Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body

Post-Natal Pilates

Posted in How-To,Mats - Yoga / Pilates / Exercise,Pilates by Harmony on February 10, 2011

Whether it’s post-natal Pilates or yoga, the emphasis is on toning the abdominal muscles and the core, so if you’re looking for core work don’t let the name fool you. All you need to do to perform the following Pilates exercises is a mat.

A Pilates mat tends to offer a little extra cushioning as compared to a yoga mat since many exercises are done on the floor and the extra thickness or padding will help cushion your spine and joints. Check out our Harmony Fusion Mat which is 5/16″ thick, Natural Fitness Powerhouse Mat 3/8″ thick, our Extra Wide/Extra Long Mat at 1/4″ thick, or if you’d like a padded exercise mat take a look at our Tri-Fold Exercise Mat.


Resolutions? What Resolutions?

Posted in Company News by Harmony on February 9, 2011

February is usually the month that fitness centers and studios start seeing a drop-off in their attendance.  Surprisingly this is just a month or so after we make those firm resolutions to “lose weight” and “get fit”.  Don’t let that happen to you!  Here are some quick ideas on how we can help you keep your resolution:

  1. Maintain variety in your workout to keep it interesting and work different muscles.  You can use our blog as a resource.  We continually look for a variety of exercises that you can use in your exercise routine or yoga practice.  And we’ve tried to keep it simple by organizing these exercises under the type of equipment you already own (or are looking to purchase).  And we’ve categorized them for you by Yoga, Pilates, Meditation, and Fitness in case you want to get ideas on all products.
  2. When purchasing fitness equipment or yoga supplies, buy what you think you’ll use.  Consider the space you have in your home, how much time you have to work out or practice, what will offer you the variety you are looking for or the simplicity you want, etc.  We offer a large variety of yoga props and pilates/fitness equipment, visit our website to learn more about each product.
  3. Keep up with our growing selection of equipment and supplies so when you’re ready to add to your home equipment you’ll know it’s available in our store — just follow us on Facebook or Twitter for product updates.
  4. Find a partner.  Exercising is always more fun when you have someone to work out with or at least to discuss your workouts with.  Friendly competition never hurts!  We are offering a Sweetheart of a Sale for the month of February to help you get a friend or loved one fit with you.

Wrist Stretches for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Wedge by Harmony on February 8, 2011

This is a continuation of last week’s article on Yoga and Your Wrists.  Here are a couple of the wrist stretches recommended by Marian Garfinkel, who has created a whole series of yoga asanas for Carpal Tunnel.  In addition to stretching, using props – such as a yoga wedge –  to help reduce the angle of extension can help you during your practice.

The Yoga Prescription: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Five minutes a day can help anyone get the benefits of yoga, says Marian Garfinkel, doctor of education, senior Iyengar yoga instructor, and lead author of a promising study on the effectiveness of yoga for carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel sufferers who attended an eight-week, twice-weekly yoga class had less pain, greater flexibility, and a stronger grip than those who wore a wrist splint, the standard treatment for the condition. Whether your hands hurt because of too much time at the computer keyboard, other repetitive stress injuries, or even a chronic illness such as arthritis, “A few simple stretches can really help,” says Dr. Garfinkel. She recommends the following three exercises to help you get started.

Overhead arm extension (urdhva hastasana)
Do this first thing in the morning, or as a break during the day.

Stand straight, with feet parallel and arms at your sides: a posture that promotes blood flow to the hands. Stretch your arms and fingers straight out in front of you, palms facing the floor. Keeping the arms and elbows straight, slowly raise your arms over the head to the 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock positions, inhaling through the nose. Be sure to keep your throat and shoulders relaxed. Lift the sides of the body, keeping the shoulders away from the head. Maintain for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing in and out through the nose. Exhale and lower your arms to your sides. If you feel the blood flowing through your hands, says Dr. Garfinkel, it’s a sign you’ve done the exercise correctly.

Trunk extension (dandasana)
A good exercise for the office or anywhere you’re seated.

Sit on a chair with your trunk upright. Place your hands at your sides and press the palms into the seat, taking care not to tense your shoulders or neck. Press shoulder blades into your back, moving the shoulders back and down. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing in and out through the nose. Relax, then repeat. Spreading the chest and shoulders, Dr. Garfinkel explains, also has benefits for the wrists and hands.

Chair twists (bharadvajasana)

A more advanced position, also effective for back and neck pain.

Sit sideways in a chair, with the right hip and thigh towards the chair’s back. Keep the knees and feet together, with the heels aligned under the knees. Stretch your trunk upward and pull the shoulders back. With knees together and feet on the floor, turn your trunk towards the right and place both hands on the back of the chair. Pull with the left hand, bringing the left side of the body toward the back of the chair; at the same time, push with the palm of the right hand, moving the right side away from the chair back. Turn the body, then the head, and look over your right shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds. Relax. Repeat on the left side.

For additional information: Journal of the American Medical Association, 11/11/98. Dr. Marian Garfinkel teaches the Iyengar method of hatha yoga, which stresses precision and alignment; E-mail Contact the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Association (1-800-889-YOGA; for a list of certified yoga instructors.

For more on vitamins, herbs, and other therapies for painful wrists, see our library entry on Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Date Posted: 01/22/2001

What are Tingshas?

Posted in Meditation,Yoga by Harmony on February 7, 2011

Here is a nice introduction to Tingshas – which look like small cymbals and are often used in yoga classes after Savasana.

What are Tingshas? (by

(Tibetan Bells, Tibetan Chimes, Tibetan Hand Cymbals)

Awaken your spirit and summon peacefulness to your mind and body with the vibration of tingsha chimes. These prayer chimes have been used for centuries by Tibetan Buddhists to prepare for meditation. When the two pieces strike each other they produce a clear, pure, cleansing sound which can be used to focus the mind before and after meditation. Tinghsas are also for clearing space of negative energies and the healing and balancing of auric fields. They are used in feng shui to ring in the four corners of a room in order to open the energy and for clearing spaces.

How do you play Tingshas? Tingshas come in matched pairs, held together by a leather cord. Simply hold each cymbal by the cord close to the hole where it enters the tingsha. Strike one cymbal against the other on their edges at right angles. Let the bell ring until there is silence.

The sound of tingshas is like a summons. The pure, ringing sound of the Tingsha creates an opening in reality. They are used at the beginning and end of a meditation to open the mind for meditation and then to open the mind to go back to reality. Some teachings say that Tingshas can be used to push or fill energy and diagnose energy blocks. By passing the tingshas’s vibration over a person’s energy field the sound can clear the imbalance.

Today, many people use sound healing as an alternative to modern medicine. In the article “The Power of Sound to Heal, to Create New Life”, Sandra Cosentino writes, “Vibration is the basis of life. Every sound you ever made echoes still. Sound waves never entirely disappear. Every part of our body has its own frequency. Resonance occurs when frequencies come into synchronization. Different frequencies influence genes and cells. Form is created by underlying vibration. A solid is actually a wave, created and organized by pulse.

Sound energy can be used to heal when entities vibrating at different frequencies come into resonance with one another. Sound can trigger memories, release past memories, stimulate joy. Sympathetic resonance is a healing technique in which the practitioner applies positive intention, focus and attention to the sound healing instrument being used. The harmonics create the shift.”

One website sums it up describing sound healing as:
“Vibration + Visualization = Manifestation. Creation myths from around the world speak of sound as the originating act of creating life on earth. May you find your soul’s song and resonate it joyfully to all of Creation!”

Tight IT Bands

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To,Yoga Strap by Harmony on February 4, 2011

Tight IT Bands are a frequent concern of runners.  Try this stretch using a rope or Yoga Strap or your could relieve the tightness by using a Foam Roller as well.

Relieve Your Tight Iliotibial Band

Add this active-isolated stretch to lengthen the ITB without causing harm.

By Jim and Phil Wharton  / Image by Asaf HanukaPublished 03/08/2007 (from Runners World)

Along with calloused feet and a tolerance for Gu, runners tend to develop tight iliotibial bands (ITB). The ITB is a sheath of connective tissue that runs from the gluteus to the outside of the shin just below the knee. It helps extend the knee and stabilize the leg during running. Overuse and inflexibility can shorten the ITB, causing hip and knee pain. Many runners attempt to counteract this with the ITB stretch shown here. But because it stresses the leg and back muscles, this stretch has the opposite effect. The ITB and surrounding muscles tighten against this pressure, irritating these areas. Our “active-isolated” method (below) allows you to lengthen the ITB without causing additional harm.

Don’t Do This

Leaning forward (for a greater stretch) stresses the lower back and groin muscles.

The forced muscle contraction stresses the hip and knee joints, which impedes circulation.

The angle of the knee puts pressure on the patellar tendon of the kneecap and the quadriceps.

Do This

Lie down with both legs out straight.

Put one foot in the loop of a rope, positioning the rope between your heel and the ball of your foot. Wrap the rope around the outside of the ankle so that its ends are on the inside.

Contract your adductors (inner thigh), and sweep the leg across your body, passing just above the other leg. Keep your knee locked.

Once you feel tension on the leg, gently pull on the rope to extend the range of the stretch just a little more.

Hold for one or two seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

Adductor (inner thigh) muscles are activated, which relaxes the opposing muscle group.

Abductor (outer thigh) muscles ease into the stretch instead of being forced and held in a static position.

Back and neck are supported and relaxed.

Prenatal Pilates

Posted in How-To,Mini Exercise Ball,Pilates by Harmony on February 3, 2011

In this video you will learn several easy-to-follow exercises that are beneficial for pregnancy, but aren’t just for pregnant women. Good cueing to engage the pelvic floor and core. In these simple pilates exercises all you will need will be a pilates mat and a small inflatable exercise ball.

We offer several sizes of these small exercise balls – a 7″ Exercise Ball and a 9″ Exercise Ball. When using them to provide resistance in your exercises, they will generally be slightly under-inflated. When using between the legs, you’ll still want your knees about hip-distance apart and if between the arms, arms should be shoulder-width apart depending on the specific exercise. Hopefully that will give you a rule of thumb to determine which size is best for you. We also offer a 6″ ball that is used for body rolling (a wonderful massage technique), that could also be used in many exercises as well.

Yoga and Your Wrists

Posted in How-To,Yoga Block,Yoga Wedge by Harmony on February 1, 2011
Examples on Using a Yoga Wedge

Examples on Using a Yoga Wedge

Wrist pain or strain can be a real challenge in yoga practice. Read on to learn more about why our wrists can add to a challenge of a pose and what we can do about it. Using your fists, a chair, yoga blocks or a yoga wedge are just some of your options to get relief.  Placing the heel of your hand on the wedge helps reduce the angle of extension in your wrists or the pressure placed on your wrists.

We sell both foam yoga wedges and cork yoga wedges.  Both offer a soft and grippy texture.

Bearing Up Under Pressure

We ask our wrists for strength and fexibility in yoga. Here are some pointers for keeping these complex joints safe and for rehabbing them if they’ve been strained.

By Julie Gudmestad / Yoga Journal

Almost every yoga class includes one or two people who complain of wrist problems. Perhaps their difficulties began with long hours at a computer keyboard, or with a hard fall on an outstretched hand, or even with doing asanas. Whatever the cause, the problem may be exacerbated by bearing weight on the hands in yoga.

Yet such weight bearing is a very important part of asana practice. If you’ve ever had a wrist problem, you know how much it can interfere with your yoga. Wrist injuries can be especially demoralizing if you prefer a vinyasa-based style, in which you place weight on the hands over and over again as you flow through the classic Sun Salutation series—which includes Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). If your wrists are strained, such asanas can cause you pain and further injury. Fortunately, a careful and gradual approach to increasing wrist flexibility and strength can help most students avoid problems—or rehabilitate the wrist if necessary.

A Vulnerable Marvel

Weight bearing on the arms seems to bring out the wrist’s vulnerability. After all, the wrist is a relatively small joint, and a lot of rather delicate tissues are packed into this small area. These tissues include ligaments that knit the wrist bones together, as well as tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the fingers and help give the fingers their remarkable dexterity. Strain or irritation in these tendons can be a major factor in wrist pain.

To understand what causes this kind of pain, it’s useful to consider the structure and function of a normal wrist. The wrist helps with control of the fine motor activities of the fingers and thumb by positioning and stabilizing the hand, which allows us to accomplish uniquely human endeavors like writing, drawing, and sewing. Most of the wrist’s movement occurs at the juncture of the radius (one of the two forearm bones) and several of the carpal bones, which sit deep in the heel of the hand. Some movement also occurs at the junctures between the individual carpal bones.

The movements of the wrist include abduction (bending the thumb side of the hand toward the thumb side of the forearm), adduction (bending the little-finger side of the hand toward the little-finger side of the forearm), flexion, and extension. In yoga, by far the most important of these—and probably the one most likely to bring you grief—is extension. To feel this wrist movement, sit in a chair with armrests and position one of your forearms on an armrest, palm facing the floor. Cock your hand up, pointing your fingers toward the ceiling. Your wrist is now in extension. If you let your hand drape over the end of the armrest and your fingers point toward the floor, your wrist will be in flexion.

Most likely, you spend a lot of time every day with your wrist in mild extension. The hand has its most powerful grip in this alignment, and this position is the one we use most often in daily activities. So your wrist probably spends very little time in full flexion or full extension. Since the wrist, like any joint, will lose any part of its range of motion that isn’t used regularly, most people gradually lose the ability to move easily and safely into full wrist extension (a 90-degree angle between the hand and forearm).

But as soon as you take a yoga pose in which you bear most or all of your weight on your hands, you demand extension from your wrists. Several of the postures in Sun Salutation—Plank, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana—require full extension, so performing the series over and over can put a cumulatively heavy load on the wrists. Arm balances like Bakasana (Crane Pose) and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) add insult to injury by pressing all of your body weight into your wrists while they are fully extended. Combining extreme range of motion with a heavy load and multiple repetitions can easily add up to strain.

Under such conditions, it shouldn’t be too surprising if the wrists send up a red flag: pain. I believe that a substantial part of yoga practitioners’ wrist pain is caused by soft-tissue strain that occurs when the ligaments and tendons are forced into extension beyond their customary range.

Wrist Rx

If your wrists have become sore from practicing poses in which you bear weight on your hands, you may need to eliminate these poses for a while to allow the inflamed tissues to heal. It will probably take several weeks for the pain and soreness to subside; then you can begin a program of gently stretching the wrists and gradually reintroducing weight bearing.

Before resuming the poses that require 90 degrees of extension—or before embarking on them, if you’re a beginning yoga practitioner—it’s a good idea to check the range of extension of your wrists. You can do this by coming to your hands and knees with the heels of your hands directly under your shoulders. Your wrists are now at 90 degrees of extension. Are they completely comfortable in this position? If not, you should work to gently and gradually increase your wrist extension.

An easy way to do this is to put your hands together in Namaste (Prayer Position) in front of your chest. Keeping the heels of your hands together and your fingers pointing up, gently press your hands down toward your waist. Don’t let the heels of your hands come apart; if you do, you’ll lose the wrist stretch. If you regularly hold this stretch for a minute or two as part of your daily routine, you’ll gradually be able to move the wrists into deeper extension.