Forward bends teaches patience

Bending forward is a familiar action in our everyday lives, so why are forward bending asana so challenging? Our daily routine involves a lot of outward focus with the task at hand; bending down to pick up something, or hunching at our desks and computers while reading important emails.
A mindful forward bend, moved into with presence and awareness is calming and cooling. To maintain alignment in the spine your gaze is guided to look inward, into yourself. That may explain why I find my mind wonders in forward bends more then other asana, my ego is bored and wanting to move on, while my true nature is grasping for stillness in the mind and openness in the body – with practice and patience stillness with come.

The action of a forward bend curves the spine creating space between the vertebra, benefiting the nervous system and improving circulation around the spine. The abdominal organs that directly benefit from this action are the: intestines, pancreas, kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach and gallbladder. Anatomically, the hamstrings and inner leg muscles are lengthened, the knees and front of the legs are strengthened and the back muscles are kept supple. Forward bends help with digestion, body temperature, menstruation and well being.

Examples: Uttanasana (Standing forward bend)    Balasana (Child’s pose)    Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)

Hatha vs Vinyasa flow

For those out there that are unsure about what class to attend for the first time, I’ll explain some of the similarities and differences of the two types of classes I offer.

Hatha yoga and vinyasa flow yoga are similar by:
• they both unify the mind, body and soul
• increase strength and flexibility
• come from the same philosophy and standards
• both practices are preformed on a yoga mat (for the most part, in the west)
• they make use of the same asana

The differences between the two styles are:
• Hatha has been prevalent since the 15th century, also known as Hatha Vidya or the science of Hatha. Where, flow is derived from hatha. And most likely influenced by the teachings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga yoga.
• Flow yoga links the poses together with breath which directly effects the cardiovascular system. Hatha yoga is a gentle and slower pace practice, becoming challenging physically when moving deeper and holding poses for longer periods of time.
• Hatha is perfect for beginners to gain experience and confidence. The time spent in positions allows the student to feel correct alignment and gain awareness in the body. Flow is considered a more advanced practice which is demanding on the systems of the body.
• Flow builds heat in the body every quickly by dynamic movements, the practice is the journey between the postures. The opposite is for hatha, poses are held for multiple breaths, the practice is the poses.

Starting a new habit

This morning I ran 5K, it’s been a while since I’ve ran a measured distance and 5K is a little further then I thought. It was the perfect morning for the challenge. Nice and warm, overcast, a slight sea breeze and when I rounded the first corner of the track there’s a view of the ocean through the trees. Throughout my run I was always coming back to myself and checking in.

I couldn’t help but think during the run how much my yoga practice helped me keep moving for the 35 minutes, 12.5 laps, and a handful of songs. When I needed that extra little breath I ballooned my lungs out and was surprised to feel air in areas of my chest I had not felt before. What an exhilarating experience to know I’m not using my body to it’s full potential… there’s room for growth.

You know that point in a run when you start telling yourself “that’s enough”?  Yogi’s call this voice the “ego”, and sometimes it is enough, but most times the ego is saying “I know there’s more in the tank, but I’m just tired.” I find my ego saying things like, “at least you made it out”, “you could always go again tomorrow”, “look at them, they’re just walking”…. But today, I listened to my Self. I had set an intention to run the full 5K and just kept going.

I love having the body awareness that yoga has taught me. As I was tiring, about 2K in (which is the distance I now know my normal after work jogs are) the ego kicked in saying “walk just one lap”. I took a moment and focused on my breath, steady inhales and exhales. Brought my awareness to my legs and hips, my stride was a little short but hey, I’m going farther then I have in a long time. Walking wasn’t an option and then I rounded that first corner again and aaahhh the ocean view. And my mind was onto something else, tiredness forgotten.

When chatting with other runners, we talk about that tiring stage and knowing when you are done. The majority say either the lungs tire first or the legs do. For myself it’s the cardio that limits me. By the ninth lap I was feeling it in my right lower ribs but I was on the home  stretch. So I slowed my pace for the last few laps, feeling great that I’d gone farther today than yesterday. Then I thought of the coffee I was going to have when I got home, found a rockin’ song on “Skip” (my iPod shuffle) and poured it on for the last 100 meters. It’s been a great day, 5K and it’s only 9 am.