Exercise while relaxing on vacation – Chair Yoga

The movement of the body is important for maintenance of one’s health and well being. When you are on vacation, the tendency to gloss over adequate movement and exercise often occurs.

There are many ways to exercise one’s body when one is on vacation. One way that you can move the body is to make use of a chair.

Chair exercise is an accessible format that can be used when you are on vacation. Exercises that address basic spinal movements are always a good bet. The spine, being the bodily expression of health and vitality, when healthfully maintained, will positively affect the quality of one’s actions.

These are basic movements but they should still be approached with a degree of awareness and caution. If anything is painful or aggravating, do not do it. Breathing is important when performing these movements.

Spinal Warm-up

chaircatcow

Sitting in the chair, the individual will place their hands on their knees and keep the arms straight. On the inhalation, you will lift your chest to the ceiling. On the exhalation, you will arch your spine toward the chair. This will gently warm up the spine.

Forward Bending

DownDog

Standing up and facing the chair, you will position yourself so that you can lean forward and grab the chair. With the arms outstretched, hinge forward at the hips and lean the torso forward. Keep the spine straight, keep the core engaged and the arms and torso aligned with and to each other. Use the chair to support your body as you lower yourself. Breath.

Side Bending

Lateral Extension
Good for the spine.

While sitting in a chair, move your hips to the front of the chair. Sitting square to the front, extend your right arm up. As you extend your arm up, lean your body to the left. Repeat on the other side. Breath.

Back Bending

Lunge
Opens the front of the thighs / hips. Opens the the chest, strengthens the arms and back

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These types of movements are great for strengthening the back and arms. Start with the lunge movement. With hands on the seat, extend one leg backward and bring the other foot forward. The extended leg thigh and the forward foot hip will get a stretch. Repeat on the other side.

For a deeper stretch, place both hands on the chair and extend both legs back. Squeeze the inner thighs toward the ceiling, roll the shoulders back and lift the chest up. Breath.

Spinal Twist

chairspinaltwist

While sitting in a chair turn your body so that your legs are on the left side of the chair. Turn your torso so that it faces the back of the chair. Use your hands to support you in this position. Breath. Repeat on the other side.

Forward Bending

DownDog

Standing up and facing the chair, you will position yourself so that you can lean forward and grab the chair. With the arms outstretched, hinge forward at the hips and lean the torso forward. Keep the spine straight and the arms and torso in alignment. Use the chair to support you as you lower yourself

The Koshas and Infinity: Physical, Energetic, Mental, Contemplative and Spiritual Implications.

Infinity operates in all facets of existence. Look at the symbol; it reveals one circle transitioning into another circle. The symbol is diagrammatic of the constant unfolding and evolving of beginning and ending into one another. Infinity interacts within the make-up of all beings on earth. Koshas are conceptual, metaphysical components that existing within the individual on five levels. They are the physical, energetic, mental, contemplative and spiritual components. They are the successively finer layers of one’s being and they exist within the context of the principle of infinity. If these aspects of one’s being were not operating on a continual basis, all beings on earth would exist as soul-less, thought-less, life-less shells.

The beginning is the end, the end is the beginning.
This is a Fractal Representation of Infinity.



The proper names of the Koshas are as follows, Annamaya-Kosha: Physical Sheath – The solid aspects of the body, i.e. organs, bones, muscles and the substances that sustain these; Pranamaya-Kosha: Energetic Sheath – The subtle energies of the, prana, chi, N/um Manomaya-Kosha: Mental Sheath – The Brain, its’ support of the body, its’ interacting with the surroundings and its’ acquisition of knowledge; Vijnamaya-Kosha: Contemplative Sheath – The attained knowledge is a vehicle for self exploration; Anandamaya-Kosha: Spiritual Sheath – The point of realizing one’s unique oneness with the Source of all Creating / Sustaining / Dissolving. In this post, the Koshas will not be referred to by their traditional names.



Walk wherever you can, Walk whenever you can.
Walking is the simplest form of exercise
Physically, the world is a continual series of beginnings and endings. Everything on earth displays ebbs and flows as a result of activities that individual engage in. There is eating, breathing, drinking, moving and, as a consequence of these acts, production of by products. These various by-products are then taken up by other organisms that utilize them for building up their own molecular constituencies, i.e. grasses, edible plants, trees bearing fruits and nuts and the like. These, in turn, are eaten by humans or other animals. When this process is properly nurtured and maintained, it can sustain itself into perpetuity.


Extending form the hips
This techniques is used to uproot/destabilize the opponent
Energetically, there are many examples of the principle of infinity. The endless crash of surf as it assaults the beach then recedes, only to come in again. Also, the migrations of air currents from highs to lows and from hot to cold. These are only a couple of examples. From a human perspective, the cycle of full and unhindered breath, inhalation to exhalation / exhalation to inhalation, is a cycle that goes on ad infinitum. Breathing provides fuel for the various systems of the body. This endless cycle of breath, when properly utilized, connects the individual to the Boundless Source that is beyond themselves.



Study and show thyself approved . . . .
Knowledge is power . . .
We interact with the world on mental and emotional levels. Feelings of hatred and love, jealousy and compassion, depression and joy, along with the Ego, are part and parcel of living as a human in the earth plane. The acts that one undertakes come back to them. The universe gives to us what we give to it. Do you smile at people, do you help others? Surely then, you have experienced others smiling at you or lending you a hand. ‘We are, told, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us’; however, this does not stop at people. Animals, lands, waters and the earth and its resources – humans interact with all of these things. If we were to treat all as we would like to be treated, humanely, civilly and sustainably, then these actions would be continuously and most graciously returned to us. Mentally, this knowledge exists within each and every human.



To live is to die to one's fears, apprehensions and setbacks . . . .
Contemplations on Life and Death
Contemplation brings harmony to the mind / body complex. Through contemplation, one can more effectively interact with and relate to their surroundings and gain insights into themselves. Contemplation / Self knowledge illuminates the path leading to that which is greater than the individual. Seekers on the contemplative / self knowledge path, by sharing their knowledge, can illuminate the path for others. Contemplation / Self-Knowledge is an journey that feeds itself. The more people know about themselves, the more comfortable they become with the limits of knowing while they simultaneously understand that knowledge is endless. Contemplation / Self-knowledge reveals the path to the true limitless, endless self.



Be still and know that I am GOD . . . .
The act of meditating is the process of realizing that mental activity drowns out the presence of GOD
Spiritually, people are one with creation. Oneness with creation exists within the human body, energies, thoughts and interactions and extends into the microcosmic and macrocosmic universes. By realizing and actualizing this, the positivity of one’s being will be evidenced in their actions. Creation is in each and everything on this earth. Every atom in this earth plane continuously vibrates in unison with the cosmos. Humans have the ability to extend beyond the trappings of the earth plane and experience the spiritually eternal dimension sof creation. Creation experiences us as well. When someone plant trees, when someone is kind to animals, when someone gives thanks for what they have, when someone selflessly helps others, their vibration rises. When one prays, sings, chants, or meditates, vibration rises. Thus, the connection to infinity is part of the human experience of spiritual essence.



Understanding the interactions between the body / mind / spirit complex and infinity means that one must explore the manifest and un-manifest aspect consciousness. That is to say that one must bring the un-known realm of their being into the realm of the known. Bringing up the un-known can exacerbate the swings between stress and calm, fluctuation and stability; thus, causing individuals to experience, great distress, immense uncertainty and instability. The degree of oscillation between the extremes can be normalized by engaging in activities and practices intended for those purposes.



These are suggested practices and activities that will improve the aspect of infinity within all of us: Physical, good nutrition, exercise and rest, Energetic, the flow of bodily energy can be maintained by practicing yoga or tai chi, Mentally, the mind can be stimulated by reading, puzzles, and social activities, Higher knowledge comes from contemplating the presence of that higher power or energy, realizing divinity is the realization, through prayer, mantra, singing, and meditation, that one is but a microcosm of the macrocosmic, spiritual reality. These activities and practices can bolster the corporeal / cerebral / divine aspects of the individual. It is an eternal quest. Animals are already there because the live in harmony with natural law and universal order. Humans must work to re-establish, within themselves, their alignment with the principle of infinity.

Swing away, with good form!

A Series on Functional Exercises for Golf: 1/3

Hello Golfers,

This article is written to shed some light on correcting the mechanics that effect a more fluid gold swing. When there is tightness in the hips, the golfer will adjust for this by prematurely rotating the torso and shifting the shoulders. This ‘premature rotating’ of the torso before the hips are in position is actually a compromising of golf swing mechanics. Bringing the muscles involved with torso rotation into play before the the hips are in position interferes with the distance that can be attained from the golf swing.

There are certain areas that the golfer must address in order to develop the physical attributes that make for a better golf swing:

  • Flexibility (Range of Motion)
  • Maintenance of Center of Gravity (Balance)
  • Generalized Motor Program Development (Sequencing)
  • Promotion of Good Posture

The exercises presented in this article can help the golfer to improve stability and increase range of motion in the hips. The improved stability and increased range of motion will enable the torso to rotate with minimal restriction. These exercises will also help improve balance with respect to shifting the hips and rotating the torso.

The rotation of the torso depends upon the degree of flexibility/release that is present in the hips. The golfer will “need 60° of hip flexibility (internal hip rotation) for an unimpeded backswing.” There is need for even greater hip flexibility for a proper follow through. “The follow through phase requires sufficient flexibility of both upper quarters and the hips to reach full finish position. Limitations in hip internal or external rotation . . . will not allow the golfer to fully follow through and thus not allow time to fully decelerate the swing.” **** Even though many excellent golfers may have faulty golf grips, all great golfers use their torsos properly.

These series of photos show how to set up drills that will educate the mechanics of hip rotation, internal rotator release and external rotator release. Keeping the hips level during torso rotation will lend to more timely activation (sequencing) of the muscles which drive hip shift and torso rotation.

The rotation of the hips, torso and shoulders must be properly sequenced: i.e. the hips rotate, then the torso and the shoulders finish the rotation. Teaching the body to move ‘in sequence’ and to be more stable will allow for effortless torso and shoulder rotation during the initiation and finishing of the swing.

Cable station torso rotation

Rotation is good for golf
Line up the shoulders so that they are over the hips. The movement addresses torso rotation and release of the internal hip/thigh rotators. Keep the knees seperate.
Rotation is good for golf
This movement educates the hip rotation, torso rotation and inner thigh release necessary for the backswing. Notice how the lead knee turns in slightly.

Backswing

In this position, the feet will not move. This will facilitate the release of the internal hip rotators and the thigh adductors. Keeping the torso upright as torso rotation ensues will engage the core.

The movements shown here are accomplished by using external resistance in order to illicit a core stabilization response. The hips have to stabilize as the internal rotators and the thigh adductors have to release

This movement teaches the body to rotate the hips and torso for optimal golf swing mechanics. The rotation of the hips and torso goes up to a point before the torso/spine and shoulders begin their finishing of the rotation. By teaching the body to be stable up to that point, the torso and shoulders will more effortlessly rotate during the initiation of the swing.

  1. The feet planted
  2. Keep the knees separate
  3. The core engages
  4. The hips and shoulders begin to rotate at the same time.
  5. Repeat this exercise on both sides
  6. The hips stay level and they shift position. This rotation facilitates a release of the internal rotators as the core stabilizes the torso in position for the backswing.
Rotation is good for golf.
With this movement the torso is aligned so that the back knee and the sternum are pointing in the same direction. The shoulders are lined up over the hips.
Rotation is good for golf.
The rotation of the torso occurs due to the coordinated rotation of the hip, knee and ankle. From the finished position, the torso rotates more deeply to finish the swing.

Drive/Followthrough

In this position, the stationary foot will not move. This will facilitate the release of the external hip rotators. Keeping the torso upright as torso rotation ensues will engage the core.

The movements shown here are accomplished by using external resistance in order to illicit a core stabilization response. The hips have to stabilize as the external rotators have to release

This movement teaches the body to rotate the hips and torso for optimal golf swing mechanics in relation to the downswing and followthrough. This drill teaches the body to be stable up to the point where the torso and shoulders will more effortlessly rotate during the finishing of the swing.

  1. The feet plant
  2. The core engages
  3. The hips and shoulders begin to rotate at the same time.
  4. Repeat this exercise on both sides
  5. The hips stay level as they shift position. This rotation facilitates a release of the external rotators as the core stabilizes the torso in position for the downswing and follow through.
  6. The trailing foot, knee, hip will rotate in the transverse plane as the hips stabilize.

http://somaxsports.com/web/efficientgolfer/index.php
http://overthetopgolf.blogspot.com/2011/03/most-important-part-of-golf-swing-your.html
**** Geisler (2001), Science of Flexibility, Michael J. Alter, Page 277

Christianity and Yoga – Commonalities

Religion and spirituality are part of the everyday lives of people across the face of the earth. However, they are often seen as being mutually exclusive of each other. Barriers are often erected between the two and serve only to bury, under the opacity of dogma and doctrine, their commonalities. Commonalities between religious doctrine and spiritual practices can be bridges that lead to a more expansive and grounded realization of The One Source (TOS). Specifically, yoga practice that incorporates the precepts of yama/niyama can be a supporting aspect of the Christian journey.

TOS is an acronym for The Source of All Creating/ Sustaining/ Dissolving. As mere words cannot really encapsulate the immensity of this concept, the term GOD is what many Christians find easy to grasp. TOS, for all intents and purposes, is a more expansive and encompassing concept that references the religious and spiritual acknowledgement that everything comes from TOS. Within the context of Christianity, the Bible states that TOS created the heaven and the earth and the sea and ALL that in THEM is. TOS did this by SPEAKING reality into existence. In the case of Man, TOS formed the matter (the dust of the earth) and put the spiritual essence (the breath of life) into man (spirit and matter). From the standpoint of yoga, TOS-GOD is actually a whole that exudes the duality of nature. (i.e. subjective and objective, spirit and matter). It is this duality that is perceived as everyday reality.

The practice of yoga, to include various concepts and methodologies, promotes the observance of certain precepts. These precepts are: Yamas – Asetya, Asteya, Aparigraha, Ahimsa, Brahmacharya and Niyamas – Ishvara Pranidhana, Tapas, Santosha, Shaucha, Svadyaya. These are Sanskrit (Ancient East Indian) terms which translate to Avoidances – Non-Lying, Non-Stealing, Non-Greed, Non-Violence, Non-Sensuality and Non-Avoidances – Attunement to a GOD Principle, Austerity, Contentment, Purity, Self Study, repectively. Yama (avoidances or conduct which is controlled) are those habits that should be minimized in one’s life. They are stated in a negative sense. Niyama (Non-avoidances or conduct which is cultivated) are those practices or acts that one should increase in their lives. These same precepts and the practice of them can be found in the KJV Bible.

These precepts, yama and niyama, can be the conduit through which the Christian can find common ground on which to explore the practice of yoga. Christians (sic) approach their salvation through observing a philosophy of monotheism. Yogis strive for self-realization by harmonizing the duality that comprises existence in this plane of reality. This plane of reality is that which emanates from TOS-GOD. By one being grounded in Christianity, the connection with observing non-greed, non-violence, non-lying, non-stealing, non sensuality, purity, self study, contentment, austerity, Attunement to a GOD Principle can be a place to more comfortably see that there is an inter-connectivity between all of life on earth. One can utilize the yamas and the niyamas as a way to bring yoga into a Christianity and yoga, via , to make the practice of yoga a practice that supports and even bolsters one’s Christian beliefs.

The idea being exposited here is that neither, religion nor spirituality, has to have dominion over the other; that they can be wholly supportive of each other. Unfortunately, in a world of wrong or right, the side of the fence where one resides is usually viewed as the correct side. By allowing the commonalities between the two to bring about a melding of ideas, there could be great beneficial results from this. When practicing (true yoga), one’s breath is always, should always be, at the forefront of the practice. The breath of life is what energetically and spirituality sustains the body in the body in this earth plane. If the practice of yoga can assist in the developing the ability to breath fully and completely, then why not practice it. It is the breath of life, as was bestowed upon humankind by TOS, that connects us to that all encompassing power. The precepts of yama-niyama can serve as a source of ideological common ground between religion and spirituality, between Christianity and yoga. One can, then, more confidently stand on their religious ideals while engaging in a spiritual practice.

Yoga and your knees

A very relaxing pose. Good for relieving tension in the ankles.
This pose requires hip flexor length and good opening in the knees.

We can use the practice of yoga to maintain the health of our knees.** The gentle, continued practice of yoga is suited for many of the issues that we face due to the condition of our knees. Knees are strong: they support nearly the entire weight of the body. However, many people in modern society maintain a go, go, go attitude in their work life as well as their leisure time or athletic activities. Some of them eventually may require surgery. A variation of a kneeling yoga pose, with props, can help to maintain the health and longevity of the knees. This particular pose variation is a good place to start the practice of kneeling postures, as it is a preparation for an even deeper pose. Approached slowly and cautiously, one will eventually and comfortably access kneeling postures.

Knees: they are the strongest joints in the body. They are secondary only to the ankle joint in supporting the weight of the body. Although they are meant to be stable joints, the knees are sent through a variety of paces as we jump, twist, pound and sharply change directions; these movements, along with gravity, place a lot of biomechanical stress on the knees. As we maintain our activity levels into our later years, perhaps we might want to consider a little bit of preventative maintenance for our bodies, in particular the knees.

Our knees are comprised of several different components: ligaments (attach bone to bone), cartilage and menisci (serve to cushion the bones), tendons (connect muscle to bone specifically relates to the patella – knee-cap). The ligaments and cartilage are especially susceptible to wear, tear, impact injuries, shear injuries, and various degenerative maladies. Torn cartilage, torn ligaments, strains, sprains, etc. However extensive the compromised situation of the knee is, the possibility of developing arthritis always exists. The space between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (larger lower leg bone) will decrease and be a source of discomfort, if not pain.

A NYT article in April of 2006 states that many born between the years of 1946 and 1964 (baby boomers) are leading the charge in doctor visits due to sports injuries. The 50 plus generation, being more goal oriented and more active, is continually on the go. By wanting to stay active and fit, they are more likely to invite injury and/or to be active in spite of it. Knees take a lot of abuse. Some people undergo major knee surgery and continue to run, twist and pound the knees.

How to gently open up the knee joint.

So what do we do? What can we do? Gravity is not so easily overcome. As we live our lives, particularly in an active fashion, we continually compress our knees and compound any abnormalities that have been acquired over the years. Eventually, we may get to the point where we may need surgery.

Vajrasana, Zen Meditation pose, can be used to help ease the tension that we carry in the knees or to help with the rehabilitation that becomes necessary after surgery. This variation of the pose, is based on yin yoga. principles of (a) sustained stress, held in stillness, with no pain. This is a technique that I leaned from my Instructor, Kim Schwartz of Albuquerque, NM; it is also widely used in the Iyengar Yoga Community.

Why this is good for the knees.

Some props will be necessary: three cushions or books, about two inches thick, could work, some wooden doweling (start with a smaller diameter dowel first, say one inch and work your way up over time to 1.5 inches) or even a rolled up towel. Another option, in place of the dowel, is to fold up a really thin sticky mat if you have one. I use a yoga mat and a yoga block, as demonstrated in the clips.

This variation of Vajrasana is great for helping to open up the knee joint. Due to accidental mishaps or continual wear and tear, the knees need periodic maintenance. This particular pose is something that you can do at home, while you are watching T.V.

This variation of Vajrasana is a preparatory pose for “Hero Pose”. B.K.S. Iyengar claims that “Hero Pose” can . . . create the proper arch in the feet due to stretching of the ankles and the feet. He recommends a daily practice of a few minutes for several months. He also notes that “those suffering from pain in the heels or growth of calcaneal spurs … will get relief and the spurs will eventually disappear.” 1

A demonstration of ‘Hero Pose’ (Virasana).

Although kneeling postures are great, for many practitioners, due to tightness in the knee joint, compression of the knee joint or because of operations on the knees, full ‘Hero Pose’ is a daunting challenge. The variation of Vajrasana will gently and slowly create more opening in the knees. Unless your knee issues require forgoing ‘Hero Pose’, this practice will eventually help you to open up the knee joint, relieve excess tension in the calves and, over time, bring the hips to the floor (for ‘Hero Pose’).

Use care when practicing yoga, be careful in the pursuit of health and wellness. Yoga can be a major component in the maintenance of our health and well being, particularly as we age. The buoyancy in our steps can be with us throughout our lives if we want it to be. If surgery is necessary, it need not mean that we will eventually become sedentary. Utilizing Vajrasana with props is a fine way to gently maintain the health of our knees. This is a technique that can be used whenever we are going to be in one spot for a length of time.

Namaste.

**This post is not meant to be taken as medical advice. Before attempting these maneuvers, please consult with your physician or your therapist.

Footnotes:

Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, page 122

References/Resources

Livestrong site article on using yoga for knees health

Techniques used by physical therapists to help open up the knee joint.

Yin yoga article on using yoga for knee health

Links to articles on symptomatology of knee injuries

Osteoarthritis 101

Osteoarthritis

After ACL Surgery

Meniscus/Cartilage Tear

Knee Injuries

ACL Surgery