Fifteen years ago, I was not acting my age. Since I would recoil from any form of exercise, as well as any green foods, I was overweight, inflexible and debilitated by lower back pain. The 40 extra pounds on my frame — plus tight, shortened back muscles and weak abs — left me moving like an 80-year-old version of myself.
I suffered daily from sciatica, back spasms, limited mobility, weakness, you name it. When I got stuck in my car one day, unable to swing my legs out because of my sciatic pain — at age 23 — I realized, “Something’s gotta change.”
I started reading up and realized a shocking number of people suffer with chronic back pain, partly from hours spent sitting in a way that flattens the lower back curve. (BTW, Gaiam’s Balance Ball Chair, the very one I’m sitting on as I write this, is a great tool to help build core strength and re-align your spine.)
Then, I found yoga. Over time, using some of the same poses I’m showing you here, I built a lean and pain-free body.
With air travel rates literally reaching the skies, many people are choosing to drive instead of fly to their holiday destinations. But along with the excitement of your trip, you can expect to feel some anxiety and stress. Not to mention, succumbing to the inevitable frustration of traffic and road rage after spending hours in the car. In order to balance the added stressors that accompany affordable travel, get into the habit of stretching while on the road.
Here are five yoga poses, stretches and breathing techniques to undo the tension of long hours in the car and help you arrive to your destination refreshed and happy.
Everybody is susceptible to tight hamstrings, from professional athletes to soccer moms. People who spend long hours sitting at a desk or who have rigorous training schedules can especially benefit from a “hammie” stretch or two (or three or four).
When I was an 18-year-old yogini, I was also an active bulimic. I was in college studying dance, training to be a shiatsu therapist (Japanese pressure point massage), making sandwiches and slicing salami at Jimmy John’s Deli, racing around Chicago learning yoga, and using food to self-medicate.
During that time, I remember never feeling connected to my core, my abdominal muscles. My Pilates teacher was always giving me corrections that I could not embody. In dance class, I was never able to find balance in my turns or jumps, and I would often duck out of class in frustration. Then I would become even angrier with myself because I was a quitter! This would inevitably lead to a binge and purge.
Rolfing®. You’ve heard the word before, but you’re not sure exactly what it is, or why someone would do it, right?
As a Certified Rolfer™ of five years, I’ve gotten all kinds of responses from people when I tell them what I do. Often misunderstood or confused with other bodywork therapies, Rolfing is blurred by myths and misconceptions about what it is and isn’t. The unfortunate result of this lack of understanding is that so many people avoid trying Rolfing when they could get so much benefit from it. It could help them in ways that other treatments haven’t. So let me properly introduce you to this amazing work we call Rolfing structural integration.
Is yoga therapy right for you? Have you tried everything under the sun to eliminate an ache, pain or chronic condition? If your doctor has suggested that you try yoga therapy (and not just yoga classes), the first step is to find a great yoga therapist to steer you into a customized practice that may potentially improve the conditions of self-healing in your body, mind and spirit.
2010 has been a tough year for many. People are working harder than ever (if they are lucky enough to have a job) with less pay, fewer benefits and uncertainty about their job security. It has truly been a stressful grind for our minds, bodies and spirits.
Pain, numbness, tingling? Do any of these describe the feelings you have when you come out of an asana? Please heed these warnings! Not all yoga poses are safe for all people. Just follow expert yoga teacher Patricia Sullivan’s story in the October 2010 issue of Yoga Journal. She painfully details a journey of denial in which her headstand caused (yes, caused) crippling nerve pain that eventually culminated in her falling asleep at the wheel and driving off the road into a lagoon.
As a specialized yoga teacher and yoga therapist, my job is to help people heal themselves through the art and science of yoga. This includes postures, breathing, emotional support and stress reduction. I have witnessed miracles on the mat and in the classroom. The successes I have seen are not unusual. Teachers of yoga of any style see their students’ lives improve on every level with disciplined practice.
The first time my back went out, I was 27 years old. I was about to go on a media tour, appearing on morning news programs to plug a book I had written, and I was terrified. I had a mortal fear of public speaking, and the very thought of waking up at 5 a.m. to talk eloquently about anything to thousands of people was … well, I can’t tell you because I couldn’t even ponder it. Whenever my mind wandered toward my impending TV debut, I froze. It didn’t take long for my back muscles to get the message to freeze, too — and pretty soon I was moving as gingerly as I could, whimpering with every step. And the pain lasted several weeks longer than the media tour.