Chair Yoga

 

 

Chair Yoga is an excellent opportunity to practice yoga using a clear support that makes it easier for us to notice the relationships between different parts of our body as well as the actions of our joints. Chair yoga can also make it easier for us to practice when we have limited mobility

Like in any other physical yoga practice, make sure that there is no strain, no struggle and no self-judgement. Instead, invest your energy on making your breath smooth and continuous and on having a friendly and relaxed attitude.

I hope you enjoy this video:

Peace,
rubén

Affordable Yoga Retreat Costa Rica

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

 

Simple and Easy Exercises for Healthy Joints

Often people assume that yoga is about cultivating extreme flexibility. This assumption may be related to the media’s tendency to favor images of extremely flexible people in highly dramatic postures. However, it is more accurate, appropriate and useful to understand Yoga as a complete and integrated practice for cultivating balance in body, mind, breathing and emotions.

Since our body is constantly monitoring what we do, it takes note also of what we are not doing. So, if we choose not to move much, our body adapts according to our patterns of movement as well as our lack of movement.

When we consider the health of our joints we can keep in mind that each joint has a specific range of movement that can vary according to how much we use that joint. Here is where yoga as balancing may be useful. There may be some joints that we tend to use a lot, they may stay mobile and, if we overuse them, they may deteriorate a bit faster. Conversely, those joints we do not use much will tend to lose some of their mobility.

This video offers a very easy and simple sequence of movements to help us keep our joints healthy by maintaining the natural range of movement in our joints. You can see this brief, 10 minute sequence as a way to remind our body that we want to keep our normal range of movement. It is important to keep in mind that it is not necessary to make these movements extreme. On the contrary, by enlisting our attention and awareness, we may use this practice as a journey of exploration into healthy movement patterns. Explore these actions with ease and curiosity and please remember to keep your breath steady, smooth and continuous.

As usual, you can interpret any sign of pain as a message from your body indicating that that type of movement may not be appropriate for you at this time. As usual, after you practice it is a good idea to hydrate well and also to pay attention to the effects that you notice in body, mind and attitude.

I hope that you enjoy this practice with a gentle smile.

Namaste,
rubén

 

 

Yoga: Am I doing enough?

RoadInForest

 

 

When we approach something new, we often just try to grasp the general idea of the activity. As our knowledge and experience on the topic grow, the more we focus on details and subtleties. However, it can happen that deepening our focus may result in losing a wider perspective. For instance, as we first start practicing yoga postures, it is difficult, for most of us, to understand the detailed instructions that we receive. For instance, it may feel that we are barely capable of staying in the posture without holding our breath, so it seems truly impossible to try to internally rotate this or that while stretching the sole of the foot lengthwise without losing the tone of the inner arch of the back foot. As we make our practice more consistent over time, we may get so immersed in the minute details of the posture that we may forget to have a detached attitude and a soft gaze.

As i observe people around me, i notice a seemingly general tendency in the place where i live, where many people, in spite of enjoying many comforts, such as having a choice on what to eat and a warm space to shelter themselves from the rain and cold weather, seem to find it difficult to keep a gentle smile on their faces. I find that for many of us, our daily obligations and our jobs often become all consuming turning into a source of tension and stress.

As humans it is normal to develop patterns in our ways of moving, breathing, feeling and thinking. We are fortunate to be able to use some of these patterns in response to the stress of challenging and difficult situations with a general sense of alertness to help us focus on the task-at-hand, our survival. Of course, since the body has limited energy, it has to be intelligent in its allocation of resources. So, when we feel threatened, non-essential systems are made into a low priority. For instance, resting, restoring, maintenance and digestion are put on hold for a more convenient time. However, if that more convenient time does not come, the useful skill of alertness and reaction, can get out of control and deplete our energy.

One of the most common requests i hear in yoga class is a request for practices conducive to relaxation. I know that deep relaxation is a necessary and well-deserved reward to counteract our existing circumstances and bring us closer to balance. However, it is not surprising that our tendency to overdo, has become so entrenched, that it carries over into our yoga practice. Don’t get me wrong, I understand how good it feels to get a good workout and to feel the intensity of exploring the limits of what we can do. However, it is not uncommon for people who feel overworked, overextended, stressed out and sleep deprived, to come into the practice of yoga and to continue pushing themselves into more tension and stress. Sometimes this intensity can be the result of getting too caught up in the details of the practice and forgetting that balance is a fundamental aspect of yoga.

It could be argued that one of the essential concepts in yoga philosophy is discernment (in Sanskrit: viveka). Discernment is the capacity to see, feel and sense with increasing clarity the distinction between what is helpful and what is not helpful, what we can and cannot do, what is too much and what is too little. One suggestion that may be useful is to make our practice into a gentle and playful dance to help us explore doing more and then doing less, helping us fine tune our ability to modulate intensity between low and high according to our context, circumstances and to what we need. In this way, we can engage our mind more in our practice and to grow in our ability to sense with clarity and attentiveness the effects of each deliberate choice we make. Consequently, we will notice that our practice is also helping us hone the skills to notice the effects of our approach to working, living our lives and doing everything that we do. In brief, my suggestion is to ask ourselves more often:

  • am i doing too much or too little?
  • can i do more without forcing?
  • would it be helpful to do less?
  • can i savor this moment?
  • can i be relaxed and alert?

We often ask ourselves, how do i know if i am trying too hard or not hard enough?
I would suggest that we find these answers by observing our mind, feeling the emotions in our heart and sensing the general state of our bodies. If your mind is more open, focused and clear, if your body feels supple, resilient and capable of doing what you need it to do and if your heart feels more gratitude and more love, you are probably on the right track.
Receive my sincere wish for vibrant health, peaceful mind and a loving heart,
Namaste

rubén

 

 

Increasing Shoulder Flexibility with Yoga

 

 

Unfortunately shoulder tension is very common nowadays. It seems like there is at least one student in each class asking for yoga sequences to help remove shoulder tension. The shoulder joint is the joint that has the widest range of movement in the human body. However, overusing the shoulders through movement in one direction tends to generate restriction, often characterized by tightness at the front of the shoulder. It makes sense to try to counteract the typical pattern of movement with movements that help us restore the natural range of movement of the shoulder.

Yoga is a path to self discovery that leads us to greater balance at all levels. It is important to remember that yoga is a practice of integration, where we try to bring together all aspects of our being. In other words, we are trying to get body, breath, mind and heart to work in unison, in harmony. Sometimes, when we think about the shoulders we think about the responsibilities we carry with us, such as in the expression “to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.” Or we may think about working hard and making an effort, like when we say “put your shoulder to the wheel.”

In general, i see many people who are working very hard and who carry many responsibilities with them all of the time. I agree that it is important to give our best effort and that we need to be responsible. However, carrying a burden on our shoulders all the time without rest, tends to generate tension and stress.

I am going to suggest that we can give ourselves a break, for a few minutes and that we can let go of worries and expectations so that we can breathe and explore the range of movement in our shoulders through the sequence in the video below. As usual, follow the guidelines in the video, do what you can without struggling and without forcing.

Try this video a few times, keeping a positive attitude and synchronizing your movements with a serene and satisfying breathing rhythm. Notice the effects. If one side is tighter or more restricted than the other consider balancing the sides by performing the movements for a longer period of time on the side that is more limited.

If you notice soreness that lasts longer than 48 hours, you may have tried to hard. Take a couple of days to rest and resume when you feel ready. I hope that you find the sequence enjoyable and that you start noticing that your shoulder flexibility is increasing at a gradual and manageable pace. By restoring our natural range of movement and flexibility in the shoulders we may be better able to participate in our lives with enthusiasm and energy and without unnecessary tension. Thank you for embarking on the journey of yoga.

Namaste,

rubén

 

 

4 Easy ways to keep your lower back free of pain with Yoga

 

 

Unfortunately lower back pain is a widespread ailment affecting millions of people. There are multiple factors that contribute to create lower back pain. Yoga offers us an integrated approach to help decrease, dissolve and prevent low back pain.

1: Reduce Pain

Restrictions in the natural mobility of the hip joints can result in lower back pain due to the lower back (and often the knees) moving beyond their range of healthy movement to compensating for the lack of mobility in the hips.

The sequence below has been very helpful to reduce chronic tension and pain for a large number of people (12 minutes):

2: Restore Balance

In addition to, and often in combination with, restricted mobility at the hips, many of us tend to favor one side. Over time, this can create an imbalance between the sides, where one side may be stronger/weaker, looser/tighter, etc.

The two videos below offer a short and a longer practice to try to uncover and address imbalances between the two sides:

Shorter video to restore hip and thigh balance (10 minutes):

Longer video to restore hip and thigh balance (17 minutes)

3: Maintaining Healthy Posture

Our regular posture can result also in restrictions in the lower back. Since we “practice” our sitting and standing postures daily over long periods of time. It is a good idea to ensure that we sit and stand in a way that is healthy and comfortable.

Use the Healthy Sitting Posture video below to help you find a sitting posture that support your back health (6 minutes) :

I would also suggest that you try the Basic Standing Posture video (7 minutes)

4: Relax

It is incredible how much stress we carry with us everywhere. With more and more demands on our time, it is not surprising that many of us do not take time to relax. I often suggest to people in my classes to make sure that they take a break every day, for at least a couple of minutes.

The video below can help you relax the back. Although the video is only 2 minutes long, I would recommend taking longer if you can afford to do it. Your body and mind will thank you:

I hope that you find these suggestions useful. Of course, you will only see the benefits if you try them. And if you do, please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be glad to help if I can.

A few other suggestions that you may want to consider:

  • Reduce extra body weight.
  • Move. The human body does not do well staying in the same position for many hours. Changing your position, getting up, walking, stretching can help.
  • Stay hydrated. Sip good quality water throughout the day.
  • Relax. Take time to let go of tension and stress. Many people experience back pain as a result of stress.

As always, I hope that your yoga practice helps you live a vibrant, joyful and meaningful life.

Namaste.

 

 

Yoga Sequence to Prevent Pelvic Imbalance and Lower Back Pain

 

 

It can be argued that one major goal of yoga postures is to cultivate spinal suppleness. That is, the postures are helping us maintain the natural mobility, strength and flexibility of the vertebral column. Since the spine is attached to the shoulder girdle at the top and the pelvic girdle at the bottom, restrictions at the shoulder and pelvic girdle will affect the range of movement of the spine.

Since many of us spend a good amount of time sitting, our muscles and other tissues will tend to adapt to facilitate sitting for long periods of time. Part of the adaptations that happen include tightness in the muscles in the thighs and lower back. Also, most of us have a tendency to favor one side. We can see this when we sit in a cross legged position and then change the crossing of our legs. One configuration will, for most of us, feel easier.

Here is a complete sequence of yoga postures to help us discover imbalances between the left and right sides of our bodies. This yoga practice will contribute to restore the balance between the two sides. The basic idea is to practice the posture on each side and to repeat the side where we notice more limitation, tightness or restriction. Moreover, as we address the imbalance and release some of the limitations in the hips we may start noticing less restrictions on the healthy range of movement of our spine, thus contributing to facilitate a natural range of movement and also the elongation of our spinal column.

As you practice, remember to just do what takes you to the limit of your capacity, without generating new pain or agitation. Trust that going to the limit of what you can do will help you move beyond your limitations at a pace that you, your body and your breathing can handle.
Also, please be mindful of the knees, always ensuring that your knees are not twisted and that there is NO PAIN IN THE KNEES whatsoever, this is important!

As usual, a sense of curiosity is helpful, especially because one of the challenges that we may face is that it might be difficult to discern between appropriate intensity and pain. This is a key skill to hone for all yogis.

While you practice, please keep in mind:

  • Pay close attention to what is happening in body, breath and mind.
  • Do not force or strain.
  • Do what you can, not too much, not too little.
  • Keep your spine long.
  • Breathe at full capacity without struggling.
  • Enjoy the practice as a journey of self-exploration.
  • Smile.

I hope that you find this video (filmed in Sedona, Arizona) useful.

Namaste.

 

 

Yoga Posture to Restore Balance in Hips, Legs and Lower Back (janu shirshasana)

 

 

This Yoga posture, known as Janu Shirshasana, can be used to restore balance between legs, hips and the lumbar area as well as to relieve pain in those areas.

Many of us tend to favor one side when we stand, walk and sit. However, since we do this regularly and , most likely unconsciously, many of us don’t notice the imbalance that has built gradually over time.

This simple yoga posture, called Janu Shirshasana in Sanskrit, is an excellent way to determine if there might be an imbalance between the two sides. Even better, by practicing the posture twice on the side that is more challenged by it, we can gradually restore balance.

Of course, it is important to remember to practice with patient persistence and without creating new pain or agitation. Also, notice that having an attitude of gratitude and ease will make the practice easier and more enjoyable.

While you practice, please keep in mind:

  • Pay close attention to what is happening in body, breath and mind.
  • Do not force or strain.
  • Do what you can, not too much, not too little.
  • Keep your spine long.
  • Breathe at full capacity and without struggling.
  • Enjoy the practice as a journey of self-exploration.

I hope that you find this video useful.

Namaste.

 

 

Relaxing Yoga Posture for Back, Chest and Shoulders

At the beginning of my classes I usually ask students to share what they need from their practice. The 3 most frequent requests are de-stressing/relaxation, releasing tension from shoulders and low back pain relief. I tailor each class to address what is needed so that yoga helps students feel better and more balanced.

Hearing these requests on a daily basis motivated me to upload videos to YouTube so that my students and other people could benefit from living with less pain, less stress and more clarity.

I am humbled to see the wonderfully positive reception that the videos for low back pain relief have had in YouTube. It makes my day to know that many people are using them to feel better. Thank you!

Here is a simple yoga posture to relax the back, shouders and chest. This posture is an excellent complement for the sequence for low back pain and for the sequence to release shoulder tension.

When you need to relax your back and rest you can try this simple and easy posture to help you release tension along your back as well as to help relieve tension from your shoulders and chest. What I like the most about this posture is that it is easy and simple and can be done by most people.

You will need one or two towels.

  • Roll up the towel(s) along the long side into a smooth roll with no folds.
  • Place the roll on a padded surface on the floor.
  • Sit on the roll aligning the center of your back pelvis (sacrum) on the roll. Start with your knees bent.
  • Recline your spine along the roll until your head rests comfortably on the roll.
  • Let your arms slide to the sides at a comfortable angle with the palms of the hands facing up.
  • You may keep your knees bent or you can rest the legs on the floor at an angle that helps you feel balanced. Try both options and choose the one that feels better to you.
  • Close your eyes and maybe point your chin towards your chest.
  • Focus on expanding your breath in a satisfying way.
  • Relax.
  • Stay for a few minutes and then remove the roll and lying down on your back noticing the effects in your body and mind.

It may be a good idea to practice this posture at the end of your day, after exercising, or after doing one of the sequences to relief back pain or to relax the shoulders and neck.

As usual, there is never forcing or pain in yoga. The idea is just to do what we can do at this moment. Remember that yoga benefits result from practicing with patient persistence.

I hope you enjoy this posture and its effects.

Namaste.

 

 

Release neck and shoulder pain

As a result of engaging in activities that require our arms to move forward, there is a general tendency for the shoulders to become tighter at the front. This tightness at the front of the shoulders generally limits mobility of the shoulder joint that contributes to create further tension and tightness in the shoulders and neck area. In addition, limitation in the shoulders requires elbows and wrists to compensate through over-movement. Furthermore, tightness at the front of the shoulders is often associated with rounding of the upper back and moving the head forward out of alignment. A combination of some or all of these factors tends to generate tension and pain in the neck and shoulders, an unhealthy posture as well as restricted breathing.

The general approach in yoga is to notice a tendency and to observe its effects. If the tendency does not contribute to optimal flow of life energy and deeper peace of mind and heart, we try to find ways to counteract the existing tendency until there is greater balance.

The video below offers a short sequence of yoga movements focused on creating greater shoulder mobility to release tension and stress in shoulders and neck, to improve posture and to help with deeper breathing. As usual, there is never forcing or pain in yoga. The idea is just to do what we can do at this moment. Remember that yoga benefits result from practicing with patient persistence.

I hope you find this practice helpful.

Namaste.

 

 

Yoga Video: How to Improve Your Standing Posture

For several years I have been working on improving my observation skills in order to better help students who come to my classes. Whenever I have a chance I try to observe people as they stand or walk in order to notice individual as well as general tendencies. During class and when I am working with individual students I make suggestions based on what I observe to try and help students continue life-affirming and clarifying patterns. Other times my suggestions try to facilitate a process of awareness that will help students explore different options towards feeling vibrant and free from pain.

Since our standing posture is the foundation for the way we walk and stand, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to our standing posture. This posture, because we practice it often, is a key posture to get right. In addition, it is an excellent point of departure for anybody interested in starting a yoga practice as well as for people who want to fine-tune their yoga practice. Moreover, becoming aware of our posture is instrumental in counteracting spinal compression and imbalance that often contribute to create discomfort and pain in the lower back and the neck. In preparing for the upcoming Freedom from Neck and Back Pain workshop I thought it would be helpful to share this simple and effective standing posture that can have many benefits.

In this video you will find an easy-to-follow approach to improving your standing posture. Since yoga is not only about the physical body, the video offers a complete and integrated approach to the practice that will make the posture meaningful and enjoyable. This integrated approach to practicing a simple yet fundamental posture can contribute to:

  • releasing pain
  • improving breathing capacity
  • creating balance
  • cultivating mindfulness

I really hope you find this video useful.

As I suggest in the video, practicing just this posture can be the perfect way to start practicing yoga at home. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions or to post comments to the video.

Peace, Health & Joy for you.
Namaste,