Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body


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 mariang102@aol.com. Contact the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Association (1-800-889-YOGA; http://www.comnet.org/iynaus) 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 RapunzelGifts.com)

(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!”

Yoga Poses to Relieve Back Pain

Posted in How-To,Mats - Yoga / Pilates / Exercise,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Yoga Pose,Yoga Strap by Harmony on December 14, 2010

Many people suffer from chronic back pain. This video will teach us how to do three yoga poses that will help relieve our pain. The poses are: Reclining Big Toe, Standing Twist, and Legs Up the Wall. If practiced daily, you are sure to see some results.

Before following along with this video, gather your yoga mat, two yoga blankets, a yoga strap, and finally a folding chair (or straight-back chair).

http://www.videojug.com/player?id=76fc61e7-c70d-6a71-e30f-ff0008c99425
Back Pain:
Yoga – Postures To Help Relieve Back Pain

Importance of Proper Yoga Poses

Posted in Yoga,Yoga Pose by Harmony on December 7, 2010

If you’re just beginning to practice yoga it is important to start out by learning how to properly get in and out of the postures.  Following is an article from the LA Times that explains this well.  A second article follows that discusses common mistakes in several popular poses.  Even if you have been practicing, you may wish to consider reading this entire post.  If you experience any soreness or pain during your practice, it could be that your alignment is not correct.  Some yoga practices – such as the faster-moving Power or Flow yogas – do not always allow the time to evaluate your alignment in a pose, but it is still very important to know how to perform these poses correctly.

Correct form is crucial for yoga poses

Three yoga teachers address potentially harmful mistakes and offer easy ways to correct them.

By Jeannine Stein –  Los Angeles Times  –  April 19, 2010

Yoga is more than just striking a pose. But how you strike that pose is nonetheless critical.

Maintaining correct form is essential not only for building a solid yoga practice but also because improperly doing the same yoga poses repeatedly — even the most basic ones — can lead to strains, sprains and chronic aches.

Yet it’s easy to go awry. Many popular classes are overcrowded, making it difficult for teachers to correct every swayed back and hunched shoulder. Even in smaller groups, a misaligned leg can easily go unnoticed. And then there’s the fact that less experienced students sometimes try to emulate more practiced ones, over-stretching muscles or getting joints out of alignment in the process.

As for doing yoga only at home with no supervision? That can be a recipe for disaster.

“Yoga is really about getting to know your body,” says Christine Burke, co-owner and director of Liberation Yoga in Los Angeles. “A lot of us don’t have that awareness of what something is supposed to feel like when it’s right.”

That can make going from bad form to good form sometimes feel uncomfortable, she says. Occasionally the body must get used to the new position before the resulting aches and pains go away.

We talked to three yoga teachers about the most common mistakes students make while doing basic poses. They explain the potential harm and offer easy ways to correct improper form.

Yoga advice from Christine Burke, Candace Morano and Anthony Benenati

Do’s and don’ts for some popular yoga positions.

By Jeannine Stein –  Los Angeles Times Staff Writer  –  April 19, 2010

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A few simple techniques can make the difference between a sore back (or other body part) and a strong, healthy one.

CHRISTINE BURKE

Co-owner and director of Liberation Yoga, Los Angeles

Downward-facing dog: The body bends at the hips in an upside-down “V,” with arms straight, hands on the floor and heels pressing toward the floor. The head is aligned with the spine.

• Don’t: Drop or hang into the shoulders. People do this in an attempt to truly stretch, but it prevents the joints from stacking properly and puts stress on the shoulders, elbows and wrists.

• Do: Lift the shoulders and slide the arms forward a little, taking some of the pressure off the shoulders. Also, open the hands and press them into the floor. (Curling the fingers up will put the pressure right back into the wrist.)

Warrior I: The body is in a modified lunge position, with the front leg bent and the back leg straight. Arms are straight and parallel, reaching upward, palms together.
(more…)

Pain in the Neck? Roll a Blanket

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket by Harmony on November 30, 2010

Here’s a quick fix to get that kink out of your neck.  All you’ll need is a yoga blanket.  We offer several for you to choose from:

Crick Fixes Asana Sequence – Yoga Journal

By Barbara Benagh

Neck Blanket Stretch

Roll a blanket into a firm, even cylinder large enough to wedge between the base of your skull and the tops of your shoulder blades. Lie back over the roll so it gently stretches your neck; the roll should wedge just under the occipital ridge at the back of your skull and support your neck and your first few upper back vertebrae. Keeping your knees bent, place both palms on your forehead, fingers pointing toward the crown of your head, and bring your elbows close to each other. Close your eyes and tune in to your breath, feeling how its rhythm creates subtle movement. Notice areas in your neck, shoulders, and upper back that seem dense, dull, and resistant to the breath’s wavelike action, and invite them to relax against the blanket roll. As your muscles begin to release, slide your shoulder blades away from your skull; you may want to repeat this movement several times as your muscles continue to relax. Remain on the roll for up to five minutes, then remove it and continue to lie on your back for a few breaths, tuning in to the sensations in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

For nine more poses to practice to reduce neck tension, see the entire sequence from Yoga Journal’s website.

Shoulder Stand with a Yoga Blanket

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket by Harmony on November 23, 2010

In the following 5-minute long video you’ll learn how to do a supported shoulder stand using a wall and the full pose. In both poses, she’ll show us how to do the shoulder stand using a yoga blanket under the shoulders.

You may wish to practice this by also wrapping your yoga mat over the top of the blanket as well. By doing this, your elbows will be on a non-slip surface and it may make it a little easier to hold your pose without your elbows sliding away from one another.

We offer several yoga blankets. The Classic Mexican Yoga blanket offers a looser weave, is a little lighter weight, and a few inches smaller then the Premiums. The Premium Mexican Yoga blanket and the Thunderbird blanket are a tighter weave, offering a slightly firmer support, in addition to be larger than the Classic. And, finally, the Mat Size Yoga blanket is the size of a standard yoga mat, which is great for someone who is looking for a little support or cushioning and a blanket that is easy to fit in a mat bag and carry to class.

A Guided Meditation with an Anusara Yogi

Posted in How-To,Meditation,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Zafus/Zabutons by Harmony on November 22, 2010

Before listening and watching the following 8+ minute video, find a quiet spot to sit comfortably with an erect spine. This video is by an English Anusara yogi and would be a beautiful Savasana meditation to do as well at the end of your yoga practice.

If you will be sitting cross-legged on the floor or earth, and if your knees are higher than your hips, Bridget suggests tucking a blanket under both of your knees to allow you to fully and deeply relax your inner thighs during this meditation practice. Another option would be to sit higher. How high would depend on how high your knees are – you may just need to sit on a yoga blanket, or your may prefer to sit on a Zafu. We offer a large selection of Zafus: round or crescent-shaped; regular cotton covers or organic; and cotton, buckwheat or kapok stuffing.

Yoga Reduces Anxiety

Posted in Company News,Yoga by Harmony on November 17, 2010

Why should you practice yoga?  Here’s just one more reason…

Yoga may be better at reducing anxiety and lifting mood than other forms of exercise, study finds

By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times

3:07 PM PST, November 11, 2010

Advertisement

Yoga has many proven health benefits, but does it stand up to other forms of exercise? Researchers pitted it against a walking routine and found that those who practiced yoga showed greater improvements in mood and anxiety.

Researchers randomly assigned 19 people to an Iyengar yoga program and 15 to a metabolically matched regular walking regimen.

Both groups took part in the programs for an hour three times a week for 12 weeks. Study participants were tested several times to measure mood and anxiety. They were also given magnetic resonance spectroscopy scans to measure levels of the brain chemical gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that quiets brain activity, reducing anxiety and producing a state of calm. The scans were done at the beginning and end of the study and immediately following a yoga or walking session.

Those in the yoga group saw better changes in mood and less anxiety than those in the walking group. The yoga group also saw increases in GABA levels linked with improvements in mood.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

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.

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.

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