket to raise your buttocks until your thighs are parallel to the floor. If your feet don’t reach the floor (typical for shorter students), put the lift beneath your right foot.

Swing your left leg around the seat, straighten the left knee as much as possible, and step the ball of your left foot onto the floor near the back edge of the mat into a lunge. Rotate your torso away from the chair toward the left, pivot on the ball of your left foot, and press your left heel to the floor so your foot is angled slightly toward the front edge of the mat. Align the middle of the right heel with the middle of the left foot’s inner arch and adjust your inner right thigh more or less perpendicular to the front edge of your mat.

BE A WARRIOR

In Vira II, you take the stance of a strong warrior. You balance your weight between both legs, and your torso rises up evenly from your hips. On the chair, avoid leaning forward or back. Burrow the base of your right palm into the hip crease between your front thigh and pelvis and push down against the head of your thighbone. Push into the crease, not farther down the thigh. Ideally you’ll feel the back of your thigh press firmly against the seat and, in response, your spine effortlessly lengthen upward. Draw your right hip point away from your thigh, lengthen your tailbone down, and shift your shoulders so they line up over your hips. After a minute or so, release your hand yet stay here, sitting heavily on your thigh. Bend your left knee, swing the leg back to where it started, turn the chair 180 degrees, and repeat on the other side.

In the full pose, many beginners depend on their muscles to sustain the position and quiver uncontrollably after a few seconds. Then things go downhill. Try to recreate your chair-supported experience, so that some of the support is shifted to your bones, and your muscles can release. Then you can sustain the posture almost indefinitely, needing to come out only for meals and to attend yoga class.

Like other split-leg standing poses, Virabhadrasana II is anchored and stabilized by rooting the outer back heel into the ground. Many beginners have tight groins, so bending the front knee buckles the back knee, which pulls the outer back heel off the floor. Think: What would happen to a tree deprived of its roots? Before you bend your front knee, “dig” your outer back heel into the floor. As you bend your front (right) knee, have an imaginary friend resist that movement by pulling on a strap on your left groin. Your left leg will move physically through space closer to the floor; but energetically it opposes the movement and keeps your outer back heel rooted.

GET HIP

Stand sideways in the middle of your sticky mat, facing a long edge, and step your feet apart. Ideally, your feet are wide enough apart so that when you bend the front knee and position it over the heel, the front thigh is parallel to the floor. With your hands on your hips, turn your back (left) foot to the right 30 degrees, your right foot to the right 90 degrees. Align your front heel and your back arch.

Don’t push the left hip back, away from the long edge of your mat. Many teachers have you square your pelvis toward the wall your chest is facing; I teach the pose slightly differently to create more width and ease in the lower back. As you bend your front knee, roll the back hip forward a fair amount and rotate the front knee out, toward the pinky-toe side. Once the knee is thus aligned, you can take the back hip back a bit, but be sure your front knee doesn’t buckle in toward the big-toe side of your foot.

Inhale, consciously grounding your back heel; on an exhalation, bend your front knee over your heel. Aim the inner knee toward the pinky-toe side of the foot to avoid swiveling your knee inward as you bend it. Now sit your right femur head on the imaginary chair. Then lift your right hip point away from your thigh, tuck your tailbone, and position your shoulders over your pelvis. Align the inner right thigh with the long edge of the mat.

To get your thigh parallel to the floor in the full pose, hang a sandbag on a yoga strap from your front hip crease. Want to go further? Inhale and raise your arms out to the sides, palms down. Press into the back heel and reach actively through the back arm, as if your left arm is trying to pull your front knee straight. You can gaze over the front arm, but if you have neck issues, simply look straight forward. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, inhale and straighten your front knee, release your arms, and turn your feet forward. Never come out of this posture by shifting your weight forward onto the front leg. After a few breaths, repeat on the left.

This pose looks like the mighty warrior Virabhadra emerging fearlessly from the earth and should be a big part of your practice. It increases flexibility and builds strength, physical endurance, and willpower—which will serve you well throughout your practice and your life.

Richard Rosen lives and teaches in California.
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Breastfeeding Meditation for Moms

Posted in Meditation by Harmony on November 15, 2010

As a new mom you may find yourself spending hours a day sitting quietly while breastfeeding your new baby.  To utilize this time wisely, without disrupting this special bonding moment, you may want to consider practicing meditations for both you and your child.  Meditating may help you draw strength, energy, and calmness back into your life.  Below are several meditations with imagery that you could consider, or write your own.  You could also find this to be the perfect time to repeat a favorite mantra – either silently or softly out loud for your baby to hear.

When practicing your meditations sit erect with a straight spine and plant your feet to the earth. Wait until the baby has properly latched on to your breast.

The following meditations and their descriptions were taken from an article titled Breastfeeding Meditations for Moms.  For the entire article and more detailed descriptions about how and why the author used these specific images, please click on the link to Breastfeeding Meditations for Moms by Andrea Dougherty.

Deep Belly Breath

Sit in a comfortable upright position with eyes closed. Focus on your breath flowing in and out. Your pulse slowing down in turn slows down your baby’s pulse. You are connected thru the umbilical cord your pulse feeding your babies pulse. Start by taking a deep belly breath and slow down your body’s chemistry and circulation. Deep smooth slow breathing is a way of letting your baby know that everything is all right. It is a way of communicating your confidence in the pregnancy and relaxed state of mind. You can communicate to your baby while in the womb not only by talking to your baby but thru your heart beat and the slow monitored breathing techniques. This technique can be practiced out of the womb as well.

To practice the Deep Belly breathing technique after birth place baby on your chest. Feeling your heart beat and your breathing patterns, the baby will relax and slow down, he too will be coaxed into relaxing.

Oasis Meditation

Goal of Meditation: Sweep away previous nights stress and relax.

Affirmation: I live in Abundance

Imagine yourself sitting in an oasis in the middle of the desert. You and your baby are happy healthy and focused on each other. The breeze wafting thru your tent is warm and fruitful. Palms are being fanned, whisking cool air onto you and your baby. The circulating air caresses your cheek, neck and chest. Your baby is gently caressed by the palms releasing any energy from the previous nights encounter. Breathe deeply filling your lungs with the fragrant breeze. Release tension from the sleepless nights, clearing your mind. Bring your focus back to feeding your baby. Recognize that you are provided for, just as you are providing for your baby. Breath deeply. The cool breezes from the palms brush against your skin allowing your mind and body to go limp. Just be in the present moment.

Spa Meditation

Goal of Meditation: Building strength of character and trust in self.

Affirmation: I have a generous heart

Imagine you and your baby have stepped out of a steam spa and you skin is open, clean and clear. There is a stack of white towels. Take as many towels as you need. Gently dry you and the baby off with the white towels. Taking time to dry the little folds of baby’s skin around the neck, groin, wrists, fingers, ankles and toes. Lift the towel and hide your face, peeking occasionally at your baby. The baby laughs as you play peek a boo with a towel. His face all shiny and glowing with health and wonder. There are white robes waiting for you to put on. Select your robe taking care to put it on and wrap it correctly. It fits perfectly and the material is delicate yet strong. It feels like silk against your skin. Select your babies robe, take care at wrapping your baby in the white cloth. It is pristine and you would not dress him in any thing less due to his importance. Your baby is an extension of your self. You trust in your judgment and your baby trusts in your judgment. The silk wraps, bonding you two. Recognize that your baby will follow your lead. You have a generous open heart and your decisions reflect compassion and a giving character,(Image of Sun and Rays)

Sunny Days

Goal of Meditation: Raise Energy Levels.

Affirmation: I am a happy person.

This meditation was there for me when I was house bound. It really seemed to boost my energy levels.

Imagine pulling energy from the sun, yellow and golden filled with vitamin D. The light is humming and buzzing as the rays enter the crown of your head. You are open, the sun shinning into you raising your alertness, stimulating your breath. Release tension from our scalp, forehead, eyes, cheeks, jaw and lips. Gently lift the corners of your mouth up in a slight smile. You feel the suns rays warm, giving life and feelings of joy to you and your baby. Breathe deeply as the light circulates allowing your spine to sit up straighter, your shoulders back and lungs expanding. I am a happy person, seeing humor in circumstance, always choosing to be smile and laugh. Your happiness flowing from your body into your baby. Milk flowing endlessly, energy to your happy baby.

Starry Night

Goal: Trust in a greater intelligence.

Affirmation: Infinite possibilities

Imagine stars surrounding your being and your babies being. You are floating above the earth not touching or bound to any gravitational pulls or earthly laws of physics. You and your baby are at the center of everything and everything is circulating around you. The energy of the universe is connecting and protecting you. It runs thru everything and can be felt and channeled with thought. Feel the energy pulsating in your body, like static electricity buzzing lifting the hair on your head. Your energy is mixing and feeding your baby in the form of breast milk. The universe is generous with possibilities, seek and follow energy paths that require the least amount of effort. As you make decisions recognize that you now have an additional life that is dependent on your decisions. Keep your goals set with out conflict or competition. Stay focused knowing you are supported in a constant state of growth.

Cleansing Meditation

Goal: Release Toxins

Affirmation: I am healthy.

Fighting sicknesses throughout the winter months or throughout the year.

Imagine your blood heating up, a red hot heart expanding thru vibration, turning white hot and pumping molten blood thru your veins. This heat is sent into your baby to build his immune system, flowing into every corner of his body. Hear the pulsating drums in your ears, focus on the pulsating feeling in your body and now in your babies. See the white lava circulating thru you into your baby, it is circulating even reaching into his fingers and toes with each pulse of your heart. This heat is cleansing. Destroying toxins and germs as the liquid heat circulates his body. Imagine that you see the cleansing occurring. Your molten blood, surrounding germs, boiling the germ until it is gone. With each impurity that the heat encounters the white hot liquid consumes and boils it until it is gone. Volcanic disturbance brings life and health to the earth. Recognize that heat or a fever is not something to fear but the body looking to correct an imbalance.

Balance Exercises – Foam Roller & Half Round Roller (Part II)

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on November 12, 2010

Four more great exercises to do on either a full round foam roller or a half round foam roller.  Choose between the 18″ Foam Roller, a 36″ Foam Roller, or an 36″ Half Round Roller.  The full round rollers are made of a high density foam construction so they’ll keep their round shape longer so they’ll continue to roll and offer you the challenge you’re looking for.  Please note that some exercises require two foam rollers to place individually under your feet or under hands & knees, etc.

Click here for the first four exercises that were presented  in Part 1.

Balance and Stability on the Foam Roller: Part 2

Created Apr 7 2009 – 14:43

There are many different and challenging balance and stability exercises that can be performed on the foam roller. As we discussed in my previous post, the half foam roller can be used with the flat side up or down as a starting point. You may progress to the full round roller when mastery of the half roller has been accomplished.

Please also take note of the following general principles when training balance and stability.

  • First, whenever possible train without shoes.  There are many receptors in the feet that give feedback to the nervous system about joint position.
  • Always engage the abdominals and the rest of your core musculature while doing these exercises.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable doing all the exercises on a stable surface (the floor) before you do them on the roller.

Exercise: PRONE REACH ON THE FOAM ROLLER

  • Place the foam roller parallel to your mat.
  • Sit at the end of the roller with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor.
  • Use the hands to carefully guide you onto your back.
  • You should be balanced and supported on the roller from the head to the tail.
  • Try to find your center and hold onto it during the exercise.
  • To start, inhale and hover the left hand and right foot off the floor a few inches.
  • Exhale and slowly decelerate them back down to the floor.
  • If taking both the hand and foot off proves too difficult just take one off at a time.
  • Inhale hover the right hand.
  • Exhale slowly lower the right hand. Inhale lift the left foot.
  • Exhale lower the left foot.
  • Change sides.

After you have mastered the hovering move on.

  • To start inhale and just hover the left hand and right foot off the floor a few inches.
  • Exhale and slowly bring the left wrist in line with the shoulder and the right leg into a table top position (at the top the knee is over the hip and the knee and ankle are aligned)
  • Hold inhale.
  • Exhale and slowly decelerate everything down.
  • Again, If taking both the arm and leg off at the same time proves too difficult try taking one at a time off.
  • Inhale slowly bring the left leg into table top.
  • Exhale slowly lower the leg back to the starting position.
  • Inhale hover the right arm off the floor.
  • Exhale slowly decelerate it back down.
  • Change sides.

Exercise: BRIDGING WITH THE FOAM ROLLER

  • Place the foam roller perpendicular to your mat and sit in front of it.
  • Lie down on your back and place the roller under your feet.
  • The roller should be at the arch of the foot.
  • The feet should be hip distance apart and parallel.
  • Eyes are to the ceiling and the arms are beside the body.
  • Exhale and start to peel the spine off the floor starting at the tailbone.
  • The roller should stay still as you roll up.
  • Stop at the top of the shoulders.
  • Make sure there is no weight on the neck.
  • Hold and inhale.
  • Exhale and slowly start to peel down again from the top of the spine until you return to the starting position.

To add on hold the position at the top and try to float one foot a few inches off the roller and set it back down.

  • As you lift the foot no change should occur in the spine and pelvis.
  • Change feet and when finished slowly roll down.

To advance even more you can hold at the top, float one foot up and extend the leg out at an angle or up to the ceiling.

  • Again, the spine and pelvis should remain the same as you extend the leg.
  • Gently bring the leg back down and change sides.
  • When finished slowly roll down.

Exercise: TIGHTROPE BALANCE ON HALF FOAM ROLLER
Place a sticky mat and a half foam roller on top and parallel to the mat a few feet from the wall. You want it close enough to the wall that if needed the fingertips can touch and help steady you. First try this balance exercise with the flat side down and then progress to the flat side up.

  • Carefully stand with one foot in front of the other.
  • Hold the position with the legs long and arms hanging by your sides, extended out to the sides or extended out in front of you.

Add a squat.

  • Keeping your center inhale, bend the knees and come into a squat position on the tightrope.
  • The back heel may lift a bit.
  • Exhale and slowly extend back up.
  • Do 2 to 4 reps.
  • Gently come off and change sides.
  • Don’t be surprised if one side is easier than the other.

Exercise: SKIER ON THE HALF FOAM ROLLERS
Place a sticky mat and two half foam rollers one beside the other about hip distance apart on the mat.
Have a wall nearby or a gondola pole to help steady you as you step onto the half foam rollers and find your center.
Eventually you want to be able to do the balance without the wall or pole.

  • Hold this position with straight legs and eyes to the horizon for 2 to 4 breath cycles.
  • To advance you can add arm movement.
  • Keep the body upright and centered, inhale and slowly sweep the arms up to shoulder level.
  • Exhale and slowly bring the arms back to your side.
  • Try to do 4-6 reps keeping optimal form and balance.
  • To add on further add a squat.
  • Inhale, bend the knees and hinge the torso slightly forward.
  • Exhale, press into the feet and slowly stand up.
  • Do 4-6 reps.
  • To add on here, hold the squat for 20 to 30 seconds with optimal form and balance.
  • Gently return to straight legs.

Pilates Series of Five with Hand Weights

Posted in Dumbells/Grip Weights,How-To,Pilates,Toning Balls by Harmony on November 11, 2010

Learn how to do the Pilates “Series of Five” with hand weights. You can use your choice of hand weights – whichever you think are the most comfortable for you to hold and which ones would offer you the most versatility allowing you to use in other exercises of your choice. Consider small soft neoprene dumbbells, neoprene grip weights, or Pilates soft weighted toning balls.

The video is just over four minutes long and will cover the details on doing five Pilates floor exercises: Single Leg Stretch, Double Leg Stretch, Scissors, Lower Lift, and Criss Cross. All while holding the small hand weights to add arm strengthening and toning while performing these ab and leg workouts.

Pilates-weights

Perfecting the Yoga Push-Up : Chaturanga Dandasana

Posted in How-To,Mats - Yoga / Pilates / Exercise,Yoga,Yoga Pose by Harmony on November 9, 2010

Chaturanga Dandasana, or the Yoga Push-Up, is a pose frequently found in the Sun Salutations. Learning to do it properly will protect your wrists and your back. The following video will primarily discuss practicing from the knees. The article from Yoga Journal following the video will review the full pose, which is with straight legs. It is best to practice from the knees first to build up arm and shoulder strength before moving into the full pose to be able to perform this pose with proper alignment.

A yoga mat is essential to protect yourself from slipping in this pose. We offer a large variety of non-slip yoga mats. If you notice that during this video, the male model has his hands properly below his shoulders, but this has forced his hands partly off of his mat. Wider yoga mats are now available on the market. Currently we sell the Urban Tapas Mat (26″ wide) and the XW XL Mat (84″ Long x 36″ Wide) that can help our growing population of male yogis with wider shoulders.  We also sell a wide  non-slip yoga towel, the  eQua Yoga Towel which is 26.5″ wide.  Is there a wide mat that you would like to see us offer?  Please let us know!  We’re always adding new products to satisfy our customers.

Chaturanga Dandasana – from Yoga Journal

chaturanga :  (chaht-tour-ANG-ah don-DAHS-anna)

  • chaturanga = four limbs (chatur = four        anga = limb)
  • danda = staff (refers to the spine, the central “staff” or support of the body)

Step by Step – doing the Full Pose with Straight Legs

Perform Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), then Plank Pose. Firm your shoulder blades against your back ribs and press your tailbone toward your pubis.

With an exhalation slowly lower your torso and legs to a few inches above and parallel to the floor. There’s a tendency in this pose for the lower back to sway toward the floor and the tailbone to poke up toward the ceiling. Throughout your stay in this position, keep the tailbone firmly in place and the legs very active and turned slightly inward. Draw the pubis toward the navel.

Keep the space between the shoulder blades broad. Don’t let the elbows splay out to the sides; hold them in by the sides of the torso and push them back toward the heels. Press the bases of the index fingers firmly to the floor. Lift the top of the sternum and your head to look forward.

Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the positions in the Sun Salutation sequence. You can also practice this pose individually for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. Release with an exhalation. Either lay yourself lightly down onto the floor or push strongly back to Adho Mukha Svanasana, lifting through the top thighs and the tailbone.

The Metta Sutra : The Buddha's Words on Kindness

Posted in Meditation,Yoga by Harmony on November 8, 2010

Kindness can be contagious…isn’t that wonderful?!  Watch the following video on the Metta Sutra or read the content below…and help spread the goodness by sharing the kindness within you.

The Buddha’s Words on Kindness (Metta Sutta)

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

Balance Exercises – Foam Roller or Half Round Foam Roller (Part I)

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on November 5, 2010

Part one of two posts on performing balance exercises using a full round foam roller or a half round foam roller.  Beginners may wish to start with a half round and then progress into the full round after building strength and improving balance.  Choose between the 18″ Round Foam Roller or the 36″ Round Foam Roller.  Enjoy the first four exercises and all of their variations and then come back next week for Part Two.

Balance and Stability Exercises on the Foam Roller: Part 1

Created Mar 31 2009 – 14:41

One of the best ways to grow old with grace, keep us agile and prevent falls is to practice balance and stability exercises.   Working on balance and stability can help us maintain optimal alignment and balanced musculature.  One of the best ways to do this is on our Foam Roller!  If you find using a regular foam roller is too challenging or you feel that it is not safe try starting off with a half foam roller which will provide more stability.  The half foam rollers are flat underneath and round at the top so balance isn’t as challenging.  For many of these exercises, it is an excellent idea to have a wall near by to help you balance.  Start by putting as much pressure as you need with the hands on the wall.  As you get more experienced with the balance exercises you can start to lighten your touch and one day take the hands all the way off!

Exercise:  STANDING BALANCE ON THE FOAM ROLLER
For more stability have a sticky mat under your foam roller.

  • Stand facing the wall.
  • The foam roller should be in front of you parallel to the wall.
  • Place your fingertips on the wall to balance and carefully step on the roller one foot at a time.
  • The arch of your foot should be on the roller.
  • Hold for 3 to 4 breath cycles trying to equalize your weight and find your center .
  • Eventually with both feet on the roller you want to lighten your touch on the wall until you no longer need the support.

Now add on:

  • Add squats on the foam roller.
  • Use the fingertips on the wall again to help you balance.
  • Inhale and bend the knees so the kneecap is pointing towards the wall.  Don’t bend so deeply that the knees jut past the toes.
  • Make sure the eyes stay at the horizon and the chest stays open.
  • NO slumping.
  • Exhale and slowly rise back up straightening the legs.

Now add on:

  • To add on you can try to float one foot up at a time.
  • Please use your light touch on the wall to help you balance.
  • Be sure that you are not slumping or collapsing into your standing leg.
  • You should imagine your standing leg as a very straight, sturdy tree trunk.
  • Start this exercise by just floating the foot a few inches off the foam roller.
  • When you become more adept bring the knee higher.

Exercise:  CRESENT POSE ON THE FOAM ROLLER
For more stability, place a sticky mat under your foam roller.

  • Stand facing the wall.
  • The foam roller should be in front of you parallel to the wall.
  • Place your fingertips on the wall to balance and carefully step your right foot onto the foam roller.
  • Scoot your left foot back so you are able to come into a lunge position.
  • You should be on the ball of the back foot with the heel lifted.
  • Make sure the feet are not one behind the other but that there is space between the feet like they are on railroad tracks.
  • When beginning this exercise keep the fingers on the wall and hold for 3 to 4 breath cycles before you change sides.
  • Once you become more experienced try to lighten the hands, take them off the wall and ultimately (very advanced) bring the straight arms up beside the face with the fingertips pointing to the ceiling.

Now add on:

  • To add on you can try to keep the roller still while  lengthening and bending the front leg.
  • Again, it’s best when you begin this exercise to keep the fingers on the wall.
  • When you become more adept you can try taking the hands off and lifting the arms above the head.  (very advanced!!)

Exercise:  PLANK TO PUSH UP WITH THE FOAM ROLLER
For more stability, place a sticky mat under your foam roller.  The foam roller should be perpendicular to your mat.

  • Start on your knees in front of your foam roller.
  • Place the hands a bit wider than shoulder distance apart.
  • Depending on what feels best for the wrist, the fingers can be pointing to the front or they can be angled in towards each other just a bit.
  • Inhale and start to bring the straight legs behind you, the hips should stay down and you should be pushing away from the roller so that the shoulder blades stay apart.
  • In this straight plank position do 3 to 4 breath cycles.
  • Gently release and sit into a child’s pose to rest.

Now add on:

  • To add on:  come back into the plank position.
  • Inhale and bend the elbows out to the sides of the room.
  • The bend should be small and there should be no changes in the position of the head, spine , pelvis or legs.
  • Exhale and slowly rise back into the starting position.
  • Do 3 to 4 reps and then rest back into child’s pose.

Exercise:  ARM OPPOSITE LEG ON THE FOAM ROLLER
For this one you need two regular sized foam rollers (*Note: consider 18″-36″ rollers, depending on the width of your shoulders and hips as this is the distance you will be resting your hands/knees).  This exercise will have the most balance challenge so it is a good idea to use a sticky mat under your rollers and consider using half foam rollers to make the exercise more doable.

  • Place two foam rollers down one in front of the other, perpendicular to the mat.
  • Start kneeling behind your two foam rollers.
  • Place one knee at a time on the roller closest to you.
  • Make sure the knees are just hip distance apart.
  • Place the hands one at a time on the front roller.
  • Make sure the hands are only shoulder distance apart.
  • Holding a neutral spine and pelvis take 2 to 3 breath cycles.
  • To add on:  try lifting one leg at a time and then one arm at a time trying to keep your balance and the squared position of your hips and shoulders.
  • To advance even more:  try lifting one leg and the opposite arm while keeping your balance and squared position of your hips and shoulders.

Join us next time for Part Two of Balance and Stability on the Foam roller.

Pilates : Targeting Serratus Muscles with a Foam Roller

Posted in Foam Roller,How-To,Pilates by Harmony on November 4, 2010

The serratus exercise in this video helps to work the serratus muscle which runs from the ribcage to the back.  A short 1 1/2 minute video to strengthen and stabilize the core.

Find your 36″ Foam Roller here.  These are high density foam rollers that will maintain their resiliency and shape for a longer period of time as compared to the white open-cell foam rollers also available on the market.

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