Thursday, August 28, 2008

Class Outside

Last night I taught a class outside by the lake. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold. Ahhh.... And did I mention I taught a silent class? It was transformative for all of us...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Inspiration for your Business

As I have discussed previously on my blogs, I have created a new company whose premise is we should all be working from a place if inspiration, fulfilling our purpose in life. Next Saturday I am taking them through the process of creating our vision. To prepare, I am having them answer for themselves these questions. Please do do yourself! What is your dream business? Are you already doing it fully or is it possible to express it more deeply? These questions will help you through the process of deciding...Leave answers at the ...musélan... blog:

What does success look like to me? To me, success means:

What is it I love to do that lives at the heart of my dream business? My dream business is a vehicle that allows me to do:

What feelings do I want to experience as a result of my dream business? Because of my dream business, I get to feel:

Because of my dream business, I arrive at the end of the day feeling...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Opening the Upper Back

(Sorry I haven't posted for awhile. Frankly, I have been enjoying the summer with my children!)

I recently met with my Master Class (a group of teachers who gather together to talk yoga.) We discussed helping our students get movement into their upper backs. I thought you might enjoy a few of the gems we came up with!

Getting movement into the upper back is tricky for a few reasons:
1. It is the only area on your body you cannot see without a mirror. As a result, you do not have a direct connection with the area, just a reflection.
2. The area is tight from the forward slump many of us wear with our posture. Ironically, the tension is really from stretched out muscles that have grown chronically weak.
3. There isn’t much movement in the area anyway due to the attachment of the ribs. The ribs are attached to each of the thoracic vertebrae (the vertebrae that run from the base of your neck to your upper lower back) and therefore restrict the movement of those vertebrae.

I read this fabulous metaphor at some point years ago and it has remained a vivid image for me when working with the spine. Think of your spine like a bicycle chain. Like a bicycle chain, it can get stuck links. When links get stuck, the looser links on either side of the stuck spot get all the movement and the stuck place remains stuck. The same concept occurs in our spines. We get stuck between a few vertebrae and the joints on either side of the stuck place get all the movement. Without consciousness, we continue to move from the loose places, creating more flexibility there and sometimes instability and the stuck places remain stuck. We need to bring more thought into our upper backs to loosen the chinks.

These first suggestions bring attention to the upper back and warm up the muscles.

Shoulder Rolls – Make them really big so you are thinking of moving from the shoulder blades rather than the arms. (Of course, the shoulder blades always move when the arms are moving, but when you move them the shoulder blades rather than the arms, you can make bigger movements and you can feel the spot in your upper back as well.)

Standing pose variations -- In both Parsvottanasana (Extended Side Stretch Pose) and Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose), you can do a variation with the arms behind the back, hands clasped. It brings attention to the upper back.

• “Cactus Arms” (as we call it – “stick ‘em up” is also fun) -- can be done standing or lying down. Start with arms at 90 degrees, hands down. Rotate the upper arms outward, bringing the hands up to the position in the photo. The action draws the shoulder blades strongly into the back.

• There are many variations of Salabhasana (Locust Pose) that help bring more awareness into the upper back.
o Arms out to the side
o Arms overhead: This variation is a bit tricky and probably warrants its own post. For now, suffice it to say the lift needs to come from the mid-back, not the upper trapezius (across the top of your shoulder). If you life your arms and your shoulders contract (bringing them to your ears), you are not using the correct muscles. Stay tuned and I will write more later on this one.

o Lace fingers behind back:

The next variations will help you get movement directly into those stuck spots:
• Of course, backbends over various objects such as blanket roll, chair, or ball are helpful. My favorite variation of this one is backbend over roll a block. I can slowly move the block bit by bit up my back to use the edge to bend at my “stuck” spots. (It feels MUCH better than it looks!) You can do it at any of the heights of the block. If you are at the two lower heights, you can sit on your buttocks and keep your knees bent with feet on the floor. If you are at the highest height, sit in Vajrasana. You can see me in the photo. I lifted up off the floor to get into the pose and then allow both my hips and my upper body to move down into the pose.

• Sphinx: Another excellent variation for “awakening” the upper back. Placing your arms in a variety of positions helps you really get into the upper back.

• Maricyasana III – In this variation, you place your hand on the wall. Use the wall to help you really get the shoulder blade in and to get the twist higher into your back.